Harry S. Truman photo

Address at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City

September 21, 1948

Governor Maw, President Smith, distinguished guests, citizens of Utah:

It is a pleasure to me to be here this evening. You don't know what a great pleasure it is to see this magnificent auditorium, one of the historic ones in the world, and all these thousands and thousands of people who have taken the trouble to come out to listen to me and to weigh what I have to say.

My train trip coming out here across the country has been a tremendous experience.

I have always had a special admiration for this region of America. It has a quality all its own. In a few generations the people here built a civilization out of the desert.

There is no story in our history more typical of the free American spirit than that of the Mormon settlers who founded this great city. I have a close personal interest in the history of this great city. My grandfather, who lived in Jackson County, Mo., was a freighter across the plains, in the early days, and on occasion he brought an ox trainload of goods and merchandise here to Salt Lake City. My grandfather, whose name was Young, went to see Brigham Young, and told him his troubles, and Brigham Young gave him advice and told him to rent space down on the main street here in Salt Lake City, place his goods on display, and he would guarantee that my grandfather would lose no money. And he didn't.

Today, I am most cordially received by the President of the Mormon Church, the successor of Brigham Young. I wish my old grandfather could see me now!

Those pioneers had faith, and they had energy. They took the resources that Nature offered them, and used them wisely. Their courage and fighting spirit made them secure against enemies.

They have left you a great heritage. You now have the responsibility for the wise use of the resources of this region. You now have the duty to protect your rights and your welfare against enemies who threaten them.

And these enemies do exist. Whether you know it or not, you are in battle against powerful forces that threaten your resources, and your families, and your hopes of the future. Tonight I am going to name these forces, so that you will all know whom we are fighting.

First, let us see how this battle began. You here in the

West know a great deal about conserving natural resources, so that they will be useful to our children as well as to ourselves. You have learned by experience, and learned well.

What is the magic word in the prosperity of the farmers and the livestock men of this region? That word is water. The first thing the Mormon settlers did, when they came here, after giving thanks to God for a safe arrival, was to dig irrigation ditches. They knew what they were doing. So long as you have water enough for farming and grazing, the basis of your welfare is assured.

I think it is no exaggeration to say that as the water goes, so goes this part of the country.

Irrigation has given to the West a prosperous agriculture; it has brought thriving industries and enabled you to make use of your natural resources. With the aid of the Government, you have built the great dams that provide you with water and hydroelectric power.

Water for irrigation and electric power for homes and farms and industries have gone hand in hand.

It is fair to say that those who have helped you obtain the water and the power you need are your friends. And, by the same token, those who have hampered you in obtaining irrigation and electric power are your enemies, they are not your friends.

This is not a new battle. Selfish men have always tried to skim the cream from our natural resources to satisfy their own greed. And they have always sought to control the Government in order to accomplish this. Their instrument in this effort has always been the Republican Party.

The Republican administrations of our time have done their best to make the West [p.532] an economic colony of Wall Street. In the 1920's, under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, quick and greedy exploitation was the order of the day. Many parts of the West were withering--withering from the failure to develop its power and irrigation, withering actually from Republican sabotage.

Selfish men had control, and the great resources of the West were wasted with sinful disregard of the people.

Never before in history had so much been wasted by so few.

In some of the Western States the population had actually begun to decline, reversing the historic progress of western expansion. Hope began to disappear.

That was the situation in 1932 after 12 years of Republican rule. At that time there were only 28 reclamation projects in operation. Only 3 1/2 million acres of land were under irrigation, and much of the irrigation was pitifully inadequate. Power plant capacity was very small. There was no comprehensive program to give the West access to its water resources. That was the Republican way with the West.

The people of the West cried out for a change--and finally, at long last, there came a change. The birthright of the West was finally restored to the people. It was restored by the Democratic Party under the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The long, costly job of rebuilding after the ruinous Republican years was begun with hope and vigor. Conservation of the forests and grazing land, control of soil erosion, propagation of fish and wildlife, and other sound measures were put into effect.

Development of the river basins was begun, with full attention to hydroelectric power and flood control.

Today, after 4 Democratic administrations, there are some 60 reclamation projects completed or under way in the West. When these projects are finished they will provide water for over 10 million acres, and will produce over 5 million kilowatts of power.

That's the record the Democratic Party has made.

This record on western reclamation, the record of pledges made and kept, is one that Franklin Roosevelt was proud of--and I'm proud of that record, too.

As President, I shall never cease to fight for the public power and reclamation policies of the Democratic Party.

This is the time of year, every 4 years, when there are a lot of guessing games going on--guessing where some people stand. You have to guess, because some people won't come out in the open and tell you where they really stand.

Well, you don't have to do any guessing to know where the Democratic Party has stood for 16 years on public power and reclamation-and where it stands today. And you don't have to translate any double talk to know where I have always stood--and where I stand today.

I stand, and the Democratic Party stands, for rapid and uninterrupted development of the land and the forest and the water and the mineral resources of the West, in the interest of the people. I stand, and the Democratic Party stands, for building a strong western economy, based on full use of our natural resources and healthy development of industry. I stand for the rights of the people.

But where does the Republican Party stand ? Where do its candidates stand ?

The record is clear enough for all of you to see.

In the first place, we all know that low-cost electric power is of tremendous importance to the West. Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams brought about the establishment of a great aluminum industry in the Pacific Northwest.

A continuing increase in hydroelectric [p.533] power could bring other great industries to the West.

One of these is phosphate production. The West has enormous deposits of phosphate. Yet western farmers have to buy their phosphate fertilizer from processing plants 2,000 miles away--and they have to pay the heavy cost of the long haul to the West. This comes to as much as $60 a ton more than the farmers in the East have to pay. You have that prospect planned under any one of these great projects we are trying to build in the West.

It takes no great vision to see that phosphate fertilizer production is a natural industrial development for the West. All that is needed is a constant supply of low-cost electric power.

Then what stands in the way of more hydroelectric power for the West? The answer is: Republican policy.

For the last 2 years, that Republican 80th Congress, listening obediently to the voice of its masters, has sabotaged industrial development of the West.

And I want you to get this!

In 1947, at the first session of the 80th Congress, I requested an appropriation of $160,000,000 as the minimum necessary for the work of reclamation to continue on an economical basis. Here was the first test of the attitude of the Republican leadership toward the West in 14 years. The Republican-dominated House Appropriations Committee sliced nearly $90,000,000 off my request.

When that happened a great storm of protest arose over all the West. You made yourselves heard so loudly in Washington that you startled the Republican Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"The West," he cried, "is squealing like a stuck pig."

There you have the Republican attitude toward the West summed up in a single phrase. "The West is squealing like a stuck pig." He squeals every time he has to make an appropriation in the public interest. The Republicans are ready to lead you to the slaughter, and they resent it if you protest.

This public pressure from the West eventually forced the reluctant 80th Congress to appropriate $104,000,000. But this sum was still more than $50,000,000 short of the amount needed to keep the work of reclamation going forward continuously.

Before the year ended, work on power and reclamation projects in the Columbia Basin and the Central Valley of California, on David Dam on the Lower Colorado, and on the Colorado-Big Thompson project had to be sharply curtailed. On some big jobs work had to stop.

At last, continued public pressure from the West--and constant pounding from me--compelled the Republican Congress to appropriate a supplemental amount in order to continue operations on these projects. They did it very reluctantly.

That is the Republican way, the way by which the West would soon be "economized" once again into stagnation.

This year, to step up the construction program to meet the expanding needs of all the West--I requested an appropriation of almost $285,000,000 for the reclamation program. That was the largest reclamation request in our history. I want you to understand that these are self-liquidating projects, they aren't giving you anything, they are merely advancing the money so that you can develop the country and pay it back.

The Republican 80th Congress realized that in this election year, it had better pay some attention to the West. It finally approved an appropriation $40,000,000 less than was needed to do the work. Even this appropriation was not aimed to benefit the people so much as to benefit the power interests.

While the Republican 80th Congress was considering this appropriation bill, highly paid lobbyists of the power interests poured into Washington. The influence of these agents of big business was plainly marked in the bill that passed the Congress.

The Republican 80th Congress wrote into that bill some clauses that strike a dangerous blow at people in the West.

Some of these clauses prohibit or slow down construction of new transmission lines and the extension of existing lines. You had better think that one over.

Ask yourselves a question: Who benefits from the building of dams if the Government does not also build transmission lines to carry the power from the dams to the people ? Who benefits? The private power interests benefit, of course--at your expense! These interests, for years, have sought to force the Government to sell them low-cost Federal power in bulk at the dam--power which they could then sell to the people on their own terms.

The measures passed by the Republican 80th Congress will result in bigger profits for the private power companies, and higher living costs for the people. Unless different action is taken in the next year, these measures will deprive consumers of cheaper power.

They will deprive the Government of 'power revenues from transmission and distribution-revenues which should be used to repay the costs of these power and reclamation projects.

This is a heavy and damaging blow to the development of the West.

You have been crudely and wickedly cheated by the power lobby in Washington, operating through the Republican 80th Congress. The facts are plain. The private power monopoly, in the last 2 years of Republican congressional reaction, has fought the people. It has won a battle that threatens to cost the people of the West hundreds of millions of dollars for years ahead.

The record is clear. Under the Democrats, you will get imagination, initiative, and progress. Under the Republicans you get strangulation.

You have a clear-cut choice in the election on November the 2d.

The Republican Party has shown in the Congress of the past 2 years that the leopard does not change his spots. It is still the party of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. It is still the party that gave you the phony Coolidge boom and the Hoover depression.

It is still the party whose money at election time comes from Wall Street. It is still the party which passes bills at the dictation of lobbies, and sacrifices the interests of the people for the profits of big business.

The Democratic Party is the party of the people. We are fighting with all our strength to prevent the gluttons of privilege from swallowing up the country. We are fighting the battle of the West, because it is the battle of all the country. We are fighting the battle of the farmer and the worker and the small businessman, because that is the battle of all the people.

Your Government is now planning the most ambitious irrigation development in all our history. The goal of our program is to bring every possible western acre under irrigation and to develop to the fullest extent the hydroelectric resources of this great region.

Now, I'm going to fight for this program with all I've got. Now, can I count on you?

You have the decision to make.

A vote for the Republicans stops the program.

A vote for the Democrats is a vote for a glorious West with wealth and security for our people.

On election day, the plain people of the country need to roll up a wide tide of votes that will sweep the forces of fear and reaction out of the Government, and open the gates again for hope and progress. We must go forward together, toward the fulfillment of our American destiny--the use of all our resources for all our people.

Note: The President spoke at 8:03 p.m. in the Mormon Tabernacle. In his opening words he referred to Herbert B. Maw, Governor of Utah, and George A. Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Harry S Truman, Address at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232908

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives