Harry S. Truman photo

Rear Platform Remarks in West Virginia

October 16, 1948


Thank you very much for this wonderful reception. I am very glad to be here this morning, and I appreciate your cordial welcome.

You know, I have always had a warm spot in my heart for Clarksburg. I have been a student of the War between the States. I remember that Stonewall Jackson was born here in Clarksburg. When he was about 17 years old he hitchhiked or walked all the way to Washington. I guess he went by wagon, because those were horse-and-buggy days--except they didn't have any buggies. He went to see the Secretary of War and sat in his outer office. In those days the Secretary of War made all the appointments to West Point. He went to the Secretary of War, and finally the Secretary sent Stonewall Jackson to West Point just to get rid of him. In the first year he was about 74th in a class of 76; the second year he rated about 45th in that same class; in the third year he was about 15th from the top; in the fourth year, 7th from the top. And Robert E. Lee said, "If you just had another year you'd be at the top of the class."

I'm telling you that story because a man with persistence and hard work can accomplish wonders; and I think that the Democrats in this campaign, starting from the bottom before the Democratic convention, are now a winning team because the people are with them.

We're on a crusade, a crusade of right against Republican money might. I've carried on this campaign because I believe that if the American people are told facts and the truth they will do the right thing. I have not tried to fool the people. You know where I stand on every issue before the country; and whether you like it or not, you know what I am for and what I am against. The Democrats never did believe in fooling the people. Nor will we ever exploit the people. I wish that were true of all political parties.

I was shocked to be shown this morning a picture which I hold here in my hand. It is a picture of a leaflet signed by the Secretary of the Republican Finance Committee. They were sent to Republicans throughout West Virginia. These leaflets admit that the Republican 80th Congress passed a tax law this spring not to help the people, but to make it possible for wealthy Republicans to be able to make big contributions to the Republican Party.

Let me read you what it says: "Do you want more of this sort of constructive action?" Then, "Use your tax savings to make a substantial investment in a Republican victory." It was signed by the West Virginia Republican Finance Committee, and that is a photostatic copy of the thing; and I am going to explain to you what that means.

I ask you, what kind of a Congress do we have when the Republicans pass laws so they can get big campaign contributions? I thought Congress was supposed to pass laws to serve the people and not the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or any other party. We run on principles--and there is a very decided dividing line between the Democratic and the Republican principles. The Democrats believe in the people. They have always been for the people, ever since Thomas Jefferson organized the Democratic Party, and Andrew Jackson ran the monied interests out of the Government in the 1830's, and when Woodrow Wilson made the necessary reforms in the interests of the everyday people. The Democratic Party has always been for the people. The Republicans have always been for special interests, and this conclusively proves it.

Look at what this law did to you, the people who work for a living--who don't have any big fortunes to fall back on. A married man with two children and an income of $2500 a year got a reduction of $78.40 a year--about $1.60 a week. And that's fine, but the Republicans didn't do anything to stop prices from going out of sight--and the rapid rise of the cost of living has already eaten up what savings that man got. The $1.60 didn't mean a thing to him.

But what happens to the big wage-earner? The man with ten times the earning of the small wage-earner, he gets 40--and I repeat, 40--times the income tax reduction that the little fellow gets. A fellow, here, gets $100,000 a year; and if he has no children his saving under this tax bill is $16,724.62. That is in this Republican leaflet that is sent out because they want to get about $16,000 out of that $16,724 so they can .purchase the election. That's what they want. Now, if that same man has two children he saves $16,658.44, and the Republicans want to get that $16,000 so they can continue to purchase the election. The Republican Party says: "We put that money in your pocket. Give some of it to us."

Now, my friends, I vetoed that Republican tax bill three times. They had to take three shots at it before they could get that bill passed over my veto, because that bill was wrong. And I'm just as sure as I stand here that I was right and that you're going to say I was right on election day.

Now, look what they are doing. They are telling the wealthy, who saved tremendous sums of money by the Republican tax bill, to contribute to their party treasury. It is a substantial part of the fund that otherwise would have gone into the Federal Treasury for your welfare and benefit.

I say the American people are going to rise up as one man against this kind of dirty deal and elect a Democratic Congress in place of the 80th good-for-nothing Congress.

The people want laws to help them live a better, healthier, more secure life--not laws to line the pockets of the rich. And that's what they mean: "We've lined your pockets. Now see that we get some of that so we can debauch the country by buying the election."

