Title: Fifth Annual Message
Date: December 6, 1927
Location: Washington D.C.
Members of the Congress:
It is gratifying to report that for the fourth consecutive year the state of the Union in general is good. We are at peace. The country as a whole has had a prosperity never exceeded. Wages are at their highest range, employment is plentiful. Some parts of agriculture and industry have lagged; some localities have suffered from storm and flood. But such losses have been absorbed without serious detriment to our great economic structure. Stocks of goods are moderate and a wholesome caution is prevalent. Rates of interest for industry, agriculture, and government have been reduced. Savers and investors are providing capital for new construction in industry and public works. The purchasing power of agriculture has increased. If the people maintain that confidence which they are entitled to have in themselves, in each other, and in America, a comfortable prosperity will continue.
Without constructive economy in Government expenditures we should not now be enjoying these results or these prospects. Because we are not now physically at war, some people are disposed to forget that our war debt still remains. The Nation must make financial sacrifices, accompanied by a stern self-denial in public expenditures, until we have conquered the disabilities of our public finance. While our obligation to veterans and dependents is large and continuing, the heavier burden of the national debt is being steadily eliminated. At the end of this fiscal year it will be reduced from about $26,600,000,000 to about $17,975,000,000. Annual interest, including war savings, will have been reduced from $1,055,000,000 to $670,0001,000. The sacrifices of the people, the economy of the Government, are showing remarkable results. They should be continued for the purpose of relieving the Nation of the burden of interest and debt and releasing revenue for internal improvements and national development.
Not only the amount, but the rate, of Government interest has been reduced. Callable bonds have been refunded and paid, so that during this year the average rate of interest on the present public debt for the first time fell below 4 per cent. Keeping the credit of the Nation high is a tremendously profitable operation.
The immediate fruit of economy and the retirement of the public debt is tax reduction. The annual saving in interest between 1925 and 1929 is $212,000,000. Without this no bill to relieve the taxpayers would be worth proposing. The three measures already enacted leave our Government revenues where they are not oppressive. Exemptions, have been increased until 115,000,000 people make but 2,500,000 individual taxable returns, so that further reduction should be mainly for the purpose of removing inequalities. The Secretary of the Treasury has recommended a measure which would give us a much better balanced system of taxation and without oppression produce sufficient revenue. It has my complete support.
Unforeseen contingencies requiring money are always arising. Our probable surplus for June 30, 1929, is small. A slight depression in business would greatly reduce our revenue because of our present method of taxation. The people ought to take no selfish attitude of pressing for removing moderate and fair taxes which might produce a deficit. We must
keep our budget balanced for each year. That is the corner stone of our national credit, the trifling price we pay to command the lowest rate of interest of any great power in the world. Any surplus can be applied to debt reduction, and debt reduction is tax reduction. Under the present circumstances it would be far better to leave the rates as they are than to enact a bill carrying the peril of a deficit. This is not a problem to be approached in a narrow or partisan spirit. All of those who participate in finding a reasonable solution will be entitled to participate in any credit that accrues from it without regard to party. The Congress has already demonstrated that tax legislation can be removed from purely political consideration into the realm of patriotic business principles.
Any bill for tax reduction should be written by those who are responsible for raising, managing, and expending the finances of the Government. If special interests, too often selfish, always uninformed of the national needs as a whole, with hired agents using their proposed beneficiaries as engines of propaganda, are permitted to influence the withdrawal of their property from taxation, we shall have a law that is unbalanced and unjust, bad for business, bad for the country, probably resulting in a deficit, with disastrous financial Consequences. The Constitution has given the Members of the Congress sole authority to decide what tax measures shall be presented for approval. While welcoming information from any quarter, the Congress should continue to exercise its own judgment in a matter so vital and important to all the interests of the country as taxation.
Being a nation relying not on force, but on fair dealing and good will, to maintain peace with others, we have provided a moderate military force in a form adapted solely to defense. It should be continued with a very generous supply of officers and with the present base of personnel, subject to fluctuations which may be temporarily desirable.
The five-year program for our air forces is in keeping with this same policy and commensurate with the notable contributions of America to the science of aeronautics. The provisions of the law lately enacted are being executed as fast as the practical difficulties of an orderly and stable development permit.
While our Army is small, prudence requires that it should be kept in a high state of efficiency and provided with such supplies as would permit of its immediate expansion. The garrison ration has lately been increased. Recommendations for an appropriation of $6,166,000 for new housing made to the previous Congress failed to pass. While most of the Army is well housed, some of it which is quartered in wartime training camps is becoming poorly housed. In the past three years $12,533,000 have been appropriated for reconstruction and repairs, and an authorization has been approved of $22,301,000 for new housing, under which $8,070,000 has already been appropriated. A law has also been passed, complying with the request of the War Department, allocating funds received from the sale of buildings and land for housing purposes. The work, however, is not completed, so that other appropriations are being recommended.
