The Strenuous Life Speech Analysis Essay

Theodore Roosevelt   The Strenuous Life.  


SPEECH DELIVERED AT GALENA, ILLINOIS, APRIL 27, 1900
 
IN the long run every great nation instinctively recognizes the men who peculiarly and preëminently represent its own type of greatness. Here in our country we have had many public men of high rank—soldiers, orators, constructive statesmen, and popular leaders. We have even had great philosophers who were also leaders of popular thought. Each one of these men has had his own group of devoted followers, and some of them have at times swayed the nation with a power such as the foremost of all hardly wielded. Yet as the generations slip away, as the dust of conflict settles, and as through the clearing air we look back with keener wisdom into the nation's past, mightiest among the mighty dead loom the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln, and Grant. There are great men also in the second rank; for in any gallery of merely national heroes Franklin and Hamilton, Jefferson and Jackson, would surely have their place. But these three greatest men have taken their place among the great men of all nations, the great men of all time. They stood supreme in the two great crises of our history, on the two great occasions when we stood in the van of all humanity and struck the most effective blows that have ever been struck for the cause of human freedom under the law, for that spirit of orderly liberty which must stand at the base of every wise movement to secure to each man his rights, and to guard each from being wronged by his fellows.
  Washington fought in the earlier struggle, and it was his good fortune to win the highest renown alike as soldier and statesman. In the second and even greater struggle the deeds of Lincoln the statesman were made good by those of Grant the soldier, and later Grant himself took up the work that dropped from Lincoln's tired hands when the assassin's bullet went home, and the sad, patient, kindly eyes were closed forever.
  It was no mere accident that made our three mightiest men, two of them soldiers, and one the great war President. It is only through work and strife that either nation or individual moves on to greatness. The great man is always the man of mighty effort, and usually the man whom grinding need has trained to mighty effort. Rest and peace are good things, are great blessings, but only if they come honorably; and it is those who fearlessly turn away from them, when they have not been earned, who in the long run deserve best of their country. In the sweat of our brows do we eat bread, and though the sweat is bitter at times, yet it is far more bitter to eat the bread that is unearned, unwon, undeserved. America must nerve herself for labor and peril. The men who have made our national greatness are those who faced danger and overcame it, who met difficulties and surmounted them, not those whose lines were cast in such pleasant places that toil and dread were ever far from them.
  Neither was it an accident that our three leaders were men who, while they did not shrink from war, were nevertheless heartily men of peace. The man who will not fight to avert or undo wrong is but a poor creature; but, after all, he is less dangerous than the man who fights on the side of wrong. Again and again in a nation's history the time may, and indeed sometimes must, come when the nation's highest duty is war. But peace must be the normal condition, or the nation will come to a bloody doom. Twice in great crises, in 1776 and 1861, and twice in lesser crises, in 1812 and 1898, the nation was called to arms in the name of all that makes the words "honor," "freedom," and "justice" other than empty sounds. On each occasion the net result of the war was greatly for the benefit of mankind. But on each occasion this net result was of benefit only because after the war came peace, came justice and order and liberty. If the Revolution had been followed by bloody anarchy, if the Declaration of Independence had not been supplemented by the adoption of the Constitution, if the freedom won by the sword of Washington had not been supplemented by the stable and orderly government which Washington was instrumental in founding, then we should have but added to the chaos of the world, and our victories would have told against and not for the betterment of mankind. So it was with the Civil War. If the four iron years had not been followed by peace, they would not have been justified. If the great silent soldier, the Hammer of the North, had struck the shackles off the slave only, as so many conquerors in civil strife before him had done, to rivet them around the wrists of freemen, then the war would have been fought in vain, and worse than in vain. If the Union, which so many men shed their blood to restore, were not now a union in fact, then the precious blood would have been wasted. But it was not wasted; for the work of peace has made good the work of war, and North and South, East and West, we are now one people in fact as well as in name; one in purpose, in fellow-feeling, and in high resolve, as we stand to greet the new century, and, high of heart, to face the mighty tasks which the coming years will surely bring.
  Grant and his fellow-soldiers who fought through the war, and his fellow-statesmen who completed the work partly done by the soldiers, not only left us the heritage of a reunited country and of a land from which slavery had been banished, but left us what was quite as important, the great memory of their great deeds, to serve forever as an example and an inspiration, to spur us on so that we may not fall below the level reached by our fathers. The rough, strong poet of democracy has sung of Grant as "the man of mighty days, and equal to the days." The days are less mighty now, and that is all the more reason why we should show ourselves equal to them. We meet here to pay glad homage to the memory of our illustrious dead; but let us keep ever clear before our minds the fact that mere lip-loyalty is no loyalty at all, and that the only homage that counts is the homage of deeds, not of words. It is but an idle waste of time to celebrate the memory of the dead unless we, the living, in our lives strive to show ourselves not unworthy of them. If the careers of Washington and Grant are not vital and full of meaning to us, if they are merely part of the storied past, and stir us to no eager emulation in the ceaseless, endless war for right against wrong, then the root of right thinking is not in us; and where we do not think right we cannot act right.
