Remarks in Dalton, Massachusetts

September 03, 1902

Governor Crane, and you, my friends and fellow citizens:

It seems to me that in a town like this we not only have but ought to have a better standard of citizenship and a more thorough appreciation of the rights and duties of the individual citizen and of the possibilities of government than in almost any other community. Here is a town where you have both farming and manufacturing, where you have on a small scale all the elements that go to make up the industrial life of the nation as a whole—the capitalist and wage-earner, the farmer and the hired man, merchant, men of the professions, you have them all; you see the forces that have built up the nation and that are at work in the nation, in play round about you in the farms, in the factories, in the houses, right among your neighbors and friends. When men live in a big city they lose touch with one another; they tend to lose intimate touch with the government, and they get to speak of the state, of the government, as something entirely apart from them. Now, the government is us, here, you and me, and that ought to make us understand on the one hand what we have a right to expect from the government, and on the other hand what it is foolish to expect from the government. We have a right to expect from it that it will secure us against injustice; that so far as is humanly possible it will secure for each man a fair chance; that it will do justice as between man and man, and that it will not respect persons; that in that division of the government dealing with justice each man shall stand absolutely on his merits, not being discriminated for or against because of his wealth or his poverty, because of anything but his own conduct. The government can take hold of certain functions which are in the interest of the people as a whole. More than this the government, cannot do or else does at the risk of doing it badly. The government cannot supply the lack in any man of the qualities which must determine in the last resort the man's success or failure. Instead of "government" say "the town." Now what can the town do for you? A good deal; but not nearly as much as you can do for it, not nearly as much as you must do for yourself. The government cannot make a man a success in life. If we would remember that and remember that when we use the large terms of the government and nation, we only mean the town on a large scale, there would be much less danger in our thinking that perhaps by some queer patent device or some scheme, the state, the government, the town, can supply the lack of individual thrift, energy, enterprise, resolution. It cannot supply such lack. Something can be done by government, that is, by all of us acting together to protect the rights of all, to accomplish certain things for all. Something can be accomplished by helping one another. He is a poor creature who does not give help generously when the chance comes. But finally in the last resort the man who wins now will be the man of the type who has won always, the man who can win for himself. Do not make the mistake of thinking that it is possible ever to call in any outside force to take the place of the man's own individual initiative, the man's individual capacity to do work worth doing.

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

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives