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Excerpts of the President's News Conference

November 15, 1927

From such studies as I have made, I have never thought that there was much of a chance to help agriculture by a reduction of the tariff. Some 47 per cent of our exports, I think, are agricultural products. The main market for agriculture, of course, is in this country. I have worked rather on the theory that it would be more beneficial to agriculture and the country as a whole to do what I could to stimulate the market for agricultural products in this country, which means the general policy that I have pursued of encouraging legitimate business, reducing the tax burdens on it, and to produce a condition of confidence under which business would go forward. Of course, we have a very large amount of imports, running up to some four billion dollars a year, and those necessarily must continue if we are to have exports. I don't know how it would be expected to benefit agriculture by a reduction of the tariff, except on the theory that if we could get the manufacturing of this country done abroad then the people that do it abroad would buy more of our agricultural products. If our manufacturing is done abroad, of course it can not be done here, and it would seem to me that we would lose a correspondingly large home market. That is why I say I shall be interested in seeing what facts are set out to support their [National Industrial Conference on Agriculture] conclusions.

Such comment as I care to make at this time relative to rivers and harbors and inland waterways improvement and navigation o£ inland waterways is in my message. There is one comment that I might add— that it is quite discouraging for the United States Government to undertake to help people and find that it only lands itself in a very dis-agreeable controversy. That has happened on some of our irrigation projects, where the Federal Government has expended a great deal of money and was under a good deal of expense in order to irrigate land and redeem it for cultivation, and sometimes the results have been that the Secretary of the Interior was hung in effigy for his pains. We have gone to a great deal of trouble and a perfectly enormous expense in relation to shipping, and our being in that business is something that also lands us in a good deal of controversy. There is some controversy, I don't know what it is, about the Mississippi barge lines. I thought we had gone a considerable distance, and been quite generous in providing for it. Now, these are not reasons why the United States Government should not go ahead and do whatever is required to be done, but they are difficulties that it seems might be eliminated to a considerable extent, if those for whom these things are done would try and have a reasonable appreciation of the efforts that are being made in their behalf. Of course, the principle that I am trying to elucidate is the very extreme difficulty of the Federal Government engaging in the transaction of business that isn't strictly a government business. As soon as it undertakes to do that the people that are helped or harmed immediately begin a political agitation about it. It results in controversies that it would be much better to keep out of and is one of the main reasons why the United States Government ought to keep from undertaking to transact business that the people themselves ought to transact. It can't function along that line. As soon as the Government tries to transact such business, the people with whom it is being transacted don't regard it as the Government's business. They regard it as their business. They think it ought not to be done for the benefit of the Government in a way that would be for the benefit of the Treasury or all the people, but that it ought to be done for their benefit. And that always creates a situation that it is extremely difficult to contend with and one which is practically impossible. So that it is my policy, in so far as I can, to keep the Government out of business, withdraw from that business that it is engaged in temporarily, and not to be in favor of its embarking on new enterprises.

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I haven't any knowledge of any movement on the part of the Government to apply what might be called a colonial policy to the Philippines. I doubt very much if General [Frank] McIntyre is committed to anything of that kind. I have set out several times my policy in relation to the Philippines, one in a letter that I sent to Mr. [Manuel] Roxas two or three years ago, and then again when I vetoed the Philippine legislature's bill to have a referendum taken on the question of immediate Philippine independence. In general my policy, of course, is to work out their situation under the present Organic Law usually referred to as the Jones Law. I have often expressed the thought that the ability of the Filipino people and their local government to comply with the terms of that law was to quite an extent a measure of their capacity for government. Now, I am open minded, of course, about things in the Philippine Islands, and if some better plan could be proposed I should examine it with a great deal of care. But I think the Jones Law on the whole is a very good law. It would work out much better than it is working out, if it was received sympathetically by all the Filipino people and all the members of their government, and if they would adopt toward it an attitude of cordial cooperation. It is doing very well as it is. You will never get any law that is absolutely perfect or any administration that is absolutely perfect, and we need to look upon the Filipino people and their aspirations with the very broadest kind of sympathy. I have conferred several times with ex-Secretary Stimson, had him come down from New York once on purpose to go over the Philippine situation as he found it. Of course, I have kept rather in close touch with it myself, had re-ports and letters and a conference that I had last summer in the Black Hills with General Wood. This matter can't be considered from a personal angle. It has to be discussed in relation to principles, rather than in relation to personalities. Perhaps the less attention we give to personalities, while giving every possible approval and support and expressing the approbation of those who have done well in the Philippines, the sooner we shall arrive at a wise solution of the problems out there.

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

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