  It is not my purpose in this address to sketch, in even the briefest manner, the life and deeds of Grant. It is not even my purpose to touch on the points where his influence has told so tremendously in the making of our history. It is part of the man's greatness that now we can use his career purely for illustration. We can take for granted the fact that each American who knows the history of the country must know the history of this man, at least in its broad outline; and that we no more need to explain Vicksburg and Appomattox than we need to explain Yorktown. I shall ask attention, not to Grant's life, but to the lessons taught by that life as we of to-day should learn them.
  Foremost of all is the lesson of tenacity, of stubborn fixity of purpose. In the Union armies there were generals as brilliant as Grant, but none with his iron determination. This quality he showed as President no less than as general. He was no more to be influenced by a hostile majority in Congress into abandoning his attitude in favor of a sound and stable currency than he was to be influenced by check or repulse into releasing his grip on beleaguered Richmond. It is this element of unshakable strength to which we are apt specially to refer when we praise a man in the simplest and most effective way, by praising him as a man. It is the one quality which we can least afford to lose. It is the only quality the lack of which is as unpardonable in the nation as in the man. It is the antithesis of levity, fickleness, volatility, of undue exaltation, of undue depression, of hysteria and neuroticism in all their myriad forms. The lesson of unyielding, unflinching, unfaltering perseverance in the course upon which the nation has entered is one very necessary for a generation whose preachers sometimes dwell overmuch on the policies of the moment. There are not a few public men, not a few men who try to mold opinion within Congress and without, on the stump and in the daily press, who seem to aim at instability, who pander to and thereby increase the thirst for overstatement of each situation as it arises, whose effort is, accordingly, to make the people move in zigzags instead of in a straight line. We all saw this in the Spanish war, when the very men who at one time branded as traitors everybody who said there was anything wrong in the army at another time branded as traitors everybody who said there was anything right. Of course such an attitude is as unhealthy on one side as on the other, and it is equally destructive of any effort to do away with abuse.
  Hysterics of this kind may have all the results of extreme timidity. A nation that has not the power of endurance, the power of dogged insistence on a determined policy, come weal or woe, has lost one chief element of greatness. The people who wish to abandon the Philippines because we have had heavy skirmishing out there, or who think that our rule is a failure whenever they discover some sporadic upgrowth of evil, would do well to remember the two long years of disaster this nation suffered before the July morning when the news was flashed to the waiting millions that Vicksburg had fallen in the West and that in the East the splendid soldiery of Lee had recoiled at last from the low hills of Gettysburg. Even after this nearly two years more were to pass before the end came at Appomattox. Throughout this time the cry of the prophets of disaster never ceased. The peace-at-any-price men never wearied of declaiming against the war, of describing the evils of conquest and subjugation as worse than any possible benefits that could result therefrom. The hysterical minority passed alternately from unreasoning confidence to unreasoning despair; and at times they even infected for the moment many of their sober, steady countrymen. Eighteen months after the war began the State and congressional elections went heavily against the war party, and two years later the opposition party actually waged the Presidential campaign on the issue that the war was a failure. Meanwhile there was plenty of blundering at the front, plenty of mistakes at Washington. The country was saved by the fact that our people, as a whole, were steadfast and unshaken. Both at Washington and at the front the leaders were men of undaunted resolution, who would not abandon the policy to which the nation was definitely committed, who regarded disaster as merely a spur to fresh effort, who saw in each blunder merely something to be retrieved, and not a reason for abandoning the long-determined course. Above all, the great mass of the people possessed a tough and stubborn fiber of character.
  There was then, as always, ample room for criticism, and there was every reason why the mistakes should be corrected. But in the long run our gratitude was due primarily, not to the critics, not to the fault-finders, but to the men who actually did the work; not to the men of negative policy, but to those who struggled toward the given goal. Merciful oblivion has swallowed up the names of those who railed at the men who were saving the Union, while it has given us the memory of these same men as a heritage of honor forever; and brightest among their names flame those of Lincoln and Grant, the steadfast, the unswerving, the enduring, the finally triumphant.
  Grant's supreme virtue as a soldier was his doggedness, the quality which found expression in his famous phrases of "unconditional surrender" and "fighting it out on this line if it takes all summer." He was a master of strategy and tactics, but he was also a master of hard hitting, of that "continuous hammering" which finally broke through even Lee's guard. While an armed foe was in the field, it never occurred to Grant that any question could be so important as his overthrow. He felt nothing but impatient contempt for the weak souls who wished to hold parley with the enemy while that enemy was still capable of resistance.
  There is a fine lesson in this to the people who have been asking us to invite the certain destruction of our power in the Philippines, and therefore the certain destruction of the islands themselves, by putting any concession on our part ahead of the duty of reducing the islands to quiet at all costs and of stamping out the last embers of armed resistance. At the time of the Civil War the only way to secure peace was to fight for it, and it would have been a crime against humanity to have stopped fighting before peace was conquered. So in the far less important, but still very important, crisis which confronts us to-day, it would be a crime against humanity if, whether from weakness or from mistaken sentimentalism, we failed to perceive that in the Philippines the all-important duty is to restore order; because peace, and the gradually increasing measure of self-government for the islands which will follow peace, can only come when armed resistance has completely vanished.
  Grant was no brawler, no lover of fighting for fighting's sake. He was a plain, quiet man, not seeking for glory; but a man who, when aroused, was always in deadly earnest, and who never shrank from duty. He was slow to strike, but he never struck softly. He was not in the least of the type which gets up mass-meetings, makes inflammatory speeches or passes inflammatory resolutions, and then permits over-forcible talk to be followed by over-feeble action. His promise squared with his performance. His deeds made good his words. He did not denounce an evil in strained and hyperbolic language; but when he did denounce it, he strove to make his denunciation effective by his action. He did not plunge lightly into war, but once in, he saw the war through, and when it was over, it was over entirely. Unsparing in battle, he was very merciful in victory. There was no let-up in his grim attack, his grim pursuit, until the last body of armed foes surrendered. But that feat once accomplished, his first thought was for the valiant defeated; to let them take back their horses to their little homes because they would need them to work on their farms. Grant, the champion whose sword was sharpest in the great fight for liberty, was no less sternly insistent upon the need of order and of obedience to law. No stouter foe of anarchy in every form ever lived within our borders. The man who more than any other, save Lincoln, had changed us into a nation whose citizens were all freemen, realized entirely that these freemen would remain free only while they kept mastery over their own evil passions. He saw that lawlessness in all its forms was the handmaiden of tyranny. No nation ever yet retained its freedom for any length of time after losing its respect for the law, after losing the law-abiding spirit, the spirit that really makes orderly liberty.
  Grant, in short, stood for the great elementary virtues, for justice, for freedom, for order, for unyielding resolution, for manliness in its broadest and highest sense. His greatness was not so much greatness of intellect as greatness of character, including in the word "character" all the strong, virile virtues. It is character that counts in a nation as in a man. It is a good thing to have a keen, fine intellectual development in a nation, to produce orators, artists, successful business men; but it is an infinitely greater thing to have those solid qualities which we group together under the name of character—sobriety, steadfastness, the sense of obligation toward one's neighbor and one's God, hard common sense, and, combined with it, the lift of generous enthusiasm toward whatever is right. These are the qualities which go to make up true national greatness, and these were the qualities which Grant possessed in an eminent degree.
  We have come here, then, to realize what the mighty dead did for the nation, what the dead did for us who are now living. Let us in return try to shape our deeds so that the America of the future shall justify by her career the lives of the great men of her past. Every man who does his duty as a soldier, as a statesman, or as a private citizen is paying to Grant's memory the kind of homage that is best worth paying. We have difficulties and dangers enough in the present, and it is the way we face them which is to determine whether or not we are fit descendants of the men of the mighty past. We must not flinch from our duties abroad merely because we have even more important duties at home. That these home duties are the most important of all every thinking man will freely acknowledge. We must do our duty to ourselves and our brethren in the complex social life of the time. We must possess the spirit of broad humanity, deep charity, and loving-kindness for our fellow-men, and must remember, at the same time, that this spirit is really the absolute antithesis of mere sentimentalism, of soup-kitchen, pauperizing philanthropy, and of legislation which is inspired either by foolish mock benevolence or by class greed or class hate. We need to be possessed of the spirit of justice and of the spirit which recognizes in work and not ease the proper end of effort.
  Of course the all-important thing to keep in mind is that if we have not both strength and virtue we shall fail. Indeed, in the old acceptation of the word, virtue included strength and courage, for the clear-sighted men at the dawn of our era knew that the passive virtues could not by themselves avail, that wisdom without courage would sink into mere cunning, and courage without morality into ruthless, lawless, self-destructive ferocity. The iron Roman made himself lord of the world because to the courage of the barbarian he opposed a courage as fierce and an infinitely keener mind; while his civilized rivals, the keen-witted Greek and Carthaginian, though of even finer intellect, had let corruption eat into their brilliant civilizations until their strength had been corroded as if by acid. In short, the Roman had character as well as masterful genius, and when pitted against peoples either of less genius or of less character, these peoples went down.
  As the ages roll by, the eternal problem forever fronting each man and each race forever shifts its outward shape, and yet at the bottom it is always the same. There are dangers of peace and dangers of war; dangers of excess in militarism and of excess by the avoidance of duty that implies militarism; dangers of slow dry-rot, and dangers which become acute only in great crises. When these crises come, the nation will triumph or sink accordingly as it produces or fails to produce statesmen like Lincoln and soldiers like Grant, and accordingly as it does or does not back them in their efforts. We do not need men of unsteady brilliancy or erratic power—unbalanced men. The men we need are the men of strong, earnest, solid character—the men who possess the homely virtues, and who to these virtues add rugged courage, rugged honesty, and high resolve. Grant, with his self-poise, his self-command, his self-mastery; Grant, who loved peace and did not fear war, who would not draw the sword if he could honorably keep it sheathed, but who, when once he had drawn it, would not return it to the sheath until the weary years had brought the blood-won victory; Grant, who had no thought after the fight was won save of leading the life led by other Americans, and who aspired to the Presidency only as Zachary Taylor or Andrew Jackson had aspired to it—Grant was of a type upon which the men of to-day can well afford to model themselves.
  As I have already said, our first duty, our most important work, is setting our own house in order. We must be true to ourselves, or else, in the long run, we shall be false to all others. The republic cannot stand if honesty and decency do not prevail alike in public and private life; if we do not set ourselves seriously at work to solve the tremendous social problems forced upon us by the far-sweeping industrial changes of the last two generations.
  But in considering the life of Grant it is peculiarly appropriate to remember that, besides the regeneration in political and social life within our own borders, we must also face what has come upon us from without. No friendliness with other nations, no good will for them or by them, can take the place of national self-reliance. No alliance, no inoffensive conduct on our part, would supply, in time of need, the failure in ability to hold our own with the strong hand. We must work out our own destiny by our own strength. A vigorous young nation like ours does not always stand still. Now and then there comes a time when it is sure either to shrink or to expand. Grant saw to it that we did not shrink, and therefore we had to expand when the inevitable moment came.
  Great duties face us in the islands where the Stars and Stripes now float in place of the arrogant flag of Spain. As we perform those duties well or ill, so will we, in large part, determine our right to a place among the great nations of the earth. We have got to meet them in the very spirit of Grant. If we are frightened at the task, above all, if we are cowed or disheartened by any check, or by the clamor of the sensation-monger, we shall show ourselves weaklings unfit to invoke the memories of the stalwart men who fought to a finish the great Civil War. If we do not rule wisely, and if our rule is not in the interest of the peoples who have come under our guardianship, then we had best never to have begun the effort at all. As a nation we shall have to choose our representatives in these islands as carefully as Grant chose the generals who were to serve at the vital points under him. Fortunately, so far the choice has been most wise. No nation has ever sent a better man than we sent to Cuba when President McKinley appointed as governor-general of that island Leonard Wood; and now, in sending Judge Taft at the head of the commission to the Philippines, the President has again chosen the very best man to be found in all the United States for the purpose in view.
  Part of Grant's great strength lay in the fact that he faced facts as they were, and not as he wished they might be. He was not originally an abolitionist, and he probably could not originally have defined his views as to State sovereignty; but when the Civil War was on, he saw that the only thing to do was to fight it to a finish and establish by force of arms the constitutional right to put down rebellion. It is just the same thing nowadays with expansion. It has come, and it has come to stay, whether we wish it or not. Certain duties have fallen to us as a legacy of the war with Spain, and we cannot avoid performing them. All we can decide is whether we will perform them well or ill. We cannot leave the Philippines. We have got to stay there, establish order, and then give the inhabitants as much self-government as they show they can use to advantage. We cannot run away if we would. We have got to see the work through, because we are not a nation of weaklings. We are strong men, and we intend to do our duty.
  To do our duty—that is the sum and substance of the whole matter. We are not trying to win glory. We are not trying to do anything especially brilliant or unusual. We are setting ourselves vigorously at each task as the task arises, and we are trying to face each difficulty as Grant faced innumerable and infinitely greater difficulties. The sure way to succeed is to set about our work in the spirit that marked the great soldier whose life we this day celebrate: the spirit of devotion to duty, of determination to deal fairly, justly, and fearlessly with all men, and of iron resolution never to abandon any task once begun until it has been brought to a successful and triumphant conclusion.
 



