William Howard Taft

Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination of the Republican Party

August 01, 1912


I accept the nomination which you tender. I do so with profound gratitude to the Republican Party, which has thus honored me twice. I accept it as an approval of what I have done under its mandate, and as an expression of confidence that in a second administration I will serve the public well. The issue presented to the Convention, over which your Chairman presided with such a just and even hand, made a crisis in the party's life. A faction sought to force the party to violate a valuable and time-honored national tradition by entrusting the power of the Presidency for more than two terms to one man, and that man, one whose recently avowed political views would have committed the party to radical proposals involving dangerous changes in our present constitutional form of representative government and our independent judiciary.

This occasion is appropriate for the expression of profound gratitude at the victory for the right which was won at Chicago. By that victory, the Republican Party was saved for future usefulness. It has been the party through which substantially all the progress and development in our country's history in the last fifty years has been finally effected. It carried the country through the war which saved the Union, and through the greenback and silver crazes to a sound gold basis, which saved the country's honor and credit It fought the Spanish war and successfully solved the new problems of our island possessions. It met the incidental evils of the enormous trade expansion and extended combinations of capital from 1897 until now by a successful crusade against the attempt of concentrated wealth to control the country's politics and its trade. It enacted regulatory legislation to make the railroads the servants and not the masters of the people. It has enforced the anti-trust laws until those who were not content with anything but monopolistic control of various branches of industry arc now acquiescent in any plan which shall give them scope for legitimate expansion and assure them immunity from reckless prosecution.

The Republican Party has been alive to the modem change in the view of the duty of government toward the people. Time was when the least government was thought the best, and the policy which left all to the individual, unmolested and unaided by government, was deemed the wisest Now the duty of government by positive law to further equality of opportunity in respect of the weaker classes in their dealings with the stronger and more powerful is clearly recognized. It is in this direction that real progress toward the greater human happiness is being made. It has been suggested that under our Constitution, such tendency to so-called paternalism was impossible. Nothing is further from the fact.  The power of the Federal Government to tax and expend for the general welfare has long been exercised, and the admiration one feels for our Constitution is increased when we perceive how readily that instrument lends itself to wider governmental functions in the promotion of the comfort of the people.

The list of legislative enactments for the uplifting of those of our people suffering a disadvantage in their social and economic relation enacted by the Republican Party in this and previous administrations is a long one, and shows the party sensitive to the needs of the people under the new view of governmental responsibility.

Thus there was the pure-food law and the meat-inspection law to hold those who dealt with the food of millions to a strict accountability for its healthful condition.

The frightful loss of life and limb to railway employees in times past has now been greatly reduced by statutes requiring safety appliances and proper inspection, of which two important ones were passed in this administration.

The dreadful mining disasters in which thousands of miners met their death have led to a Federal mining bureau and generous appropriations to further discovery of methods of reducing explosions and other dangers in mining.

The statistics as to infant mortality and as to the too early employment of children in factories have prompted the creation of a children's bureau, by which the whole public can be made aware of actual conditions in the States and the best methods of reforming them for the saving and betterment of the coming generation.

The passage of time has brought the burdens and helplessness of old age to many of those veterans of the Civil War who exposed their lives in the supreme struggle to save the Nation, and, recognizing thus, Congress has added to previous provision which patriotic gratitude had prompted, a substantial allowance, which may be properly characterized as an old men's pension.

By the white-slave act we have sought to save unfortunates from their own degradation, and have forbidden the use of interstate commerce in promoting vice.

In the making of the contract of employment between a railway employee and the company, the two do not stand on an equality, and the terms of the contract which the common law implied were unfair to the employee. Congress, in the exercise of its control over interstate commerce, has re-formed the contract to be implied and has made it more favorable to the employee. Indeed, a more radical bill, which I fully approve, has passed the Senate and is now pending in the House which requires interstate railways in effect to insure the lives of their employees and to make provision for prompt settlement of the amount due under the law after death or injury has occurred.

By the railroad legislation of this administration, shippers have been placed much nearer an equality with the railroads whose lines they use, than ever before. Rates can not be increased except after the Interstate Commerce Commission shall hold the increase reasonable. Orders against railways which under previous acts might be stayed by judicial injunction that involved a delay of two years can now be examined and finally passed on by the Commerce Court in about six months. Patrons of express, telegraph, and telephone companies may now secure reasonable rates by complaint to the commission.

Many millions are spent annually by the Agricultural Department to investigate the best methods of treating the soil and carrying on agriculture and to publish the results. We are now looking into the question of the best system for securing such credit for the farmer at reasonable rates as will enable him better to equip his farm and to follow the rules of good farming, which we must encourage. Our platform, I am glad to say, specifies this is a reform to which the party is pledged. The necessity for stimulating greater production of foodstuffs per acre becomes imperative as the vacant lands available for the extension of acreage are filling up and the supply of foodstuffs as compared with the demand is growing less each year.

