Remarks in Charlotte, North Carolina
I have enjoyed more than I can say passing through this great State to-day. I entered your borders a pretty good American, and I leave them a better American, and I have rejoiced in the symptoms of your abounding material prosperity. I am here in a great center of cotton manufacture. Within a radius of a hundred miles of this city perhaps half of the cotton manufacturing in the United States is done. I realize to the full, as does every good citizen, that there must be a foundation of material prosperity upon which to build the welfare of State or nation; but I realize, also, as does every good citizen, that material prosperity, material well-being, can never be anything but the foundation. It is the indispensable foundation; but if we do not raise upon it the superstructure of a higher citizenship, then we fail in bringing this to the level to which it shall and will be brought.
And so, though I congratulate you upon what you have done in the way of material growth, I congratulate you even more upon the great historic memories of your State. It is not so very far from here that the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was made—the declaration that pointed out the path on which the thirteen united colonies trod a few months later.
As I got off the train here I was greeted by one citizen of North Carolina (and I know that neither the Governor, the Mayor, nor the Senators will blame me for what I am going to say) whose greeting pleased and touched me more than the greeting of any man could have touched me. I was greeted by the widow of Stonewall Jackson.
We of this united country have a right to challenge as a part of the heritage of honor and glory of each American the reunion of one people—Americans who fought in the Civil War—whether they wore the blue or whether they wore the gray. The valor shown alike by the men of the North and the men of the South as they battled for the right as God gave them to see the right, is now part of what we, all of us, keep with pride. It was my good fortune to appoint to West Point the grandson of Stonewall Jackson.
Here, as I came up your streets, I saw a monument raised to a fellow soldier of mine who fell in the Spanish war at Santiago, to Shipp of North Carolina. The morning of the fight he and I took breakfast together. It was not much of a breakfast, but it was the only breakfast that was going, and we were glad to get it. The night before, I had no supper, and he and his comrades gave me, out of their very small amount that they had, a sandwich. In the morning they had no material for breakfast, but by that time my things had come up and I shared my breakfast with them. That was at dawn. Before noon one of them was killed, and the other (as we then thought) fatally wounded.
And now, there are here men who fought in the great war. We who went in in '98 had the opportunity to fight only in a small war, and all that we claim is that we hope we showed a spirit not entirely unworthy of the men who faced the mighty and terrible days from '61 to '65.
And now, gentlemen, though we glory in the memories of the past, we must remember ever to keep these memories, not as excuses for failing to do well in the present, but as incentives to spur us on to action. In life, every victory won inevitably brings us face to face with a new struggle. The men of one generation have to do their allotted task. If they fail to do it, they accumulate misfortune upon those who come after them. If they do it, yet it remains true that the men who come after them must do their tasks in turn. It is just as it is with you, my escort, the men of the National Guard, the artillerymen, the infantrymen. If there comes a war, I know I can count on you and those like you, because the memory of what your fathers did will make you ashamed not to rise level to the demands of the new time, as they rose level to the demands of their time.
So in civil life, each generation has its problems. The tremendous industrial development of the past half century, the development which has produced cities such as this, has brought great problems with it problems connected with corporations, problems connected with labor, problems connected with both the accumulation and the distribution of wealth. The problems are new, but the spirit in which we must approach their solution is old. We must face the work we have to do, as our fathers faced their work, if we wish to be successful. This is an age of organization—the organization of capital, the organization of labor. Each type of organization should be welcomed when it does good, and fearlessly opposed when it does evil.
Our main object should be to strive to keep the reign of justice alive in this country, so that we should above all things avoid the chance of ever dividing on the lines that separate one class or occupation from another. The man who would teach either wage worker or capitalist that the other is his foe is a bad citizen and a faithless American.
We can afford to divide along lines that would represent honest difference of opinion, but we cannot afford to divide on the fundamental lines of cleavage that separate good citizens from bad citizens; and we must remember that if we intend to keep this republic in its position of headship among the nations of mankind, we can never afford to deviate from the old American doctrine of treating each man ac cording to his worth as a man, of paying heed not to whether he is rich or poor, but heed only to whether he acts as a decent citizen, or if he is a decent man in his domestic life, an honest man in business a man who in good faith tries to do his duty by his neighbor and by the State.
And now, my fellow-citizens, remember there is no patent device by which you can achieve good citizenship. There is no patent device by which you can achieve good government. The good citizen is the man who is a good father and a good husband; the man who behaves himself; the man whom you can trust in a trade and whom you are glad to have as a neighbor. He is the good citizen, and the man the public confides in and who does well in the State is the man who applies in dealing with his fellows in the mass just those same qualities that make good citizenship in the individual.
And now I have got to say good-by. I cannot tell you how I enjoyed my trip through this State, marred though it has been by the lamentable death that rendered the governor unable to come with me, and for which I feel profound regret, and sympathize with the governor.
And now, in saying good-by, I want to say to you men and women that I have been immensely impressed with North Carolina—with her agriculture, with her industries, but that the crop that I like best is the crop of children; and I congratulate North Carolina. I congratulate North Carolina on the fact that, to all appearances, the children seem to be all right in quality and in quantity.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Charlotte, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343629