Title: Speech at Tremont Temple
Date: November 1, 1919
Location: Boston, MA
Context: Coolidge discusses government authority, order, education, and the law
Revelation has not ceased. The strength of a righteous cause not grown less. The people of Massachusetts are patriotic before they are partisan, they are not for men but for measures, not for selfishness but for duty, and they will support their Government. Revelation has not ceased and faith in men has not failed. They cannot be intimidated, they cannot be coerced, they cannot be deceived, and their sovereignty is not for sale.
When this campaign is over it will be a rash man who will again attempt to further his selfish interest by dragging a great party name in the mire and seeking to gain the honor of office by trafficking with disorder. The conduct of public affairs is not a game. Responsible office does not go to the crafty. Governments are not founded upon an association for public plunder but on the cooperation of men wherein each is seeking to do his duty.
The past five years of been like an earthquake. They have a shaken the institutions of men to their very foundations. It is been a time of searchings and questionings. It has been a time of great awakenings. There has been an overpowering resolution among men to make things better. Despotisms have been falling. Republics have been rising. There has been rebellion everywhere against usurped authority. With all that America has been entirely sympathetic. There has been bred in the blood through generations a great sympathy for all people struggling to be free. We have a deep conviction that “resistance to tyranny is obedience to law.” And on that conviction we have stood for three centuries. Time and experience have but strengthened our belief that it is sound.
But like all rules of action it only applies to the conditions it describes. All authority is not usurped authority. Any government is not tyranny. These are the counterfeits. There are no counterfeits of the unreal. It is only of the real and true that men seek to pass spurious limitations.
There are among us a great mass of people who have been reared for generations under a government tyranny and oppression. It is ingrained in their blood that there is no other form of government. They are disposed and inclined to think our institutions partake of the same nature as these they have left behind. We know they are wrong. They must be shown they are wrong.
There is a just government. There are righteous laws. We know the formula by which they are produced. The principle is best stated in the immortal Declaration of Independence to be “the consent of the governed.” It is from that source our government derives its just powers and promulgates its righteous laws. They are the will of the people, the settled conviction derived from orderly deliberation, that take on the sanctity ascribed to the people’s voice. Along with a binding application to resist tyranny goes the other admonition that the “obedience to law is liberty,” – such law and so derived.
These principles, which I have but lightly sketched, and the foundations of American institutions, the source of American freedom and the faith of any party entitled to call itself American. It constitutes truly the rule of the people. It justifies and sanctifies the authority of our laws in the obligation to support our Government. It is democracy administered through representation.
There are only two other choices anarchy or despotism – Russia, present and past. For the most part human existence has been under the one or the other of these. Both have failed to minister to the highest welfare of the people. Unless American institutions can provide for that welfare the cause of humanity is hopeless. Unless the blessings of prosperity, the rewards of industry, justice and liberty, the satisfaction of duty well done, can come under a rule of the people, they cannot come at all. We may as well abandon hope and, yielding to the demands of selfishness, each take what he can.
We had hoped these questions were settled. But nothing to settled that evil and selfish men can find advantage for themselves and overthrowing. We must eternally smite the rock of public conscience if the waters of patriotism are to pour forth. We must ever be ready to point out the success of our country as justification of our determination to support it.
No one can deny that we are in the midst of an abounding prosperity. No one can deny that this prosperity is well distributed; especially is this true of the wage earner. Industrially, commercially, financially, America has been a success. The wealth of Massachusetts is increasing rapidly. There are large deposits going into her savings institutions, during banking hours with each tick of the clock more than $12.50, with each minute more than $750, with each day over $270,000. Wages and hours of labor were never so favorable. We have attained the standard of living among our people the like of which never before existed on earth.
Intellectually our progress compares with our prosperity. The opportunity for education is not only large, but it is well used. The school is everywhere. Ignorance is a disgrace. The turrets of college and universities dot the land. Her student bodies were never so large. Science and innovation, literature and art flourish.
There is higher standard of justice in all the affairs of life than in the past. Our commercial transactions are on a higher plane. There is a moral standard that runs through all the avenues of our life that has lifted it into a new position and gives to men a cleaner sense of honor in all things. There has come to be a new realization of the brotherhood of man, a new significance to religion. The war aroused a new patriotism, and revealed the strength of our moral power.
The issue in Massachusetts is whether these conditions can endure. Will men realize their blessing and exhibit the resolution to support and defend the foundations on which they rest? Having saved Europe are we ready to surrender America? Having beaten the foe from without are we to fall victim to the photo from within?
All of this is put in question by the issue of this campaign. That one fundamental issue is the support of the Government in its determination to maintain order. On all of these opportunities depend.
There can be no material prosperity without order. Stores and banks cannot open. Factories could not run, railways could not operate. What was the value of plate glass and goods, the value of real estate in Boston at three o’clock, A.M., September 10? Unless The people vote to sustain order that value is gone entirely. Business is ended.
On order depends on intellectual progress. Without it all schools close, libraries are empty, education stops. Disorder was the forerunner of the Dark Ages.
Without order the moral progress of the people would be lost. With the schools would go the churches. There could be no assemblages for worship, no services even for the departed, piety would be swallowed up in viciousness.
I have understated the result of disorder. Man has not the imagination, the ability to overstate it. There are those who aim to bring about exactly this result. I propose at all times to resist them with all the power of the command of the Chief Executive of Massachusetts.
Naturally the question arises, what shall we do to defend our birthright? In the first place everybody must take a more active part in public affairs. It will not do for men to send, they must go. It is not enough to draw a check. Good government cannot be bought, it has to be given. Office has great opportunities for doing wrong, but equal chance for doing right. Unless good citizens hold office bad citizens will. People see the office-holder rather than the Government. Let the worth of the office-holder speak the worth of the government. The voice of the people speaks by the voice of the individual. Duty is not collective, it is personal. Let every inhabitant make known his determination to support law and order. That duty is supreme.
That supremacy of the law, the preservation of the Government itself by the maintenance of order, should be the issue of this campaign was entirely due to circumstances beyond my control. That any one should dare to put in jeopardy the stability of our government for the purpose of securing office was to me inconceivable. That anyone should attempt to substitute the will of any outside organization for the authority conferred by law upon the representatives of the people had never occurred to me. But the issue arose by action of some of the police of Boston and it was my duty to meet it. I shall continue to administer the law of all the people.
I should have been pleased to make this campaign on the record of the past year. I should have been pleased to show what the march of progress has been under the people’s government, what action had been taken for the relief of those who toil with their hands as well as their heads, – and the record was never more alluring, – what has been done to advance the business and commercial interests of this great industrial Commonwealth, what has promoted public health, what has assisted in agricultural development, the progress made and providing transportation, the increased opportunity given our youth for education. In particular I should have desired to point out the great pride Massachusetts has in her war record and the abundant way she has shown her gratitude for her service men and women, surpassing every other State. All this is a record not of promises, but of achievement. It is one in which the focus of the Commonwealth may well take a deep satisfaction. It is there, it stands, it cannot be argued away. No deception pervert it. It endures.
All these are the results of ordered liberty – the result of living under the law. It is the great desire of Massachusetts to continue such legislation of progress in humanity. Those who are attempting to wrench the scepter of authority from the representatives of the people, to subvert the jurisdiction of her laws, are the enemies not only of progress, but of all present achievement, not only of what we hope for, but what we have.
This is the cause of all the people, especially of the weak and defenseless. Their only refuge is the protection of the law. The people have come to understand this. They are taking the deciding of this election into their own hands regardless of the party. If the people win who can lose? They are awake to the words of Daniel Webster, “nothing will ruin the country if the people themselves will undertake its safety; and nothing can save it if they leave that safety in any hands but their own.”
My fellow citizens of Massachusetts, to you I commend this cause. To you who have added the glory of the hills and plains of France to the glory of Concord and Bunker Hill, to you who have led when others faltered, to you again is given the leadership. Grasp it. Secure it. Make it decisive. Make the discharge of the great trust you now hold an example of hope for righteousness everywhere, a new guaranty that the Government of America should endure.
Citation: Have Faith in Massachusetts
The Coolidge Foundation gratefully acknowledges the volunteer efforts of David McCann, who prepared this document for digital publication.