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Herbert Hoover
Inaugural Address
Monday, March 4, 1929

My Countrymen:

THIS occasion is not alone the administration of the most sacred oath
which can be assumed by an American citizen. It is a dedication and
consecration under God to the highest office in service of our people. I
assume this trust in the humility of knowledge that only through the
guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge its
ever-increasing burdens.

It is in keeping with tradition throughout our history that I should
express simply and directly the opinions which I hold concerning some of
the matters of present importance.


If we survey the situation of our Nation both at home and abroad, we
find many satisfactions; we find some causes for concern. We have
emerged from the losses of the Great War and the reconstruction
following it with increased virility and strength. From this strength we
have contributed to the recovery and progress of the world. What America
has done has given renewed hope and courage to all who have faith in
government by the people. In the large view, we have reached a higher
degree of comfort and security than ever existed before in the history
of the world. Through liberation from widespread poverty we have reached
a higher degree of individual freedom than ever before. The devotion to
and concern for our institutions are deep and sincere. We are steadily
building a new race--a new civilization great in its own attainments.
The influence and high purposes of our Nation are respected among the
peoples of the world. We aspire to distinction in the world, but to a
distinction based upon confidence in our sense of justice as well as our
accomplishments within our own borders and in our own lives. For wise
guidance in this great period of recovery the Nation is deeply indebted
to Calvin Coolidge.

But all this majestic advance should not obscure the constant dangers
from which self-government must be safeguarded. The strong man must at
all times be alert to the attack of insidious disease.


The most malign of all these dangers today is disregard and disobedience
of law. Crime is increasing. Confidence in rigid and speedy justice is
decreasing. I am not prepared to believe that this indicates any decay
in the moral fiber of the American people. I am not prepared to believe
that it indicates an impotence of the Federal Government to enforce its

It is only in part due to the additional burdens imposed upon our
judicial system by the eighteenth amendment. The problem is much wider
than that. Many influences had increasingly complicated and weakened our
law enforcement organization long before the adoption of the eighteenth

To reestablish the vigor and effectiveness of law enforcement we must
critically consider the entire Federal machinery of justice, the
redistribution of its functions, the simplification of its procedure,
the provision of additional special tribunals, the better selection of
juries, and the more effective organization of our agencies of
investigation and prosecution that justice may be sure and that it may
be swift. While the authority of the Federal Government extends to but
part of our vast system of national, State, and local justice, yet the
standards which the Federal Government establishes have the most
profound influence upon the whole structure.

We are fortunate in the ability and integrity of our Federal judges and
attorneys. But the system which these officers are called upon to
administer is in many respects ill adapted to present-day conditions.
Its intricate and involved rules of procedure have become the refuge of
both big and little criminals. There is a belief abroad that by invoking
technicalities, subterfuge, and delay, the ends of justice may be
thwarted by those who can pay the cost.

Reform, reorganization and strengthening of our whole judicial and
enforcement system, both in civil and criminal sides, have been
advocated for years by statesmen, judges, and bar associations. First
steps toward that end should not longer be delayed. Rigid and
expeditious justice is the first safeguard of freedom, the basis of all
ordered liberty, the vital force of progress. It must not come to be in
our Republic that it can be defeated by the indifference of the citizen,
by exploitation of the delays and entanglements of the law, or by
combinations of criminals. Justice must not fail because the agencies of
enforcement are either delinquent or inefficiently organized. To
consider these evils, to find their remedy, is the most sore necessity
of our times.


Of the undoubted abuses which have grown up under the eighteenth
amendment, part are due to the causes I have just mentioned; but part
are due to the failure of some States to accept their share of
responsibility for concurrent enforcement and to the failure of many
State and local officials to accept the obligation under their oath of
office zealously to enforce the laws. With the failures from these many
causes has come a dangerous expansion in the criminal elements who have
found enlarged opportunities in dealing in illegal liquor.

But a large responsibility rests directly upon our citizens. There would
be little traffic in illegal liquor if only criminals patronized it. We
must awake to the fact that this patronage from large numbers of
law-abiding citizens is supplying the rewards and stimulating crime.

