Title: Address Before RNC on Behalf of Hoover
Date: October 12, 1932
Location: New York, NY
Context: Coolidge speaks to the Republican National Committee in New York on behalf of Hoover and urges his re-election to the American people.
My fellow countrymen: This meeting was arranged by a body of public spirited New York people and the National Republican committee, for the purpose of helping to reelect as president of the United States, Herbert Hoover. I have accepted an invitation to address you in order that I might express my opinion on some of the issues of the campaign, reiterate my support of the president and reassert my faith in the Republican party, the most efficient instrument for sound popular government ever entrusted with the guidance of a great nation.
We ought to bring to all our tasks a good cheer, but a national election which is to determine the destinies of more than one hundred and twenty million people for the next four years cannot be considered as anything less than a serious undertaking to be seriously approached and seriously discharged. After all, contentment that is worth anything comes from duty well done, from meeting the obligations of the present as they occur.
Some people are saying that as things could not be any worse we might as well try a change. That is a very dangerous leadership to apply to the discharge principle to apply to the discharge of the duties of American citizenship. Things are much worse in other parts of the world. They could be a great deal worse here than they are and would have been much worse if it had not been for the vision, the courage and the leadership of President Hoover.
Before we decide that we want to have a change we ought to determine what the chances are of securing any improvement. We shall be most likely to find progress in holding fast to that which experience has proven to be sound and just and true.
Casting a ballot to determine who shall be president of the United States ought to take on a judicial function.
The ability, experience and character of the candidate, the policies with which he has identified himself in the past and those which he proposes for the future, the standing of his associates and advisors, and the results have generally been secured by the administration of his party ought all to be carefully considered. No other attitude in approaching an election is worthy of a free people.
We are told that business is not good, that the fault must lie with the administration and therefore proper remedy is to vote against the president. No government has ever yet been devised that could make the people prosperous all the time. But a bad government will constantly keep the people in distress. Our national government has adopted one measure after another to support and encourage business and agriculture. The present economic distress is world-wide. Our own fundamental conditions were so sound that we have been able to make the sacrifices and relieve the distress better than could be done in other countries. If there was anything which a government could do to prevent the decline in business the world has experienced it must be that some government somewhere would have been wise enough to apply a remedy. If no such remedy anywhere has been found, the inference is practically certain that the present economic condition was brought about by forces no government could foresee and prevent.
One of the subjects which is being discussed in this campaign which it is very easy to misrepresent and misunderstand is the tariff. Because of constantly changing conditions, if for no other reason, no one was ever able to devise a perfectly adjusted tariff bill. No one can devise one now and no congress, constituted as ours is, will ever pass one. Some schedules may be too high and some too low, but protection gives the general result of an advantage to our own products in our own market.
We are told now that we ought to have a competitive tariff. Those words are not new, but their meaning is not very definite. Judging from the prices of almost all commodities now selling in our markets for less than the cost of production, our producers are not suffering from any lack of competition. Is it proposed to put our agriculture in competition with that of Canada, Australia and the Argentine? Is it proposed to put our industry in competition with that of Europe? Is it proposed to put our wage earners in competition with those of India, China and Japan?
But we are told against that by reducing our tariff we can increase our own foreign commerce. No foreign nation wants to increase our commerce. I know that foreign nations do not buy in our markets unless they are compelled to do so even when price and quality are advantageous. I know also that our tariff and trade regulations in general are much more favorable to the rest of the world than their tariffs and regulations are to us. About two-thirds of our enormous imports and all our exports are free of duty.
When I was in Washington I had a man who was very familiar with European commerce through a long official study of it while he was abroad, not a member of my party but a believer in a low tariff, make an investigation of our rates. He went through the schedules carefully and I believe conscientiously on at least two different occasions and only could report that while there were many which did not give enough protection to balance the difference between the cost of production abroad and at home, outside of possibly some schedules that affected agriculture, in which costs were necessarily vague and indefinite, he could find nothing that he could say was too high. I did not feel that our agriculture was in a condition further to be jeopardized by foreign competition. If that was the case then what is it probably that a candid investigation would show now when on account of a depreciated currency in almost every country abroad the ordinary advantage which we gain from the tariff is practically eliminated?
An independent nation ought to keep within its own control the authority to determine its own revenues and regulate its own commerce. Reciprocal trade agreements on any extended scale would involve our surrender of our independence on these two vital points. These practical objections were stated by President Cleveland in his first annual message to the congress nearly fifty years ago. He was a wise statesman and so sound on most economic questions that his party deserted him and refused him recognition for nearly a quarter of a century. After declaring that he had withdrawn certain treaties from the senate because they surrendered large revenues and raised embarrassing questions under the favored-nation clause of treaties, he said:
“As a further objection it is evident that tariff regulation by treaty diminishes that independent control over its own revenue which is essential for the safety and welfare of any government. Emergency calling for an increase of taxation may at any time arise and no engagement with a foreign power should exist to hamper the action of the government.”
There has never been any adequate answer to the principle which the President declared. Reciprocity on a wide scale is not practical. More than that any attempt to apply it is certain to produce intense domestic jealousy and dissention. In order to get one duty lowered abroad we should have to lower another duty at home. The domestic producers who suffered from a lowering of our duties would have a good deal of cause to feel that they had been sacrificed to secure an advantage to some other foreign and domestic producers.
It is very easy to criticize after the event. Constructive leadership is not so easy. I have no taste for criticizing, I much prefer to present the constructive and statesmanlike program of our party. But when it is constantly charged that President Hoover lacks leadership I hope I may be pardoned for a slight reference to what appears to be offered in its place. As early as November, 1928, the Democratic leader public urged the presentation of a constructive program by his party. In the campaign of 1930 another authoritative promise of a constructive program was issued. The Democratic leader again warned his party in November, 1931, to present a constructive program, yet when that party elected a Speaker of the House and assumed control of that body, no program had yet been presented.
The president in his message pointed out the necessity of increasing revenues and cutting down expenses. The acting chairman of the Democratic ways and means committee reported a new tax bill which he said was nonpartisan and had the unanimous support of the fifteen Democrats and ten Republicans of the committee. What then happened is well known history. The Democratic members of the house deserted their leaders, destroyed the bill, and of their 220 only 40 supported it on the final vote.
In their effort for economy which the president had already recommended, a special committee was appointed which finally reported a bill reducing expenditures by about 200 million dollars annually. When the Democratic house finally passed it they had again deserted their leaders and rejected all the proposed savings but about 40 million dollars. No constructive program for revival of industry and commercial and financial relief was presented by the Democratic party in the last session of congress.
But that is only a part of the record. Meantime President Hoover had proposed the formation of the Reconstruction Finance corporation, strengthening of the Federal Reserve Land Bank system, the amendment of the federal reserve law to provide more adequate credit and safeguard the gold standard, the creation of the home loan discount banks and all the other legislation passed by the last congress for the general relief of the economic situation. Many times he had the assistance and support of individual Democrats which he has publicly acknowledged. With this record where does the country think it can most hopefully turn to leadership?
One of the greatest services which the Republican party has rendered has been the support of sound money. During the war President Lincoln was obliged to issue greenbacks. The uncertainty as to the value of our currency which this created was one of the causes of the panic of the early seventies. Finally the Republican party passed a law over Democratic opposition declaring that some years in advance the greenbacks would be paid in gold, but the value of our currency and the power of the government to redeem this pledge remained in doubt and caused years of business stagnation. When at last the secretary of the treasury, John Sherman, collected a large supply of gold in the treasury and redeemed all the greenbacks that were presented the uncertainty ended and a business revival began. The credit of the nation was established.
The next assault on our currency system was not made with paper but with silver. That situation brought on the panic of the early nineties. When it was settled, by the election of President McKinley, that the national credit would be maintained another era of pronounced prosperity followed.
