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mon sense. The men who wrote it were not theorists; they had not led the cloistered life, the easy life of criticism of the efforts of others; they had themselves taken part in the hurly burly; they had themselves striven to bring about decency; they had striven to achieve ends. But in so striving they had never lost their devotion to a high ideal, and that book, “ The Federalist,” derives its chief merit because it puts ever before the people a high ideal, and yet advocates the accomplishing of it through entirely practical methods.
Washington has won a deathless place in the annals of the best and the wisest of mankind. He stands as the greatest of good men and as the best of great men, because he did not play the part merely of the cloistered philosopher, but strove to achieve results; because he did the best he could with the means at hand, because he ever fixed his eye on the distant goal, and yet did not overlook the obstacles that lay between. He fixed his eyes on the stars, but fixing them there, did not forget to look where his feet trod.
We can carry out, imperfectly and in small ways, it is true, but still we can accomplish the work that Washington begun. We can copy not merely his power of striving for a righteous object, but also his power of striving for it in practical ways. We forget now that we look at them through the vision of a century and a quarter; we forget what the men were, what the difficulties were with which Washington had to contend. We think of the Continental Congress. If we are in a pessimistic mood, we compare it unfavorably with the Congress at Washington.
I wish you would study what the Continental Congress was. I do not mean from the standpoint of trying to find
what it was not, nor with a preconceived idea of finding it very good or very bad, but just to see what it was; and you will find that the first Continental Congress was one of the wisest bodies and one of the most patriotic bodies that ever was gathered in any country. You will find as the popular fervor spent itself, how much of it was on a local scale — a good deal the same kind of reaction that you had in any reform movement on a small scale in the past. You can all of you learn what I am saying by simply looking into history to see for yourselves how things were, and you will find how that Congress went along, and that not a few of the men whom we held up in our minds as ideals of an antiquated virtue, which has now fallen from the land, took part in intrigues, took part in — to use a modern term — deals, took part in other movements that rendered the task of Washington more difficult in dealing with his own country than in dealing with a foreign foe.
Just at this moment Congress in Washington seems to have made up its mind that having provided for the fact that we must take care of the Philippines and of Cuba, there is not to be any army with which to take care of it, and that the armed resistance is to be made by proclamations. Well, it is a little soul harrowing to have to deal with cattle who take that view of the responsibility of the Nation. But Washington had to deal with them. Washington had to face the fact that he was not backed by the Continental Congress even in moments when he was at death grip with the enemy. Washington had to face the belief of many of our people that if you give a man a gun and patriotism you make him a soldier. It was Washington who had to tell the people the lesson that they seemed not to have learned, that the one way to insure peace was the preparedness for war.
On the one hand, that should give us a little comfort when we feel gloomy at the present day. We are going to live through these, gentlemen, just as we lived through the others. On the other hand, it should make every man here, every man worthy of being called an American citizen throughout the length and breadth of this Union, feel that he will profit by the lessons of history, feel that he will try to apply to the problems that we meet at the end of the nineteenth century the same principles which Washington strove to apply to those that he had to meet at the end of the eighteenth.
And it is just as true of the problems that we have to face in our internal civic life as it is of the problems that we have to face as we take up the burdens that come to all great nations.
I am one of those who believe that a nation, whether it will or no, must face its destiny; that it must, because it is a great nation, do the tasks of a great nation. But it can't do them if it doesn't do the ordinary, humdrum, everyday task of governing itself first. It can't do its duty abroad if it doesn't do its duty at home. We must have courage, but we must have honesty also.
If there be an even more obnoxious member of the body politic than the honest timid man, it is the dishonest man who has courage, for his courage simply makes him a more dangerous wild beast, in the community. One of the things that it always grieves me most to hear from the lips of any American is that deification of what we call smartness, the deification of cunning, and craft which has been divorced from scruple.
I earnestly hope that more and more this Nation will grow to feel that the successful man, whether in business or in politics, who owes his success to dishonesty in any form, should be made an outcast in every decent community; that his success should render him an object of righteous indignation to every honest man.
It is impossible to overestimate the harm that is done to us by the successful knave in politics or in finance. The man who is successful in politics at the cost of abandoning the very principles which we hold dear — that man does not merely the damage that he has done by his own career, which may be but trifling; he does infinitely more. He lowers the standards of thousands of young men, of tens of thousands who are not able to see clearly, and who are blinded by the fact that he has succeeded to the further fact that his success was not worth having from any true standpoint. And so we cannot overestimate the damage done to our social structure by the career of any wealthy man who makes his wealth in ways that should be forbidden.
I have spoken of the business world as well as of the world of politics, because to get clean politics you have got to apply just exactly the principles that you would apply in trying to get clean business or clean law. There is no distinct law, or at least there should be no distinct law, for the politician apart from the man of affairs. If your public men are corrupt it must follow just as certainly as the night follows the day, that corruption will finally creep into your private and business life. You cannot have one portion of the community infected and leave the rest whole. Corruption will surely spread.
Now, in dealing with it, show righteousness and show sanity. At times I almost wonder which does most harm,
the absolutely unreasonable reformer or the base politician, and I have had a great deal to do with both sides. If you want to get clean business relations, distrust very much the men who preach publicly a wholly impossible condition of affairs for business men, and if you want to get decent politics, and want it intelligently, remember that you can only get them by applying common sense methods. You have not only got to have a sincere desire for righteousness, but you have got to have a determination to get righteousness in practical ways. You have got to combine morality and efficiency.
I was asked by your chairman if I would not respond this evening to the toast of " Good Government,” and I suggested instead the toast of " Clean Politics,” because I feel each includes the other; because government is not something that you can get by itself. You get good government in the long run only by working steadily; only by permanent effort, not spasmodic and hysterical effort can you get good government.
To have clean politics, you have got to have the bulk of the community interested in a common sense way in getting them. If you get together and ask for reform as if it was a concrete substance like cake, you are not going to get it. If you think you have performed your duty by coming together once in a public hall about three weeks before election and advocating something that you know perfectly well it is impossible to get, you are going to be fooled. You have got to work and you have got to work practically; and you have got to remember that to be practical does not mean to be foul, at least that is my idea.