Remarks in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

September 03, 1902

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

It is a pleasure to be with you today. I thank you for your greeting, and I thank you personally, Mr. Mayor, for the kindly and gracious words in which you have phrased that greeting, and while thanking you again for the way you have come out to meet me I know you will not grudge my saying that I am particularly touched and pleased at having as a guard of honor the veterans of the great war. It was not given to us to prove our material in the great struggle; all we could do was to show that we had the desire in us to follow in your footsteps when the day arose, and I have been particularly pleased with one incident in connection with the presence of the veterans today. It was a pleasure to shake hands with Father Boyle, carrying the button of the Loyal Legion, with Chaplain Walkley, just returned from the Philippines, and to see my old friend, the Rev. Dr. Sawyer, marching in the ranks with you. And I was glad to see them, not only for the feeling of personal friendship, but because it is a good thing to show that the church, that religion—all that we may mean when we speak of these terms— that they are included in the service rendered by you and thus, like you, my comrades, the men who fought in the great war, whose example we followed, not only give us lessons in soldiership, lessons only to be applied in the great crisis, but they give us lessons in sound citizenship.

Here in this community, built up by the industry and the business capacity of your people, it is well to remember that need of the qualities which make our material prosperity. We want to remember that. We want to keep in mind the fact that our material well-being must stand as a foundation of the mere well-being, but we must remember also that the foundation is not the building, that the foundation by itself counts only with reference to the structure raised upon it. When in mighty Abraham Lincoln summoned you to war, it was a necessary thing that this country should have all that material prosperity, that it should have spread over forest, prairie and plain, that there should be in it the mills and the railroads and the factories, that there should be wealth and what wealth could command at the country's call, but the important thing is not the wealth, not the material well-being, but the men of the country. You it was who counted and who did the deed; you did it because you felt in your hearts, deep in your hearts, that there was something for you more important than any material well-being. You gave up all thoughts of ease for scanty pay, you showed yourselves willing to lay down your lives because in your souls was the spirit that the men of the great war showed in the time of war, and now we must show it in the time of peace. The qualities that make good citizenship in their essentials are very much the qualities that make good soldiership. There are exceptions, of course, but as a rule the man who is a good soldier is a good citizen, because you need him in every part of life, you need the qualities of courage, of loyalty, of capacity for companionship, of the spirit of honest dealing as between man and man; these are the qualities which the best soldier must inevitably have, and, gentlemen, here are two lessons especially taught by the men who triumphed in the long contest from 1861 to 1865—the laws of importance of the individual qualities and the laws of brother hood. The gun was important, but it was the man behind the gun that counted. You were drilled in different tactics from those under which the men wore the blue and buff in the Continental Army of Washington, your weapons were different from theirs, but the spirit which drove you on was the same, and so with our younger generations, we, who if called to war, must fight in open order, not elbow touch, but in the open, with smokeless powder, high-caliber rifles, with weapons of great force as compared to those of our forefathers, but even then we should make a poor fight of it if we did not have the same spirit back of us, the same spirit in it. The qualities which make a good soldier now, that made them in '61, that made them in '76, are fundamentally the same.

You have got to have the man, a man who is able to take a man's part in the world, and so now in civil life we have to face the problem of complex citizenship, a much more complex life than the life our fore fathers led. There is need for new laws here and there. In the Constitution there is need for a certain shifting of the part that the State can play in the affairs of the individual, but in the last resort the qualities that a man, a good citizen, possessed in the days when the Constitution was adopted under the leadership of George Washington; in the days when the Constitution and the country were preserved under the laws of Abraham Lincoln, these are the qualities you need to make a good citizen now.

There is no patent device that will take the place of them now. No law, no scheme, will avail the country if there is not the high average of citizenship behind the law. Just so it is in war. We need good weapons. It always irritates me to see any member of a National Guard armed with a black powder musket. I want to see all of our people with the best modern weapons, because it is an outrage for a great and rich country like ours not to provide the American who wears Uncle Sam's uniform, whether in the regular army, the volunteer, the National Guards—it is an outrage not to give him a weapon as good as that carried by any fighting man in the world.

I want to see the best weapon given, but the best weapon by itself is not anything like enough. If the man who carries the best weapon is no good, he will be beaten by a good man with a club. You want a good weapon, but you need a good man to carry the weapon.

That is the last resort. Just so we need good laws and a good Constitution, but in the final resort what we need most is good citizenship. By a good citizen, I mean the man who understands both his rights and his duties. The man who only talks of his rights and not of his duties is not a good citizen. If he does not understand that duty goes hand in hand with the right, and if he does not understand that each of us must help each other; must show the brotherhood, must always try to help a brother who stumbles, yet, that under no circumstances must he forget that in the last analysis each man shall be saved by his own character and his own capacity, and above all, by the three in dispensable qualities: the quality of honesty, the quality of courage, and the quality of common sense.

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

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