« PreviousContinue »
be stamped out. The first and all-important work to be done is to establish the supremacy of our flag. We must put down armed resistance before we can accomplish anything else, and there should be no parleying, no faltering in dealing with our foe. As for those in our own country who encourage the foe, we can afford contemptuously to disregard them; but it must be remembered that their utterances are saved from being treasonable merely from the fact that they are despicable.
When once we have put down armed resistance, when once our rule is acknowledged, then an even more difficult task will begin, for then we must see to it that the islands are administered with absolute honesty and with good judgment. If we let the public service of the islands be turned into the prey of the spoils politician, we shall have begun to tread the path which Spain trod to her own destruction. We must send out there only good and able men, chosen for their fitness and not because of their partisan service, and these men must not only administer impartial justice to the natives and serve their own government with honesty and fidelity, but must show the utmost tact and firmness, remembering that with such people as those with whom we are to deal, weakness is the greatest of crimes, and that next to weakness comes lack of consideration for their principles and prejudices.
I preach to you, then, my countrymen, that our country calls not for the life of ease, but for the life of strenuous endeavor. The twentieth century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease, and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us not shrink from strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified; for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.
AT THE INDEPENDENT CLUB, BUFFALO, MAY 15, 1899
MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: I am delighted that Buffalo should give me a chance to say “ Ladies and gentlemen.” Although I myself suggested the title for the remarks that I am to make to-night, I did not express and could not in four or five words express exactly the subject to which I was to speak, for I want to speak to you more of the attitude held by our public men and by the public opinion, which those public men must and do represent, to property, and of the attitude that the men of means themselves take toward the civic and social and political problems of the day. I do not mean to talk merely of the use or abuse of private property so far as it does not affect the public. I want to talk to you of what concerns all of us, what particularly concerns those of us who for the moment occupy public positions, and that is the attitude that should properly be observed by legislators, by executive officers, toward wealth, and the attitude that should be observed in return by men of means, and especially by the organizations of men of means, which we distinguish as corporations, toward the body politic and toward their fellow citizens.
We have one entire branch of our State government directed solely to the consideration of questions of property, and Buffalo has for sometime monopolized that branch, first in the person of Comptroller Roberts, and then in that of his successor, Comptroller Morgan. But I wish to speak to you not so much upon the material side, though what I have to say must be largely based upon our relations with the material side, but upon what may not improperly be called the ethical side of the relations of property to the State and of the State, in return, to property. Now, of course, a great deal of what I have to say must be trite. All of the great truths up to which we try to act are trite. I certainly have not yet found any new principle, of importance, in public life, and so far as I have been able to get, I have become more and more a convinced believer in the doctrine flouted a few years ago by a then eminent statesman, that, after all, the Decalogue and the Golden Rule are the two guides to conduct upon which we should base our actions in political affairs. I do not mean to speak in a spirit of cant. I am about the last person who would advocate holding up to any body of men an impractical theory of life; for I steadily feel more and more that if you make your theory impractical you will make your practice imperfect, and that if you set up a theory to which no man can live, you will in practice condone a course of life on the part of your public men which falls far short of what it is your right and duty to insist upon.
I ask that you put into practice the doctrine to which I listened some years ago when I attended, in this city of Buffalo, a dinner somewhat similar to this, and heard a speech from a then citizen of your city who has now become a citizen of mine — the Rev. Mr. Slicer — who phrased, in a way that I have always remembered, a doctrine that it seems to me all of us ought to take to heart, that what we needed at this time in our political life was, not genius nor brilliancy, so much as the ordinary hum-drum qualities and virtues of common honesty, common sense, courage, integrity. In other words, we need that our public men, that the representatives of the people, should possess those qualities which we value in the home and the counting-house; that they should show as public men the same type of virtue that we expect from a business man who dies respected in the community. I utterly distrust the man of whom it is continually said, “Oh, he's a good enough fellow, but, of course, in politics — he plays politics.” If he does that you can't afford to trust him.
I am going to elaborate that principle a little later when I speak of what people sometimes approve of in their public servants in reference to the problems of immediate and pressing moment. Before I speak of that I want to dwell upon this point which I have already raised with you and that is the vital importance of making profession go with performance — and, now, before you applaud, let me explain that that has two sides; it not only means that your performance must be pretty high, but that your profession must not be too high. It is about as bad for a man to profess, and for those that listen to him, by their plaudits, to insist upon his professing, something to which they know he cannot live up, as it is for him to go below what he
ought to do, because if he gets into the intolerable habit of lying to himself and to his audience as to what he intends to do, it is absolutely certain that he won't be able then to stand up to what he knows ought to be done. The temptation of the average politician is to promise everything to the reformers and then to do everything for the “organization.” I think I can say, that whatever I have promised, on the stump or off the stump, either expressly or impliedly, either to the organization or to the reformers, I have made good; and I should keep a promise just as much if the reformers disapproved as if the organization disapproved, and vice versa. And at any rate that gives one the comfortable feeling that he does not have to take back anything or apologize for anything.
It is sure to produce bad results if the people expect professions which they do not expect to see lived up to; just exactly as we will gradually, in this country, have to make up our minds to the fact that it is thoroughly evil to get a law put on the statute book to please somebody and allow it to be violated to please somebody else.
It is going to take us several decades to get back to that point, but we must get there in the end. If we do not, we will see universally what we now see locally as regards certain crimes, what we now see locally as regards the most heinous of all crimes, the crime of murder. For, if you take the States where juries are most reluctant to convict a man of murder, to see him punished according to the forms of law, you will find the very States where the people are most ready to condone the punishment of criminals outside of the pale of the law, under the process of lynch law, without regard to legality, and yet the two