Excerpts of the President's News Conference at White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths, New York
This is the fourth [third] anniversary of my being President. The country has made a great deal of progress in the past three years. It hasn't been so noisy as it has at some other times, but judging from the general condition of the country it has been fairly successful.
Three years ago the German reparations problem had not been solved. The French still occupied the Ruhr. That question has been taken care of.
Our own problems were those that arose as a result of the war. Of course after the cessation of hostilities and during the almost five year period from November, 1918, until August, 1923 the questions became almost entirely, so far as our country was concerned, economic. We had our great war debt, which has been steadily reduced. We had high taxes, which have been reduced by two acts of Congress. And we had the question of keeping Government expenditures as low as possible. Those questions have been met very successfully.
The business of the country for the past three years has been, I should say, on the whole, better than any other three years. Of course there was a very large business during the war, but it was a business that was paid for by using up the capital of the country. The business of the past three years has been paid for in the ordinary business way, out of its earnings. We have been gradually recovering from the depression, and to a considerable extent, due to the reductions in taxes, there has been a decline in commodity prices. They don't stand so low now as they did in the middle of the deflationary period, but they are considerably lower than they were three years ago, which means that the people are able to purchase the same amount of com-modities at a less expenditure of money, and this notwithstanding the fact that wages have not decreased, but on the whole, so far as there has been a change, wages would show a trifle of an increase over what they were three years ago.
There are some parts of the West where a full recovery has not yet been made. Mr. Ford told me that in North Dakota and in Nebraska business showed some falling off due to crop failures on account of lack of rainfall. Last year there was a considerable crop failure in Nebraska, and this year in parts of that state and in the Dakotas there has been dry weather, so that they have suffered from failure of crops. The textile industry has not been very good for the past few months, but it has been showing signs of a recovery, especially during the month of July. The metal industries and the automobile industry apparently are first-rate. The railroads of the country are doing a larger business than they ever did before and are practically all recovered and on their way to recovery from the strain they underwent during the war. They are a very large purchasing power when they are prosperous and able to finance themselves and put in the improvements and the extensions that are all the time required for the purpose of meeting an increasing business, and it goes a long way toward making all the business of the country productive and prosperous.
We hadn't resumed relations with Mexico, so far as sending an Ambassador there three years ago. Judge Payne and Charles B. Warren were in Mexico as Commissioners working out a* plan for an adjustment of claims and for a recognition of the Mexican Government, which took place after I became President, and Mr. Warren returned there as our first Ambassador. We have adopted such legislation as the new immigration law, the Railroad Labor law. I have mentioned the two tax bills, they were important, we have ratified a great many treaties, the Senate has voted to adhere to the protocol of the Court of International Justice, and a great deal of other legislation that I can't recall offhand. Perhaps you gentlemen will recall some that I haven't. But the main thing is the general result, which has left the country in a flourishing and prosperous condition.
PRESS: Did you mention war debts, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT: NO. The war debts have been settled. That of course is a very outstanding feature of the last three years. Those are the greatest international financial transactions that were ever entered into between different nations.
I feel that we are making some progress towards further agreements for limitation of armaments. We negotiated a treaty concerning the sale of arms. That doesn't change the present treaties, so far as we are concerned, that were entered into at the Washington Arms Conference, but very slightly. There are: some changes, but they are practically the same thing that was entered into there in their main outline.
As I was about to say, a Government can't always secure the prosperity of the country. The best it can do is to create conditions under which the country will be prosperous if it adheres to sound business practices. I think that has been especially characteristic of the past three years; the caution and wisdom on the part of the business interests of the country in not becoming involved in overextension, in manufacturing a lot of goods without first knowing where they were going to secure a market, and in not borrowing a lot of money, but rather attempting to finance their own needs themselves. That has left the country in a condition that is basically sound.
There was a reaction in the prices of securities last winter that was entirely healthy and on the whole, I believe, beneficial. The recession in prices that took place at that time has been very largely made up in the last six or eight weeks. Levels on the whole are not quite so high as they were last winter. But that is not a matter that affects very much the sound business condition of the country.
Movements of freight are very large and the output of our manufacturing establishments taken as a whole is large.
I wouldn't want to be understood as indicating that the economic and material prosperity of the country is the only thing that ought to be considered, but it is so necessary to a consideration of other things that it is a fundamental consideration. We are not able to make much progress in other directions, unless we have sound business conditions. I feel that in addition to our material prosperity we are making progress in educational ways and in the general moral standards of the country. We have been troubled by some crimes of violence, but I think that has not been so large as that which has been inflicted upon the country in the succeeding period that has followed other times of war. Nor do I mean that we are in such perfect condition that we don't need to do anything more. There are a great many more things that we ought to do, and it is going to be necessary to put a good deal of effort into maintaining our present position.
I should doubt very much if it would be at all practicable for the President of the United States to go into conference with the President of Mexico. International relations are not conducted by that method. I think ever since someone attempted to conduct negotiations directly with George Washington, which he refused to do and referred them to the Secretary of State, it has been recognized that the foreign relations of this country are to be conducted through that avenue.
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 at White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/349160