Remarks to a Committee of the Inter-Church Conference on Marriage and Divorce at the White House

January 26, 1905

Bishop and gentlemen:

It is a very great pleasure to meet you here. There is a certain tendency to exalt the unessential in dealing with our public questions, and public men especially are apt to get their attention concentrated on questions that have an importance, but a wholly ephemeral importance, compared with the questions that go straight to the root of things. Questions like the tariff and the currency are literally of no consequence whatsoever, compared with the vital question of having the unit of our social life, the home, preserved. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the cause you represent. If the average husband and wife fulfil their duties toward one another and toward their children as Christianity teaches them, then we may rest absolutely assured that the other problems will solve themselves. But if we have solved every other problem in the wisest possible way, it shall. profit us nothing if we have lost our own national soul; and we will have lost it if we do not have the question of the relations of the family put upon the proper basis.

While I do not know exactly what it is you wish me to do, I can say in advance that so far as in me lies all will be done to co-operate with you toward the end that you have in view. One of the most unpleasant and dangerous features of our American life is the diminishing birth rate and the loosening of the marital tie among the old native American families. It goes without saying that, for the race as for the individual, no material prosperity, no business growth, no artistic or scientific development will count if the race commits suicide. Therefore, Bishop, I count myself fortunate in having the chance to work with you in this matter of vital importance to the national welfare.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks to a Committee of the Inter-Church Conference on Marriage and Divorce at the White House Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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