Remarks in Boise, Idaho

May 28, 1903

The forests and the grasses are not to be treated as we properly treat mining; that is, as material to be used up and nothing left be hind. On the contrary, we must recognize the fact that we have passed the stage when we can afford to tolerate the man whose object is simply to skin the land and get out. That man is not a valuable citizen. We do not want the absentee proprietor. It is not for him that we wish to develop, irrigation. It is not for him that we must shape the grazing lands, or handle our forests. We must handle the water, the woods and the grasses, so that we will hand them on to our children, and our children's children in better, and not worse, shape than we got them.

I was particularly pleased to be greeted by 2,000 school children. You know I believe in children. And while there may be a good many varieties of first-class citizens in the State, I have always thought that, take it on the average, the citizen I must respect is the mother of a large family, who brought them up well. And so I am glad that your children seem to be all right in point of quality and in quantity, and in traveling through this great country nothing has pleased me more than to see how, hand in hand with the upbuilding of its material prosperity, has gone on the preparation for carefully training the next generation.

I have been greatly struck, as I have come up this beautiful and fertile valley, by what has been done by the application of industry, intelligence, and water, to the soil. And, inasmuch as for a number of years I myself passed a large proportion of my life in the mountains and on the plains of this great Western country, I feel a peculiar pride that it was given to me to sign, and thereby make into law, the act of the National Government, to my mind one of the most important acts made into law by the National Legislature—the National Irrigation Act of a year ago. Already experimental work has begun here in your own State. The National Government, in my judgment, not only should, but must, co-operate with the State governments, and with individual enterprises, in seeing that we utilize to the fullest advantage the waters of the Rocky Mountain States, by canals and great reservoirs, which shall conserve the waters that go to waste at one season, so they can be used at another season.

I believe with all my heart in the Monroe Doctrine. This Western hemisphere is not to become a region for conquest, over which foreign military powers may acquire control. I think that should be a cardinal doctrine of our American foreign policy. But I had a great deal rather never see us announce that policy than for us to announce it and then lack either the will or the power to make it good.

The one means for making it good is the building up of an adequate navy of first-class battleships, such as those provided for by the last Congress, one of which is to be called the Idaho, and having provided the ships, provide the men, and then recollect that the men and the ships are worthless if they have not had a chance to practice, I ask that Congress go on with the building up of the navy, and that it provide the means to make that navy the most effective on the globe.

I earnestly hope that in our time we shall not see war again, but it is impossible to say that there will not be any war, because it is not only necessary that we should want to act rightly toward other nations, and I think I can say that we do, but it is necessary that they should, all of them, want to act rightly toward us; and while I believe that they do, I think it will help them to persevere in their good intentions if we are well armed. I ask for the navy to be used not as provocative of war, but to be used to keep the peace. I ask for the navy as a guarantee and insurance against war, and as a guarantee that if war does come, it shall end gloriously, as all the wars undertaken in the past century and a quarter by this Republic have ended.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Boise, Idaho Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives