Remarks in Windsor, Vermont

August 30, 1902

Mr. Evarts and you men and women of Vermont, my fellow citizens, my fellow Americans:

I am glad indeed to have the chance of greeting you and of saying a word to you today. This is the place where the constitution of your State was formulated, the first constitution definitely to forbid human slavery in this continent.

Your State was founded by men who knew how to fight when the need was to fight, and who knew that fighting was not all; that they had to work in civil life also. Vermont has done what it has done throughout our history and furnished the leadership in our public life which it always has furnished—has shown that healthy sanity of public sentiment which has so prominently distinguished it—because Vermont has understood that while it was a mighty good thing to produce material prosperity, it was a better thing to produce men and women to enjoy it. You look through our history and you will see that while, of course, material prosperity is the basis, the foundation upon which we build, yet that the leadership of the nation has always lain with those who realize that material prosperity was an indispensable foundation, but useless if there was not a superstructure upon it—the super structure of the lofty lift toward things better which only a great and generous people can feel.

And your forefathers, the men who founded this country, they under stood that no one quality was sufficient for the successful founding of a country any more than anyone quality will do to make a citizen a success. You have got to make a number of different qualities. In the first place, you must recognize the sphere that the nation has. Something, a good deal, can be done by wise laws, by fearless administration of the laws. But after that has been done there remains the fact that you must trust to the citizen himself to work out the ultimate salvation of the state. You can restrain men by the law and by the execution of the law from wrong-doing. And the wrong-doing man takes either of two steps; took those steps a century ago; takes those steps now.

The crimes of craft and the crimes of violence both are equally dangerous. And we must remember, after all, that those who come from the set where one kind of crime is dangerous are apt to denounce the other type of crime. Both must be put down. The man who commits violence, above all, the body of men who commit violence, commit an outrage not merely against their fellow-Americans, but against the whole body politic to which they belong. Violence of the individual, above all, violence of a mob—that type of violence—is incompatible with free government, with free and orderly liberty in our republic. The first requisite of liberty, as we and our forefathers have known it, is the willingness to abide by the law. The government must be just; the law must be no respecter of persons. The law must get at the big man who goes wrong just as it gets at the small man who goes wrong, and it must get at him in his own interest. You can protect the man of big means against wrong-doing by the law just so long as you make himself responsible to the law.

On the other hand, the worst enemy of the people upon whose behalf mob violence is often invoked is the man who invokes it; the man who connives at it, or incites it. The worst wrong that can be done to our people is to try to teach them that aught can be obtained by mob rule or violence of any kind. We can make this government; we can keep it what it is; we cannot only make it what it is, but we can raise it to still loftier height, but it must be done through orderly, decent process of liberty, working through law. It is not a kindness to bring up a child in the belief that it can get through life by shirking the difficulties. The child who is going to be worth its salt must be taught to face difficulties and overcome them. Is not that so? You know it is so.

I pity no man because he has got to work. I despise the man who will not work. He is not worth envying; no matter at which end of the social scale he is. The man who cannot pull his own weight, that man is not any good in our public life. Now we have got to do it in widely different ways; each man has got to at least pull his own weight, and if he is worth his salt, he will pull a little more. And we cannot afford as a nation, any more than as a family can afford it in the training of the individual members of the family—we cannot afford to have our citizens brought up in any other theory. Each man of you who looks back on his life will feel proud to hand to his children, not the memory of the days of ease, but the days that were pretty hard, that meant hard work, but wherein he did something.

Now, in every audience that I speak to here, all through New England, I see men like you, friend, there, who wear the button that shows that you fought in the great war. You did not go down there to have an easy time, did you? You did not go down there for the pay; it was less than $13 a month, if I remember. You went down in the prime of your youth, the prime of your strength, leaving all that there was at home, to spend four years, knowing defeat as well as victory, until, with stern courage, from defeat you wrested ultimate victory. But they were not easy years, not a bit of it. They were years of heart-wearing work for a righteous end, and thrice fortunate the nation which has citizens within its borders who in time of peace and in time of war alike, are willing and anxious to spend the best there is in them to do all that their strength allows, to war for decency and righteousness, to struggle with all their might for a worthy end.

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

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