Title: Republican State Convention
Date: October 4, 1919
Location: Boston, MA
Context: Coolidge addresses the Republican State Convention at Tremont Temple on maintaining the peace and how it ought to be done
Ancient custom crystallized to law has drawn us here. We come to renew our pledge publicly at the altar of our country. We come in the light of history and of reason. We come to take counsel both from experience and from imagination. Over us shines a glorious past, before us lies a promising future. Around us is a renewed determination deep and solemn that this Commonwealth of ours shall endure.
The period since our last election has been one of momentous events. Within its first week the victorious advance of America and her allies terminated in the armistice of November eleventh. The power of organized despotisms had been proven to be inferior to the power of organized republics. Reason had again triumphed over absolutism. The “still small voice” of the moral law was seen to be greater than the might of kings. The world appeal to duty triumphed over the world appeal to selfishness. It always will. There will be far-reaching results from all this which no one can now foresee. But some things are apparent. The power of the people has been revealed. The worth of the individual man shines forth with an increased glory. But most significant of all, for it lies at the foundation of all civilization and all progress, was the demonstration that the citizens of the great republics of the earth possess the power which they dare to use, of maintaining among all men the orderly processes of revealed law.
These are no new doctrines in Massachusetts. For nearly three hundred years she has laid her course according to these principles, extending the blessings which arise from them to her citizens, ever ready to defend them with her treasure and her blood. In this the past year has been no exception.
In recognition of the long-established policy of making this Commonwealth first in humanitarian legislation, the General Court enacted a law providing for reducing a fifty-four hour week for women and minors to a forty-eight hour week. It passed the weavers’ specification bill. The allowance under the workmen’s compensation law was increased. Local option was provided on the question of a twelve-hour day for firemen. Authority was granted corporations to give their employees a voice in their management. Representatives of the employees have been appointed to the Board of Trustees of great public service corporations. Profiteering has been made a crime. A special commission of which the chairman is Brigadier-General John H. Sherburne was established to deal with the problem of the high cost of living – with power which has been effective in reducing the prices of the necessaries of life. No other State has taken any effective measure. The compensation of public employees has been increased. The entire public service of the Commonwealth has been reorganized in accordance with the constitutional amendment into twenty departments. In caring for her service men Massachusetts led all the States of the Nation in relief and in assistance, besides voting the stupendous sum of twenty million dollars, not as compensation, but as recognition of the gratitude due those who had represented us in the great war. The educational opportunities of the youth of the State have been improved. All of these acts of great importance, which are of course only representative of the character of current legislation, had the executive approval. There has been not only a sympathetic but a very practical attitude toward the ideal expressed in my inaugural address, that there is a right to be well born, well reared, well educated, well employed, and well paid. We shall not be shaken in the mature determination to promote these policies. The ancient faith of Massachusetts in the worth of her citizens, the cause of great solicitude for the welfare of each individual, will remain undiminished.
The many uncertainties in transportation which are State, Nation, and world wide, sent our street railway problems to an expert commission which will report to a special session of the General Court. It is recognized that the rate of fare necessary to pay for the service rendered has in some instances become prohibitive. Some roads and portions of roads have been closed down. There must be relief. But such relief must be in accord with sound economic principles. What the public has the public must pay for. From this there is no escape. Under private, or public, ownership or operation this rule will be the same. We must face the facts and restore this necessary service to the people in such a form that they can meet its costs. In meeting this issue, not hysterically, not with demagogy, but calmly, with candor, applying an adequate remedy to ascertained facts, Massachusetts, as usual, will lead all the other States of the Nation.
That agitation and unrest which has been characteristic of the whole world since the close of the war has had some manifestations here. There is a natural desire in every human mind to seek better conditions. Such a desire is altogether praiseworthy. There must, however, be discrimination in the methods employed. Wholesale criticism of everybody and everything does not necessarily exhibit statesmanlike qualities, and may not be true. Not all those who are working to better the condition of the people are Bolsheviki or enemies of society. Not all those who are attempting to conduct a successful business are profiteers. But unreasonable criticism and agitation for unreasonable remedies will avail nothing. We, in common with the whole world, are suffering from a shortage of materials. There is but one remedy for this, increased production. We need to use sparingly what we have and make more. No progress will be made by shouting Bolsheviki and profiteers. What we need is thrift and industry. Let everybody keep at work. Profitable employment is the death blow to Bolshevism and abundant production is disaster to the profiteer. Our salvation lies in putting forth greater effort, in manfully assuming our own burdens, rather than in entertaining the pleasing delusion that they can be shifted to some other shoulders. Those who attempt to lead people on in this expectation only add to their burdens and their dangers.