THEODORE ROOSEVELT, “THE STRENUOUS LIFE” (10 April 1899)

[1] In speaking to you, men of the greatest city of the West, men of the State which gave to the country Lincoln and Grant, men who pre-eminently and distinctly embody all that is most American in the American character, I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.

[2] A life of ignoble ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. I ask only that what every self-respecting American demands from himself and from his sons shall be demanded of the American nation as a whole. Who among you would teach your boys that ease, that peace, is to be the first consideration in their eyes-to be the ultimate goal after which they strive? You men of Chicago have made this city great, you men of Illinois have done your share, and more than your share, in making America great, because you neither preach nor practice such a doctrine. You work yourselves, and you bring up your sons to work. If you are rich and are worth your salt, you will teach your sons that though they may have leisure, it is not to be spent in idleness; for wisely used leisure merely means that those who possess it, being free from the necessity of working for their livelihood, are all the more bound to carry on some kind of non-remunerative work in science, in letters, in art, in exploration, in historical research-work of the type we most need in this country, the successful carrying out of which reflects most honor upon the nation.

[3] We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a General, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth’s surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.

[4] As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. If in 1861 the men who loved the Union had believed that peace was the end of all things, and war and strife the worst of all things, and had acted up to their belief, we would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, we would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, besides saving all the blood and treasure we then lavished, we would have prevented the heartbreak of many women, the dissolution of many homes, and we would have spared the country those months of gloom and shame when it seemed as if our armies marched only to defeat. We could have avoided all this suffering simply by shrinking from strife. And if we had thus avoided it, we would have shown that we were weaklings, and that we were unfit to stand among the great nations of the earth. Thank God for the iron in the blood of our fathers, the men who upheld the wisdom of Lincoln, and bore sword or rifle in the armies of Grant! Let us, the children of the men who proved themselves equal to the mighty days-let us, the children of the men who carried the great Civil War to a triumphant conclusion, praise the God of our fathers that the ignoble counsels of peace were rejected; that the suffering and loss, the blackness of sorrow and despair, were unflinchingly faced, and the years of strife endured; for in the end the slave was freed, the Union restored, and the mighty American republic placed once more as a helmeted queen among nations.

