Title: Accepting The Republican Vice-Presidential Nomination
Date: July 27, 1920
Location: Northampton, MA
Context: Coolidge accepts the Republican Party’s nomination for the vice presidency in the 1920 election
Governor Morrow and Members of the Notification Committee:
To your now formal notification I respond with formal acceptance. Your presence tells me of a leader and a cause; a leader in Warren G. Harding, the united choice of a united party, a statesman of ability, seasoned by experience, a fitting representative of the common aspirations of his fellow citizens, wise enough to seek counsel, great enough to recognize merit, and in all things a stalwart American; the cause of our common country, as declared in the platform of the Republican Party, the defense of our institutions from every assault, the restoration of constitutional government, the maintenance of law and order, the relief of economic distress, the encouragement of industry and agriculture, the enactment of humanitarian laws, the defense of the rights of our citizens everywhere, the rehabilitation of this nation in the estimation of all peoples, under an agreement, meeting our every duty, to preserve the peace of the world, always with unyielding Americanism: under such a leader, such a cause, I serve.
No one in public life can be oblivious to the organized efforts to undermine the faith of our people in their government, foment, discord, aggravate industrial strife, stifle production, and ultimately stir up revolution. These efforts are a great public menace, not through danger of success, but through the great amount of harm they can do if ignored.
The first duty of the government is to repress them, punishing willful violations of law, turning the full light of publicity on all abuses of the right of assembly and of free speech ; and it is the first duty of the public and press to expose false doctrines and answer seditious arguments. American institutions can stand discussion and criticism, only if those who know bear for them the testimony of the truth. Such repression and such testimony should be forthcoming, that the uninformed may come to a full realization that these seditious efforts are not for their welfare, but for their complete economic and political destruction.
To a free people the most reactionary experience, short of revolution, is war. In order to organize and conduct military operations a reversion to an autocratic method of government is absolutely necessary. In our own case it was no less autocratic because voluntarily established by the people. It was a wise and successful process for the purpose of winning the victory of freedom, to which all else was a secondary consideration.
But voluntary autocracy was established temporarily that freedom might be established permanently. Men submitted their persons and their property to the complete dictation of the government that they might conquer an impending peril.
This has always been fraught with the gravest dangers. It is along this path that rides the man on horseback. Avarice for power finds many reasons for continuing arbitrary action after the cause for which it was granted has been removed.
The government of the United States was not established for the continued prosecution, or the perpetual preparation, of all its resources for war. It has been and intends to be a nation devoted to the arts of peace. Fundamentally considered, its abiding purpose has been the recognition of the rights and the development of the individual. This great purpose has been accomplished through self-government. To the individual has been left power and responsibility, the foundation for the rule of the people. In time of emergency these are surrendered to the government in return for providing the necessaries of life, and national safety. But these are and must be temporary expedients, if we are to keep our form of government, and maintain the supreme purpose of Americans.
The greatest need of the nation at the present time is to be rescued from all the reactions of the war. The chief task that lies before us is to repossess the people of their government and their property. We want to return to a thoroughly peace basis because that is the fundamental American basis. Unless the government and property of the nation are in the hands of the people, and there to stay as their permanent abiding place, self-government ends and the hope of America goes down in ruins. This need is transcendent.
The government of the nation is in the hands of the people, when it is administered in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, which they have adopted and ratified, and which measures the powers they have granted to their public officers, in all its branches, where the functions and duties of the three co-ordinate branches, executive, legislative, judicial, are separate and distinct and neither one directly or indirectly exercises any of the functions of either of the others.
Such a practice and such a Government under the Constitution of the United States it is the purpose of our party to re-establish and maintain. All authority must be exercised by those to whom it is constitutionally entrusted, without dictation, and with responsibility only to those who have bestowed it, the people.
The property of the nation is in the hands of the people when it is under their ownership and control. It is true that the control of a part of the property taken for war purposes has been returned, but there hangs over private enterprise still the menace of seizure, blighting in its effect, paralyzing in its result, to the public detriment. But it matters not whether property can be taken by seizure, or through the process of taxation for extravagant and unnecessary expenditures: there should be an end to both operations.
