Title: Address to the General Court beginning the 2nd year as Governor of Massachusetts
Date: January 8, 1920
Location: Boston, MA (?)
Context: Speeches as Governor of Mass (1919-1920), Coolidge
January 8, 1920
The past always limits and directs the future. Recent years have been marked by much change and great progress. It has been a time requiring great effort. To discharge paramount duties great obligations have been incurred. During the past year the Constitution of the Commonwealth has been revised. The entire executive administration has been reorganized. A forty eight hour week has been established. The problems of reconstruction have been solved. Disloyal speech and action has been prohibited. Profiteering has been curbed. Transportation has been relieved. A great forward step has been taken in education. No one year has ever witnessed like accomplishments. Considered as a whole it has been stupendous. The commitments of the Commonwealth must be met, the various departments supported and strengthened, the public security maintained, the organism of government must continue to grow, but new enterprises should be under taken only in case of the most urgent public necessity. In general, it is a time to conserve, to retrench rather than to reform, a time to stabilize the administration of the present laws rather than to see new legislation. Not law, but perseverance; and patience.
It is not to be understood that additional legislation will never be required. The future will require it. But it is the present that must be considered. This Commonwealth is less in need of new laws than ever before. The greatest benefit you can confer is the speedy making of necessary appropriations, adjustment of some details, and adjournment. This is not criticism. The completeness of the laws reflects the ability and accomplishments of the General Court. You can display no greater wisdom than by resisting proposals for needless legislation.
There is a limit to the taxing power of a State beyond which increased rates produce decreased revenue. If that be exceeded intangible securities and other personal property become driven out of its jurisdiction, industry cannot meet its less burdened competitors, and no capital will be found for enlarging old or starting new enterprises. Such a condition means first stagnation, then decay and dissolution. There is before us a danger that our resources may be taxed out of existence and our prosperity destroyed.
Another and most important consideration, a fact that cannot be controverted, is that taxes have to be paid by the public. They cannot be imposed on any class. There is no power that can prevent a distribution of the burden. The landlord may be the one who sends a check to the public treasury, but his tenants nevertheless make the payment. A great manufacturer may contribute a large share to his income, but still the money comes from the consumer. Taxes must and do fall on the people in whatever form or name they are laid. There is no other source rich enough or powerful enough to meet the public requirements. It is useless to delude ourselves, and fraudulent to attempt to delude others, with the claim that the public revenues are or can be derived from any source save the people them selves. Property cannot long be taxed. It can be confiscated. Ultimately it is always the user of property that is taxed. In Massachusetts the users of the property are the people. The taxes are paid by the people.
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that high taxes make high prices. So long as the cost of government is high the cost of living will be high. This is usually a source of misunderstanding and always a source of discontent. The duty that government now owes to the people is to reduce their burdens by paying off the obligations that came from the war rather than imposing additional burdens for the support of new projects. The Commonwealth needs a double portion of the civilizing influence of conservation and economy. Having met our war obligation to pay, let us meet our peace obligation to save.
The unsound social and economic theories which deluge the earth from time to time are not the progeny of stalwart men and women. Sound bodies do not breed unsound doctrines. Along with a vigorous training for physical development should go a teaching to think healthful thoughts. For after all it must be remembered that “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he”.
For some years Massachusetts has been committed to the policy of aiding children by assisting the mother to care for them. This has proved to be a wise and beneficial policy. Institutional and family care have much to commend them, but no mother should be parted from her children on account of poverty alone. This policy may well be extended in its scope to the giving aid, nursing and medical care to needy expectant mothers. Motherhood should be honored, childhood protected. I earnestly recommend the extension of this relief through the same or like agencies as now administer mothers’ aid. In our desire to assist those who come from other shores we must not neglect the native born. Coming into the royal estate of every American he should have a royal welcome. It was the wise men who bore gifts. A wise Commonwealth will not be neglectful of the days of nativity.
Our population is in the main industrial, but the products of our soil reach a very substantial figure, probably well over one hundred millions of dollars. There is no better opportunity for raising citizens than on the farm. Every encouragement should be extended to the farmers. In particular, his keeping of domestic animals should be stimulated. Our efforts should be directed to the prosperity of the men now on the farms. We have some untilled soil. But if the present farmer is made successful and prosperous, if the rewards of his labors are made secure, there will be no lack of others to enter the field and use all available land. It is fundamental that the way to assist an enterprise is to assist the people engaged in the enterprise. Make he farmer succeed and the success of farming is established. Facilities for this purpose are already provided. Let a continuing appropriation insure their continued functioning.
It is preeminently the province of government to protect the weak. The average citizen does not lead the life of independence that was his in former days under a less complex order of society. When a family tilled the soil and produced its own support it was independent. When it produces but one article, and that in a plant owned by others, it is dependent. It may be infinitely better off under the latter plan, but it is evident it needs a protection which before was not required. Let Massachusetts continue to regard with the gravest solicitude the well being of her people. By prescribed law, by authorized publicity, by informed public opinion let her continue to strive to provide that all conditions under which her citizens live are worthy of the high estate of man. Healthful housing, wholesome food, sanitary working conditions, reasonable hours, a fair wage for a fair day’s work, opportunity full and free, justice speedy and impartial and at a cost within the reach of all, are among the objects not only to be sought but made absolutely certain and secure. Government is not, must not be, a cold impersonal machine, but a human and more human agency, appealing to the reason, satisfying the heart, full of mercy, assisting the good, resisting the wrong, delivering the weak from any impositions of the strong. Massachusetts is committed to this and will strive consistently for its complete realization. This is not paternalism. It is not a servitude imposed from without, but the freedom of a righteous self direction from within.
A great money prosperity abounds. In accordance with what had for years been so loudly proclaimed many supposed that in such prosperity they would find complete satisfaction. In this they have been, of course, sorely disappointed. They now think if they could get more they would find the satisfaction that has thus far eluded them. This lies at the basis of the present discontent. Prosperity must be sought, but it does not cure discontent.
Some say our economic and wage systems are all wrong. They would apply some other principle. They are not wrong. They may have been used wrongfully. It is the conception of them and their purpose that is wrong. We are suffering from a shortage of all kinds of materials. The only remedy is to put more effort, not less, into production. If we want more coal and wheat and sugar we shall get it by giving more cloth and shoes and machinery. Changes in prices will give no ultimate relief. Shortage is met only by saving and production. Men have learned very well how to get; they need to be encouraged to save.
Saving and production govern distribution. Greater distribution comes from greater capital. If we can produce and save, economic law distributes. No power can prevent it. Capital must accrue to the use of the people or it perishes. The shop, the railroad, the bank are all for the use of the people. Even the millionaire finds he must, for his own satisfaction, turn over his art gallery to the public. We cannot help the people by denouncing these fundamental principles for their delight, but by teaching them for their advantage. It is time to discard fictions and bring forward realities.
We need to change our standards; not of property but of thought. We need to stop trying to be better than some one else, and start doing something for some one else. If we put all the emphasis on our material prosperity, that prosperity will perish, and with it will perish our civilization. The best that is in man is not bought with a price. To offer money only is to appeal to his weakness not his strength. Man is more than of the earth. He will not find his satisfaction in things that are of the earth earthy. Employer and employed must find their satisfaction not in a money return, but in a service rendered; not in the quantity of goods, but the quality of character. Industry must be humanized not destroyed. It must be the instrument not of selfishness but of service. Change not the law but the attitude of the mind. Let our citizens look not to false prophets but to the Pilgrims; let them fix their eyes on Plymouth Rock as well as Beacon Hill. The supreme choice must be not the things that are seen but the things that are unseen.
Our government belongs to the people. Our property belongs to the people. It is distributed. They own it. The taxes are paid by the people. They bear the burdens. The benefits of government must accrue to the people; not to one class but to all classes; to all the people. The functions, the power, the sovereignty of the government must be kept where they have been placed by the Constitution and laws of the people. Not private will, but that public will, which speaks with a divine sanction, must prevail.
There are strident voices urging resistance to law in the name of freedom. They are not seeking freedom even for them selves. They have it. They are seeking to enslave others. Their works are evil. They know it. They must be resisted. The evil they represent must be overcome by the good others represent. These ideas which are wrong, for the most part imported, must be supplanted by ideas which are right. This can be done. The meaning of America is a power which cannot be over come. Massachusetts must lead in teaching it. Prosecution of the criminal and education of the ignorant are the remedies.
It is fundamental that freedom is not to be secured by disobedience to law. Even the freedom of the slave depended on the supremacy of the Constitution. There is no mystery about this. “They who sin are the servants of sin”. They who break the laws are the slaves of their own crime. It is not for the advantage of others that the citizen is abjured to obey the laws, but for his own advantage. What he claims a right to do to others, that must he admit others have a right to do to him. His obedience is his own protection. He is not submitting himself to the dictates of others, but responding to the requirements of his own nature. Laws are not manufactured, they are not imposed; they are rules of action existing from everlasting to everlasting. He who resists them resists himself; he commits suicide. The nature of man requires sovereignty. Government must govern. To obey is life. To disobey is death. Organized government is the expression of the life of the Commonwealth. Into your hands is entrusted the grave responsibility of its protection and perpetuation.