[5] We of this generation do not have to face a task such as that our fathers faced, but we have our tasks, and woe to us if we fail to perform them! We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in a scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk, busying ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day, until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities. If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world. We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill. Last year we could not help being brought face to face with the problem of war with Spain. All we could decide was whether we should shrink like cowards from the contest, or enter into it as beseemed a brave and high-spirited people; and; once in, whether failure or success should crown our banners. So it is now. We cannot avoid the responsibilities that confront us in Hawaii, Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippines. All we can decide is whether we shall meet them in a way that will redound to the national credit, or whether we shall make of our dealings with these new problems a dark and shameful page in our history. To refuse to deal with them at all merely amounts to dealing with them badly. We have a given problem to solve. If we undertake the solution, there is, of course, always danger that we may not solve it aright; but to refuse to undertake the solution simply renders it certain that we cannot possibly solve it aright.

[6] The timid man, the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the over-civilized man, who has lost the great fighting, masterful virtues, the ignorant man, and the man of dull mind, whose soul is incapable of feeling the mighty lift that thrills “stern men with empires in their brains”-all these, of course, shrink from seeing the nation undertake its new duties; shrink from seeing us build a navy and an army adequate to our needs; shrink from seeing us do our share of the world’s work, by bringing order out of chaos in the great, fair tropic islands from which the valor of our soldiers and sailors has driven the Spanish flag. These are the men who fear the strenuous life, who fear the only national life which is really worth leading. They believe in that cloistered life which saps the hardy virtues in a nation, as it saps them in the individual; or else they are wedded to that base spirit of gain and greed which recognizes in commercialism the be-all and end-all of national life, instead of realizing that, though an indispensable element, it is, after all, but one of the many elements that go to make up true national greatness. No country can long endure if its foundations are not laid deep in the material prosperity which comes from thrift, from business energy and enterprise, from hard, unsparing effort in the fields of industrial activity; but neither was any nation ever yet truly great if it relied upon material prosperity alone. All honor must be paid to the architects of our material prosperity, to the great captains of industry who have built our factories and our railroads, to the strong men who toil for wealth with brain or hand; for great is the debt of the nation to these and their kind. But our debt is yet greater to the men whose highest type is to be found in a statesman like Lincoln, a soldier like Grant. They showed by their lives that they recognized the law of work, the law of strife; they toiled to win a competence for themselves and those dependent upon them; but they recognized that there were yet other and even loftier duties – duties to the nation and duties to the race.

[7] We cannot sit huddled within our own borders and avow ourselves merely an assemblage of well-to-do hucksters who care nothing for what happens beyond. Such a policy would defeat even its own end; for as the nations grow to have ever wider and wider interests, and are brought into closer and closer contact, if we are to hold our own in the struggle for naval and commercial supremacy, we must build up our power without our own borders. We must build the isthmian canal, and we must grasp the points of vantage which will enable us to have our say in deciding the destiny of the oceans of the East and the West.

[8] So much for the commercial side. From the standpoint of international honor the argument is even stronger. The guns that thundered off Manila and Santiago, left us echoes of glory, but they also left us a legacy of duty. If we drove out a medieval tyranny only to make room for savage anarchy, we had better not have begun the task at all. It is worse than idle to say that we have no duty to perform, and can leave to their fates the islands we have conquered. Such a course would be the course of infamy. It would be followed at once by utter chaos in the wretched islands themselves. Some stronger, manlier power would have to step in and do the work, and we would have shown ourselves weaklings, unable to carry to successful completion the labors that great and high-spirited nations are eager to undertake.

[9] The work must be done; we cannot escape our responsibility; and if we are worth our salt, we shall be glad of the chance to do the work – glad of the chance to show ourselves equal to one of the great tasks set modern civilization. But let us not deceive ourselves as to the importance of the task. Let us not be misled by vainglory into underestimating the strain it will put on our powers. Above all, let us, as we value our own self-respect, face the responsibilities with proper seriousness, courage, and high resolve. We must demand the highest order of integrity and ability in our public men who are to grapple with these new problems. We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources.