The reason is plain. Ultimately the control of the resources of the people is control of the people. Either the people must own the government or the government will own the people. To sustain a government of the people there must be maintained a property of the people. There can be no political independence without economic independence.
Another source of the gravest public concern has been the reactionary tendency to substitute private will for the public will. Instead of inquiring what the law was and then rendering it full obedience, there has been a disposition on the part of some individuals and of groups to inquire whether they liked the law, and if not, to disregard it, seek to override it, suspend it, and prevent its execution, sometimes by the method of direct action, for the purpose of securing their own selfish ends.
The observance of the law is the greatest solvent of public ills. Men speak of natural rights, but I challenge any one to show where in nature any rights ever existed or were recognized until there was established for their declaration and protection a duly promulgated body of corresponding laws. The march of civilization has been ever under the protecting aegis of the law. It is the strong defense of the weak, the ever-present refuge of innocence, a mighty fortress of the righteous. One with the law is a majority. While the law is observed the progress of civilization will continue. When such observance ceases, chaos and the ancient night of despotism will come again. Liberty goes unsupported or relies in its entirety on the maintenance of order and the execution of the law.
There is yet another manifest disposition which has preyed on the weakness of the race from its infancy, denounced alike by the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, and repugnant to all that is American, the attempt to create class distinctions. In its full development this means the caste system, wherein such civilization as exists is rigidly set, and that elasticity so necessary for progress, and that recognition of equality which has been the aim and glory of our institutions, are destroyed and denied.
Society to advance must be not a dead form but a living organism, plastic, inviting progress. There are no classes here. There are different occupations and different stations, certainly there can be no class of employer and employed. All true Americans are working for each other, exchanging the results of the efforts of hand and brain wrought through the unconsumed efforts of yesterday, which we call capital, all paying and being paid by each other, serving and being served. To do otherwise is to stand disgraced and alien to our institutions.
This means that government must look at the part in the light of the whole, that legislation must be directed not for private interest but for public welfare, and that thereby alone will each of our citizens find their greatest accomplishment and success.
If the great conflict has disturbed our political conditions it has caused an upheaval in our economic relations. The mounting prices of all sorts of commodities has put a well nigh unbearable burden on every home. Much of this is beyond relief from law, but forces of the government can and must afford a considerable remedy.
The most obvious place to begin retrenching is by eliminating the extravagance of the government itself. In this the Congress has made a commendable beginning, but although the Congress makes the appropriations, the departments make the expenditures which are not under legislative but executive control. The extravagant standards bred of recent years must be eliminated.
This should show immediately in reduced taxation. The great breeder of public and private extravagance, the excess profits tax, should be revised and recourse had to customs taxes on imports, one of the most wholesome of all means of raising revenue, for it is voluntary in effect, and taxes consumption rather than production. It should be laid according to the needs of a creditor nation, for the protection of the public, with a purpose to render us both economically and defensively independent.
A revision of taxation must be accompanied with a reduction of that private extravagance which the returns from luxury taxes reveal as surpassing all comprehension. Waiving the moral effect, the economic effect of such extravagance is to withdraw needed capital and labor from essential industries, greatly increasing the public distress and unrest.
There has been profiteering. It should be punished because it is wrong. But it is idle to look to such action for relief. This class profit by scarcity, but they do not cause it.
As every one knows now, the difficulty is caused by a scarcity of material, an abundance of money, and insufficient production. The government must reduce the amount of money as fast as it can without curtailing necessary credits. Production must be increased. All easy to say but difficult of accomplishment.
One of the chief hindrances to production is lack of adequate railroad facilities. Transportation must be re-established. A few glaring instances in the past of improper management joined with an improper public attitude thereby created, wrought great harm to our railroads. Government operation left them disintegrated, disorganized, and demoralized.
On their service depends agriculture and industry – the entire public welfare. They must be provided with credit and capital and given the power to serve. This can only be done by removing them from speculation, restoring their prosperity by increased revenues where necessary, thereby re-establishing them in the confidence of the investing public.
Their employees must be compensated in accordance with the great importance of the service they render. The whole railroad operation must be restored to public confidence by public support.
There must be a different public attitude toward industry, a larger comprehension of the interdependence of capital, management, and labor, and better facilities for the prompt and reasonable adjustment of industrial disputes. It is well to remember, too, that high prices produce their own remedy under the law of supply and demand. Already in the great leather and woolen industries there is a recession in the basic elements which must soon be reflected in retail prices. When buying stops prices come down.
This condition has borne with especial severity on the agricultural interests of the nation. To cope with it the farmers need an enlarged power of organization whereby the original producer may profit to a larger degree by the high prices paid for his produce by the ultimate consumer, and at the same time decrease the cost of food.
The economic strength of a country rests on the farm. Industrial activity is dependent upon it. It replenishes the entire life of the nation. Agriculture is entitled to be suitably rewarded and on its encouragement and success will depend upon the production of a food supply large enough to meet the public needs at reasonable cost.
But all these difficulties depend for final solution on the character and moral force of the nation. Unless these forces abound and manifest themselves in work done there is no real remedy.
There has been a great deal of misconception as to what was won by the victory in France. That victory will not be found to be a substitute for further human effort and endeavor. It did not create magic resources out of which wages could be paid that were not earned, or profits be made without corresponding service, it did not overcome any natural law, it did conquer an artificial thralldom sought to be imposed on mankind and establish for all the earth a new freedom and a larger liberty.
But that does not, cannot, mean less responsibility, it means more responsibility, and until the people of this nation understand and accept this increased responsibility and meet it with increased effort there will be no relief from the present economic burdens.
In all things a return to a peace basis does not mean the basis of 1914. That day is gone. It means a peace basis of the present, higher, nobler, because of the sacrifices made and the duties assumed. It is not a retreat, it is a new summons to advance.
Diminishing resources warn us of the necessity of conservation. The public domain is the property of the public. It is held in trust for present and future generations. The material resources of our country are great, very great, but they are not inexhaustible. They are becoming more and more valuable and more and more necessary to the public welfare.
It is not wise either to withhold water power, reservoir sites, and mineral deposits from development or to deny a reasonable profit to such operations. But these natural resources are not to be turned over to speculation to the detriment of the public. Such a policy would soon remove these resources from public control and the result would be that soon the people would be paying tribute to private greed. Conservation does not desire to retard development. It permits it and encourages it. It is a desire honestly to administer the public domain. The time has passed when public franchises and public grants can be used for private speculation.
Whenever in the future this nation undertakes to assess its strength and resources, the largest item will be the roll of those who served her in every patriotic capacity in the world war. There are those who bore the civil tasks of that great undertaking, often at heavy sacrifices, always with the disinterested desire to serve their country. There are those who wore the uniform. The presence of the living, the example of the dead, will ever be a standing guarantee of the stability of our republic. From their rugged virtue springs a never-ending obligation to hold unimpaired the principles established by their victory. Honor is theirs forevermore.
Duty compels that those promises, so freely made, that out of their sacrifices they should have a larger life, be speedily redeemed. Care of dependents, relief from distress, restoration from infirmity, provision for education, honorable preferment in the public service, a helping hand everywhere, are theirs not as a favor but by right. They have conquered the claim to suitable recognition in all things. The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.
Our country has a heart as well as a head. It is social as well as individual. It has a broad and extending sympathy. It looks with the deepest concern to the welfare of those whom adversity still holds at the gateways of the all-inclusive American opportunity. Conscious that our resources have now reached a point where there is an abundance for all, we are determined that no imposition shall hereafter restrain the worthy from their heritage.
There will be, can be, no escape from the obligation of the strong to bear the burdens of
civilization, but the weak must be aided to become strong. Ample opportunity for education at public expense, reasonable hours of employment always under sanitary conditions, a fair and always a living wage for faithful work, healthful living conditions, childhood and motherhood, cherished, honored, rescued from the grasp of all selfishness and rededicated to the noblest aspiration of the race, these are not socialistic vagaries but the mark of an advancing American civilization, revealed in larger social justice, tempered with an abounding mercy.
In this better appreciation of humanity the war carried the nation forward to a new position, which it is our solemn duty not only to maintain but amplify and extend.
