Excerpts of the President's News Conference
I have got two or three questions here about the Army. I don't think I would take too seriously the dispatches from Washington that purport to emanate from the General Staff. It is one of the characteristics of the reports that purport to emanate from that source that they always represent the Army as just on the point of dissolution. We are spending I think about $300,000,000 on the Army. Before the War it is my recollection that we spent $120,000,000. I don't want to be held too closely to those figures, and I suppose as long as we continue to spend $300,000,000 that the General Staff would be able to provide the nation with a fair degree of defense. I am quite sure they are competent to do that, so that any dispatches that seem to indicate that that result won't be accomplished would appear to me to be so much a reflection on the ability of the General Staff that I don't place any great credit in them.
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Now here is a question about the Belgian debt settlement. Of course our law provides for a settlement on the standard that was adopted in relation to the debt of Great Britain. We have made four or five other settlements on that basis and if anyone wants to have any different basis than that it will be necessary for them to show the Debt Commission, as I understand it, specific reasons why in their particular case any exception to the British standard should be made. I suppose everyone recognizes that Belgium is in a somewhat different situation in relation to the war than other countries. It was a neutral that was caught between the great conflict between the Central Powers and Allied Powers, and in a way that appealed particularly to the sympathy and consideration of the American Government and I think to the American people. It was therefore on that account that there was a desire to treat Belgium as generously as we could under the circumstances. Now, of course while we speak of the standards adopted in the British settlement, the basis of that standard was the ability to pay. We adopted that standard in relation to the British on account of their ability to pay and that is the fundamental standard in relation to each and every one of the debtors that owe money to the United States. That isn't varied by the Versailles Treaty or any other agreement that has been attempted to be made, and the Belgian settlement hasn't anything to do with the debt of any other country to the United States. The basis and standard, as I understand it, is established by law in relation to the British standard. Now this Government is waiting to see what any other country may propose and any reasons that it may have will be listened to as to why any different settlement should be made with them than the British standard. That is entirely outside of the Versailles Treaty or any other agreement or obligation which may have been thought to have been in effect.
Source: "The Talkative President: The Off-the-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge". eds. Howard H. Quint & Robert H. Ferrell. The University Massachusetts Press. 1964.
Calvin Coolidge, Excerpts of the President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/349118