Remarks at a Banquet in Charleston, South Carolina

April 08, 1902

Mr. Mayor, and you, my hosts and my fellow American citizens:

I should indeed be but a poor American myself if I were not deeply touched and gratified by the way you have greeted me today in this your beautiful city; and, of course, I feel at home here. I think that an American who is worth his salt has the right to feel at home in every part of the United States.

Around this table I see many men who took part in the great wars.

The war in which the younger among us here took part was a very little one because it didn't have to be any bigger. But it had one thoroughly good effect; it put the cap on the structure that had been building while we were almost unconscious of it, and it taught us how thoroughly at one we were. When we got through that war it did not make a bit of difference to us whether it was an admiral who came from Vermont or a lieutenant who came from Alabama, if the man had done his duty in such shape as to make us each feel an even more generous thrill of pride in our common nationality. The debt that we owed him had little to do with the section from which he came.

And now a special word to you of Charleston and of South Carolina. Just twelve years ago, when I first went to Washington to take part in governmental work, I was immediately thrown into singularly close contact and intimacy with a South Carolinian. It was my good fortune to work with him for three years and for the nine years since, and for as long as I shall continue to be in public life, it will be to me ever a spur to try to do decent duty for the Republic, because I have been thrown intimately in contact with as fearless and as high minded a public servant as this country has ever had, my old friend, your former Governor, Hugh Thompson.

And from what I have known of you and of your representatives it was in no sense a surprise, but it was a keen pleasure to be greeted with the hearty and generous hospitality, the more than hearty and generous hospitality, which you have shown me today.

The welfare of any part of this country is, in a certain sense, an index of the welfare of all, and I think, gentlemen, that, on the average, as we all tend to go up, it seems to be a little better to go up uniformly rather than at a sharper gait for the time being and then down and then up again and then down. South Carolina seems during the last two decades to have definitely entered upon the path of steady progress in things material as well as in other things. I was much struck in looking over some figures of the census quite recently published to see the astonishing progress that has been made here in your State. I was prepared to see that the values of your farm products had risen as they have, a little over 25 per cent. I was prepared to see that your farms themselves had increased in a still larger proportion; that the value of your lands and buildings had grown up, but I did not realize the way in which your manufacturing enterprises had increased, both as shown in the fact that your manufacturing products had gone up over per cent; that, for instance, the number of spindles had about quadrupled, from less than half a million to more than two million, in the State. I did not realize that the wages paid out had increased 75 per cent. Gentlemen, you talk of the progress of the far West, but I think South Carolina can give points to some of the States. I think that with such a record for the previous decade you were well warranted upon insisting on holding your Exposition here.

And, gentlemen, I was very glad that in arranging for your Exposition you not only took in the Southern States, but that you specifically included the islands lying south of the United States, those islands with which events of the last few years have made it evident that we are bound in the future to have closer relations, closer relations for our advantage also. And about all that I have said applies to the greatest and richest of those islands, the island with which we have been brought into the most peculiar intimacy and relationship—the island of Cuba. And I ask that in our trade relations with Cuba we give her a marked and substantial advantage, not merely, not mainly, because it will redound to our interest to do so, although that also is true, but I ask it especially because events have so shaped themselves that it is our duty as a great and mighty nation to help Cuba, and I hope to see us do our duty. I shall not try to make you any speech to—night, because, for your sins, you will have to listen to one to-morrow I shall merely thank you again with all my heart and say to you that I want you to appreciate that I mean every word I say, and mean it deeply, when I tell you I have been touched, more than pleased, touched and stirred by the warmth and heartiness with which you have made me feel today that I am one of you.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at a Banquet in Charleston, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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