I have been selected by you to execute and enforce the laws of the
country. I propose to do so to the extent of my own abilities, but the
measure of success that the Government shall attain will depend upon the
moral support which you, as citizens, extend. The duty of citizens to
support the laws of the land is coequal with the duty of their
Government to enforce the laws which exist. No greater national service
can be given by men and women of good will--who, I know, are not
unmindful of the responsibilities of citizenship--than that they should,
by their example, assist in stamping out crime and outlawry by refusing
participation in and condemning all transactions with illegal liquor.
Our whole system of self-government will crumble either if officials
elect what laws they will enforce or citizens elect what laws they will
support. The worst evil of disregard for some law is that it destroys
respect for all law. For our citizens to patronize the violation of a
particular law on the ground that they are opposed to it is destructive
of the very basis of all that protection of life, of homes and property
which they rightly claim under other laws. If citizens do not like a
law, their duty as honest men and women is to discourage its violation;
their right is openly to work for its repeal.

To those of criminal mind there can be no appeal but vigorous
enforcement of the law. Fortunately they are but a small percentage of
our people. Their activities must be stopped.


I propose to appoint a national commission for a searching investigation
of the whole structure of our Federal system of jurisprudence, to
include the method of enforcement of the eighteenth amendment and the
causes of abuse under it. Its purpose will be to make such
recommendations for reorganization of the administration of Federal laws
and court procedure as may be found desirable. In the meantime it is
essential that a large part of the enforcement activities be transferred
from the Treasury Department to the Department of Justice as a beginning
of more effective organization.


The election has again confirmed the determination of the American
people that regulation of private enterprise and not Government
ownership or operation is the course rightly to be pursued in our
relation to business. In recent years we have established a
differentiation in the whole method of business regulation between the
industries which produce and distribute commodities on the one hand and
public utilities on the other. In the former, our laws insist upon
effective competition; in the latter, because we substantially confer a
monopoly by limiting competition, we must regulate their services and
rates. The rigid enforcement of the laws applicable to both groups is
the very base of equal opportunity and freedom from domination for all
our people, and it is just as essential for the stability and prosperity
of business itself as for the protection of the public at large. Such
regulation should be extended by the Federal Government within the
limitations of the Constitution and only when the individual States are
without power to protect their citizens through their own authority. On
the other hand, we should be fearless when the authority rests only in
the Federal Government.


The larger purpose of our economic thought should be to establish more
firmly stability and security of business and employment and thereby
remove poverty still further from our borders. Our people have in recent
years developed a new-found capacity for cooperation among themselves to
effect high purposes in public welfare. It is an advance toward the
highest conception of self-government. Self-government does not and
should not imply the use of political agencies alone. Progress is born
of cooperation in the community--not from governmental restraints. The
Government should assist and encourage these movements of collective
self-help by itself cooperating with them. Business has by cooperation
made great progress in the advancement of service, in stability, in
regularity of employment and in the correction of its own abuses. Such
progress, however, can continue only so long as business manifests its
respect for law.

There is an equally important field of cooperation by the Federal
Government with the multitude of agencies, State, municipal and private,
in the systematic development of those processes which directly affect
public health, recreation, education, and the home. We have need further
to perfect the means by which Government can be adapted to human


Although education is primarily a responsibility of the States and local
communities, and rightly so, yet the Nation as a whole is vitally
concerned in its development everywhere to the highest standards and to
complete universality. Self-government can succeed only through an
instructed electorate. Our objective is not simply to overcome
illiteracy. The Nation has marched far beyond that. The more complex the
problems of the Nation become, the greater is the need for more and more
advanced instruction. Moreover, as our numbers increase and as our life
expands with science and invention, we must discover more and more
leaders for every walk of life. We can not hope to succeed in directing
this increasingly complex civilization unless we can draw all the talent
of leadership from the whole people. One civilization after another has
been wrecked upon the attempt to secure sufficient leadership from a
single group or class. If we would prevent the growth of class
distinctions and would constantly refresh our leadership with the ideals
of our people, we must draw constantly from the general mass. The full
opportunity for every boy and girl to rise through the selective
processes of education can alone secure to us this leadership.


