Norfolk Republican Club

Title: Norfolk Republican Club

Date: October 9, 1916

Location: Boston, MA

Context: Governor Coolidge outlines his philosophy for providing social insurance and recognizes the limits of what it can achieve

(Original document available here)

Last night at Somerville I spoke on some of the fundamental differences between the Republican and Democratic policies, and showed how we were dependent on Republican principles as a foundation on which to erect any advance in our social and economic welfare.

This year the Republican Party has adopted a very advanced platform. That was natural, for we have always been the party of progress, and have given our attention to that, when we were not engaged in a life-and-death struggle to overcome the fallacies put forth by our opponents, with which we are all so familiar. The result has been that here in Massachusetts, where our party has ever been strong, and where we have framed legislation for more than fifty years, more progress has been made along the lines of humanitarian legislation than in any other State. We have felt free to call on our industries to make large outlays along these lines because we have furnished them with the advantages of a protective tariff and an honest and efficient state government. The consequences have been that in this State the hours and conditions of labor have been better than anywhere else on earth. Those provisions for safety, sanitation, compensations for accidents, and for good living conditions have now been almost entirely worked out. There remains, however, the condition of sickness, age, misfortune, lack of employment, or some other cause, that temporarily renders people unable to care for themselves. Our platform has taken up this condition.

We have long been familiar with insurance to cover losses. You will readily recall the different kinds. Formerly it was only used in commerce, by the well-to-do. Recently it has been adapted to the use of all our people by the great industrial companies which have been very successful. Our State has adopted a system of savings-bank insurance, thus reducing the expense. Now, social insurance will not be, under a Republican interpretation, any new form of outdoor relief, some new scheme of living on the town. It will be an extension of the old familiar principle to the needs at hand, and so popularized as to meet the requirements of our times.

It ought to be understood, however, that there can be no remedy for lack of industry and thrift, secured by law. It ought to be understood that no scheme of insurance and no scheme of government aid is likely to make us all prosperous. And above all, these remedies must go forward on the firm foundation of an independent, self-supporting, self-governing people. But we do honestly put forward a proposition for the relief of misfortune.

The Republican Party is proposing humanitarian legislation to build up character, to establish independence, not pauperism; it will in the future, as in the past, ever stand opposed to the establishment of one class who shall live on the Government, and another class who shall pay the taxes. To those who fear we are turning Socialists, and to those who think we are withholding just and desirable public aid and support, I say that government under the Republican Party will continue in the future to be so administered as to breed not mendicants, but men. Humanitarian legislation is going to be the handmaid of character.

Calvin Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts: A Collection of Speeches and Messages, 2nd ed.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919

The Coolidge Foundation gratefully acknowledges the volunteer efforts of Craig Eyermann, who prepared this document for digital publication.

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