Calvin Coolidge photo

Excerpts of the President's News Conference

November 16, 1923

An inquiry also about extending clemency to the remaining political prisoners. I don't exactly like the term political prisoners, because I hope we do not have any such thing in this country, but I use that term because you know what it means, I know what it means, and the public knows. I am having an investigation made, and when I get the results of the investigation I am going to act upon it. I think I may be able to get a report on it within a short time. I am not exactly certain just when it will be.

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An inquiry also about a constitutional amendment making property as well as persons and lives of citizens subject to conscription for the defense of the nation and that necessary legislation be enacted by Congress to that effect. I thought that that principle laid down by President Harding in one of his messages covered this very completely and answered a question of this kind very satisfactorily. I should say about that, that in time of war authority to take every resource of the nation, in persons and property, at reasonable pre-war rates of compensation without any profiteering would be a fair policy of operation and a fair principle. Now that is very difficult of practical application. When war arises necessarily it is followed by a tremendous force behind it to stimulate production and stimulate all kinds of activity, and the method that has been used for that purpose has been to increase prices. If you want to get more work done, more production, you pay a larger price. Wages rise, and prices of all kinds of commodities rise. So that whether that exact principle would be one that could ever practically be put into operation, I think is a question. But in theory I think it is perfectly correct, and if it could be done it would make the question of national defense one much easier than it is at the present time.

* * * * * * *

An inquiry also about my answer to a recent question which was interpreted as favoring a monarchist regime for Germany. I suppose it is well known that the long expressed policy of the American Government, especially as set out in the Monroe Doctrine, is that of favoring everywhere a republican form of government. That doesn't mean that we can always interfere, even when we should want to interfere, nor does it mean that the Government as a government can always express the opinion that would probably be entertained by each member of the Government, and known to be entertained by all the people of the United States. That question arose from an inquiry about a report of the return of the Emperor of Germany into that country. I suppose one of the things for which we went to war was to drive him out of power and prevent hereafter what the Emperor at that time was doing. That was supposed to have been effectively prevented by the Versailles Treaty, and those who are parties to that treaty have the authority, of course, and ought to have the authority, to enforce its provisions, and in that they would have the sympathy always of the United States, I am sure.

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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