There is especially due to the colored race a more general recognition of their constitutional rights. Tempted with disloyalty they remained loyal, serving in the military forces with distinction, obedient to the draft to the extent of hundreds of thousands, investing $1 out of every $5 they possessed in Liberty Bonds, surely they hold the double title of citizenship, by birth and by conquest, to be relieved from all imposition, to be defended from lynching, and to be freely granted equal opportunities.
Equal suffrage for which I have always voted is coming. It is not a party question, although nearly six-sevenths of the ratifying legislatures have been Republican. The Party stands pledged to use its endeavor to hasten ratification, which I trust will be at once accomplished.
There are many domestic questions which I cannot discuss here, their solution is amply revealed in the platform, such as merchant marine, an adequate army anti navy, the establishment of a Department of Public Works, support of the classified civil service laws, provision for public waterways and highways, a budget system and other equally pressing subjects. I am not unmindful of their deep importance.
The foreign relations of our country ought not to be partisan, but American. If restored to the limitations of constitutional authority on the one hand, and to the protection of the constitutional rights of our citizens on the other, much of their present difficulty would disappear.
There can be no sovereignty without a corresponding duty. It is fundamental that each citizen is entitled to the equal protection of the laws. That goes with his citizenship and abides where he lawfully abides, whether at home or abroad.
This inherent right must be restored to our people and observed by our government. The
persons and property of Americans, wherever they may lawfully be, while lawfully engaged, must forever have protection sufficient to insure their safety and cause the punishment of all who violate it. This is theirs as a plain constitutional duty. A government disregarding it invites the contempt of the world and is on the way to humiliation and war.
Rejecting the rule of law is accepting the sword of force.
The country cannot be securely restored to a peace basis in anything until a peace is first made with those with whom we have been at war. The Republicans in Congress, realizing that because of the necessary reliance of one nation on another, there was, more than ever before, mutual need of the sustaining influence of friendly co-operation and rapprochement, twice attempted the establishment of such peace by offers of ratification, which were rejected by the Democratic administration. No one knows now whether war or peace prevails.
Our Party stands pledged to make an immediate peace as soon as it is given power by the people.
The proposed League of Nations without reservations as submitted by the President to the Senate met with deserved opposition from the Republican Senators. To a League in that form, subversive of the traditions and the independence of America, the Republican Party is opposed. But our Party by the record of its members in the Senate and by the solemn declaration of its platform, by performance and by promise, approves the principle of agreement, among nations to preserve peace, and pledges itself to the making of such an agreement, preserving American independence, and rights, as will meet every duty America owes to humanity.
This language is purposely broad, not exclusive but inclusive. The Republican Party is not narrow enough to limit itself to one idea, but wise and broad enough to provide for the adoption of the best plan that can be devised at the time of action.
The Senate received a concrete proposition, utterly unacceptable without modifications, which the publican Senators effected by reservations, and so modified twice voted for ratification, which the Democratic administration twice defeated. The platform approves this action of the Senators. The Republicans insisted on reservations which limit. The Democratic platform and record permit only of reservations unessential and explanatory.
We have been taking counsel together concerning the welfare of America. We have spent much time discussing the affairs of government, yet most of the great concourse of people around me hold no public office, expect to hold no public office. Still in solemn truth they are the government, they are America. We shall search in vain in legislative halls, executive mansions, and the chambers of the judiciary for the greatness of the government of our country. We shall behold there but a reflection, not a reality, successful in proportion to its accuracy. In a free republic a great government is the product of a great people. They will look to themselves rather than Government for success.
The destiny, the greatness of America lies around the hearthstone. If thrift and industry are taught there, and the example of self-sacrifice oft appears, if honor abide there, and high ideals, if there the building of fortune be subordinate to the building of character, America will live in security, rejoicing in an abundant prosperity and good government at home, and in peace, respect, and confidence abroad. If these virtues be absent there is no power that can supply these blessings.
Look well, then, to the hearth-stone. Therein all hope for America lies.
Citation: New York Times
The Coolidge Foundation gratefully acknowledges the volunteer efforts of Miles Mortimer who prepared this document for digital publication.