Our Navy is likewise a weapon of defense. We have a foreign commerce and ocean lines of trade unsurpassed by any other country. We have outlying territory in the two great oceans and long stretches of seacoast studded with the richest cities in the world. We are responsible for the protection of a large population and the greatest treasure ever bestowed upon any people. We are charged with an international duty of defending the Panama Canal. To meet these responsibilities we need a very substantial sea armament. It needs aircraft development, which is being provided under the five-year program. It needs submarines as soon as the department decides upon the best type of construction. It needs airplane carriers and a material addition to its force of cruisers. We can plan for the future and begin a moderate building program.
This country has put away the Old World policy of competitive armaments. It can never be relieved of the responsibility of adequate national defense. We have one treaty secured by an unprecedented attitude of generosity on our part for a limitation in naval armament. After most careful preparation, extending over months, we recently made every effort to secure a three- power treaty to the same end. We were granted much cooperation by Japan, but we were unable to come to an agreement with Great Britain. While the results of the conference were of considerable value, they were mostly of a negative character. We know now that no agreement can be reached which will be inconsistent with a considerable building program on our part. We are ready and willing to continue the preparatory investigations on the general subject of limitation of armaments which have been started under the auspices of the League of Nations.
We have a considerable cruiser tonnage, but a part of it is obsolete. Everyone knew that had a three-power agreement been reached it would have left us with the necessity of continuing our building program. The failure to agree should not cause us to build either more or less than we otherwise should. Any future treaty of limitation will call on us for more ships. We should enter on no competition. We should refrain from no needful program. It should be made clear to all the world that lacking a definite agreement, the attitude of any other country is not to be permitted to alter our own policy. It should especially be demonstrated that propaganda will not cause us to change our course. Where there is no treaty limitation, the size of the Navy which America is to have will be solely for America to determine. No outside influence should enlarge it or diminish it. But it should be known to all that our military power holds no threat of aggrandizement. It is a guaranty of peace and security at home, and when it goes abroad it is an instrument for the protection of the legal rights of our citizens under international law, a refuge in time of disorder, and always the servant of world peace. Wherever our flag goes the rights of humanity increase.
The United States Government fleet is transporting a large amount of freight and reducing its drain on the Treasury. The Shipping Board is constantly under pressure, to which it too often yields, to protect private interests, rather than serve the public welfare. More attention should be given to merchant ships as an auxiliary of the Navy. The possibility of including their masters and crews in the Naval Reserve, with some reasonable compensation, should be thoroughly explored as a method of encouraging private operation of shipping. Public operation is not a success. No investigation, of which I have caused several to be made, has failed to report that it could not succeed or to recommend speedy transfer to private ownership. Our exporters and importers are both indifferent about using American ships. It should be our policy to keep our present vessels in repair and dispose of them as rapidly as possible, rather than undertake any new construction. Their operation is a burden on the National Treasury, for which we are not receiving sufficient benefits.
A rapid growth is taking place in aeronautics. The Department of Commerce has charge of the inspection and licensing system and the construction of national airways. Almost 8,000 miles are already completed and about 4,000 miles more contemplated. Nearly 4,400 miles are now equipped and over 3,000 miles more will have lighting and emergency landing fields by next July. Air mail contracts are expected to cover 24 of these lines. Daily airway flying is nearly 15,000 miles and is expected to reach 25,000 miles early next year.
Flights for other purposes exceed 22,000 miles each day. Over 900 airports, completed and uncompleted, have been laid out. The demand for aircraft has greatly increased. The policy already adopted by the Congress is producing the sound development of this coming industry.
WESTERN HEMISPHERE AIR MAIL
Private enterprise is showing much interest in opening up aviation service to Mexico and Central and South America. We are particularly solicitous to have the United States take a leading part in this development. It is understood that the governments of our sister countries would be willing to cooperate. Their physical features, the undeveloped state of their transportation, make an air service especially adaptable to their usage. The Post Office Department should be granted power to make liberal long-term contracts for carrying our mail, and authority should be given to the Army and the Navy to detail aviators and planes to cooperate with private enterprise in establishing such mail service with the consent of the countries concerned. A committee of the Cabinet will later present a report on this subject.
The importance and benefit of good roads is more and more coming to be appreciated. The National Government has been making liberal contributions to encourage their construction. The results and benefits have been very gratifying. National participation, however, should be confined to trunk-line systems. The national tax on automobiles is now nearly sufficient to meet this outlay. This tax is very small, and on low- priced cars is not more than $2 or $3 each year. While the advantage of having good roads is very large, the desire for improved highways is not limited to our own country. It should and does include all the Western Hemisphere. The principal points in Canada are already accessible. We ought to lend our encouragement in any way we can for more good roads to all the principal points in this hemisphere south of the Rio Grande. It has been our practice to supply these countries with military and naval advisers, when they have requested it, to assist them in national defense. The arts of peace are even more important to them and to us. Authority should be given by law to provide them at their request with engineering advisers for the construction of roads and bridges. In some of these countries already wonderful progress is being made in road building, but the engineering features are often very exacting and the financing difficult. Private interests should look with favor on all reasonable loans sought by these countries to open such main lines of travel.
This general subject has been promoted by the Pan American Congress of Highways, which will convene again at Rio de Janeiro in July, 1928. It is desirable that the Congress should provide for the appointment of delegates to represent the Government of the United States.
CUBAN PARCEL POST
We have a temporary parcel-post convention with Cuba. The advantage of it is all on our side. During 1926 we shipped twelve times as many parcels, weighing twenty-four times as much, as we received. This convention was made on the understanding that we would repeal an old law prohibiting the importation of cigars and cigarettes in quantities less than 3,000 enacted in 1866 to discourage smuggling, for which it has long been unnecessary. This law unjustly discriminates against an important industry of Cuba. Its repeal has been recommended by the Treasury and Post Office Departments. Unless this is done our merchants and railroads will find themselves deprived of this large parcel-post business after the 1st of next March, the date of the expiration of the convention, which has been extended upon the specific understanding that it would expire at that time unless this legislation was enacted. We purchase large quantities of tobacco made in Cuba. It is not probable that our purchases would be any larger if this law was repealed, while it would be an advantage to many other industries in the United States.
Conditions in the Philippine Islands have been steadily improved. Contentment and good order prevail. Roads, irrigation works, harbor improvements, and public buildings are being constructed. Public education and sanitation have been advanced. The Government is in a sound financial condition. These immediate results were especially due to the administration of Gov. Gen. Leonard Wood. The six years of his governorship marked a distinct improvement in the islands and rank as one of the outstanding accomplishments of this distinguished man. His death is a loss to the Nation and the islands.
Greater progress could be made, more efficiency could be put. into administration, if the Congress would undertake to expend, through its appropriating power, all or a part of the customs revenues which are now turned over to the Philippine treasury. The powers of the auditor of the islands also need revision and clarification. The government of the islands is about 98 per cent in the hands of the Filipinos. An extension of the policy of self-government will be hastened by the demonstration on their part of their desire and their ability to carry out cordially and efficiently the provisions of the organic law enacted by the Congress for the government of the islands. It would be well for a committee of the Congress to visit the islands every two years.
A fair degree of progress is being made in Porto Rico. Its agricultural products are increasing; its treasury position, which has given much concern, shows improvement. I am advised by the governor that educational facilities are still lacking. Roads are being constructed, which he represents are the first requisite for building schoolhouses. The loyalty of the island to the United States is exceedingly gratifying. A memorial will be presented to you requesting authority to have the governor elected by the people of Porto Rico. This was never done in the case of our own Territories. It is admitted that education outside of the towns is as yet very deficient. Until it has progressed further the efficiency of the government and the happiness of the people may need the guiding hand of an appointed governor. As it is not contemplated that any change should be made immediately, the general subject may well have the thoughtful study of the Congress.
The number of commercial ships passing through the Panama Canal has increased from 3,967 in 1923 to 5,475 in 1927. The total amount of tolls turned into the Treasury is over $166,000,000, while all the operations of the canal have yielded a surplus of about $80,000,000. In order to provide additional storage of water and give some control over the floods of the Chagres River, it is proposed to erect a dam to cost about $12,000,000 at Alhajuela. It will take some five years to complete this work.
The past year has seen a marked improvement in the general condition of agriculture. Production is better balanced and without acute shortage or heavy surplus. Costs have been reduced and the average output of the worker increased. The level of farm prices has risen while others have fallen, so that the purchasing power of the farmer is approaching a normal figure. The individual farmer is entitled to great credit for the progress made since 1921. He has adjusted his production and through cooperative organizations and other methods improved his marketing. He is using authenticated facts and employing sound methods which other industries are obliged to use to secure stability and prosperity. The old-fashioned haphazard system is being abandoned, economics are being applied to ascertain the best adapted unit of land, diversification is being promoted, and scientific methods are being used in production, and business principles in marketing.
Agriculture has not fully recovered from postwar depression. The fact is that economic progress never marches forward in a straight line. It goes in waves. One part goes ahead, while another halts and another recedes. Everybody wishes agriculture to prosper. Any sound and workable proposal to help the farmer will have the earnest support of the Government. Their interests are not all identical. Legislation should assist as many producers in as many regions as possible. It should be the aim to assist the farmer to work out his own salvation socially and economically. No plan will be of any permanent value to him which does not leave him standing on his own foundation.
