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themselves Americans, have so forgotten themselves and their honor as citizens as to put their passionate sympathy with one or ihe other side in the great European conflict above their regard for the peace and dignity of the United States. They also preach and practice disloyalty. No laws, I suppose, can reach corruptions of the mind and heart; but I should not speak of others without also speaking of these and expressing the even deeper humiliation and scorn which every self-possessed and thoughtfully patriotic American must feel when he thinks of them and of the discredit they are daily bringing upon us.
While we speak of the preparation of the nation to make sure of her security and her effective power we must not fall into the patent error of supposing that her real strength comes from armaments and mere safeguards of written law. It comes, of course, from her people, their energy, their success in their undertakings, their free opportunity to use the natural resources of our great home land and of the lands outside our continental borders which look to us for protection, for encouragement, and for assistance in their development; from the organization and freedom and vitality of our economic life. The domestic questions which engaged the attention of the last Congress are more vital to the nation in this its time of test than at any other time. We can not adequately make ready for any trial of our strength unless we wisely and promptly direct the force of our laws into these all-important fields of domestic action. A matter which it seems to me we should have very much at heart is the creation of the right instrumentalities by which to mobilize our economic resources in any time of national necessity. I take it for granted that I do not need your authority to call into sympathetic consultation with the directing officers of the army and navy men of recognized leadership and ability from among our citizens who are thoroughly familiar, for example, with the transportation facilities of the country and therefore competent to advise how they may be coordinated when the need arises, those who can suggest the best way in which to bring about prompt cooperation among the manufacturers of the country, should it be necessary, and those who could assist to bring the technical skill of the country to the aid of the Government in the solution of particular problems of defense. I only hope that if I should find it feasible to constitute such an advisory body the Congress would be willing to vote the small sum of money that would be needed to defray the expenses that would probably be necessary to give it the clerical and administrative machinery with which to do serviceable work.
What is more important is, that the industries and resources of the country should be available and ready for mobilization. It is the more imperatively necessary, therefore, that we should promptly devise means for doing what we have not yet done: that we should give intelligent federal aid and stimulation to industrial and vocational education, as we have long done in the large field of our agricultural industry; that, at the same time that we safeguard and conserve the natural resources of the country we should put them at the disposal of those who will use them promptly and intelligently, as was sought to be done in the admirable bills submitted to the last Congress from its committees on the public lands, bills which I earnestly recommend in principle to your consideration; that we should put into early operation some provision for rural credits which will add to the extensive borrowing facilities already afforded the farmer by the Reserve Bank Act, adequate instrumentalities by which long credits may be obtained on land mortgages; and that we should study more carefully than they have hitherto been studied the right adaptation of our economic arrangements to changing conditions.
Many conditions about which we have repeatedly legislated are being altered from decade to decade, it is evident, under our very eyes, and are likely to change even more rapidly and more radically in the days immediately ahead of us, when peace has returned to the world and the nations of Europe once more take up their tasks of commerce and industry with the energy of those who must bestir themselves to build anew. Just what these changes will be no one can certainly foresee or confidently predict. There are no calculable, because no stable, elements in the problem. The most we can do is to make certain that we have the necessary instrumentalities of information constantly at our service so that we may be sure that we know exactly what we are dealing with when we come to act, if it should be necessary to act at all. We must first certainly know what it is that we are seeking to adapt ourselves to. I may ask the privilege of addressing you more at length on this important matter a little later in your session.
In the meantime may I make this suggestion? The transportation problem is an exceedingly serious and pressing one in this country. There has from time to time of late been reason to fear that our railroads would not much longer be able to cope with it successfully, as at present equipped and coordinated. I suggest that it would be wise to provide for a commission of inquiry to ascertain by a thorough canvass of the whole question whether our laws as at present framed and administered are as serviceable as they might be in the solution of the problem. It is obviously a problem that lies at the very foundation of our efficiency as a people. Such an inquiry ought to draw out every circumstance and opinion worth considering and we need to know all sides of the matter if we mean to do anything in the field of federal legislation.
No one, I am sure, would wish to take any backward step. The regulation of the railways of the country by federal commission has had admirable results and has fully justified the hopes and expectations of those by whom the policy of regulation was originally proposed. The question is not what should we undo? It is, whether there is Anything else we can do that will supply us the effective means, in the very process of regulation, for bettering the conditions under which the railroads are operated and for making them more useful servants of the country as a whole. It seems to me that it might be the part of wisdom, therefore, before further legislation in this field is attempted, to look at the whole problem of coordination and efficiency in the full light of a fresh assessment of circumstance and opinion, as a guide to dealing with the several parts of it. For what we are seeking now, what in my mind is the single thought of this message, is national efficiency and security. We serve a great nation. We should serve it in the spirit of its peculiar genius. It is the genius of common men for self-government, industry, justice, liberty and peace. We should see to it that it lacks no instrument, no facility or vigor of law, to make it sufficient to play its part with energy, safety, and assured success. In this we are no partisans but heralds and prophets of a new age.
Wilson's Addresses On Middle Western Tour, Urging
Preparedness For National Defense,
January 27 To February 3, 1916
[editorial Note: Congress had been in session nearly two months without definite accomplishment, and the President undertook this speaking trip to urge citizens to "back him up" in demands for national defense. He confessed his own change of mind since his message to Congress in December, 1914, and his purpose "to go out and tell my fellow countrymen that new circumstances have arisen which make it absolutely necessary that this country should prepare herself, not for war, but for adequate national defense." He went as far west as Kansas, delivering formal addresses in eight States. As he used the same arguments in several speeches, there has been some condensation in the pages immediately following.]
Before The Railway Business Association, New York City, January 27, 1916.
Mr. Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The question, it seems to me, which most demands clarification just now is the question to which your toastmaster has referred, the question of preparation for national defense. I say that it stands in need of clarification because it has been deeply clouded by passion and prejudice. It is very singular that a question the elements of which are so simple and so obvious should have been so beclouded by the discussion of men of high motive, men of purpose as handsome as any of us may claim and yet apparently incapable of divesting themselves of that sort of provincialism which consists in thinking the contents of their own mind to be the contents of the mind of the world. For, gentlemen, while America is a very great Nation, while America contains every element of fine force and accomplishment, America does not constitute the major part of the world. We live in a world which we did not make, which we can not alter, which we can not think into a different condition from that which actually exists. It would be a hopeless piece of provincialism to suppose that because we think differently from the rest of the world we are at liberty to assume that the rest of the world will permit us to enjoy that thought without disturbance.
It is a surprising circumstance, also, that men should allow partisan feeling or personal ambition to creep into the discussion of this fundamental thing. How can Americans differ about the safety of America? I, for my part, am ambitious that America should do a greater and more difficult thing than the great nations on the other side of the