Congress has sought to encourage the movement toward eight hours a day for all manual labor by the recent enactment of a new law on the subject more stringent in its provisions, regarding works on government contracts.

One of the great defects in our present system of government is the delay and expense of litigation, which of course works against the poor litigant. The Supreme Court is now engaged in a revision of the equity rules to minimize delay and expense as to half our Federal litigation. The workmen's compensation act will relieve our courts of law of a very heavy part of the present dockets on the law side of the court and give the court more opportunity to speed the remaining causes. The last Congress codified the Federal court provisions, and we may look for, and should insist upon, a reform in the law procedure so as to promote dispatch of business and reduction in costs.

We have adopted in this administration, after very considerable opposition, the postal savings banks, which work directly on the promotion of thrift among the people. By reason of the payment of only 2 per cent, interest on deposits, they do not compete with the savings banks. But they do attract those who fear banks and are unwilling to trust their funds except to a governmental agency. Experience, however, leads depositors to a knowledge of the importance of interest, and then seeking a higher rate, they transfer their accounts to the savings banks. In this way the savings-bank deposits, instead of being reduced, are increased, and there is thus available a much larger fund for general investment.

For some years the administration has been recommending the parcels post, and now I am glad to say a measure will probably be adopted by Congress authorizing the government to avail itself of the existing machinery of the Post Office Department to carry parcels at a reasonably low rate, so that the communication between the city and the country in ordinary merchandise will be proportionately as low priced and as prompt as the newspaper and letter delivery through the post offices now. This must contribute greatly to reducing the cost and increasing the comfort of living.

We are considering the changing needs of the people in the disposition of our public lands and their conservation. As those lands owned

by the government and useful for agricultural purposes which remain are as a whole less desirable as homesteads than those which have been already settled, it has been properly thought wise to reduce the time for perfecting a homestead claim from five years to three, and this whether on land within the rain area or in those arid tracts within the reclamation districts.

Again, a bill has passed the Senate and is likely to pass the House which will not compel the settlers on reclamation lands to wait ten years and until full payment of what they owe the government before they receive a title, but which gives a title after three years with a first government lien.

On the other hand, the withdrawal of coal lands, phosphate lauds, and oil lands and water-power sites is still maintained until Congress shall provide, on the principles of proper conservation, a system of disposition which will attract capital on the one hand and retain sufficient control by the government on the other to prevent the evil of concentrating absolute ownership in a few persons of those sources for the production of necessities.


In the work of rousing the people to the danger that threatened our civilization from the abuses of concentrated wealth and the power it was likely to exercise, the public imagination was wrought upon and a reign of sensational journalism and unjust and unprincipled muckraking has followed, in which much injustice has been done to honest men. Demagogues have seized the opportunity further to inflame the public mind and have sought to turn the peculiar conditions to their advantage.

We are living in an age in which by exaggeration of the defects of our present conditions, by false charges of responsibility for it against individuals and classes, by holding up to the feverish imagination of the less fortunate and the discontented the possibilities of a millennium, a condition of popular unrest has been produced. New parties are being formed, with the proposed purpose of satisfying this unrest by promising a panacea. In so far as inequality of condition can be lessened and equality of opportunity can be promoted by improvement of our educational system, the betterment of the laws to insure the quick administration of justice, and by the prevention of the acquisition of privilege without just compensation, in so far as the adoption of the legislation above recited and laws of a similar character may aid the less fortunate in their struggle with the hardships of life, all are in sympathy with a continued effort to remedy injustice and to aid the weak, and I venture to say that there is no national administration in which more real steps of such progress have been taken than in the present one. But in so far as the propaganda for the satisfaction of unrest involves the promise of a millennium, a condition in which the rich are to be made reasonably poor and the poor reasonably rich by law, we are chasing a phantom; we are holding out to those whose unrest we fear a prospect and a dream, a vision of the impossible.

In the ultimate analysis, I fear, the equal opportunity which is sought by many of those who proclaim the coming of so-called social justice involves a forced division of property, and that means socialism. In the abuses of the last two decades it is true that ill-gotten wealth has been concentrated in some undeserving hands, and if it were possible to redistribute it on any equitable principle to those from whom it was taken without adequate or proper compensation, it would be a good result to bring about. But this is obviously impossible and impracticable. AH that can be done is to treat this as one incidental evil of a great expansive movement in the material progress of the world and to make sure that there will be no recurrence of such evil. In this regard we have made great progress and reform, as in respect to secret rebates in railways, the improper conferring of public franchises, and the immunity of monopolizing trusts and combinations.* The misfortunes of ordinary business, the division of the estates of wealthy men at their death, the chances of speculation which undue good fortune seems often to stimulate, operating as causes through a generation, will do much to divide up such large fortunes.  It is far  better to await the diminution of this evil by natural causes than to attempt what would soon take on the aspect of confiscation or to abolish the principle and institution of private property and to change to socialism. Socialism involves the taking away of the motive for acquisition, saving, energy, and enterprise, and a futile attempt by committees to apportion the rewards due for productive labor. It means stagnation and retrogression. It destroys the mainspring of human action that has carried the world on and upward for 2,000 years.

I do not say that the two gentlemen who now lead, one the Democratic party and the other the former Republicans who have left their party, in their attacks upon existing conditions, and in their attempt to satisfy the popular unrest by promises of remedies, are consciously embracing socialism. The truth is that they do not offer any definite legislation or policy by which the happy conditions they promise are to be brought about, but if their promises mean anything, they lead directly toward the appropriation of what belongs to one man, to another. The truth is, my friends, both those who have left the Republican party under the inspiration of their present leader, and our old opponents, the Democrats, under their candidate, are going in a direction they do not definitely know, toward an end they can not definitely describe, with but one chief and clear object, and that is of acquiring power for their party by popular support through the promise of a change for the better.

What they clamor for is a change. They ask for a change in government so that the government may be restored to the people, as if this had not been a people's government since the beginning of the Constitution. I have the fullest sympathy with every reform in governmental and election machinery which shall facilitate the expression of the popular will as the short ballot and the reduction in the number of elective offices to make it possible. But these gentlemen propose to reform the government, whose present defects, if any, are due to the failure of the people to devote as much time as is necessary to their political duties, by requiring a political activity by the people three times that which thus far the people have been willing to assume; and thus their remedies, instead of exciting the people to further interest and activity in the government, will tire them into such an indifference as still further to remand control of public affairs to a minority.

But after we have changed all the governmental machinery so as to permit instantaneous expression of the people in constitutional amendments, in statutes, and in recall of public agents, what then? Votes are not bread, constitutional amendments are not work, referendums do not pay rent or furnish houses, recalls do not furnish clothing, initiatives do not supply employment or relieve inequalities of condition or of opportunity. We still ought to have set before us the definite plans to bring on complete equality of opportunity and to abolish hardship and evil for humanity. We listen for them in vain.

Instead of giving us the benefit of any specific remedies for the hardships and evils of society they point out, they follow their urgent appeals for closer association of the people in legislation by an attempt to cultivate the hostility of the people to the courts and to represent that they are in some form upholding injustice and are obstructing the popular will. Attempts are made to take away all those safeguards for maintaining the independence of the judiciary which are so carefully framed in our Constitution. These attempts find expression in the policy, on the one hand, of the recall of judges, a system under which a judge whose decision in one case may temporarily displease the electorate is to be deprived at once of his office by a popular vote, a pernicious system embodied in the Arizona constitution and which the Democrats of the House and Senate refused to condemn as the initial policy of a new State. The same spirit manifested itself in the vote by Democratic Senators on the proposition, first, to abolish the Commerce Court, and, second, to abolish judges by mere act of repeal, although under the Constitution their terms are for life, on no ground except that they did not like some of the court's recent decisions. Another form of hostility to the judiciary is shown in the grotesque proposition by the leader of the former Republicans who have left their party, for a recall of decisions, so that a decision on a point of constitutional law, having been rendered by the highest court capable of rendering it, shall then be submitted to popular vote to determine whether it ought to be sustained. Again, the Democratic party in Congress and convention shows its desire to weaken the courts by forbidding the use of the writ of injunction to protect a lawful business against the destructive effect of a secondary boycott and by interposing a jury in contempt proceedings brought to enforce the court's order and decrees. These provisions are really class legislation designed to secure immunity for lawlessness in labor disputes on the part of the laborers, but operating much more widely to paralyze the arm of the court in cases which do not involve labor disputes at all. The hostility to the judiciary and the measures to take away its power and its independence constitute the chief definite policy that can be fairly attributed to that class of statesmen and reformers whose control the Republican party escaped at Chicago and to whom the Democratic party yielded at Baltimore.

The Republican party stands for none of these innovations. It refuses to make changes simply for the purpose of making a change, and cultivating popular hope that in the change something beneficial, undefined, will take place. It does not believe that human nature has * changed. It still believes it is possible in this world that the fruits of energy, courage, enterprise, attention to duty, hard work, thrift, providence, restraint of appetite and of passions will continue to have their reward under our present system, and that laziness, lack of attention, lack of industry, the yielding to appetite and passion, carelessness, dishonesty, and disloyalty will ultimately find their own punishment in the world here. We do not deny that there are exceptions, and that seeming fortune follows wickedness and misfortune virtue, but, on the whole, we are optimists and believe that the rule is the other way. We do not know any way to avoid human injustice but to perfect our laws for administering justice, to develop the morality of the individual, to give direct supervision and aid to those who are, or are likely to be, oppressed, and to give as full scope as possible to individual effort and its rewards. Wherever we can see that a statute which does not deprive any person or class of what is his is going to help many people, we are in favor of it. We favor the greatest good to the greatest number, but we do not believe that this can be accomplished by minimizing the rewards of individual effort, or by infringing or destroying the right of property, which, next to the right of liberty, has been and is the greatest civilizing institution in history. In other words, the Republican party believes in progress along the lines upon which we have attained progress already. We do not believe that we can reach a millennium by a sudden change in all our existing institutions. We believe that we have made progress from the beginning until now, and that the progress is to continue into the far future; that it is reasonable progress that experience has shown to be really useful and helpful, and from which there is no reaction to something worse.

The Republican party stands for the Constitution as it is, with such amendments adopted according to its provisions as new conditions thoroughly understood may require. We believe that it has stood the test of time, and that there have been disclosed really no serious defects in its operation.

It is said this is not an issue in the campaign. It seems to me it is the supreme issue. The Democratic party and the former Republicans who have left their party are neither of them to be trusted on this subject, as I have shown. The Republican party is the nucleus of that public opinion which favors constant progress and development along safe and sane lines and under the Constitution as we have had it for more than one hundred years, and which believes in the maintenance of an independent judiciary as the keystone of our liberties and the balance wheel by which the whole governmental machinery is kept within the original plan.


The normal and logical question which ought to be asked and answered in determining whether an administration should be continued in power is, How has the government been administered? Has it been economical and efficient? Has it aided or obstructed business prosperity? Has it made for progress in bettering the condition of the people and especially of the wage earner? Ought its general policies to approve themselves to the people?

During this administration we have given special attention to the machinery of government with a view to increasing its efficiency and reducing its cost. For twenty years there has been a continuous expansion in every direction of the governmental functions and a necessary increase in the civil and military servants by which these functions are performed. The expenditures of the government have normally increased from year to year on an average of nearly 4 per cent. There never has been a systematic investigation and reorganization of this governmental structure with a view to eliminating duplications, to uniting bureaus where union is possible and more effective, and to making the whole organization more compact and its parts more closely co-ordinated. As a beginning, we examined closely the estimates. These, unless watched, grow from year to year under the natural tendency of the bureau chiefs. The first estimates which were presented to us we cut some $50,000,000, and this policy we have maintained through the administration and have prevented the normal annual increase in government expenditures, so the result is that the deficit of $58,735,000, which we

found on the 1st of July, 1909, was changed on the 1st of July, 1910, by increase of the revenues under the Payne law, including the corporation tax, to a surplus of $15,806,000; on July 1, 1911, to a surplus of $47,234,000, and on July 1, 1912, to a surplus of $36,336,000. The expenditures for 1909 were $662,324,000; for 1910, $659,705,000; for 1911, $654,138,000, and for 1912, $654,804,000. These figures of surplus and expenditure do not include any receipts or expenditures on account of the Panama Canal.

I secured an appropriation for the appointment of an Economy and Efficiency Commission, consisting of the ablest experts in the country, and they have been working for two years on the question of how the government departments may be reorganized and what changes can be made with a view to giving it greater effectiveness for governmental purposes on the one hand and securing this at considerably less cost on the other. I have transmitted to Congress from time to time the recommendations of this commission, and while they can not all be adopted at one session, and while their recommendations have not been rounded and complete because of the necessity for taking greater time, I think that the Democratic Appropriations Committee of the House has become convinced that we are on the right- road and that substantial reform may be effected through the adoption of most of the plans recommended by this commission.


For the benefit of our own people and of the world, we have carried on the work of the Panama Canal so that we can now look forward with confidence to its completion within eighteen months. The work has been a remarkable one, and has involved the expenditure of $30,000,000 to $40,000,000 annually for a series of years, and yet it has been attended with no scandal, and with a development of such engineering and medical skill and ingenuity as to command the admiration of the world and to bring the highest credit to our Corps of Army Engineers and our Army Medical Corps.


In our foreign relations we have maintained peace everywhere and sought to promote its continuance and permanence.

We have renewed the Japanese treaty for twelve more years and have avoided certain difficulties that were supposed to be insuperable as between the two countries by an arrangement which satisfies both.

We negotiated certain broad treaties for the promotion of universal arbitration which, if they had been ratified, would have greatly contributed toward perfecting machinery for securing general peace. These the Democratic minority of the Senate not being willing to concur in, withheld the necessary two-thirds vote, and amended the treaties in such a way as to make it doubtful whether they are worth preserving.

In China we have exercised a beneficial influence as one of the powers interested in aiding that great country in its forward movement and in its efforts to establish and maintain popular government. In order that our influence might be useful, we have acted with the other great powers, and we have exercised our influence effectively toward the strengthening of the popular movement and giving the Republic governmental stability. We have lent our good offices in the negotiation of a loan essential to the continuance of the Republic and which we hope that China will accept under such conditions of supervision as are adequate to the security of the lenders and at the same time will be of great assistance to those in whose behalf the loan is made, the people of China.

Our Mexican neighbor on the south has been disturbed by two revolutions, and these have necessarily brought a strain upon our relations because of the losses sustained by American citizens, both in property and in life, due to the lawlessness which could not be prevented under conditions of civil war. The pressure for intervention at times has been great, and grounds upon which, it is said, we might have intervened have been urged upon us, but this administration has been conscious that one hostile step in intervention and the passing of the border by one regiment of troops would mean war with Mexico, the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, the loss of thousands of lives in the tranquillization of that country, with all the subsequent problems that would arise as to its disposition after we found ourselves in complete armed possession.

In order to avoid the plain consequences, it seemed the course of patriotism and of wisdom to subject ourselves and our citizens to some degree of suffering and inconvenience and to pass over with a strong protest and a claim for damages even those injuries inflicted on our peaceful citizens in our own territory along the border by flying bullets in engagements between the governmental and the revolutionary forces on the Mexican side. It is easy to arouse popular indignation over an instance of this character. It is easy to take advantage of it for the purpose of justifying aggressive action, and it is easy to cultivate political support and popularity by a warlike and truculent policy, but with the familiarity that we have had in the carrying on of such a war in the Philippines and in Cuba, no one with a sense of responsibility to the American people would involve them in the almost unending burden and thankless task of enforcing peace upon these 15,000,000 of people fighting among themselves, when they would necessarily all turn against us at the first manifestation of our purpose to intervene. I am very sure that the course of self-restraint that the administration has pursued in respect to Mexico will vindicate itself in the pages of history.

I am hopeful that the present government is now rapidly subduing the insurrection and that we may look for tranquillity [sic] near at hand. The demonstration of force which I felt compelled to make in the early part of the disturbance, by the mobilization of some 15,000 or 20,000 troops in Texas, and holding maneuvers there, had a good and direct effect and, as our ambassador and consuls report, secured much increased respect for American and other foreign property in the disturbances that followed. Similar questions have arisen in Cuba, but we have been able to avoid intervention, and to aid and encourage that young Republic by suggestion and advice.

I am glad to believe that we have had more peace in the Central American Republics because of our attention to their needs and our activity in mediating between them than ever before in the history of those Republics.

The dignity and effectiveness of the government of the United States, together with its responsibility for the protection of Hawaii, Porto Rico, Alaska, Panama, and the Philippines, as well as for the maintenance of the Monroe doctrine, require the maintenance of an Army and Navy We can not properly reduce either below its present effective size. The plan for the maintenance of the Navy in proportion to the growth of other navies of the world calls for the construction of two new battleships each year. The Republican party has felt the responsibility and voted the ships. The Democratic party, in House caucus, repudiates any obligation to meet this national need.

The Philippines have had popular government and much prosperity during this administration in view of the free trade which they have enjoyed under the Payne bill. The continuance of the same policy with respect to the Philippines will make the prosperity of those islands greater and greater and will gradually fit their people for self-government, and nothing will prevent such results except the ill-advised policy proposed by the Democratic party of holding before the Philippine people independence as a prospect of the immediate future.

During this administration everything that has been possible has been done to increase our foreign trade, and under the Payne bill the




maximum and minimum clause furnished the opportunity for removing discriminations in that trade, so that the statistics show that our exports and imports reached for the year ending July 1, 1912, a higher figure than ever before in the history of the country. Our imports for the last fiscal year, ending July 1, 1912, amounted to $1,653,426,174, and our exports to $2,049,320,199, or a total of $3,857,648,262. If there were added to this the business done with Porto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippines, the sum total of our foreign trade would considerably exceed $4,000,000,000. The excess of our exports over imports is $550,795,914. Manufactures exported during the year 1912 exceed $1,000,000,000 and surpass the previous record. These figures seem to show that the business is large enough to produce prosperity, and the fact is that it has done so.


The platform of 1908 promised, on behalf of the Republican party, to do certain things. One was that the tariff would be revised at an extra session. An extra session was called and the tariff was revised. The platform did not say in specific words that the revision would be generally downward, but I construed it to mean that. During the pendency of the bill and after it was passed, it was subjected to the most vicious misrepresentation. It was said to be a bill to increase the tariff rather than to reduce it. The law has been in force now since August, 1909, a period of about 35 months. We are able to judge from its operation how far the statement is true that it did reduce duties.

It has vindicated itself. Under its operation, prosperity has been gradually restored since the panic of 1907. There have been no disastrous failures and no disastrous strikes. The percentage of reduction below the Dingley bill is shown in the larger free list and in the lower percentage of the tariff collected on the total value of the goods imported. The figures show that under the Dingley bill, which was in force 144 months, the average per cent, of the imports that came in free was in value 44.3 per cent, of the total importations, and that under the Payne bill, which has been in force 35 months, the average per cent, in value of the imports which have come in free amounts to 51.2 per cent, of the total; that the average ad valorem of the duties on dutiable goods under the 12 years of the Dingley bill was 45.8 per cent., while under the 35 months of the Payne bill this was 41.2 per cent., and that the average ad valorem of duties on all the imports under the Dingley bill was 25.5 per cent., while under the Payne bill it was 20.1 per cent. In other words, considering only reduction on dutiable goods, the reduction in duties from the Dingley bill to the Payne bill was 10 per cent., and considering reductions on all imports, it amounted to 21 per cent.

Under the provisions of the Payne bill I was able to appoint a Tariff Board to make investigations into each schedule with a view to determining the cost of production here and the cost of production abroad of the articles named in the schedule, in order to enable Congress in adjusting this schedule to know what rate of duty was necessary to prevent a destructive competition from European countries and the closing up of our mills and other sources of production. We are living on an economic basis established on principles of protection. A large part of our products are dependent for existence upon a rate of duty sufficient to save the producer from foreign competition which would make the continuance of his business impossible. In making the Payne bill Congress did not have the advantage of the report of the Tariff Board showing the exact facts. If it had, the bill would have been constructed on a better basis, but we now have had the Tariff Board working and it has made a report on the production of wool and the manufacture of woolens in this country and in all the countries abroad, and has given similar data as to the manufacture of cotton. If the Republican Party had control of the House of Representatives, there would be no difficulty now in passing a woolen bill such as indeed as has been presented by the Republicans in Congress, reducing the duty on wool and on woolens to such a degree as not to include more than enough to enable the wool industry and the woolen industry to live and produce a reasonable profit. The same thing could be done with respect to the cotton industry. On the other hand, our opponents, the Democrats, presented to me for my signature a woolen bill and a cotton bill, both of which if allowed to become laws, as the reports of the Tariff Board show, would have made such a radical cut in the rates on many woolen and cotton manufactures as seriously to interfere with those industries in this country. This would have forced a transfer of the manufacture to England and Germany and other foreign countries.


If the result of the election were to put the Democrats completely in control of all branches of the Government, then we should look for the reduction of duties upon all those articles the manufacture of which need protection, and may anticipate a serious injury to a large part of our manufacturing industry. We would not have to wait for actual legislation on this subject; the very prospect of Democratic success when its policy toward our great protected industries became understood would postpone indefinitely the coming of prosperity and tend to give us a recurrence of the hard times that we had in the decade between 1890 and 1897. The Democratic platform declares protection to be unconstitutional although it has been the motive and purpose of most tariff bills since 1879, and thus indicates as clearly as possible the intention to depart from a protective policy at once. It is true the Democratic platform says that the change to the policy of a revenue tariff is to be made in such a way as not to injure industry. This is utterly impossible when we are on a protective basis; and it is conclusively shown to be so by the necessary effect of bills already introduced and passed by the Democratic House for the purpose of making strides toward a revenue tariff. It is now more than 15 years since the people of this country have had an experience in such a change as that which the coming in of the Democratic Party would involve. It ought to be brought home to the people as clearly as possible that a change of economic policy, such as that which is deliberately proposed in the Democratic platform, would halt many of our manufacturing enterprises and throw many wage earners out of employment, would injure much the home markets which the farmers now enjoy for their products, and produce a condition of suffering among the people that no reforming legislation could neutralize or mitigate.


The statement has been widely circulated and has received considerable support from political opponents, that the tariff act of 1909 is a chief factor in creating the high cost of living. This is not true. A careful investigation will show that the phenomenon of increased prices and cost of living is world wide in its extent and quite as much in evidence in other countries of advanced civilization and progressive tendencies as in our own. Bitter complaints of the burden of increased prices and cost of living have been made not only in this country, but even in countries of Asia and Africa. Disorder and even riots have occurred in several European cities because of the unprecedented cost of food products. In our own country, changes have been manifested without regard to lower or higher duties in the tariff act of 1909. Indeed, the most notable increase in prices has been in the case of products where no duties are imposed, and in some instances in which they were diminished or removed by the recent tariff act.

It is difficult to understand how any legislation or promise in a political platform can remedy this universal condition. I have recommended the creation of a commission to study this subject and to report upon all possible methods for alleviating the hardship of which the people complain, but great economic tendencies, notable among which are the practically universal movement from the country to the city and the increased supply of gold have been the most potent factors in causing high prices. These facts every careful student of the situation must admit.


There is one respect in which high tariff rates may make for exorbitant prices. If the rate is higher than the difference between the cost of production here and abroad, then it tempts the manufacturers of this country to secure monopoly of the industry and to increase prices as far as the excessive tariff will permit. The danger may be avoided in two ways:* First, by carefully adjusting the tariff on articles needing protection so that the manufacturer secures only enough protection to pay the scale of high wages which obtains and ought to obtain in this country and secure a reasonable profit from the business. This may be done by the continuance of the Tariff Board's investigation into the facts, which will enable Congress and the people to know what the tariff as to each schedule ought to be. The American public may rest assured that should the Republican Party be restored to power in all legislative branches, all the schedules in the present tariff of which complaint is made will be subjected to investigation and report without delay which may be necessary to square the rates with the facts.

The other method of avoiding danger of excessive prices from excessive duties is to enforce the antitrust laws against those who combine to take advantage of the excessive tariff rates. This brings me to the discussion of the Sherman Act.


The antitrust law was passed to provide against the organization and maintenance of combinations for the manufacture and sale of commodities, which through restraint of trade, either by contract and agreement or by various methods of unfair competition, should suppress competition, establish monopoly, and control prices. The measure has been on the statute book since 1890, and many times under construction by the courts, but not until the litigation against the Standard Oil Company and against the American Tobacco Company reached the Supreme Court did the statute receive an authoritative construction which is workable and intelligible.


It would aid the business public if specific acts of unfair trade which characterize the establishment of unlawful monopolies should be denounced as misdemeanors for the purpose, first, of making plainer to the public what must be avoided, and, second, for the purpose of punishing such acts by summary procedure without the necessity for the formidable array of witnesses and the lengthy trials essential to establish a general conspiracy under the present act. But there is great need for other constructive legislation of a helpful kind. Combination of capital in great enterprises should be encouraged, if within the law, for everyone must recognize that progress in modern business is by effective combination of the means of production to the point* of greatest economy. It should be our purpose, therefore, to put large interstate business enterprises acting within the law on a basis of security by offering them a Federal corporation law under which they may voluntarily incorporate. Such an act is not an easy one to draw in detail, but its genera l outlines are clearly defined by the two objects of such a law. One is to secure for the public, through competent Government agency, such a close supervision and regulation of the business transactions of the corporation as to preclude a violation of the antitrust and other laws to which the business of the corporation must square, and the other is to furnish to business, thus incorporated and lawfully conducted, the protection and security which it must enjoy under such a Federal charter. With the faculties conferred by such a charter, corporations could do business in all the States without complying with conflicting exactions of State legislatures, and could be sure of uniform taxation, i.e., uniform with that imposed by the State on State corporations in the same business.


I am not in sympathy with the purpose to make the antitrust law more drastic by such a provision as is proposed by the Democratic majority of the investigating committee of the House, for imposing a rule as to burden of proof upon defendants under antitrust prosecutions different from that which defendants in other prosecutions enjoy. This can not be suggested by any difficulty found in proving to the courts the illegality of such combinations when the illegality exists. I challenge the production of a single record in any case in which an objectionable combination has escaped a decree against it because of any favorable rule as to the burden of proof. It is true that many defendants in criminal cases have escaped by a failure of the jury to convict, but that arises from the reluctance And refusal of jurors to find verdicts upon which men are likely to be sent to the penitentiary for pursuing a course of business competition which the ordinary man did not regard as immoral or criminal before the passage of the act.


I think I may affirm without contradiction that the prosecution of all persons reported to the Department of Justice to have violated the antitrust law has been carried on in this administration without fear or favor, and that everyone who has violated it, no matter how prominent or how great his influence, has been brought before the bar of the court either in civil or criminal suit to answer the charge.

It is the custom of those who And it to their political interest to do so to sneer at, as innocuous, the decrees against the American Tobacco Company and against the Standard Oil Company, and the administration is condemned in the Democratic platform for consenting to a compromise in the Standard Oil case. There was no compromise. The Standard Oil decree was entered by the circuit court, and then by the Supreme Court, on the prayer of the Government contained in the original bill filed in a previous administration. The decree in the Tobacco case was reached after a full discussion and entered by the circuit court, consisting of four circuit judges, as a proper decree, and the Government refused to appeal from it because it did not feel that it had grounds upon which to base such an appeal. Both decrees are working well. Both decrees have introduced competition, the one into branches of the tobacco business and the other into branches of the oil business. They have not reintroduced ruinous 'competition, but they have affected certain prices in such a way as to show the presence of real competition. The division of the two trusts by the decrees into several companies was not expected to show immediate radical change in the business. It may take some years to show all the benefits of the dissolution, but the limitations of the decrees in those two cases are so specific as to make altogether impossible a resumption of the old combination against which the decrees were entered. Even if experience shall show the decrees to be inadequate, full opportunity in future litigation will be afforded to supply the defects.

The contest has been a long one. For years the rule laid down in the statute was ignored and laughed at, but the power of courts of justice pursuing quietly the law and enforcing it whenever opportunity arose has finally convinced the business public that the antitrust law means something, and that the policy of the administration in enforcing it means something. A number of these combinations illegally organized and maintained are now coming forward admitting their illegality and seeking a decree of dissolution, injunction, and settlement. They are quite prepared to square with that policy, provided it be definitely understood that it be impartially enforced and that security shall attend compliance with the law. My belief is that these decrees mark the beginning of a new era in industrial development; that what the great corporations of the country now desire is not what they manifestly did 20 years ago, to-wit, to obtain a monopoly in each business, but it is to maintain a large enough plant to secure the greatest economy in production on the one hand and to avoid the danger of the threats of persecution and disturbance of their business on the other. It will be the work of the highest statesmanship to secure these ends, and the Republican Party if given the power will accomplish it


I have thus outlined, Mr. Root and gentlemen, what I consider to be the chief issues of this campaign. There are others of importance, but time does not permit me to discuss them. In accordance with the usual custom I reserve the opportunity to supplement these remarks in a letter to be addressed to you at a later date when the alignments of the campaign may require further discussion.

For the present it is sufficient for me to say that it is greatly in the interest of the people to maintain the solidarity of the Republican Party for future usefulness and to continue it and its policies in control of the destinies of the Nation. I can not think that the American people, after the scrutiny and education of a three-months* campaign, during which they will be able to see through the fog of misrepresentation and demagoguery, will fail to recognize that the two great issues which are here presented to them are, first, whether we shall retain, on a sound and permanent basis, our popular constitutional representative form of government, with the independence of the judiciary as necessary to the preservation of those liberties that are the inheritance of centuries, and, second, whether we shall welcome prosperity which is just at our door by maintaining our present economic business basis and by the encouragement of business expansion and progress through legitimate use of capital.

I know that in this wide country there are many who call themselves Democrats, who view, with the same aversion that we Republicans do, the radical propositions of change in our form of Government that are recklessly advanced to satisfy what is supposed to be popular clamor. They are men who revere the Constitution and the institutions of their Government with all the love and respect that we could possibly have, men who deprecate disturbance in business conditions, and are yearning for that quiet from demagogic agitation which is essential to the enjoyment by the whole people of the great prosperity which the good crops and the present conditions ought to bring to us. To them I appeal, as to all Republicans, to join us in an earnest effort to avert the political and economic revolution and business paralysis which Republican defeat will bring about. Such misfortune will fall most heavily on the wage earner. May we not hope that he will see what his real interest is, will understand the shallowness of attacks upon existing institutions and deceitful promises of undefined benefit by undefined changes?

May we not hope that the great majority of voters will be able to distinguish between the substance of performance and the fustian of promise; that they may be able to see that those who would deliberately stir up discontent and create hostility toward those who are conducting legitimate business enterprises, and who represent the business progress of the country, are sowing dragons' teeth? Who are the people? They are not alone the unfortunate and the weak; they are the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich, and the many who are neither, the wage earner and the capitalist, the farmer and the professional man, the merchant and the manufacturer, the storekeeper and the clerk, the railroad manager and the employee—they all make up the people and they all contribute to the running of the Government, and they have not any of them given into the hands of anyone the mandate to speak for them as peculiarly the people's representative. Especially does not he represent them who, assuming that the people are only the discontented, would stir them up against the remainder of those whose Government alike this is. In other campaigns before this, the American people have been confused and misled and diverted from the truth and from a clear perception of their welfare by specious appeals to their prejudices and their misunderstanding, but the clarifying effect of a campaign of education, the pricking of the bubbles of demagogic promise which the discussions of a campaign made possible, have brought the people to a clear perception of their own interests and to a rejection of the injurious nostrums that in the beginning of the campaign, it was then feared, they might embrace and adopt. So may we not expect in the issues which are now before us that the ballots cast in November shall show a prevailing majority in favor of sound progress, great prosperity upon a protection basis, and under true constitutional representative rule by the people?

NOTE: These remarks were made to the Republican Party notification committee in the East Room of the White House.  The text is taken from the Official Report of the Proceedings of the Fifteenth Republican National Convention, Volume 14, pp. 414-433.  In that source in all most all references to either party (e.g., "Republican party"), the word "party" is not capitalized.  We have followed the source in that respect.

William Howard Taft, Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination of the Republican Party Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/332424