In the past the Government has spent vast sums to bring land under cultivation. It is apparent that this has reached temporarily the saturation point. We have had a surplus of production and a poor market for land, which has only lately shown signs of improvement. The main problem which is presented for solution is one of dealing with a surplus of production. It is useless to propose a temporary expedient. What is needed is permanency and stability. Government price fixing is known to be unsound and bound to result in disaster. A Government subsidy would work out in the same way. It can not be sound for all of the people to hire some of the people to produce a crop which neither the producers nor the rest of the people want.
Price fixing and subsidy will both increase the surplus, instead of diminishing it. Putting the Government directly into business is merely a combination of subsidy and price fixing aggravated by political pressure. These expedients would lead logically to telling the farmer by law what and how much he should plant and where he should plant it, and what and how much he should sell and where he should sell it. The most effective means of dealing with surplus crops is to reduce the surplus acreage. While this can not be done by the individual farmer, it can be done through the organizations already in existence, through the information published by the Department of Agriculture, and especially through banks and others who supply credit refusing to finance an acreage manifestly too large.
It is impossible to provide by law for an assured success and prosperity for all those who engage in farming. If acreage becomes overextended, the Government can not assume responsibility for it. The Government can, however, assist cooperative associations and other organizations in orderly marketing and handling a surplus clearly due to weather and seasonal conditions, in order to save the producer from preventable loss. While it is probably impossible to secure this result at a single step, and much will have to be worked out by trial and rejection, a beginning could be made by setting up a Federal board or commission of able and experienced men in marketing, granting equal advantages under this board to the various agricultural commodities and sections of the country, giving encouragement to the cooperative movement in agriculture, and providing a revolving loan fund at a moderate rate of interest for the necessary financing. Such legislation would lay the foundation for a permanent solution of the surplus problem.
This is not a proposal to lend more money to the farmer, who is already fairly well financed, but to lend money temporarily to experimental marketing associations which will no doubt ultimately be financed by the regularly established banks, as were the temporary operations of the War Finance Corporation. Cooperative marketing especially would be provided with means of buying or building physical properties.
The National Government has almost entirely relieved the farmer from income taxes by successive tax reductions, but State and local taxes have increased, putting on him a grievous burden. A policy of rigid economy should be applied to State and local expenditures. This is clearly within the legislative domain of the States. The Federal Government has also improved our banking structure and system of agricultural credits. The farmer will be greatly benefited by similar action in many States. The Department of Agriculture is undergoing changes in organization in order more completely to separate the research and regulatory divisions, that each may be better administered. More emphasis is being placed on the research program, not only by enlarging the appropriations for State experiment stations but by providing funds for expanding the research work of the department. It is in this direction that much future progress can be expected.
THE PROTECTIVE TARIFF
The present tariff rates supply the National Treasury with well over $600,000,000 of annual revenue. Yet, about 65 per cent of our imports come in duty free. Of the remaining 35 per cent of imports on which duties are laid about 23 per cent consists of luxuries and agricultural products, and the balance of about 12 per cent, amounting, to around $560,000,000 is made up of manufactures and merchandise. As no one is advocating any material reduction in the rates on agriculture or luxuries, it is only the comparatively small amount of about $560,000,000 of other imports that are really considered in any discussion of reducing tariff rates. While this amount, duty free, would be large enough seriously to depress many lines of business in our own country, it is of small importance when spread over the rest of the world.
It is often stated that a reduction of tariff rates on industry would benefit agriculture. It would be interesting to know to what commodities it is thought this could be applied. Everything the farmer uses in farming is already on the free list. Nearly everything he sells is protected. It would seem to be obvious that it is better for tile country to have the farmer raise food to supply the domestic manufacturer than the foreign manufacturer. In one case our country would have only the farmer; in the other it would have the farmer and the manufacturer. Assuming that Europe would have more money if it sold us larger amounts of merchandise, it is not certain it would consume more food, or, if it did, that its purchases would be made in this country. Undoubtedly it would resort to the cheapest market, which is by no means ours. The largest and best and most profitable market for the farmer in the world is our own domestic market. Any great increase in manufactured imports means the closing of our own plants. Nothing would be worse for agriculture.
Probably no one expects a material reduction in the rates on manufactures while maintaining the rates on agriculture. A material reduction in either would be disastrous to tile farmer. It would mean a general shrinkage of values, a deflation of prices, a reduction of wages, a general depression carrying our people down to the low standard of living in our competing countries. It is obvious that this would not improve but destroy our market for imports, which is best served by maintaining our present high purchasing power under which in the past five years imports have increased 63 per cent.
FARM LOAN SYSTEM
It is exceedingly important that the Federal land and joint-stock land banks should furnish the best possible service for agriculture. Certain joint-stock banks have fallen into improper and unsound practices, resulting in the indictment of the officials of three of them. More money has been provided for examinations, and at the instance of the Treasury rules and regulations of the Federal Farm Board have been revised. Early last May three of its members resigned. Their places were filled with men connected with the War Finance Corporation. Eugene Meyer being designated as Farm Loan Commissioner. The new members have demonstrated their ability in the field of agricultural finance in the extensive operations of the War Finance Corporation. Three joint-stock banks have gone into receivership. It is necessary to preserve the public confidence in this system in order to find a market for their bonds. A recent flotation was made at a record low rate of 4 per cent. Careful supervision is absolutely necessary to protect the investor and enable these banks to exercise their chief function in serving agriculture.
The last year has seen considerable changes in the problem of Muscle Shoals. Development of other methods show that nitrates can probably be produced at less cost than by the use of hydroelectric power. Extensive investigation made by the Department of War indicates that the nitrate plants on this project are of little value for national defense and can probably be disposed of within two years. The oxidation part of the plants, however, should be retained indefinitely. This leaves this project mostly concerned with power. It should, nevertheless, continue to be dedicated to agriculture. It is probable that this desire can be best served by disposing of the plant and applying the revenues received from it to research for methods of more economical production of concentrated fertilizer and to demonstrations and other methods of stimulating its use on the farm. But in disposing of the property preference should be given to proposals to use all or part of it for nitrate production and fertilizer manufacturing.
For many years the Federal Government has been building a system of dikes along the Mississippi River for protection against high water. During the past season the lower States were overcome by a most disastrous flood. Many thousands of square miles were inundated a great many lives were lost, much livestock was drowned, and a very heavy destruction of property was inflicted upon the inhabitants. The American Red Cross at once went to the relief of the stricken communities. Appeals for contributions have brought in over $17,000,000. The Federal Government has provided services, equipment, and supplies probably amounting to about $7,000,000 more. Between $5,000,000 and $10,000,000 in addition have been provided by local railroads, the States, and their political units. Credits have been arranged by the Farm Loan Board, and three emergency finance corporations with a total capital of $3,000,000 have insured additional resources to the extent of $12,000,000. Through these means the 700,000 people in the flooded areas have been adequately supported. Provision has been made to care for those in need until after the 1st of January.
The Engineering Corps of the Army has contracted to close all breaks in the dike system before the next season of high water. A most thorough and elaborate survey of the whole situation has been made and embodied in a report with recommendations for future flood control, which will be presented to the Congress. The carrying out of their plans will necessarily extend over a series of years. They will call for a raising and strengthening of the dike system with provision for emergency spillway’s and improvements for the benefit of navigation.
Under the present law the land adjacent to the dikes has paid one-third of the cost of their construction. This has been a most extraordinary concession from the plan adopted in relation to irrigation, where the general rule has been that the land benefited should bear the entire expense. It is true, of course, that the troublesome waters do not originate on the land to be reclaimed, but it is also true that such waters have a right of way through that section of the country and the land there is charged with that easement. It is the land of this region that is to be benefited. To say that it is unable to bear any expense of reclamation is the same thing as saying that it is not worth reclaiming. Because of expenses incurred and charges already held against this land, it seems probable that some revision will have to be made concerning the proportion of cost which it should bear. But it is extremely important that it should pay enough so that those requesting improvements will be charged with some responsibility for their cost, and the neighborhood where works are constructed have a pecuniary interest in preventing waste and extravagance and securing a wise and economical expenditure of public funds.
It is necessary to look upon this emergency as a national disaster. It has been so treated from its inception. Our whole people have provided with great generosity for its relief. Most of the departments of the Federal Government have been engaged in the same effort. The governments of the afflicted areas, both State and municipal, can not be given too high praise for the courageous and helpful way in which they have come to the rescue of the people. If the sources directly chargeable can not meet the demand, the National Government should not fail to provide generous relief. This, however, does not mean restoration. The Government is not an insurer of its citizens against the hazard of the elements. We shall always have flood and drought, heat and cold, earthquake and wind, lightning and tidal wave, which are all too constant in their afflictions. The Government does not undertake to reimburse its citizens for loss and damage incurred under such circumstances. It is chargeable, however, with the rebuilding of public works and the humanitarian duty of relieving its citizens from distress.
The people in the flooded area and their representatives have approached this problem in the most generous and broad-minded way. They should be met with a like spirit on the part of the National government. This is all one country. The public needs of each part must be provided for by the public at large. No required relief should be refused. An adequate plan should be adopted to prevent a recurrence of this disaster in order that the people may restore to productivity and comfort their fields and their towns.
Legislation by this Congress should be confined to our principal and most pressing problem, the lower Mississippi, considering tributaries only so far as they materially affect the main flood problem. A definite Federal program relating to our waterways was proposed when the last Congress authorized a comprehensive survey of all the important streams of the country in order to provide for their improvement, including flood control, navigation, power, and irrigation. Other legislation should wait pending a report on this survey. The recognized needs of the Mississippi should not be made a vehicle for carrying other projects. All proposals for development should stand on their own merits. Any other method would result in ill-advised conclusions, great waste of money, and instead of promoting would delay the orderly and certain utilization of our water resources.
Very recently several of the New England States have suffered somewhat similarly from heavy rainfall and high water. No reliable estimate of damage has yet been computed, but it is very large to private and public property. The Red Cross is generously undertaking what is needed for immediate relief, repair and reconstruction of houses, restocking of domestic animals, and food, clothing, and shelter. A considerable sum of money will be available through the regular channels in the Department of Agriculture for reconstruction of highways. It may be necessary to grant special aid for this purpose. Complete reports of what is required will undoubtedly be available early in the session.
The Congress in its last session authorized the general improvements necessary to provide the Mississippi waterway system with better transportation. Stabilization of the levels of the Great Lakes and their opening to the sea by an effective shipway remain to be considered. Since the last session the Board of Engineers of the War Department has made a report on the proposal for a canal through the State of New York, and the Joint Board of Engineers, representing Canada and the United States, has finished a report on the St. Lawrence River. Both of these boards conclude that the St. Lawrence project is cheaper, affords a more expeditious method of placing western products in European markets, and will cost less to operate. The State Department has requested the Canadian Government to negotiate treaties necessary to provide for this improvement. It will also be necessary to secure an agreement with Canada to put in works necessary to prevent fluctuation in the levels of the Great Lakes.
Legislation is desirable for the construction of a dam at Boulder Canyon on the Colorado River, primarily as a method of flood control and irrigation. A secondary result would be a considerable power development and a source of domestic water supply for southern California. Flood control is clearly a national problem, and water supply is a Government problem, but every other possibility should be exhausted before the Federal Government becomes engaged in the power business. The States which are interested ought to reach mutual agreement. This project is in reality their work. If they wish the Federal Government to undertake it, they should not hesitate to make the necessary concessions to each other. This subject is fully discussed in the annual report of the Secretary of the Interior. The Columbia River Basin project is being studied and will be one to be considered at some future time.
The Inland Waterways Corporation is proving successful and especially beneficial to agriculture. A survey is being made to determine its future needs. It has never been contemplated that if inland rivers were opened to navigation it would then be necessary for the Federal Government to provide the navigation. Such a request is very nearly the equivalent of a declaration that their navigation is not profitable, that the commodities which they are to carry can be taken at a cheaper rate by some other method, in which case the hundreds of millions of dollars proposed to be expended for opening rivers to navigation would be not only wasted, but would entail further constant expenditures to carry the commodities of private persons for less than cost.
The policy is well established that the Government should open public highways on land and on water, but for use of the public in their private capacity. It has put on some demonstration barge lines, but always with the expectation that if they prove profitable they would pass into private hands and if they do not prove profitable they will be withdrawn. The problems of transportation over inland waterways should be taken up by private enterprise, so that the public will have the advantage of competition in service. It is expected that some of our lines can be sold, some more demonstration work done, and that with the completion of the Ohio project a policy of private operation can be fully developed.
After more than two generations of constant debate, our country adopted a system of national prohibition under all the solemnities involved in an amendment to the Federal Constitution. In obedience to this mandate the Congress and the States, with one or two notable exceptions, have passed required laws for its administration and enforcement. This imposes upon the citizenship of the country, and especially on all public officers, not only the duty to enforce, but the obligation to observe the sanctions of this constitutional provision and its resulting laws. If this condition could be secured, all question concerning prohibition would cease. The Federal Government is making every effort to accomplish these results through careful organization, large appropriations, and administrative effort.
Smuggling has been greatly cut down, the larger sources of supply for illegal sale have been checked, and by means of injunction and criminal prosecution the process of enforcement is being applied. The same vigilance on the part of local governments would render these efforts much more successful. The Federal authorities propose to discharge their obligation for enforcement to the full extent of their ability.
History does not anywhere record so much progress made in the same length of time as that which has been accomplished by the Negro race in the United States since the Emancipation Proclamation. They have come up from slavery to be prominent in education, the professions, art, science, agriculture, banking, and commerce. It is estimated that 50,000 of them are on the Government pay rolls, drawing about $50,000,000 each year. They have been the recipients of presidential appointments and their professional ability has arisen to a sufficiently high plane so that they have been intrusted with the entire management and control of the great veterans hospital at Tuskegee, where their conduct has taken high rank. They have shown that they have been worthy of all the encouragement
which they have received. Nevertheless, they are too often subjected to thoughtless and inconsiderate treatment, unworthy alike of the white or colored races. They have especially been made the target of the foul crime of lynching. For several years these acts of unlawful violence had been diminishing. In the last year they have shown an increase. Every principle of order and law and liberty is opposed to this crime. The Congress should enact any legislation it can under the Constitution to provide for its elimination.
The condition of the American Indian has much improved in recent years. Full citizenship was bestowed upon them on June 2, 1924, and appropriations for their care and advancement have been increased. Still there remains much to be done.
Notable increases in appropriations for the several major functions performed by the Department of the Interior on behalf of the Indians have marked the last five years. In that time, successive annual increases in appropriations for their education total $1,804,325; for medical care, $578,000; and for industrial advancement, $205,000; or $2,582,325 more than would have been spent in the same period on the basis of appropriations for 1923 and the preceding years.
The needs along health, educational, industrial and social lines however, are great, and the Budget estimates for 1929 include still further increases for Indian administration.
To advance the time when the Indians may become self-sustaining, it is my belief that the Federal Government should continue to improve the facilities for their care, and as rapidly as possible turn its responsibility over to the States.
Legislation authorizing a system of fuel administration and the appointment by the President of a Board of Mediation and Conciliation in case of actual or threatened interruption of production is needed. The miners themselves are now seeking information and action from the Government, which could readily be secured through such a board. It is believed that a thorough investigation and reconsideration of this proposed policy by the Congress will demonstrate that this recommendation is sound and should be adopted.
The National Government is undertaking to join in the formation of a cooperative committee of lawyers, engineers, and public officers, to consider what legislation by the States or by the Congress can be adopted for the preservation and conservation of our supply of petroleum. This has come to be one of the main dependencies for transportation and power so necessary to our agricultural and industrial life. It is expected the report of this committee will be available for later congressional action. Meantime, the requirement that the Secretary of the Interior should make certain leases of land belonging to the Osage Indians, in accordance with the act of March 3, 1921, should be repealed. The authority to lease should be discretionary, in order that the property of the Indians way not be wasted and the public suffer a future lack of supply.
Under treaty the property held by the Alien Property Custodian was to be retained until suitable provision had been made for the satisfaction of American claims. While still protecting the American claimants, in order to afford every possible accommodation to the nationals of the countries whose property was held, the Congress has made liberal provision for the return of a larger part of the property. All trusts under $10,000 were returned in full, and partial returns were made on the others. The total returned was approximately $350,000,000.
There is still retained, however, about $250,000,000. The Mixed Claims Commission has made such progress in the adjudication of claims that legislation can now be enacted providing for the return of the property, which should be done under conditions which will protect our Government and our claimants. Such a measure will be proposed, and I recommend its enactment.
In order to increase the efficiency of transportation and decrease its cost to the shipper, railroad consolidation must be secured. Legislation is needed to simplify the necessary procedure to secure such agreements and arrangements for consolidation, always under the control and with the approval of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Pending this, no adequate or permanent reorganization can be made of the freight-rate structure. Meantime, both agriculture and industry are compelled to wait for needed relief. This is purely a business question, which should be stripped of all local and partisan bias and decided on broad principles and its merits in order to promote the public welfare. A large amount of new construction and equipment, which will furnish employment for labor and markets for commodities of both factory and farm, wait on the decision of this important question. Delay is holding back the progress of our country.
Many of the same arguments are applicable to the consolidation of the Washington traction companies.
The care which this country has lavished on its veterans is known of all men. The yearly outlay for this purpose is about $750,000,000, or about the cost of running the Federal Government, outside of the Post Office Department, before the World War. The Congress will have before it recommendations of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other like organizations, which should receive candid consideration. We should continue to foster our system of compensation and rehabilitation, and provide hospitals and insurance. The magnitude of the undertaking is already so large that all requests calling for further expenditure should have the most searching scrutiny. Our present system of pensions is already sufficiently liberal. It was increased by the last Congress for Civil and Spanish War veterans and widows and for some dependents.
It has been suggested that the various governmental agencies now dealing with veterans’ relief be consolidated. This would bring many advantages. It is recommended that the proper committees of the Congress make a thorough survey of this subject, in order to determine if legislation to secure such consolidation is desirable.
For many years it has been the policy of the Federal Government to encourage and foster the cause of education. Large sums of money are annually appropriated to carry on vocational training. Many millions go into agricultural schools. The general subject is under the immediate direction of a Commissioner of Education. While this subject is strictly a State and local function, it should continue to have the encouragement of the National Government. I am still of the opinion that much good could be accomplished through the establishment of a Department of Education and Relief, into which would be gathered all of these functions under one directing member of the Cabinet.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Industrial relations have never been more peaceful. In recent months they have suffered from only one serious controversy. In all others difficulties have been adjusted, both management and labor wishing to settle controversies by friendly agreement rather than by compulsion. The welfare of women and children is being especially guarded by our Department of Labor. Its Children’s Bureau is in cooperation with 26 State boards and 80 juvenile courts.
