Remarks in Augusta, Maine
Governor Burleigh, my fellow citizens, men and women of Maine:
It would be difficult for any man speaking to this audience and from in front of the house in which Blaine once lived to fail to feel whatever of Americanism there was in him stirred to the depths. For my good fortune I knew Mr. Blaine quite well when he was Secretary of State, and I have thought again and again during the past few years how pleased he would have been to see so many of the principles for which he had stood approach fruition.
One secret, perhaps I might say the chief secret, of Mr. Blaine's extraordinary hold upon the affections of his countrymen was his entirely genuine and unaffected Americanism. When I speak of Americanism I do not for a minute mean to say, gentlemen, that all the things we do are all right. I think there are plenty of evils to correct and that often a man shows himself all the more a good American because he wants to cut out any evil of the body politic which may interfere with our approaching the ideal of true Americanism. But not only admitting but also emphasizing this, it yet remains true that throughout our history no one has been able to render really great service to the country if he did not believe in the country. Mr. Blaine possessed to an eminent degree the confident hope in the nation's future which made him feel that she must ever strive to fit herself for a great destiny. He felt that this Republic must in every way take the lead in the Western Hemisphere. He felt that this Republic must play a great part among the nations of the earth. The last four years have shown how true that feeling of his was.
He had always hoped that we would have a peculiarly intimate relation with the countries south of us. He could hardly have anticipated—no one could have—the Spanish War and its effects. In consequence of that war America's interest in the tropic islands to our south and the seas and coasts surrounding those islands is far. greater than ever before. Our interest in the Monroe Doctrine is more complicated than ever before. The Monroe Doctrine is simply a statement of our very firm belief that on this continent the nations now existing here must be left to work out their own destinies among themselves and that the continent is not longer to be regarded as colonizing ground for any European power. The one power on the continent that can make that doctrine effective is, of course, ourselves; for in the world as it is, gentlemen, the nation which advances a given doctrine likely to interfere in any way with other nations must possess power to back it up if she wishes the doctrine to be respected. We stand firmly on the Monroe Doctrine.
The events of the last nine months have rendered it evident that we shall soon embark on the work of excavating the Isthmian Canal to connect the two great oceans—a work destined to be, probably, the greatest engineering feat of the twentieth century, certainly a greater engineering feat than has ever yet been successfully attempted among the nations of mankind; and as it is the biggest thing of its kind to be done I am glad it is the United States that is to do it. Whenever a nation undertakes to carry out a great destiny it must make up its mind that there will be work and worry, labor and risk, in doing the work. It is with a nation as it is with an individual; if you are content to attempt but little in private life you may be able to escape a good deal of worry, but you won't achieve very much. The man who attempts much must make up his mind that there will now and then come days and nights of worry; there will come even moments of seeming defeat. But out of the difficulties we wrest success. So it is with the nation. It is not the easy take that is necessarily the best.
Passing through your streets I see, as is natural to a city having a great Soldiers' Home in its neighborhood, many men who fought in the great war for the Union, and no state relatively to its resources did more splendidly gallant and efficient work than Maine in that mighty struggle, and the reason the Union cause triumphed then was because our people had in their hearts deep down the conviction that there were certain things which far outweighed ease, pleasure, material success or even life itself.
In '61 the easy thing to do was to let the seceding states go. Not only the timid, selfish men, but the very good men who did not think deeply enough said that, in addition to the very good men who were faint of heart. That was the easy thing to do, and if our fathers had done it not a man here would be walking with his head as high as he now holds it, for this country would have embarked upon a career both mean and contemptible, a career of being split up into half a dozen squabbling little rival nationalities. We won out because our fathers had iron in their blood, because they dared greatly and did greatly, because when they were convinced where their duty lay they resolutely did it, no matter what the cost.
During the last four years we have had certain lesser duties, but still important ones, presented to the nation. The war with Spain itself was a slight struggle, an easy one, calling for the exercise of but a fraction of the nation's giant strength. But following that war there came some real and serious difficulties which commanded the exercise on the part of this nation of qualities not altogether remote from those shown in the great days, the days of the Civil War. The demand upon us during this crisis for the qualities shown from '61 to '65 was nothing like as great as it was in that time, but it did not differ greatly in kind; the degree was much less, but the kind of quality demanded was much the same.
We found ourselves, for instance, in the Philippines in possession of a great growth of tropic islands, whose people had moved upward very unequally a certain distance from savagery and subjection, but whose people were wholly unable to stand alone. If we went out of the islands it was certain that they would fall into black chaos and savagery. It was certain that some other stronger power would step in to do the work which in such case we would have failed to perform.
Now, the easy thing to do was to get out of the islands, and, as in '61, all the men of little faith wanted to get out. Every man who wanted to avoid trouble, every man who put the avoidance of trouble above everything else, and even the good men whose thoughts did not strike down to the root of things, wanted to get out. But exactly as in '61 the heart of the people rang true.
The average common sense of the American people determined our course far more than the leadership of anyone man. The average sense of the American people was that we had gotten into the islands, we had put our hands to that job and we had to see it through.
It was not very easy. There was a great deal to puzzle and bewilder us. The warfare was carried on under very difficult conditions of climate, of country and against a singularly cruel and treacherous foe, a very elusive foe. It was very hard to find a chance to strike blows that would end the contest and often the same bit of work had seemingly to be done over and over and over again, and every time it had to be done over again there were people out here on this side of the world in our own country who said that it could not be done. But it was done, and finally on the Fourth of July last, we were able by proclamation to announce the definite pacification of the Philippine islands. I now speak of the Filipinos proper, not of the Mohammedan Moros. We have been doing our best to avoid trouble with the Moros. If they insist upon having it, why, they will have it. When they do have it they will have it for keeps.
But with the Filipinos themselves peace has now definitely come, and a greater measure not only of good government but of self government than they have ever known before during their existence, before Spanish rule and after it. Each Filipino now has a better chance for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than he ever dreamed of having before—than he could have ever dreamed of acquiring under the rule of any little native oligarchy.
Now, when a nation embarks on such a course of action as that upon which this' nation has embarked, it must count the cost. You know in the Bible it says when a king goes to war with another king you want to count the cost to both; you want to count up the power of both himself and his rival. Now, whenever we undertake any bit of action, private or public, we show ourselves most foolish if we do not think it out in advance, and if we do not try so to act as to make good what we promise or threaten to do. Any man here who goes into any bit of business on any other plan will not only fail but will be regarded by his neighbors as a fool, and the nation must show the good sense that we exact of an individual.
We must, in the first place, in dealing with these new islands, deal with them so as to give them the highest measure of government efficiency. Now, it is always pleasant to point to an example which we can follow rather than avoid, and we have such an example ready in what we have done during the past four years with the island of Porto Rico. Porto Rico became ours and we undertook to govern it and we have governed it so well that I haven't the least doubt that about half my audience have to think pretty carefully before they can remember that we are governing it at all.
There is no opportunity whatever for headlines, Governor Burleigh, in any newspaper about Porto Rico, because no editor would think of wasting space upon such an announcement as "Everything still prosperous in Porto Rico."
So well has everything been managed there that our very success has resulted in our not thinking of the matter at all, and it has been managed because we have sent the best type of men that we could find to administer the island, and have striven to administer it not only honestly, not only efficiently, but with due reference to the prejudices of the people themselves.
Now, the last is a very important point, gentlemen, in dealing with people whose antecedents are widely different from ours. Every one of us knows in private life some friend, and I think a great many of us know some kinsman or kinswoman who may be an excellent person, but whom we perfectly loathe and dread, because he or she wants us to live our lives in their way, and not in ours. Their way may be all right, but it is not ours. We want to manage ourselves in our own way and not in the other person's
Now, in all these new dependencies we want to interfere just as little as may be with the manners of life, the customs, the methods of living of the inhabitants. We will have to interfere more or less, but let the interference be minimized, and where it can possibly take the shape of education and persuasion let it take that shape. Now, for one thing especially we have got to give the very best service in the island; we have got to jealously guard their interests, because that will guard our own.
There is something additional we will have to do. The minute we accept great responsibilities we must show our ability to meet them. We must, for instance, keep our navy to a high point of perfection.
Maine always stood by the navy, and I think it always will. But we must not only be devoted to the navy, we must be intelligently devoted to it. Every one of you who has seen or studied about a modern warship knows that it is a singularly delicate and complicated as well as a singularly formidable bit of mechanism. You cannot build it in a short time, and still less can you train anyone to handle it in a short time.
At Manila the ships that went in on that first of May, four years ago, went in while McKinley was President, but they had been built during the presidencies of Arthur and Cleveland and Harrison. The men fought and won the victory on that May day, but they had prepared themselves to win the victory during years of careful training, of exercise of the great ships at sea, of exercise of the men at the guns day in and day out in target practice.
Our men showed valor and self-devotion, but there was valor and self-devotion also on the side of our foes. Many Spaniards showed great bravery, but they did not hit what they shot at, and they let their engines get out of gear; and in this world when you shoot you want to hit; you want to keep your engines all ready.
That applies in civil life just as much as in military life. There had been on our part careful preparedness in advance. In consequence we not only won, but we won practically without getting scratched ourselves. It is a good thing to look back at, if it does not make us commit the grievous error of thinking that we can always count, in the event of a war, on our antagonists not shooting straight.
That won't do. We have got to proceed upon the assumption that if— which heaven forbid—there ever should be a war we may have to encounter a most powerful and skillful antagonist; and to overcome it we must have not merely a fair degree of efficiency on our part, but the very highest degree of efficiency; the best ships and guns and the best men behind the guns.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, in closing, just one word. We have many external problems to solve, but our internal problems are, of course, more serious. Life has grown much more complex, much more difficult during the past century that has closed, and we who stand on the threshold of a new century see many problems looming large before us; problems which will tax the energies, tax the courage and resources of us and our children and our children's children.
We need to devise new governmental methods for meeting these problems, but we need the same fundamental qualities of manhood and womanhood in our average citizen that we always have needed. Exactly as the soldier of the Civil War, though he fought with different weapons from those carried by the soldiers in Washington's army, needed yet the same courage and tenacity, the same soldierly devotion to duty and resolute refusal to accept defeat which made the men who wore the blue and buff victorious, exactly as nowadays when the high power rifle has revolutionized not merely the armament but the tactics of armies and yet has left unchanged the need in the soldier of the old fundamental soldierly qualities. Exactly as all that is true, so it is true in the field of citizenship, of civic work in civic life. In the old life of the countryside, the life which for Maine's good fortune Maine retains to so large an extent, the problems are simpler. It is a little clearer to see our duty to our neighbor and our deep under lying brotherhood to him than is the case in a great city.
Yet in a great city in an industrial center, though we need new laws, though there must be greater interference on the part of the nation and the state in the affairs that were formerly left purely to individual initiative, yet deep down under all laws, under all governmental schemes, there must be the old qualities that make up good citizenship.
You need several of them, but three above everything else. In the first place, honesty, honesty in the widest meaning of the term; honesty that means square dealing as between man and man, readiness on the part of the individual to do his duty to his fellows and to state. And honesty is not enough. No matter how honest a man is, if he is afraid he is no good. The timid good man is of very little help in this world.
A good man, who, when he goes out and meets the forces of evil, is shocked and wants to go home does not amount to much.
This is a rough world. The men who are going to do good work in it are those who are able to do rough work, able to do it with clean hands, but able to do it. You have got to have courage as well as honesty. And courage and honesty combined are not enough. No matter how brave a man is, no matter how decent he is, if he is a fool you can do nothing with him.
You have got to have courage, you must have honesty, and in addition to that you must have not merely as a preliminary to success in private life, but as a prerequisite to success in making the nation what it should and shall be made, the saving virtue of common sense.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Augusta, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343476