[10] Of course we must remember not to judge any public servant by any one act, and especially should we beware of attacking the men who are merely the occasions and not the causes of disaster. Let me illustrate what I mean by the army and the navy. If twenty years ago we had gone to war, we should have found the navy as absolutely unprepared as the army. At that time our ships could not have encountered with success the fleets of Spain any more than nowadays we can put untrained soldiers, no matter how brave, who are armed with archaic black-powder weapons, against well-drilled regulars armed with the highest type of modern repeating rifle. But in the early eighties the attention of the nation became directed to our naval needs. Congress most wisely made a series of appropriations to build up a new navy, and under a succession of able and patriotic secretaries, of both political parties, the navy was gradually built up, until its material became equal to its splendid personnel, with the result that last summer it leaped to its proper place as one of the most brilliant and formidable fighting navies in the entire world. We rightly pay all honor to the men controlling the navy at the time it won these great deeds, honor to Secretary Long and Admiral Dewey, to the captains who handled the ships in action, to the daring lieutenants who braved death in the smaller craft, and to the heads of bureaus at Washington who saw that the ships were so commanded, so armed, so equipped, so well engined, as to insure the best results. But let us also keep ever in mind that all of this would not have availed if it had not been for the wisdom of the men who during the preceding fifteen years had built up the navy. Keep in mind the secretaries of the navy during those years; keep in mind the senators and congressmen who by their votes gave the money necessary to build and to armor the ships, to construct the great guns, and to train the crews; remember also those who actually did build the ships, the armor, and the guns; and remember the admirals and captains who handled battle-ship, cruiser, and torpedo-boat on the high seas, alone and in squadrons, developing the seamanship, the gunnery, and the power of acting together, which their successors utilized so gloriously at Manila and off Santiago.

[11] And, gentlemen, remember the converse, too. Remember that justice has two sides. Be just to those who built up the navy, and, for the sake of the future of the country, keep in mind those who opposed its building up. Read the Congressional Record. Find out the senators and congressmen who opposed the grants for building the new ships; who opposed the purchase of armor, without which the ships were worthless; who opposed any adequate maintenance for the Navy Department, and strove to cut down the number of men necessary to man our fleets. The men who did these things were one and all working to bring disaster on the country. They have no share in the glory of Manila, in the honor of Santiago. They have no cause to feel proud of the valor of our sea-captains, of the renown of our flag. Their motives may or may not have been good, but their acts were heavily fraught with evil. They did ill for the national honor, and we won in spite of their sinister opposition.

[12] Now, apply all this to our public men of to-day. Our army has never been built up as it should be built up. I shall not discuss with an audience like this the puerile suggestion that a nation of seventy millions of freemen is in danger of losing its liberties from the existence of an army of 100,000 men, three fourths of whom will be employed in certain foreign islands, in certain coast fortresses, and on Indian reservations. No man of good sense and stout heart can take such a proposition seriously. If we are such weaklings as the proposition implies, then we are unworthy of freedom in any event. To no body of men in the United States is the country so much indebted as to the splendid officers and enlisted men of the regular army and navy. There is no body from which the country has less to fear, and none of which it should be prouder, none which it should be more anxious to upbuild.

[13] Our army needs complete reorganization-not merely enlarging-and the reorganization can only come as the result of legislation. A proper general staff should be established, and the positions of ordnance, commissary, and quartermaster officers should be filled by detail from the line. Above all, the army must be given the chance to exercise in large bodies. Never again should we see, as we saw in the Spanish war, major-generals in command of divisions who had never before commanded three companies together in the field. Yet, incredible to relate, the recent Congress has shown a queer inability to learn some of the lessons of the war. There were large bodies, of men in both branches who opposed the declaration of war, who opposed the ratification of peace, who opposed the upbuilding of the army, and who even opposed the purchase of: armor at a reasonable price for the battle-ships and cruisers, thereby putting an absolute stop to the building of any new fighting-ships for the navy. If, during the years to come, any disaster should befall our arms, afloat or ashore, and thereby any shame come to the United States, remember that the blame will lie upon the men whose names appear upon the roll-calls of Congress on the wrong side of these great questions. On them will lie the burden of any loss of our soldiers and sailors, of any dishonor to the flag; and upon you and the people of this country will lie the blame if you do not repudiate, in no unmistakable way, what these men have done. The blame will not rest upon the untrained commander of untried troops, upon the civil officers of a department the organization of which has been left utterly inadequate, or upon the admiral with an insufficient number of ships; but upon the public men who have so lamentably failed in forethought as to refuse to remedy these evils long in advance, and upon the nation that stands behind those public men.

[14] So, at the present hour, no small share of the responsibility for the blood shed in the Philippines, the blood of our brothers, and the blood of their wild and ignorant foes, lies at the thresholds of those who so long delayed the adoption of the treaty of peace, and of those who by their worse than foolish words deliberately invited a savage people to plunge into a war fraught with sure disaster for them – a war, too, in which our own brave men who follow the flag must pay with their blood for the silly, mock humanitarianism of the prattlers who sit at home in peace.

[15] The army and the navy are the sword and the shield which this nation must carry if she is to do her duty among the nations of the earth – if she is not to stand merely as the China of the western hemisphere. Our proper conduct toward the tropic islands we have wrested from Spain is merely the form which our duty has taken at the moment. Of course we are bound to handle the affairs of our own household well. We must see that there is civic honesty, civic cleanliness, civic good sense in our home administration of city, State, and nation. We must strive for honesty in office, for honesty toward the creditors of the nation and of the individual; for the widest freedom of individual initiative where possible, and for the wisest control of individual initiative where it is hostile to the welfare of the many. But because we set our own household in order we are not thereby excused from playing our part in the great affairs of the world. A man’s first duty is to his own home, but he is not thereby excused from doing his duty to the State; for if he fails in this second duty it is under the penalty of ceasing to be a free man. In the same way, while a nation’s first duty is within its own borders, it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the peoples that shape the destiny of mankind.

[16] In the West Indies and the Philippines alike we are confronted by most difficult problems. It is cowardly to shrink from solving them in the proper way; for solved they must be, if not by us, then by some stronger and more manful race. If we are too weak, too selfish, or too foolish to solve them, some bolder and abler people must undertake the solution. Personally, I am far too firm a believer in the greatness of my country and the power of my countrymen to admit for one moment that we shall ever be driven to the ignoble alternative.

[17] The problems are different for the different islands. Porto Rico is not large enough to stand alone. We must govern it wisely and well, primarily in the interest of its own people. Cuba is, in my judgment, entitled ultimately to settle for itself whether it shall be an independent state or an integral portion of the mightiest of republics. But until order and stable liberty are secured, we must remain in the island to insure them, and infinite tact, judgment, moderation, and courage must be shown by our military and civil representatives in keeping the island pacified, in relentlessly stamping out brigandage, in protecting all alike, and yet in showing proper recognition to the men who have fought for Cuban liberty. The Philippines offer a yet graver problem. Their population includes half-caste and native Christians, warlike Moslems, and wild pagans. Many of their people are utterly unfit for self-government, and show no signs of becoming fit. Others may in time become fit but at present can only take part in self-government under a wise supervision, at once firm and beneficent. We have driven Spanish tyranny from the islands. If we now let it be replaced by savage anarchy, our work has been for harm and not for good. I have scant patience with those who fear to undertake the task of governing the Philippines, and who openly avow that they do fear to undertake it, or that they shrink from it because of the expense and trouble; but I have even scanter patience with those who make a pretense of humanitarianism to hide and cover their timidity, and who cant about “liberty” and the “consent of the governed,” in order to excuse themselves for their unwillingness to play the part of men. Their doctrines, if carried out, would make it incumbent upon us to leave the Apaches of Arizona to work out their own salvation, and to decline to interfere in a single Indian reservation. Their doctrines condemn your forefathers and mine for ever having settled in these United States.

[18] England’s rule in India and Egypt has been of great benefit to England, for it has trained up generations of men accustomed to look at the larger and loftier side of public life. It has been of even greater benefit to India and Egypt. And finally, and most of all, it has advanced the cause of civilization. So, if we do our duty aright in the Philippines, we will add to that national renown which is the highest and finest part of national life, will greatly benefit the people of the Philippine Islands, and, above all, we will play our part well in the great work of uplifting mankind. But to do this work, keep ever in mind that we must show in a high degree the qualities of courage, of honesty, and of good judgment. Resistance must 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 not saved from being treasonable merely by the fact that they are despicable.

[19] 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.

[20] 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 shrink from no 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.

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