In public health the discoveries of science have opened a new era. Many
sections of our country and many groups of our citizens suffer from
diseases the eradication of which are mere matters of administration and
moderate expenditure. Public health service should be as fully organized
and as universally incorporated into our governmental system as is
public education. The returns are a thousand fold in economic benefits,
and infinitely more in reduction of suffering and promotion of human


The United States fully accepts the profound truth that our own
progress, prosperity, and peace are interlocked with the progress,
prosperity, and peace of all humanity. The whole world is at peace. The
dangers to a continuation of this peace to-day are largely the fear and
suspicion which still haunt the world. No suspicion or fear can be
rightly directed toward our country.

Those who have a true understanding of America know that we have no
desire for territorial expansion, for economic or other domination of
other peoples. Such purposes are repugnant to our ideals of human
freedom. Our form of government is ill adapted to the responsibilities
which inevitably follow permanent limitation of the independence of
other peoples. Superficial observers seem to find no destiny for our
abounding increase in population, in wealth and power except that of
imperialism. They fail to see that the American people are engrossed in
the building for themselves of a new economic system, a new social
system, a new political system all of which are characterized by
aspirations of freedom of opportunity and thereby are the negation of
imperialism. They fail to realize that because of our abounding
prosperity our youth are pressing more and more into our institutions of
learning; that our people are seeking a larger vision through art,
literature, science, and travel; that they are moving toward stronger
moral and spiritual life--that from these things our sympathies are
broadening beyond the bounds of our Nation and race toward their true
expression in a real brotherhood of man. They fail to see that the
idealism of America will lead it to no narrow or selfish channel, but
inspire it to do its full share as a nation toward the advancement of
civilization. It will do that not by mere declaration but by taking a
practical part in supporting all useful international undertakings. We
not only desire peace with the world, but to see peace maintained
throughout the world. We wish to advance the reign of justice and reason
toward the extinction of force.

The recent treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of
national policy sets an advanced standard in our conception of the
relations of nations. Its acceptance should pave the way to greater
limitation of armament, the offer of which we sincerely extend to the
world. But its full realization also implies a greater and greater
perfection in the instrumentalities for pacific settlement of
controversies between nations. In the creation and use of these
instrumentalities we should support every sound method of conciliation,
arbitration, and judicial settlement. American statesmen were among the
first to propose and they have constantly urged upon the world, the
establishment of a tribunal for the settlement of controversies of a
justiciable character. The Permanent Court of International Justice in
its major purpose is thus peculiarly identified with American ideals and
with American statesmanship. No more potent instrumentality for this
purpose has ever been conceived and no other is practicable of
establishment. The reservations placed upon our adherence should not be
misinterpreted. The United States seeks by these reservations no special
privilege or advantage but only to clarify our relation to advisory
opinions and other matters which are subsidiary to the major purpose of
the court. The way should, and I believe will, be found by which we may
take our proper place in a movement so fundamental to the progress of

Our people have determined that we should make no political engagements
such as membership in the League of Nations, which may commit us in
advance as a nation to become involved in the settlements of
controversies between other countries. They adhere to the belief that
the independence of America from such obligations increases its ability
and availability for service in all fields of human progress.

I have lately returned from a journey among our sister Republics of the
Western Hemisphere. I have received unbounded hospitality and courtesy
as their expression of friendliness to our country. We are held by
particular bonds of sympathy and common interest with them. They are
each of them building a racial character and a culture which is an
impressive contribution to human progress. We wish only for the
maintenance of their independence, the growth of their stability, and
their prosperity. While we have had wars in the Western Hemisphere, yet
on the whole the record is in encouraging contrast with that of other
parts of the world. Fortunately the New World is largely free from the
inheritances of fear and distrust which have so troubled the Old World.
We should keep it so.

It is impossible, my countrymen, to speak of peace without profound
emotion. In thousands of homes in America, in millions of homes around
the world, there are vacant chairs. It would be a shameful confession of
our unworthiness if it should develop that we have abandoned the hope
for which all these men died. Surely civilization is old enough, surely
mankind is mature enough so that we ought in our own lifetime to find a
way to permanent peace. Abroad, to west and east, are nations whose sons
mingled their blood with the blood of our sons on the battlefields. Most
of these nations have contributed to our race, to our culture, our
knowledge, and our progress. From one of them we derive our very
language and from many of them much of the genius of our institutions.
Their desire for peace is as deep and sincere as our own.

Peace can be contributed to by respect for our ability in defense. Peace
can be promoted by the limitation of arms and by the creation of the
instrumentalities for peaceful settlement of controversies. But it will
become a reality only through self-restraint and active effort in
friendliness and helpfulness. I covet for this administration a record
of having further contributed to advance the cause of peace.


In our form of democracy the expression of the popular will can be
effected only through the instrumentality of political parties. We
maintain party government not to promote intolerant partisanship but
because opportunity must be given for expression of the popular will,
and organization provided for the execution of its mandates and for
accountability of government to the people. It follows that the
government both in the executive and the legislative branches must carry
out in good faith the platforms upon which the party was entrusted with
power. But the government is that of the whole people; the party is the
instrument through which policies are determined and men chosen to bring
them into being. The animosities of elections should have no place in
our Government, for government must concern itself alone with the common


Action upon some of the proposals upon which the Republican Party was
returned to power, particularly further agricultural relief and limited
changes in the tariff, cannot in justice to our farmers, our labor, and
our manufacturers be postponed. I shall therefore request a special
session of Congress for the consideration of these two questions. I
shall deal with each of them upon the assembly of the Congress.


It appears to me that the more important further mandates from the
recent election were the maintenance of the integrity of the
Constitution; the vigorous enforcement of the laws; the continuance of
economy in public expenditure; the continued regulation of business to
prevent domination in the community; the denial of ownership or
operation of business by the Government in competition with its
citizens; the avoidance of policies which would involve us in the
controversies of foreign nations; the more effective reorganization of
the departments of the Federal Government; the expansion of public
works; and the promotion of welfare activities affecting education and
the home.

These were the more tangible determinations of the election, but beyond
them was the confidence and belief of the people that we would not
neglect the support of the embedded ideals and aspirations of America.
These ideals and aspirations are the touchstones upon which the
day-to-day administration and legislative acts of government must be
tested. More than this, the Government must, so far as lies within its
proper powers, give leadership to the realization of these ideals and to
the fruition of these aspirations. No one can adequately reduce these
things of the spirit to phrases or to a catalogue of definitions. We do
know what the attainments of these ideals should be: The preservation of
self-government and its full foundations in local government; the
perfection of justice whether in economic or in social fields; the
maintenance of ordered liberty; the denial of domination by any group or
class; the building up and preservation of equality of opportunity; the
stimulation of initiative and individuality; absolute integrity in
public affairs; the choice of officials for fitness to office; the
direction of economic progress toward prosperity for the further
lessening of poverty; the freedom of public opinion; the sustaining of
education and of the advancement of knowledge; the growth of religious
spirit and the tolerance of all faiths; the strengthening of the home;
the advancement of peace.

There is no short road to the realization of these aspirations. Ours is
a progressive people, but with a determination that progress must be
based upon the foundation of experience. Ill-considered remedies for
our faults bring only penalties after them. But if we hold the faith of
the men in our mighty past who created these ideals, we shall leave them
heightened and strengthened for our children.


This is not the time and place for extended discussion. The questions
before our country are problems of progress to higher standards; they
are not the problems of degeneration. They demand thought and they serve
to quicken the conscience and enlist our sense of responsibility for
their settlement. And that responsibility rests upon you, my countrymen,
as much as upon those of us who have been selected for office.

Ours is a land rich in resources; stimulating in its glorious beauty;
filled with millions of happy homes; blessed with comfort and
opportunity. In no nation are the institutions of progress more
advanced. In no nation are the fruits of accomplishment more secure. In
no nation is the government more worthy of respect. No country is more
loved by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity,
integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our
country. It is bright with hope.

In the presence of my countrymen, mindful of the solemnity of this
occasion, knowing what the task means and the responsibility which it
involves, I beg your tolerance, your aid, and your cooperation. I ask
the help of Almighty God in this service to my country to which you have
called me.

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