Remarks in Ellsworth, Maine

August 27, 1902

Mr. Senator, and you, my friends and fellow citizens:

I have thoroughly enjoyed the two days that I have spent in your beautiful state. I have enjoyed seeing the state and I have enjoyed the most meeting what really counts in any state—the men and women.

I think that the more one studies the problems of life and of civilization the more one realizes the infinitely greater importance of the man than of his physical surroundings. Of course, one has to have certain physical advantages in order to exercise to the best advantage one's own qualities; but it is the last that counts. There are other countries than ours just as fitted by Nature to be agricultural, commercial, industrial centers, and they fail to reach the height that ours has reached, because they have not the same men to take advantage of the condition.

Now, we ought not to say that in any spirit of boastfulness. We ought to say it as a reminder to us that we are not to be excused if in the future we do any less well than has been done in the past. There are plenty of problems ahead of us. We stand on the threshold of a new century. No one can say what trial will be before this nation during that century, but that there must be trials we may be sure. No nation can face greatness without having to face trial, exactly as no man can deliberately enter upon a career which leads upward and onward without making up his mind that there will be roughness for him to surmount. Whether we will or no we must hereafter play in the world the part of a great power. We can play that part ill or we can play it well, but play it somehow we must. It is not open to us to dodge difficulties. We can run away if we want to, but I do not think, gentlemen, that you are built that way.

I earnestly hope, and I can say in all sincerity that I believe, that there is but small chance of our having to face trouble abroad, but we shall avoid it not by blindly refusing to admit that there ever might be trouble, but by safeguarding against it. And the best possible safeguard for this nation is an adequate and highly efficient navy. I am glad to speak in the home of the chairman of the Senate committee on naval affairs. I do not suppose it is necessary to tell any audience which has had a thoroughly good common school education that you do not win victories merely on the day on which the battle is fought. You have got to prepare for them in advance. When Manila and Santiago were fought, great glory came to the men aboard the ships who did the fighting, but an equal meed of praise belongs to those men who prepared in advance. Dewey's ships won their great victory under the presidency of McKinley, but they were built under Presidents Arthur, Cleve land and Harrison. The men and the officers aboard them were able to do what they did because, through months and years of patient practice, often under officers to whom it was denied to be in actual battle, they were trained to the point of efficiency we saw. The men of Congress, such as my host of this evening and his fellows, who saw: the need, who voted for the ships, who voted for the guns, who voted to allow money for powder which could be used to best advantage by being used up in practice—those were the men who rendered that victory possible. Now, it is the work that is being done in the navy which will render that navy fit to respond to any call that may be made upon it, if, which heaven forbid, such call should ever be made. So much for what is our duty in reference to matters without. Even more important is it to deal well and wisely with affairs within our own borders.

Take the evils that come up to our mind when we speak of the trusts. The word trust is used very loosely in the ordinary significance, which means simply a large corporation created in one state, probably doing business in other states and usually with an element of monopoly pertaining to it. Now, some of the evils are allowed imaginary, others are very real. Certainly the change produced along a number of lines by the increase of the power of these corporations by their increase in magnitude, is not a change that most of us welcome. There is every reason why we should resolutely declare our purpose, and put into effect our purpose, to take cognizance of the evils and find out what of the alleged evils are real and imaginary and to find out what legislative or administrative expedients can be employed to minimize or to do away with those evils. On the one hand I believe that the men of great means should understand that when we demand some method of asserting the power of the nation over all corporations, we are acting not against their interest, but in their interest.

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

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