Harry S. Truman photo

Address at the Jackson Day Dinner.

March 23, 1946

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, fellow Democrats everywhere:

Throughout America this evening, we of the Democratic Party are gathered to reaffirm our faith in the ideals of democracy. We are assembled in some three hundred cities and towns to pledge ourselves again to the oldest and most practical principle in the history of men and nations--the democratic ideal in which America was conceived one hundred and seventy years ago.

On this occasion, we pay honor to the memory of a great American leader, and a soldier of Democracy--Andrew Jackson.

It was Andrew Jackson who led the good fight for social advancement and political progress against the forces of reaction. As the standard bearer of our party, Jackson made a living reality of the high democratic doctrines for which men of our Nation fought and died--the extension of basic rights to all men. Down through the years these doctrines have remained as guiding principles for the Democratic Party.

More recently there appeared another champion of social justice to revive and revitalize these principles--Franklin Delano Roosevelt!

If that great humanitarian were among us today, he would bring us a message of courage and faith. He would bring us a challenge to improve the lot of mankind everywhere. He would say, "Fight On"!

We of the Democratic Party must meet that challenge. Even though tremendous progress has been made, we must continue to fight on to attain our basic objectives-human freedom and human security. This is one fight which we must and will win.

Our Democratic Party became great and powerful as a progressive party--one pioneering in new social fields and determined to abolish the tragic inequities of the past.

To hold our leadership, and the support of the American people, we must continually advance toward higher goals in keeping with our liberal heritage.

Political parties are the instruments through which democracy works. Our party system remains as one of the massive foundations of our liberty. Only the free play of political opposition can guarantee the survival of civil freedom.

Therefore, upon all of us rests a solemn responsibility to preserve our party system on a sound and wholesome basis. To achieve this, the leadership of all political parties must face the urgent issues frankly, and act solely in accordance with our national welfare.

The Democratic Party has a long and proud record of achievement. But for continued success, we must live in the present and work for the future. As we seek to improve the social order, our policies must remain dynamic, ever sensitive to the impact of changing conditions.

The domestic program of this Administration has been a program to make the system of free enterprise work. The Democratic Administration has been quick to seek out the danger spots which threaten the system of free enterprise--and remove them. In a very practical sense, it has made enterprise free where it was not free before, and it has encouraged private competition where there was only monopoly.

We are seeking to establish higher standards of living--a new health program, a new educational and social security program, an increased minimum wage, adequate housing, a further development of our natural resources, and above all, a strong and progressive America now and for all time.

Today America is in a period of transition. The aftermath of the war has brought new and pressing problems.

Without question, one of the most serious of these problems is the danger of a disastrous inflation and subsequent depression in our country.

Unless we can keep prices and rents under control until we have normal production flowing from our factories, our economic stability is in peril. But we Americans have every right to be confident of our ability to check inflation and to get production going full blast. During the war, in spite of the greatest inflationary pressures in our history, we learned that the cost of living could be kept in line. We must do as well in time of peace.

Our progress toward that goal has been delayed by technical bottlenecks that must be expected in reconverting our gigantic industrial machine from war to peacetime production.

But it is also being delayed, even more seriously, by doubt, fear, and in some cases just plain selfishness.

To break both the technical and psychological bottlenecks, your administration announced last month a new policy concerning wages and prices. That plan is now going into operation. I am confident that it will pave the way for the greatest outpouring of consumer goods that the world has ever seen. It gives all of us--businessmen, workers, and farmers--assurance that wage and price adjustments will be made quickly when needed. With the knowledge that all groups in this country are assured a fair and equitable return, we can expedite our vast production job, and still hold the line against runaway rents, soaring prices, and prohibitive business costs.

Whenever conflicts between selfish and national interests arise, our country must come first. We will never permit our national welfare to be wrecked upon the rock of special privilege. Only by dedicating ourselves to the principle of national unity can we keep America strong and free.

And this same basic principle applies to the Democratic Party. As in the Nation at large, there is diversity of opinion among us, but the fundamental principles of the Democratic Party bind us together in a unity of purpose--an inflexible determination that our party shall advance to new and greater achievements.

In order to accomplish this, we must keep faith with the American people. They have given us grave responsibilities. And we Democrats must continue to merit the confidence of our people. This administration will not be found wanting!

Under our party system, political responsibility must rest with the President and with the majority in the Congress. To meet this responsibility, all our members in Congress must cooperate wholeheartedly and help carry out our party platform. Unless this is done, the party program is delayed. I cannot make too strong my plea for party unity and party responsibility!

Under our Democratic leadership we have set a goal of 2,700,000 new homes by the end of 1947--the greatest home construction program in the history of this or any other country.

We have proposed legislation for this task. That legislation is now before Congress. I have strongly urged its prompt enactment. In this connection, there are two proposed amendments pending to the housing measure which also are of vital importance: One to provide premium payments for expanded production of materials, the other to prevent further speculation in existing housing.

There is constant pressure for an increase in the price of building materials. No one questions that some adjustments--both up and down--are needed, if we are to complete our building program at full speed. But price increases all along the line are clearly out of the question. The price of homes is already too high.

We must stimulate home building by methods which will not send prices skyrocketing far beyond the means of the average citizen. That is the reason for premium payments, which would be used to break bottlenecks.

The price controls we advocate are aimed specifically at halting further inflation in real estate. We urge that the future sale price of any home be made the ceiling price on that home for the duration of the emergency. Under this plan, any home-owner could sell his property in a free and open market. However, such property could not then be resold by a speculator for a higher price resulting in a quick and unearned profit.

The veterans returning from battlefronts all over the world deserve the opportunity to obtain homes--and at reasonable prices. They must not become the victims of speculators. I am satisfied that the American people intend to give them a fair break. I am convinced that the Veterans Emergency Housing program can and will succeed.

My friends in Congress have got to make a choice. They have got to make up their minds whether they are for the veterans' rights, or whether they are going to bow to the real estate lobby!

The problem of reconversion involves much more than a physical changeover to the production of civilian goods. Our financial policies are also being adapted to meet our new peacetime needs. These policies will help greatly in maintaining high levels of production, employment, and national income.

We are on our way to a balanced budget and further reduction in the public debt. Full production, maximum employment, and a high national income will make this sound program possible. In the end, that is the only way to meet the Government's financial obligations and at the same time lessen the taxpayer's burden.

No phase of economic life has been so completely disrupted as our international economic relations. During the war, the bulk of foreign trade was done by or for governments. Here, too, there must be reconversion. World trade must be restored-and it must be returned to private enterprise.

We need a world in which all countries can do business with each other, and with us. That means giving other countries a chance to reconstruct their war-shattered lands. It also means maintaining orderly exchange arrangements through the cooperation of the United Nations. Already we have made substantial progress. Only just a few days ago, at Savannah, Ga., the International Bank and the International Monetary Fund, created at Bretton Woods, became organized institutions.

The financial policies we are following are adapted to the needs of our time. I feel confident that they will help make this a strong and sound country in a free and progressive world.

The United States of America has achieved world leadership. For that result the Democratic Party, as the party of enlightened internationalism, is primarily responsible. We must maintain that leadership. And the Democratic Party must continue to lead the way.

A tremendous price has been paid for the peace and security we Americans enjoy tonight. Payment began long ago by our brave allies, who first bore the brunt of all-out aggression. At that time, our isolationists were still debating, and almost defeating, most efforts of the Democratic leaders to improve our national defense.

I say, without any partisan rancor, the cold record clearly reveals that our political opponents voted overwhelmingly against the most essential defense measures. Of course, when subsequent events proved beyond question their shortsightedness, most of our opponents changed their policy.

Yet many Republicans, of all people, then charged the Democratic Administration with failure to prepare more adequately for events which they themselves said would never occur!

Do you remember, back there, when the Republicans called it a "phony" war?

Let us be tolerant, however, of the inconsistencies of man. Let us rather concentrate upon the urgent problems before us.

America must lead the way to a better world order. We seek increasingly close friendship with all nations. We shall strengthen the foundations of the United Nations. Surely, we shall never retreat merely because of the dangers along the road to peace and progress. Despite opposition and all difficulties, we shall attain our goal--a prosperous and a peaceful world.

At home every one of us should subordinate the differences of the past to expedite the progress of the future. Let us devote ourselves to the important problems of peace, and to the promotion of the general welfare. They go hand in hand. Without lasting peace in the world, prosperity and security at home become temporary illusions. And a repetition of such a tragedy as another war must not occur!

The solution of the tremendous social problems of our day should not be a partisan affair. No one class, group, or party can hope to solve all the complicated problems facing this Nation. Their solution requires the wholehearted cooperation of every element within our great country. And America will reach its high destiny only if we remain strongly united in the endless quest for justice.

Above and beyond all political considerations, Americans deeply yearn for a sound and lasting peace. Not merely the future of our political parties is at stake in the coming peace settlements. The future welfare of the country is at stake. The happiness and the lives of your children and mine are at stake. For their sake, for America, for all humanity, let us rededicate ourselves to the noble cause of peace.

As in Jackson's time, we Americans must continue to live courageously. We should emulate the valor and the determination of our forefathers--those brave men who conquered the physical frontiers of this vast continent.

The modern economic, political and social frontiers, which still confront all of us, offer an even greater challenge to our moral stamina and our intellectual integrity. This challenge also must be met. This victory must be won. I am confident that, with Divine guidance, no problem on earth exists that will not yield to the intelligence, courage, and eternal faith of free men.

Note: The President spoke at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington at 10:15 p.m. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to Postmaster General Robert E. Hannegan, who also served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.

Harry S Truman, Address at the Jackson Day Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232708

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