Through its Bureau of Immigration it has been found that medical examination abroad has saved prospective immigrants from much hardship. Some further legislation to provide for reuniting families when either the husband or the wife is in this country, and granting more freedom for the migration of the North American Indian tribes is desirable.
The United States Employment Service has enabled about 2,000,000 men and women to gain paying positions in the last fiscal year. Particular attention has been given to assisting men past middle life and in providing field labor for harvesting agricultural crops. This has been made possible in part through the service of the Federal Board for Vocational Education, which is cooperating with the States in a program to increase the technical knowledge and skill of the wage earner.
Construction is under way in the country and ground has been broken for carrying out a public-building program for Washington. We have reached a time when not only the conveniences but the architectural beauty of the public buildings of the Capital City should be given much attention. It will be necessary to purchase further land and provide the required continuing appropriations.
Provision is being made to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of George Washington. Suggestion has been made for the construction of a memorial road leading from the Capital to Mount Vernon, which may well have the consideration of the Congress, and the commission intrusted with preparations for the celebration will undoubtedly recommend publication of the complete writings of Washington and a series of writings by different authors relating to him.
February 25, 1929. is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the capture of Fort Sackville, at Vincennes, in the State of Indiana. This eventually brought into the Union what was known as the Northwest Territory, embracing the region north of the Ohio River between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi River. This expedition was led by George Rogers Clark. His heroic character and the importance of his victory are too little known and understood. They gave us not only this Northwest Territory but by means of that the prospect of reaching the Pacific. The State of Indiana is proposing to dedicate the site of Fort Sackville as a national shrine. The Federal Government may well make some provision for the erection under its own management of a fitting memorial at that point.
It is the policy of the United States to promote peace. We are a peaceful people and committed to the settling of disputes by amicable adjustment rather than by force. We have believed that peace can best be secured by a faithful observance on our part of the principles of international law, accompanied by patience and conciliation, and requiring of others a like treatment for ourselves. We have lately had some difference with Mexico relative to the injuries inflicted upon our nationals and their property within that country. A firm adherence to our rights and a scrupulous respect for the sovereignty of Mexico, both in accordance with the law of nations, coupled with patience and forbearance, it is hoped will resolve all our differences without interfering with the friendly relationship between the two Governments. We have been compelled to send naval and marine forces to China to protect the lives and property of our citizens. Fortunately their simple presence there has been sufficient to prevent any material loss of life. But there has been considerable loss of property. That unhappy country is torn by factions and revolutions which bid fair to last for an indefinite period. Meanwhile we are protecting our citizens and stand ready to cooperate with any government which may emerge in promoting the welfare of the people of China. They have always had our friendship, and they should especially merit our consideration in these days of their distraction and distress.
We were confronted by similar condition on a small scale in Nicaragua. Our marine and naval forces protected our citizens and their property and prevented a heavy sacrifice of life and the destruction of that country by a reversion to a state of revolution. Henry L. Stimson, former Secretary of War, was sent there to cooperate with our diplomatic and military officers in effecting a settlement between the contending parties. This was done on the assurance that we would cooperate in restoring a state of peace where our rights would be protected by giving our assistance in the conduct of the next presidential election, which occurs in a few months. With this assurance the population returned to their peacetime pursuits, with the exception of some small roving bands of outlaws.
In general, our relations with other countries can be said to have improved within the year. While having a due regard for our own affairs, the protection of our own rights, and the advancement of our own people, we can afford to be liberal toward others. Our example has become of great importance in the world. It is recognized that we are independent, detached, and can and do take a disinterested position in relation to international affairs. Our charity embraces the earth. Our trade is far flung. Our financial favors are widespread. Those who are peaceful and law-abiding realize that not only have they nothing to fear from us, but that they can rely on our moral support. Proposals for promoting the peace of the world will have careful consideration. But we are not a people who are always seeking for a sign. We know that peace comes from honesty and fair dealing, from moderation, and a generous regard for the rights of others. The heart of the Nation is more important than treaties. A spirit of generous consideration is a more certain defense than great armaments.
We should continue to promote peace by our example, and fortify it by such international covenants against war as we are permitted under our Constitution to make.
Our country has made much progress. But it has taken, and will continue to take, much effort. Competition will be keen, the temptation to selfishness and arrogance will be severe, the provocations to deal harshly with weaker peoples will be many. All of these are embraced in the opportunity for true greatness. They will be overbalanced by cooperation by generosity, and a spirit of neighborly kindness. The forces of the universe are taking humanity in that direction. In doing good, in walking humbly, in sustaining its own people in ministering to other nations, America will work out its own mighty destiny.
Citation: The New York Times
The Coolidge Foundation gratefully acknowledges the volunteer efforts of Frank Harder who prepared this document for digital publication.