Warren G. Harding photo

Special Message to Congress on Celebration of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Declaration of Independence

March 24, 1922

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

July, 1926, will mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and the beginning of our separate national existence. I am sure the Congress will agree that such an epochal event, which has meant so much to our own Republic, and has provided such a stimulating example to liberty-loving peoples throughout the world, should have fitting commemoration.

The Declaration of Independence was written and signed in Philadelphia. In that city also the Constitution of the United States was framed. So that fine and characteristically American city may claim honors as the birthplace of the Nation and also of its permanent governmental institutions.

Because of these things the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was signalized by a World Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. Mindful of the success of that enterprise, and of its helpful influences, a movement was recently initiated by the mayor of that city, which is already cordially supported by an organization of its representative citizenship, to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary by holding "an exhibition of the progress of the United States in art, science, and industry, in trade and commerce, and in the development of the products of the air, the soil, the mine, the forest, and the seas; to which exhibition the people of all other nations will be invited to contribute evidences of their own progress, to the end that better international understanding and more intimate commercial relationships may hasten the coming of universal peace."

I am advised that it is proposed to hold this exhibition on a scale of impressive grandeur commensurate with the occasion to be celebrated, and the position of eminence in world progress which our nation has come to occupy. The city of Philadelphia has pledged an appropriation of $5,000,000, and the State of Pennsylvania has taken suitable action to provide for the generous participation of the Commonwealth, and the request now comes to the federal Government to signify its approval so that the participation and cooperation of the nations properly may be invited.

There is every assurance that necessary additional funds for the general expenses of construction and operation will be assured by the public-spirited citizens of Philadelphia through the Sesquicentennial Exhibition Association, which is now organized and heartily committed to the task of making the occasion in every way worthy of the great event it will celebrate.

I believe the proposed celebration worthy of the indorsement of the Congress, and I recommend, therefore, the enactment of a suitable measure fixing the year 1926 as the time for commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, and designating the city of Philadelphia as the place for the official ceremony, and for holding an international exposition in which all the nations may be asked to participate. Such a sanction will not only challenge the attention of our own people to the patriotic and ennobling deeds of the American founders, and lead them to survey anew the basic landmarks of our history, but it will contribute materially to the growing spirit of amity among the peoples of the earth and to the fuller realization that the progress of mankind is shared by all nations. It will emphasize the 4 advantages of peaceful and friendly intercourse and remind all mankind that its greater achievements are along the ways of peace. Finally, and this I would especially emphasize, it will fittingly signalize a new era in which men are putting aside the competitive instruments of destruction and replacing them with the agencies of constructive peace.

All races and nations have contributed generously to bring civilization thus far on the way to realization of the human commonwealth. Each has contributed of its especial genius to the common progress; each owes to every other a debt which can not too often be acknowledged. This is the one debt which men may go on forever increasing, with assurance that it will impose no burdens, but only add to their prosperity and good fortune. We can not doubt that the great international ex-positions heretofore held have done much to bring to all mankind a feeling of unity in aspiration and of community in effort. Nor can we question, I think, that in this era of larger cooperation and unprecedented eagerness for helpful understandings there is peculiar reason for emphasizing the thought of mutual support in all the enterprises which promise further advance toward the goal of universal good.

So it seems wholly fitting that this occasion should receive suitable sanction by the Congress, that the lessons of American development and progress may be emphasized at home, and a new spirit of American sympathy and cooperation signalized to all the nations. In inviting display of evidence of the progress and achievements of other peoples, we will further inspire our own endeavors, and prove our interest in the accomplishments of all who contribute to human advancement, wherever they may be.

In connection herewith I am inclosing copies of a chronology of the sesquicentennial project, together with a copy of the resolution passed by the city council and approved by the mayor of Philadelphia on the 1st day of February, 1922.


THE WHITE HOUSE, March 24, 1922.

Warren G. Harding, Special Message to Congress on Celebration of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Declaration of Independence Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/329333

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