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Calvin Coolidge
Inaugural Address
Wednesday, March 4, 1925

My Countrymen:

NO one can contemplate current conditions without finding much that is
satisfying and still more that is encouraging. Our own country is
leading the world in the general readjustment to the results of the
great conflict. Many of its burdens will bear heavily upon us for years,
and the secondary and indirect effects we must expect to experience for
some time. But we are beginning to comprehend more definitely what
course should be pursued, what remedies ought to be applied, what
actions should be taken for our deliverance, and are clearly manifesting
a determined will faithfully and conscientiously to adopt these methods
of relief. Already we have sufficiently rearranged our domestic affairs
so that confidence has returned, business has revived, and we appear to
be entering an era of prosperity which is gradually reaching into every
part of the Nation. Realizing that we can not live unto ourselves alone,
we have contributed of our resources and our counsel to the relief of
the suffering and the settlement of the disputes among the European
nations. Because of what America is and what America has done, a firmer
courage, a higher hope, inspires the heart of all humanity.

These results have not occurred by mere chance. They have been secured
by a constant and enlightened effort marked by many sacrifices and
extending over many generations. We can not continue these brilliant
successes in the future, unless we continue to learn from the past. It
is necessary to keep the former experiences of our country both at home
and abroad continually before us, if we are to have any science of
government. If we wish to erect new structures, we must have a definite
knowledge of the old foundations. We must realize that human nature is
about the most constant thing in the universe and that the essentials of
human relationship do not change. We must frequently take our bearings
from these fixed stars of our political firmament if we expect to hold a
true course. If we examine carefully what we have done, we can determine
the more accurately what we can do.

We stand at the opening of the one hundred and fiftieth year since our
national consciousness first asserted itself by unmistakable action with
an array of force. The old sentiment of detached and dependent colonies
disappeared in the new sentiment of a united and independent Nation. Men
began to discard the narrow confines of a local charter for the broader
opportunities of a national constitution. Under the eternal urge of
freedom we became an independent Nation. A little less than 50 years
later that freedom and independence were reasserted in the face of all
the world, and guarded, supported, and secured by the Monroe doctrine.
The narrow fringe of States along the Atlantic seaboard advanced its
frontiers across the hills and plains of an intervening continent until
it passed down the golden slope to the Pacific. We made freedom a
birthright. We extended our domain over distant islands in order to
safeguard our own interests and accepted the consequent obligation to
bestow justice and liberty upon less favored peoples. In the defense of
our own ideals and in the general cause of liberty we entered the Great
War. When victory had been fully secured, we withdrew to our own shores
unrecompensed save in the consciousness of duty done.

Throughout all these experiences we have enlarged our freedom, we have
strengthened our independence. We have been, and propose to be, more and
more American. We believe that we can best serve our own country and
most successfully discharge our obligations to humanity by continuing to
be openly and candidly, in tensely and scrupulously, American. If we
have any heritage, it has been that. If we have any destiny, we have
found it in that direction.

But if we wish to continue to be distinctively American, we must
continue to make that term comprehensive enough to embrace the
legitimate desires of a civilized and enlightened people determined in
all their relations to pursue a conscientious and religious life. We can
not permit ourselves to be narrowed and dwarfed by slogans and phrases.
It is not the adjective, but the substantive, which is of real
importance. It is not the name of the action, but the result of the
action, which is the chief concern. It will be well not to be too much
disturbed by the thought of either isolation or entanglement of
pacifists and militarists. The physical configuration of the earth has
separated us from all of the Old World, but the common brotherhood of
man, the highest law of all our being, has united us by inseparable
bonds with all humanity. Our country represents nothing but peaceful
intentions toward all the earth, but it ought not to fail to maintain
such a military force as comports with the dignity and security of a
great people. It ought to be a balanced force, intensely modern, capable
of defense by sea and land, beneath the surface and in the air. But it
should be so conducted that all the world may see in it, not a menace,
but an instrument of security and peace.

This Nation believes thoroughly in an honorable peace under which the
rights of its citizens are to be everywhere protected. It has never
found that the necessary enjoyment of such a peace could be maintained
only by a great and threatening array of arms. In common with other
nations, it is now more determined than ever to promote peace through
friendliness and good will, through mutual understandings and mutual
forbearance. We have never practiced the policy of competitive
armaments. We have recently committed ourselves by covenants with the
other great nations to a limitation of our sea power. As one result of
this, our Navy ranks larger, in comparison, than it ever did before.
Removing the burden of expense and jealousy, which must always accrue
from a keen rivalry, is one of the most effective methods of diminishing
that unreasonable hysteria and misunderstanding which are the most
potent means of fomenting war. This policy represents a new departure in
the world. It is a thought, an ideal, which has led to an entirely new
line of action. It will not be easy to maintain. Some never moved from
their old positions, some are constantly slipping back to the old ways
of thought and the old action of seizing a musket and relying on force.
America has taken the lead in this new direction, and that lead America
must continue to hold. If we expect others to rely on our fairness and
justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.

If we are to judge by past experience, there is much to be hoped for in
international relations from frequent conferences and consultations. We
have before us the beneficial results of the Washington conference and
the various consultations recently held upon European affairs, some of
which were in response to our suggestions and in some of which we were
active participants. Even the failures can not but be accounted useful
and an immeasurable advance over threatened or actual warfare. I am
strongly in favor of continuation of this policy, whenever conditions
are such that there is even a promise that practical and favorable
results might be secured.

In conformity with the principle that a display of reason rather than a
threat of force should be the determining factor in the intercourse
among nations, we have long advocated the peaceful settlement of
disputes by methods of arbitration and have negotiated many treaties to
secure that result. The same considerations should lead to our adherence
to the Permanent Court of International Justice. Where great principles
are involved, where great movements are under way which promise much for
the welfare of humanity by reason of the very fact that many other
nations have given such movements their actual support, we ought not to
withhold our own sanction because of any small and inessential
difference, but only upon the ground of the most important and
compelling fundamental reasons. We can not barter away our independence
or our sovereignty, but we ought to engage in no refinements of logic,
no sophistries, and no subterfuges, to argue away the undoubted duty of
this country by reason of the might of its numbers, the power of its
resources, and its position of leadership in the world, actively and
comprehensively to signify its approval and to bear its full share of
the responsibility of a candid and disinterested attempt at the
establishment of a tribunal for the administration of even-handed
justice between nation and nation. The weight of our enormous influence
must be cast upon the side of a reign not of force but of law and trial,
not by battle but by reason.

We have never any wish to interfere in the political conditions of any
other countries. Especially are we determined not to become implicated
in the political controversies of the Old World. With a great deal of
hesitation, we have responded to appeals for help to maintain order,
protect life and property, and establish responsible government in some
of the small countries of the Western Hemisphere. Our private citizens
have advanced large sums of money to assist in the necessary financing
and relief of the Old World. We have not failed, nor shall we fail to
respond, whenever necessary to mitigate human suffering and assist in
the rehabilitation of distressed nations. These, too, are requirements
which must be met by reason of our vast powers and the place we hold in
the world.

Some of the best thought of mankind has long been seeking for a formula
for permanent peace. Undoubtedly the clarification of the principles of
international law would be helpful, and the efforts of scholars to
prepare such a work for adoption by the various nations should have our
sympathy and support. Much may be hoped for from the earnest studies of
those who advocate the outlawing of aggressive war. But all these plans
and preparations, these treaties and covenants, will not of themselves
be adequate. One of the greatest dangers to peace lies in the economic
pressure to which people find themselves subjected. One of the most
practical things to be done in the world is to seek arrangements under
which such pressure may be removed, so that opportunity may be renewed
and hope may be revived. There must be some assurance that effort and
endeavor will be followed by success and prosperity. In the making and
financing of such adjustments there is not only an opportunity, but a
real duty, for America to respond with her counsel and her resources.
Conditions must be provided under which people can make a living and
work out of their difficulties. But there is another element, more
important than all, without which there can not be the slightest hope of
a permanent peace. That element lies in the heart of humanity. Unless
the desire for peace be cherished there, unless this fundamental and
only natural source of brotherly love be cultivated to its highest
degree, all artificial efforts will be in vain. Peace will come when
there is realization that only under a reign of law, based on
righteousness and supported by the religious conviction of the
brotherhood of man, can there be any hope of a complete and satisfying
life. Parchment will fail, the sword will fail, it is only the spiritual
nature of man that can be triumphant.

It seems altogether probable that we can contribute most to these
important objects by maintaining our position of political detachment
and independence. We are not identified with any Old World interests.
This position should be made more and more clear in our relations with
all foreign countries. We are at peace with all of them. Our program is
never to oppress, but always to assist. But while we do justice to
others, we must require that justice be done to us. With us a treaty of
peace means peace, and a treaty of amity means amity. We have made great
contributions to the settlement of contentious differences in both
Europe and Asia. But there is a very definite point beyond which we can
not go. We can only help those who help themselves. Mindful of these
limitations, the one great duty that stands out requires us to use our
enormous powers to trim the balance of the world.

While we can look with a great deal of pleasure upon what we have done
abroad, we must remember that our continued success in that direction
depends upon what we do at home. Since its very outset, it has been
found necessary to conduct our Government by means of political parties.
That system would not have survived from generation to generation if it
had not been fundamentally sound and provided the best instrumentalities
for the most complete expression of the popular will. It is not
necessary to claim that it has always worked perfectly. It is enough to
know that nothing better has been devised. No one would deny that there
should be full and free expression and an opportunity for independence
of action within the party. There is no salvation in a narrow and
bigoted partisanship. But if there is to be responsible party
government, the party label must be something more than a mere device
for securing office. Unless those who are elected under the same party
designation are willing to assume sufficient responsibility and exhibit
sufficient loyalty and coherence, so that they can cooperate with each
other in the support of the broad general principles, of the party
platform, the election is merely a mockery, no decision is made at the
polls, and there is no representation of the popular will. Common
honesty and good faith with the people who support a party at the polls
require that party, when it enters office, to assume the control of that
portion of the Government to which it has been elected. Any other course
is bad faith and a violation of the party pledges.

When the country has bestowed its confidence upon a party by making it a
majority in the Congress, it has a right to expect such unity of action
as will make the party majority an effective instrument of government.
This Administration has come into power with a very clear and definite
mandate from the people. The expression of the popular will in favor of
maintaining our constitutional guarantees was overwhelming and decisive.
There was a manifestation of such faith in the integrity of the courts
that we can consider that issue rejected for some time to come.
Likewise, the policy of public ownership of railroads and certain
electric utilities met with unmistakable defeat. The people declared
that they wanted their rights to have not a political but a judicial
determination, and their independence and freedom continued and
supported by having the ownership and control of their property, not in
the Government, but in their own hands. As they always do when they have
a fair chance, the people demonstrated that they are sound and are
determined to have a sound government.

When we turn from what was rejected to inquire what was accepted, the
policy that stands out with the greatest clearness is that of economy in
public expenditure with reduction and reform of taxation. The principle
involved in this effort is that of conservation. The resources of this
country are almost beyond computation. No mind can comprehend them. But
the cost of our combined governments is likewise almost beyond
definition. Not only those who are now making their tax returns, but
those who meet the enhanced cost of existence in their monthly bills,
know by hard experience what this great burden is and what it does. No
matter what others may want, these people want a drastic economy. They
are opposed to waste. They know that extravagance lengthens the hours
and diminishes the rewards of their labor. I favor the policy of
economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save
people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear
the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means
that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we
prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant.
Economy is idealism in its most practical form.

If extravagance were not reflected in taxation, and through taxation
both directly and indirectly injuriously affecting the people, it would
not be of so much consequence. The wisest and soundest method of solving
our tax problem is through economy. Fortunately, of all the great
nations this country is best in a position to adopt that simple remedy.
We do not any longer need wartime revenues. The collection of any taxes
which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt
contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized
larceny. Under this republic the rewards of industry belong to those who
earn them. The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to
public necessity. The property of the country belongs to the people of
the country. Their title is absolute. They do not support any privileged
class; they do not need to maintain great military forces; they ought
not to be burdened with a great array of public employees. They are not
required to make any contribution to Government expenditures except that
which they voluntarily assess upon themselves through the action of
their own representatives. Whenever taxes become burdensome a remedy can
be applied by the people; but if they do not act for themselves, no one
can be very successful in acting for them.

The time is arriving when we can have further tax reduction, when,
unless we wish to hamper the people in their right to earn a living, we
must have tax reform. The method of raising revenue ought not to impede
the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to
extremely high rates, because they produce little or no revenue, because
they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong. We
can not finance the country, we can not improve social conditions,
through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it upon
the rich. Those who suffer the most harm will be the poor. This country
believes in prosperity. It is absurd to suppose that it is envious of
those who are already prosperous. The wise and correct course to follow
in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those
who have already secured success but to create conditions under which
every one will have a better chance to be successful. The verdict of the
country has been given on this question. That verdict stands. We shall
do well to heed it.

These questions involve moral issues. We need not concern ourselves much
about the rights of property if we will faithfully observe the rights of
persons. Under our institutions their rights are supreme. It is not
property but the right to hold property, both great and small, which our
Constitution guarantees. All owners of property are charged with a
service. These rights and duties have been revealed, through the
conscience of society, to have a divine sanction. The very stability of
our society rests upon production and conservation. For individuals or
for governments to waste and squander their resources is to deny these
rights and disregard these obligations. The result of economic
dissipation to a nation is always moral decay.

These policies of better international understandings, greater economy,
and lower taxes have contributed largely to peaceful and prosperous
industrial relations. Under the helpful influences of restrictive
immigration and a protective tariff, employment is plentiful, the rate
of pay is high, and wage earners are in a state of contentment seldom
before seen. Our transportation systems have been gradually recovering
and have been able to meet all the requirements of the service.
Agriculture has been very slow in reviving, but the price of cereals at
last indicates that the day of its deliverance is at hand.

We are not without our problems, but our most important problem is not
to secure new advantages but to maintain those which we already possess.
Our system of government made up of three separate and independent
departments, our divided sovereignty composed of Nation and State, the
matchless wisdom that is enshrined in our Constitution, all these need
constant effort and tireless vigilance for their protection and support.

In a republic the first rule for the guidance of the citizen is
obedience to law. Under a despotism the law may be imposed upon the
subject. He has no voice in its making, no influence in its
administration, it does not represent him. Under a free government the
citizen makes his own laws, chooses his own administrators, which do
represent him. Those who want their rights respected under the
Constitution and the law ought to set the example themselves of
observing the Constitution and the law. While there may be those of high
intelligence who violate the law at times, the barbarian and the
defective always violate it. Those who disregard the rules of society
are not exhibiting a superior intelligence, are not promoting freedom
and independence, are not following the path of civilization, but are
displaying the traits of ignorance, of servitude, of savagery, and
treading the way that leads back to the jungle.

The essence of a republic is representative government. Our Congress
represents the people and the States. In all legislative affairs it is
the natural collaborator with the President. In spite of all the
criticism which often falls to its lot, I do not hesitate to say that
there is no more independent and effective legislative body in the
world. It is, and should be, jealous of its prerogative. I welcome its
cooperation, and expect to share with it not only the responsibility,
but the credit, for our common effort to secure beneficial legislation.

These are some of the principles which America represents. We have not
by any means put them fully into practice, but we have strongly
signified our belief in them. The encouraging feature of our country is
not that it has reached its destination, but that it has overwhelmingly
expressed its determination to proceed in the right direction. It is
true that we could, with profit, be less sectional and more national in
our thought. It would be well if we could replace much that is only a
false and ignorant prejudice with a true and enlightened pride of race.
But the last election showed that appeals to class and nationality had
little effect. We were all found loyal to a common citizenship. The
fundamental precept of liberty is toleration. We can not permit any
inquisition either within or without the law or apply any religious test
to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free.

It is in such contemplations, my fellow countrymen, which are not
exhaustive but only representative, that I find ample warrant for
satisfaction and encouragement. We should not let the much that is to do
obscure the much which has been done. The past and present show faith
and hope and courage fully justified. Here stands our country, an
example of tranquillity at home, a patron of tranquillity abroad. Here
stands its Government, aware of its might but obedient to its
conscience. Here it will continue to stand, seeking peace and
prosperity, solicitous for the welfare of the wage earner, promoting
enterprise, developing waterways and natural resources, attentive to the
intuitive counsel of womanhood, encouraging education, desiring the
advancement of religion, supporting the cause of justice and honor among
the nations. America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force.
No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions.
The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but
with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of
all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no
purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.



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