Remarks in Spokane, Washington

May 26, 1903

Senator Turner, and you, my fellow Americans:

I am in a city at the eastern gateway of this State with the great railroad systems of the State running through it. On the western edge of this State in Puget Sound I have seen the homing places of the great steamship lines, which, in connection with these great railroads, are doing so much to develop the Oriental trade of this country and this State. Washington will owe no small part of its future greatness, and that greatness will be great indeed, to the fact that it is thus doing its share in acquiring for the United States the dominance of the Pacific. Those railroads, the men and the corporations that have built them, have rendered a very great service to the community. The men who are building, the corporations which are building the great steamship lines have likewise rendered a very great service to the community. Every man who has made wealth or used it in developing great legitimate business enterprises has been of benefit and not harm to the country at large. This city has grown by leaps and bounds only when the railroads came to it, the State also when the railroads came to the State; and if the State were now cut off from its connection by rail and by steamship with the rest of the world its position would of course diminish incalculably. Great good has come from the development of our railroad system; great good has been done by the individuals and corporations that have made that development possible; and in return good is done to them, and not harm, when they are required to obey the law. Ours is a government of liberty by, through and under the law. No man is above it and no man is below it. The crime of cunning, the crime of greed, the crime of violence, are all equally crimes, and against them all alike the law must set its face. This is not and never shall be a government either of a plutocracy or of a mob. It is, it has been, and it will be, a government of the people; including alike the people of great wealth and of moderate wealth, the people who employ others, the people who are employed, the wage-worker, the lawyer, the mechanic, the banker, the farmer, including them all, protecting each and every one if he acts decently and squarely, and discriminating against any one of them, no matter from what class he comes, if he does not act squarely and fairly, if he does not obey the law. While all people are foolish if they violate or rail against the law—wicked as well as foolish, but all foolish—yet the most foolish man in this Republic is the man of wealth who complains because the law is administered with impartial justice against or for him. His folly is greater than the folly of any other man who so complains; for he lives and moves and has his being because the law does in fact protect him and his property.

We have the right to ask every decent American citizen to rally to the support of the law if it is ever broken against the interest of the rich man; and we have the same right to ask that rich man cheerfully and gladly to acquiesce in the enforcement against his seeming interest of the law, if it is the law. Incidentally, whether he acquiesce or not, the law will be enforced, and this whoever he may be, great or small, and at whichever end of the social scale he may be.

I ask that we see to it in our country that the line of division in the deeper matters of our citizenship be drawn, never between section and section, never between creed and creed, never, thrice never, between class and class; but that the line be drawn on the line of con duct, cutting through sections, cutting through creeds, cutting through classes; the line that divides the honest from the dishonest, the line that divides good citizenship from bad citizenship, the line that declares a man a good citizens only if, and always if, he acts in accordance with the immutable law of righteousness, which has been the same from the beginning of history to the present moment, and which will be the same from now until the end of recorded time.

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

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