Address at the Dedication of the Navy Memorial Monument in San Francisco, California

May 14, 1903

Mr. Mayor, My Fellow-Citizens, Men and Women of San Francisco:

The ground for this monument was first turned by President McKinley [applause], and I am glad to have the chance of saying a few words in dedication of the completed monument. There is no branch of our government in which all our people are so deeply interested as the navy of the United States. [Applause] It is not merely San Francisco, not merely New York, or Boston, or Charleston, or New Orleans, not merely the seacoast cities of the nation; every individual in the nation who is proud of America and jealous of her good name must feel a thrill of generous emotion at the erection of a monument to the navy, a monument to the fleet which was victorious under Admiral Dewey on the first of May, five years ago, a fleet which then added a new page to the long honor roll of American achievement. [Applause] It is eminently fitting that there should be here in this great city on the Pacific Ocean a monument to commemorate the deed which showed once for all that America had taken her position on the Pacific. I want you all to draw a practical lesson from this commemoration. We today dedicate this monument because those who went before us had the wisdom to make ready for the victory. If we wish our children to have the chance of dedicating monuments of this kind in the event of war we must see that the navy is made ready in advance. [Applause] To dedicate the monument would be an empty and foolish thing if we accompanied it by an abandonment of our national policy of building up the navy. [Applause] And good though it is to erect this monument, it is better still to go on with the building up of the navy which gave the monument to us, and which, if we ever give it a fair chance, can be relied upon to rise level to our needs. [Applause]

Remember that after the war has begun it is too late to improvise a navy. A naval war is two-thirds settled in advance, at least two-thirds, because it is mainly settled by the preparation which has gone on for years preceding its outbreak. We won at Manila because the shipbuilders of the country, including those here at San Francisco, under the wise provisions of Congress, had for fifteen years before been preparing the navy. In 5882 our navy was a shame and a disgrace to the country in point of material. The personnel contained as fine material as there was to be found in the world, but the ships and the guns were as antiquated as if they had been the galleys of Alcibiades, and it would have been a wicked absurdity to have sent them against the ships of any great power, Then we began to build up the navy. Every ship that fought under Dewey had been built between 1::3 and 1898. We come here as patriots remembering that our party lines stop at the water's edge. That fleet was successful in age because under the previous administrations of both political parties, under the previous Congress controlled by both political parties for the previous fifteen years, there had been a resolute effort to build adequate ships and see that they were practiced. The ships that went in under Dewey had been constructed under different successive Secretaries of the Navy, and had been provided for by different successive Congresses of the United States. Not one of them had been built less than two years, some of them fourteen years. We could not have begun to fight that battle if we had not been for so many years making ready the navy,

The last Congress has taken greater strides than any previous Congress in making ready the navy, but it will be two or three years before the effects are seen. In no branch of the government is foresight and the carrying out of a steady and continuous policy so necessary as in the navy; and you, citizens of San Francisco, of California, and all our citizens should make it a matter of prime duty to see that there is no halt in that work, that the next Congress, and the Congress after that, and the Congress after that, go right on with providing formidable warcraft whose hammering guns beat out destiny on the high seas, with providing the officers, with providing the men, and with providing the means of training them in peace to be effective in war, The best ships and the best guns do not count unless they are handled aright and aimed aright, and the best men cannot thus handle the one nor aim the other if they do not have ample practice. Our people must be trained in handling our ships in squadrons on the high seas. Our people on the ships must be trained by actual practice to do their duty in conning tower, in the engine rooms, in the gun turrets. The shots that count in battle are the shots that hit, and only those. [Applause]

We have reason to be satisfied with the rapid increase in accuracy in marksmanship of the navy in recent years, and I congratulate Admiral Glass and those under him and all our naval officers who are taking their part so well in perfecting that work, and I congratulate the enlisted men of the navy upon the extraordinary improvement in marksmanship shown by the gun pointers. [Applause]

Applaud the navy and what it has done. That is first-class. But make your applause count by seeing that the good work goes on. Besides applauding now see to it that the navy is so built up that the men of the next generation will have something to applaud also. [Cheers and applause]

Theodore Roosevelt, Address at the Dedication of the Navy Memorial Monument in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives