Remarks Accepting the Republican Nomination for President

July 27, 1904

Mr. Speaker and gentlemen of the Notification Committee:

I am deeply sensible of the honor conferred upon me by the representatives of the Republican party assembled in convention, and I accept the nomination for the Presidency with solemn realization of the obligations I assume. I heartily approve the declaration of principles which the Republican National Convention has adopted, and at some future day I shall communicate to you, Mr. Chairman, more at length and in detail a formal written acceptance of the nomination.

Three years ago I became President because of the death of my lamented predecessor. I then stated that it was my purpose to carry out his principles and policies for the honor and the interest of the country. To the best of my ability I have kept the promise thus made. If next November my countrymen confirm at the polls the action of the convention you represent, I shall, under Providence, continue to work with an eye single to the welfare of all our people.

A party is of worth only in so far as it promotes the national interest, and every official, high or low, can serve his party best by rendering to the people the best service of which he is capable. Effective government comes only as the result of the loyal co-operation of many different persons. The members of a legislative majority, the officers in the various departments of the administration and the legislative and executive branches as toward each other must work together, with subordination of self to the common end of successful government. We who have been intrusted with power as public servants during the last seven years of administration and legislation now come before the people content to be judged by our record of achievement. In the years that have gone by we have made the deed square with the word; and if we are continued in power we shall unswervingly follow out the great lines of public policy which the Republican party has already laid down; a public policy to which we are giving, and shall give, a united, and there fore an efficient support.

In all of this we are more fortunate than our opponents, who now appeal for confidence on the ground, which some express and some seek to have confidentially understood, that, if triumphant, they may be trusted to prove false to every principle which in the last eight years they have laid down as vital, and to leave undisturbed those very acts of the administration because of which they ask that the administration itself be driven from power. Seemingly, their present attitude as to their past record is that some of them were mistaken and others in sincere. We make our appeal in a wholly different spirit. We are not constrained to keep silent on any vital question; we are divided on no vital question; our policy is continuous, and is the same for all sections and localities. There is nothing experimental about the government we ask the people to continue in power, for our performance in the past, our proved governmental efficiency, is a guarantee as to our promises for the future. Our opponents, either openly or secretly, according to their several temperaments, now ask the people to trust their present promises in consideration of the fact that they intend to treat their past promises as null and void. We know our own minds and we have kept of the same mind for a sufficient length of time to give to our policy coherence and sanity. In such a fundamental matter as the enforcement of the law we do not have to depend upon promises, but merely to ask that our record be taken as an earnest of what we shall continue to do. In dealing with the great organizations known as trusts we do not have to explain why the laws were not enforced, but point out that they actually have been enforced and that legislation has been enacted to increase the effectiveness of their enforcement.

We do not have to propose to "turn the rascals out," for we have shown in very deed that whenever by diligent investigation a public official can be found who has betrayed his trust he will be punished to the full extent of the law, without regard to whether he was appointed under a Republican or a Democratic administration. This is the efficient way to turn the rascals out and to keep them out, and it has the merit of sincerity. Moreover, the betrayals of trust in the last seven years have been insignificant in number when compared with the extent of the public service. Never has the administration of the government been on a cleaner and higher level; never has the public work of the nation been done more honestly and efficiently.

Assuredly, it is unwise to change the policies which have worked so well and which are now working so well. Prosperity has come at home. The national honor and interest have been upheld abroad. We have placed the finances of the nation upon a sound gold basis. We have done this with the aid of many who were formerly our opponents, but who would neither openly support nor silently acquiesce in the heresy of unsound finance; and we have done it against the convinced and violent opposition of the mass of our present opponents, who still refuse to recant the unsound opinions which for the moment they think it inexpedient to assert. We know what we mean when we speak of an honest and stable currency. We mean the same thing from year to year. We do not have to avoid a definite and conclusive committal on the most important issue which has recently been before the people, and which may at any time in the near future be before them again. Upon the principles which underlie the issue the convictions of half of our number do not clash with those of the other half. So long as the Republican party is in power the gold standard is settled, not as a matter of temporary political expediency, not because of shifting conditions in the production of gold in certain mining centres, but in accordance with what we regard as the fundamental principles of national morality and wisdom.

Under the financial legislation which we have enacted there is now ample circulation for every business need; and every dollar of this circulation is worth a dollar in gold. We have reduced the interest bearing debt, and in still larger measure the interest on that debt. All of the war taxes imposed during the Spanish war have been removed with a view to relieve the people and to prevent the accumulation of an unnecessary surplus. The result is that hardly ever before have the expenditures and income of the government so closely corresponded. In the fiscal year that has just closed the excess of income over the ordinary expenditures was $ 9,000,000. This does not take account of the $ 50,000,000 expended out of the accumulated surplus for the purchase of the Isthmian Canal. It is an extraordinary proof of the sound financial condition of the nation that instead of following the usual course in such matters and throwing the burden upon posterity by an issue of bonds, we were able to make the payment outright, and yet after it to have in the Treasury a surplus of $ 161,000,000. Moreover, we were able to pay this $ 50,000,000, out of hand without causing the slightest disturbance to business conditions.

We have enacted a tariff law under which during the last few years the country has attained a height of material wellbeing never before reached. Wages are higher than ever before. That whenever the need arises there should be a readjustment of the tariff schedules is undoubted; but such changes can with safety be made only by those whose devotion to the principle of a protective tariff is beyond question; for otherwise the changes would amount not to readjustment but to repeal. The readjustment when made must maintain and not destroy the protective principle. To the farmer, the merchant, the manufacturer, this is vital; but perhaps no other man is so much interested as the wage workers in the maintenance of our present economic system, both as regards the finances and the tariff. The standard of living of our wage workers is higher than that of any other country, and it cannot so re main unless we have a protective tariff which shall always keep as a minimum a rate of duty sufficient to cover the difference between the labor cost here and abroad. Those who, like our opponents, denounce protection as a robbery thereby commit themselves to the proposition that if they were to revise the tariff no heed would be paid to the necessity of meeting this difference between the standards of living for wage workers here and in other countries; and therefore on this point their antagonism to our position is fundamental. Here again we ask that their promises and ours be judged by what has been done in the immediate past. We ask that sober and sensible men compare the workings of the present tariff law and the conditions which obtain under it, with the workings of the preceding tariff law of 1894 and the conditions which that tariff of 1894 helped to bring about.

We believe in reciprocity with foreign nations on the terms outlined in President McKinley's last speech, which urged the extension of our foreign markets by reciprocal agreements whenever they could be made without injury to American industry and labor. It is a singular fact that the only great reciprocity treaty recently adopted—that with Cuba was finally opposed almost alone by the representatives of the very party which now states that it favors reciprocity. And here, again, we ask that the worth of our words be judged by comparing their deeds with ours. On this Cuban reciprocity treaty there were at the outset grave differences of opinion among ourselves; and the notable thing in the negotiation and ratification of the treaty, and the legislation which carried it into effect, was the highly practical manner in which, without sacrifice of principle, these differences of opinion were reconciled. There was no rupture of a great party, but an excellent practical out come, the result of the harmonious co-operation of two successive Presidents and two successive Congresses. This is an illustration of the governing capacity which entitles us to the confidence of the people, not only in our purposes, but in our practical ability to achieve those purposes. Judging by the history of the last twelve years, down to this very month, is there justification for believing that under similar circumstances and with similar initial differences of opinion our opponents would have achieved any practical result?

We have already shown in actual fact that our policy is to do fair and equal justice to all men, paying no heed to whether a man is rich or poor; paying no heed to his race, his creed or his birthplace.

We recognize the organization of capital and the organization of labor as natural outcomes of our industrial system. Each kind of organization is to be favored so long as it acts in a spirit of justice and of regard for the rights of others. Each is to be granted the full protection of the law, and each in turn is to be held to a strict obedience to the law; for no man is above it and no man below it The humblest individual is to have his rights safeguarded as scrupulously as those of the strongest organization, for each is to receive justice, no more and no less. The problems with which we have to deal in our modern industrial and social life are manifold; but the spirit in which it is necessary to approach their solution is simply the spirit of honesty, of courage and of common sense.

In inaugurating the great work of irrigation in the West, the administration has been enabled by Congress to take one of the longest strides ever taken under our government toward utilizing our vast national domain for the settler, the actual home maker.

Ever since this continent was discovered the need of an isthmian canal to connect the Pacific and the Atlantic has been recognized, and ever since the birth of our nation such a canal has been planned. At last the dream has become a reality. The Isthmian Canal is now being built by the government of the United States. We conducted the negotiation for its construction with the nicest and most scrupulous honor, and in a spirit of the largest generosity toward those through whose territory it was to run. Every sinister effort which could be devised by the spirit of faction or the spirit of self-interest was made in order to defeat the treaty with Panama and thereby prevent the consummation of this work. The construction of the canal is now an assured fact, but most certainly it is unwise to intrust the carrying out of so momentous a policy to those who have endeavored to defeat the whole undertaking.

Our foreign policy has been so conducted that, while not one of our just claims has been sacrificed, our relations with all foreign nations are now of the most peaceful kind; there is not a cloud on the horizon. The last cause of irritation between us and any other nation was removed by the settlement of the Alaskan boundary.

In the Caribbean Sea we have made good our promises of independence to Cuba, and have proved our assertion that our mission in the island was one of justice, and not of self-aggrandizement; and thereby no less than by our action in Venezuela and Panama we have shown that the Monroe Doctrine is a living reality, designed for the hurt of no nation, but for the protection of civilization on the Western continent and for the peace of the world. Our steady growth in power has gone hand in hand with a strengthening disposition to use this power with strict regard for the rights of others and for the cause of international justice and good will.

We earnestly desire friendship with all the nations of the New and Old Worlds; and we endeavor to place our relations with them upon a basis of reciprocal advantage instead of hostility. We hold that the prosperity of each nation is an aid and not a hindrance to the prosperity of other nations. We seek international amity for the reasons that make us believe in peace within our own borders; and we seek this peace not because we are afraid or unready, but because we think that peace is right as well as advantageous.

American interests in the Pacific have rapidly grown. American enterprise has laid a cable across this, the greatest of oceans. We have proved in effective fashion that we wish the Chinese Empire well and desire its integrity and independence.

Our foothold in the Philippines greatly strengthens our position for trade of the East; but we are governing the Philippines in the interest of the Philippine people themselves. We have already given them a share in their government, and our purpose is to increase this share as rapidly as they give evidence of increasing fitness for the task. The great majority of the officials of the islands, whether elective or appointive, are already native Filipinos. We are now providing for a legislative assembly. This is the first step to be taken in the future and it would be eminently unwise to declare what our next step will be until this first step has been taken and the results are manifest. To have gone faster than we have already gone in giving the islanders a constantly increasing measure of self-government would have been disastrous. At the present moment to give political independence to the islands would result in the immediate loss of civil rights, personal liberty and public order as regards the mass of the Filipinos, for the majority of the islanders have been given these great boons by us, and only keep them because we vigilantly safeguard and guarantee them. To with draw our government from the islands at this time would mean to the average native the loss of his barely won civil freedom. We have established in the islands a government by Americans, assisted by Filipinos. We are steadily striving to transform this into self-government by the Filipinos, assisted by Americans.

The principles which we uphold should appeal to all our countrymen, in all portions of our country. Above all, they should give us strength with the men and women who are the spiritual heirs of those who upheld the hands of Abraham Lincoln for we are striving to do our work in the spirit with which Lincoln approached his. During the seven years that have just passed, there is no duty, domestic or foreign, which we have shirked; no necessary task which we have feared to undertake or which we have not performed with reasonable efficiency. We have never pleaded impotence. We have never sought refuge in criticism and complaint instead of action. We face the future with our past and our present as guarantors of our promises, and we are content to stand or to fall by the record which we have made and are making.

APP Note:  Theodore Roosevelt is the first nominee to acknowledge his nomination exclusively by making a speech or remarks rather than by preparing a formal "Letter of Acceptance."

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks Accepting the Republican Nomination for President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project