In 1946 two-thirds of the people stayed at home on election day and forgot to vote-and they got this good-for-nothing 80th Congress, which is just what they deserved. Whenever you exercise your right--the right to vote--you are the Government; and when you fail to exercise it you get something like that 80th Congress.

Now, this Republican candidate has endorsed the 80th Congress. He said it has done great things for the country and great things for the people. I have made 200 statements all over the United States to show that they did things to the people but didn't do a single thing for them.

I want to urge you in your own interests to go to the polls on election day and vote for yourselves, vote for your own interests. And if you do that, if all the people vote who are entitled to vote, I am not worried in the slightest degree about what will happen. We will have a Democratic Senator from West Virginia; we'll have a Democratic Congressman from this district; and I will be in the White House another 4 years and won't be troubled by any housing problem.

I can't tell you how very much I appreciate this most cordial reception in West Virginia; and I'm just as sure as I stand here that West Virginia is going to be in the right column.


Matt, I will remember that introduction as long as I live. You and I were always friends. I know your record in the Senate of the United States, and I endorsed that record always. I am here in West Virginia, now, hoping to help Matt Neely, and Bob Ramsay, and Okey Patteson become members of that great Congress of the United States--when it works right. It can be great when the Democrats control it.

I have always liked the story I read once about how Grafton got its name. As I remember it, it seems that the railroad construction crews that came in here about 100 years ago called this place on the railroad the "grafting on" point because so many branch lines were hooked onto the main line here. It wasn't long before the city became Grafton.

I certainly appreciate the reception you have given me on my trip into West Virginia in this campaign. I think the folks in West Virginia are really friendly. From what I hear, most of your visitors are as friendly towards you. I read in the paper last week about how the candidate for Vice President on the Republican ticket came here to make some speeches in his campaign for the Vice Presidency. And I heard that the Republican Senator from West Virginia stood around waiting for this California Governor to say what a good Senator he is.

That is a clipping I got out of the Washington Star, which I can't say is overly friendly to the Democrats. But the Senator waited in vain, at least this news story here says. All the Governor would say is that he liked the 80th Congress. He wouldn't endorse the present Republican Senator from West Virginia, and I don't blame him for that.

Now, what kind of a party is it that can't or won't endorse its candidates ?

The Democratic Party is not made out that way. I am proud to stand here and endorse Matt Neely, Mr. Ramsay, and Okey Patteson, and all the other Democrats on the ticket in West Virginia.

I am proud to be running on the record of the Democratic Party and the platform of the Democratic Party. I am proud to stand up for all the people in this country and say that we didn't want the Taft-Hartley Act and all the other destructive legislation that the 80th "do-nothing" Congress passed.

The reason I call it "do-nothing" is because it did not do anything for the people. Now, there are a lot of people that wouldn't agree with that, because it did a lot for special privilege, and special privilege has been in the saddle ever since the 80th Congress came to Washington.

I am proud that the Democratic Party fought hard to get laws to provide Federal aid to education, better health, better housing, broader social security coverage, and all the other important things that the Democratic Party stands and fights for.

In 1946, two-thirds of you stayed at home and forgot to vote, and we got that Republican 80th Congress. That Congress blocked the steady progress we had been making towards a better life for all the people in the United States.

This year everyone is going to get out and vote, on account of the fact that you understand that you are the Government. The people are the Government in these United States, but they cannot be the Government if they are too lazy to get out and vote on election day. The Government is in your hands when you want to use the power that you have.

Now, you owe it to the country and you owe it to yourselves to get out and vote on election day. It is the way we can get a peaceful, prosperous nation. All I ask is that you examine the record carefully. You know where I stand on all the great issues before the country.

If you can find out where the other fellow stands, you will be good, because I can't find out.

So, just study these issues and make up your minds in your own interests. Then get up early in the morning on the second day of November, and go to the polls and vote the straight Democratic ticket in your own interest, and then your President won't be troubled with a housing shortage on the 20th of January, I will stay in the White House.

I have got another very good friend on this train. He is the able and distinguished Senator from West Virginia, Harley Kilgore. What a team Kilgore and Neely will make in the Senate. You will really have something if you elect them.

I have been told that Grafton has the best band in West Virginia. I would like to hear from that band and make a judgment for myself. I like band music.

[3.] KEYER, WEST VIRGINIA (12:34 p.m.)

Thank you. Thank you very much. Harley Kilgore and I have been friends a long, long time. We had quite an association together in the United States Senate during the war, and I want to say to you that Harley Kilgore ably represents West Virginia in the Senate--and I hope you'll send Matt Neely there this time so you'll have some real representation in the Senate.

When I see crowds like this, I know the Democrats are going to win. I appreciate very highly your turning out to see the President and hear what he has to say. I am very sorry I didn't have a chance to visit you the other night, but we were on a very tight schedule and it just wasn't possible. I do appreciate your being here this morning. It means that you people are aware of what is at stake in this election. It means that you want a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. I think you are going to send Matt Neely to the Senate and Okey Patteson to the State Capitol, and of course you're going to send Harley Staggers to the Congress as your Representative from this district--Harley the namesake of my good friend here, Harley Kilgore. And I think Harley Kilgore in the Senate and Harley Staggers in the House ought to make this part of the country well represented in those two great bodies.

You know, crowds have been greeting me all over the country just like this. I think they mean that the American people don't want--and aren't going to have--a government in Washington next year that will make the shameful record that the 80th Congress did.

For the last 2 years the Republicans in Congress have been trying to tear up the great laws which were passed during the Democratic administrations since 1933. There are a lot of farmers around Keyset, so I am told, and every one of them knows how much better off he is today than he was in 1933, after 12 years of Republican misrule. You know, a funny thing about this campaign is that you never hear any Republican candidate make any reference to any Republican administration. He is running on a "me too" policy. He wants to take over and do what the Democrats have done but he says he can do it better.

Soil conservation, rural electrification, farm price supports--these and many other forward-looking laws have brought West Virginia farmers to the most prosperous condition they have ever known.

But what did the 80th Congress try to do? It slashed the funds for soil conservation so much that the whole program was nearly wiped out. It refused to provide money for public power transmission lines. And it refused to pass a housing bill which would have provided better housing for farmers and city people alike. It refused to pass an education bill or a health bill. Those bills would have meant more and better schools and hospitals in farm areas. The Republican 80th Congress has hurt labor just as much as it has hurt farmers. The Republicans in Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act for just one reason: to weaken the power of the labor unions so that the workingman would not be able to fight for better wages and working conditions. They passed that law over my veto. And when they pass laws and put them on the books, the President of the United States is sworn to support the Constitution of the United States and the laws. And he has to enforce the law. So the best thing you can do is to elect a Democratic Congress and take some of these horrible laws this 80th Congress passed off the books.

The Republicans weren't content to hurt the farmers and the workers. Now they are going around telling the farmers that we have high prices because the workingmen are getting too much money; and they are telling the workers that high prices are due to the fact that the farmer is getting a fair price for his crops. That's just not so. Prices are going up, and up, and up, because the Republican leaders refused to pass a price control law that I asked for time and time again. They refused to do anything about prices because the big corporations want to continue making the greatest profits in all history, and they are making the greatest profits in all history--it's the first time in the history of the country.

When farmers have been prosperous, workingmen have been prosperous. Workingmen are getting three times what they did back under the Republicans, and farmers are getting four or five times what they got under the Republicans, and the corporations are making nearly ten times--well, they didn't make anything under the Republicans. The last time the Republicans were in office they had a $300 million deficit. And do you know what they had as profit last year after they paid all their taxes? Seventeen billions. You multiply that by minus 300 and see what you get!

To add insult to injury, the Republicans are going around in this campaign telling the rich that they want big campaign contributions from them as a reward for having 'passed a rich man's tax bill. They are boldly and brazenly saying, "You ought to pay part of that income savings to the Republican campaign fund." Now, whenever a Congress legislates for the benefit of a class, that Congress is not fit to live with. So don't return the 81st Congress with the same leadership that the 80th Congress had. And when I talk about the Congress I talk about the leadership. I am not talking about such fellows as this in the Congress. They did the right thing, and if we had more of them we wouldn't have the situation with which we are faced now.

If you want good government and people who will work for you, in your interests and not for special interests, you'll go to the polls on election day and vote a straight Democratic ticket, and then the country will be in safe hands.

Note: In the course of his remarks on October 16 the President referred to Democratic candidate for Senator Matthew M. Neely, Democratic candidates for Representative Cleveland M. Bailey, Robert L. Ramsay, and Harley O. Staggers, Democratic candidate for Governor Okey Patteson, Senator Chapman Revercomb, and Senator Harley M. Kilgore, all of West Virginia; and Governor Earl Warren of California, Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.

Harry S Truman, Rear Platform Remarks in West Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233650

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