The people of Boston have recently seen the result of agitation and unrest in its police force. The policy of that department, established by an order of former Commissioner O’Meara and adopted by a rule which has the force of law by the present Commissioner Curtis, prohibited a police union from affiliating with an outside union. In spite of this such a union was formed and persisted in with acknowledged and open defiance of the rules and of the counsel and almost entreaties of the officers of the department. Such disobedience continuing, the leaders were cited for trial on charges and heard with their counsel before the Commissioner. After thorough consideration, and opportunity again to obey the rules, they were found guilty. In order to give a chance to recant sentence was suspended. Shortly after, three fourths of the police force abandoned their posts and refused further to perform their duties. During the next few hours, there was destruction of property in the city but happily no loss of life.
Meantime there had been various efforts to save the situation. Some urged me to remove the Commissioner, some to request him to alter his course. To all these I had to reply that I had no authority whatever over his actions and could not lawfully interfere with him. It was my duty to support him in the execution of the law and that I should do. I was glad to confer with any one and give my help where it was sought. The Commissioner was appointed by my predecessor in office for a term of years. I could with almost equal propriety interfere in the decisions of the Supreme Court.
To restore order, I at once and by prearrangement with him and the Commissioner, offered to the Mayor to call out the State Guard. At his request I did so, immediately beginning restoring obedience to the law. On account of the public danger, I called on the Commissioner to aid me in the execution of my duties of keeping order, and issued a proclamation to that effect.
To various suggestions that the police be permitted to return I replied that the Attorney-General had ruled that by law that could not be done and while I had no power to appoint, discharge, or reinstate, I was opposed to placing the public security again in the keeping of this body of men. There is an obligation to forgive but it does not extend to the unrepentant. To give them aid and comfort is to support their evil doing and to become what is known in law as an accessory after the fact. A government which does that is a reproach to civilization and will soon have on its hands the blood of its citizens.
The response to the appeal to support the Government of Massachusetts in sustaining law and order was instantaneous. It came from the State Guard, from volunteers for police, and the militia, from contributions gathered among all classes now reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, from the loyal police of Boston, from all quarters of the Commonwealth and beyond. These forces may all be dissipated, they may be defeated, but while I am entrusted with the office of their Commander-in-Chief they will not be surrendered. Over them and over every other law-abiding citizen has gone up the white flag of Massachusetts. Who is there that by compromising the authority of her laws dares to haul down that flag? I have resisted and propose to continue in resistance to such action.
This issue is perfectly plain. The Government of Massachusetts is not seeking to resist the lawful action or sound policy of organized labor. It has time and again passed laws for the protection and encouragement of trade unions. It has done so under my administration upon my recommendation to a greater extent than in any previous year. In that policy it will continue. It is seeking to prevent a condition which would at once destroy all labor unions and all else that is the foundation of civilization by maintaining the authority and sanctity of the law. When that goes all goes. It costs something but it is the cheapest thing that can be bought; it causes some inconvenience but it is the foundation of all convenience, the orderly execution of the laws.
The people understand this thoroughly. They know that the laws are their laws and speak their voice. They know that this Government is their Government founded on their will, administered by their representatives. Disobedience to it is disobedience to the people. They know that the property of the Commonwealth is their property. Destruction of it destroys their substance. The public security is their security. When that is gone they are in deadly peril. And knowing this the people have a determination to support the Government with a resolution that is unchanging.
It is my purpose to maintain the Government of Massachusetts as it was founded by her people, the protector of the rights of all but subservient to none. It is my purpose to maintain unimpaired the authority of her laws, her jurisdiction, her peace, her security. This ancient faith of Massachusetts which became the great faith of America, she reestablished in her Constitution before the army of Washington had gained our independence, declaring for “a government of laws and not of men.” In that faith she still abides. Let him challenge it who dares. All who love Massachusetts, who believe in America, are bound to defend it. The choice lies between living under coercion and intimidation, the forces of evil, or under the laws of the people, orderly, speaking with their settled convictions, the revelation of a divine authority.
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 Pamela Mett, who prepared this document for digital publication.