We have recently gone through another period when the credit of the nation has been at stake. Our power to continue the gold standard was doubted and foreign creditors withdrew their deposits in gold. At the same time under Democratic leadership it was proposed to issue $2,300,000,000 in greenbacks to pay the veterans’ bonus and other measures were proposed which would have brought bankruptcy to the national treasury, destroyed the market for government bonds and forced the abandonment of the gold standard. Under the leadership of President Hoover this calamity was averted. The passage of this measure was finally avoided and the loss of our gold was offset by emergency legislation. In June the financial integrity of our government appeared to be permanently established. Congress finally adjourned and our gold began to come back. The decline in trade eased and confidence began to return until at the present time the country knows that its worst troubles are probably past and economic recovery is beginning.
The defeat of the Democratic greenback craze and the free silver issue were both followed by periods of prosperity under Republican administrations. The assurance that the pending Democratic raids on the treasury would be defeated by a Republican victory in November would no doubt have the same effect in reviving all kinds of business. An early and timely word from the Democratic candidate for president that he would reject the proposal to increase the national debt by $2,300,000,000 to pay a bonus would have been a great encouragement to business, reduced unemployment, and guaranteed the integrity of the national credit. While he remained silent economic recovery was measurably impeded.
One subject constantly recurs in our national political campaigns which it is difficult to discuss without apology. But it is put forward with so much boldness that it cannot be entirely ignored. The charge is made that the Republican party and its candidates do not show any solicitude for the general welfare of the common run of people but are interested only in promoting the interests of a few favored individuals and corporations of large possessions. This charge is made against the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. Lincoln and Roosevelt are both dead. No one has any personal authority to speak in their name but the humanitarian spirit which they exemplified in their life-works, based on sound and solid economic principles, remains as a sacred trust to the Republican party which it has never failed to strive to administer. If there was any subject that was anathema to both these men it was the demagogue and the purveyor of half truths and unsound theories.
In the course of our economic progress we have become a great organized industrial democracy. It has been the theory of the Republican party that the welfare of the people could best be promoted by strengthening and enlarging that system. We have sought to create a condition under which the ordinary man would have the best possible opportunity to find a market for whatever he had to sell, whether of production or labor. We have tens of millions of wage earners in this country. The Republican party has never believed that they could be furnished suitable permanent employment unless some one could derive a reasonable profit from employing them.
We have advocated strengthening the position of the employer in order that he might pay better wages to his employees, enlarge the consumptive capacity of the people and increase the market for the farm and factory. We have sought to increase the returns of agriculture in order that it might better supply our people with food and enlarge the market for our industrial output.
All this is a question of method, of the adoption of a means to an end. Always the end has been to improve the well being of the ordinary run of people. If any candid examination is made of the progress we have accomplished under this system in the last two generations I do not think anyone can seriously contend that it has not been a success. The scale of wages has constantly increased, the standard of living has constantly risen. We have had temporary reactions when prices have fallen and readjustments have been necessary. We are passing through such a period at the present time, but we have always emerged to find ourselves able to gather new strength. But the principle is the same in good times and in bad times. The Republican party believes in encouraging business in order that the benefits from such business may minister to the welfare of the ordinary run of people.
All of our wage earners by giving the most casual thought cannot fail to recognize the soundness of these principles. It is inevitable when a concern can make a profit by operating that it will be in the market for labor and materials, but when it can only make a loss it will discharge labor. This is what happens inevitably during an era of falling prices such as we have had from the summer of 1929 to the late spring of 1932.
Now it is difficult to conceive of any important business which does not involve the question of credit. When credit begins to be impaired business becomes paralyzed, wages decline and employment decreases; the bank refuses to make loans because it fears they will not be repaid; the depositors withdraw their money because they feel it is not safe; producers refuse to sell on time because they are afraid they cannot collect. If this process continued far enough universal bankruptcy would prevail. The people of property suffer great losses but they are usually able to take care of themselves while many wage earners, small home owners and farmers are unable to pay their interest and taxes or provide themselves and their families with food, clothing and shelter. These are the people that everyone recognizes need the help of the strong arm of the government.
The first thought for relief would show that by increasing their debts and destroying their independence would scarcely be considered a real service to people in distress. Such a remedy merely treats the symptoms without removing the causes of the disease. The answer comes back according to the words of Holy Writ that they who drink of that well will thirst again. If the national government is to help the people to any permanent relief it must be through some system of giving them permanent employment so that they can meet their obligations, reduce their debts and pay their own living expenses.
Given the problem then of restoring to normal well being a great mass of people who find themselves unemployed the fundamental remedy is not some form of pauperism, but a return to self-respecting, self-supporting and independent existence. Since the main causes of our difficulties lie in a failure of credit, the first object should be to restore credit. That is the policy which President Hoover has constantly advocated. He has no wish to assist a bank because it is a bank, a railroad, an insurance company, a building and loan association, or any other corporation for their own sakes. He has been seeking to preserve and restore the independent economic condition of the great mass of the people. Their suffering was brought about to a large degree through the failure of credit of these large and small concerns. If that credit can be renewed, if confidence can be restored the people will go back to work and their suffering will cease.
It was mainly for this purpose of relieving a great mass of people who were unable to support themselves that President Hoover persuaded the bankers to create a revolving fund of five hundred million dollars and secured from the congress the establishment of the Reconstruction Finance corporation with resources of more than three and one-half billion dollars which has already benefited indirectly more than thirty million people. The whole policy has been based on the theory of re-establishing an opportunity for employment by strengthening the resources of the employer.
A banker can now lend money to a manufacturer to carry on his production. If the depositor wants his money the banker does not need to call good loans and foreclose sound mortgages. The same principle applies to the other concerns. The power of the resources of the United States government has been marshalled to support the credit of the key concerns of our economic structure, always for the purpose of serving the ordinary run of people.
All this seems perfectly plain and obvious and so elementary that no one competent to hold national office should fail to comprehend.
Working for the general run of people is exactly what we should expect from President Hoover because he knows them by being one of them and having served with them and for them all his life. He was not born to the enjoyment of generations of inherited wealth so that he could be educated by private tutors and sent through expensive schools and universities. He never was carried into political office by the way of family influence. He has always had to depend on his own name and reputation.
Herbert Hoover was the son of a country blacksmith in Iowa. He was left an orphan at the age of ten, lived, on a farm doing chores until he was fourteen, earned his own living as an office boy until his own living as an office boy until he was seventeen and worked his way through college until he was twenty-one. He was then an engineer for twenty years, living every day among working people, everywhere beloved by them. During the war he organized and administered the greatest system of relief that was ever brought into existence. He forced the nations to preserve the right to live of ten millions of people in Belgium and northern France. After the armistice he saved one hundred and twenty million people in central Europe from starvation. During the Mississippi flood he directed the rescue work which saved hundreds of thousands of lives and fed and clothed millions of people.
For the past three winters he has mobilized the charity of the nation for the support of millions of distressed. Two years ago he organized the relief work which saved two million people in the drought stricken area. He has procured an appropriation of three hundred million dollars and eighty five million bushels of wheat from the national government to take care of destitute people during the coming winter. In the past three years he has secured an appropriation of over two billion dollars from congress to give employment to the common people on public works. Last spring he started a further program of $1,500,000,000 for employment through the Reconstruction system.
If initiating proposals and securing their adoption constitutes leadership, President Hoover is a leader. If saving the country from one disaster after another provides any basis for gratitude, President Hoover is entitled to gratitude. I present my opinion of him to my fellow countrymen for such consideration as they may believe it merits. The more this campaign has progressed the more I am convinced that the public welfare requires that he should be re-elected.
I cannot close without commending to the people of New York your candidate for the senate, Mr. Medalie, and the state ticket headed by Colonel Donovan and Mr. Davison. They have records of service in civil and military life that have marked them for distinction. While they are in office your state will be certain to have an administration of pronounced economy and efficiency which ought to characterize the conduct of your public businesses.
Citation: Stevens Point Daily Journal, October 12, 1932.