Calvin Coolidge's
Acceptance Address
Northampton,  Massachusetts, July 27, 1920
Governor Morrow and Members of the Notification

To your now formal notification I respond with formal acceptance.
Your presence tells me of a leader and a cause; a leader in Warren
G. Harding, the united choice of a united party, a statesman of
ability, seasoned by experience, a fitting representative of the
common aspirations of his fellow citizens, wise enough to seek
counsel, great enough to recognize merit, and in all things a stalwart
American; the cause of our common country, as declared in the
platform of the Republican Party, the defense of our institutions
from every assault, the restoration of constitutional government, the
maintenance of law and order, the relief of economic distress, the
encouragement of industry and agriculture, the enactment of
humanitarian laws, the defense of the rights of our citizens
everywhere, the rehabilitation of this nation in the estimation of all
peoples, under an agreement, meeting our every duty, to preserve
the peace of the world, always with unyielding Americanism under
such a leader, such a cause, I serve.

No one in public life can be oblivious to the organized efforts to
undermine the faith of our people in their government, foment,
discord, aggravate industrial strife, stifle production, and ultimately
stir up revolution. These efforts are a great public menace, not
through danger of success, but through the great amount of harm
they can do if ignored.

The first duty of the government is to repress them, punishing willful
violations of law, turning the full light of publicity on all abuses of the
right of assembly and of free speech ; and it is the first duty of the
public and press to expose false doctrines and answer seditious
American institutions can stand discussion and criticism, only if
those who know bear for them the testimony of the truth. Such
repression and such testimony should be forthcoming, that the
uninformed may come to a full realization that these seditious efforts
are not for their welfare, but for their complete economic and
political destruction.

To a free people the most reactionary experience, short of
revolution, is war. In order to organize and conduct military
operations a reversion to an autocratic method of government is
absolutely necessary. In our own case it was no less autocratic
because voluntarily established by the people. It was a wise and
successful process for the purpose of winning the victory of
freedom, to which all else was a secondary consideration. But
voluntary autocracy was established temporarily that freedom might
be established permanently. Men submitted their persons and their
property to the complete dictation of the government that they might
conquer an impending peril.

This has always been fraught with the gravest dangers. It is along
this path that rides the man on horseback. Avarice for power finds
many reasons for continuing arbitrary action after the cause for
which it was granted has been removed.

The government of the United States was not established for the
continued prosecution, or the perpetual preparation, of all its
resources for war. It has been and intends to be a nation devoted to
the arts of peace. Fundamentally considered, its abiding purpose
has been the recognition of the rights and the development of the
individual. This great purpose has been accomplished through
self-government. To the individual has been left power and
responsibility, the foundation for the rule of the people. In time of
emergency these are surrendered to the government in return for
providing the necessaries of life, and national safety. But these are
and must be temporary expedients, if we are to keep our form of
government, and maintain the supreme purpose of Americans.

The greatest need of the nation at the present time is to be rescued
from all the reactions of the war. The chief task that lies before us is
to repossess the people of their government and their property. We
want to return to a thoroughly peace basis because that is the
fundamental American basis. Unless the government and property
of the nation are in the hands of the people, and there to stay as
their permanent abiding place, self-government ends and the hope
of America goes down in ruins.
This need is transcendent.

The government of the nation is in the hands of the people, when it
is administered in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution,
which they have adopted and ratified, and which measures the
powers they have granted to their public officers, in all its branches,
where the functions and duties of the three co-ordinate branches,
executive, legislative, judicial, are separate and distinct and neither
one directly or indirectly exercises any of the functions of either of
the others. Such a practice and such a government under the
Constitution of the United States it is the purpose of our party to
re-establish and maintain. All authority must be exercised by those
to whom it is constitutionally entrusted, without dictation, and with
responsibility only to those who have bestowed it, the people.

The property of the nation is in the hands of the people when it is
under their ownership and control. It is true that the control of a part
of the property taken for war purposes has been returned, but there
hangs over private enterprise still the menace of seizure, blighting in
its effect, paralyzing in its result, to the public detriment. But it
matters not whether property can be taken by seizure, or through
the process of taxation for extravagant and unnecessary
expenditures, there should be an end to both operations. The
reason is plain. Ultimately the control of the resources of the people
is control of the people. Either the people must own the government
or the government will own the people. To sustain a government of
the people there must be maintained a property of the people.
There can be no political independence without economic

Another source of the gravest public concern has been the
reactionary tendency to substitute private will for the public will.
Instead of inquiring what the law was and then rendering it full
obedience, there has been a disposition on the part of some
individuals and of groups to inquire whether they liked the law, and
if not, to disregard it, seek to override it, suspend it, and prevent its
execution, sometimes by the method of direct action, for the
purpose of securing their own selfish ends.

The observance of the law is the greatest solvent of public ills. Men
speak of natural rights, but I challenge any one to show where in
nature any rights ever existed or were recognized until there was
established for their declaration and protection a duly promulgated
body of corresponding laws. The march of civilization has been ever
under the protecting aegis of the law. It is the strong defense of the
weak, the ever-present refuge of innocence, a mighty fortress of the
righteous. One with the law is a majority. While the law is observed
the progress of civilization will continue. When such observance
ceases, chaos and the ancient night of despotism will come again.
Liberty goes unsupported or relies in its entirety on the
maintenance of order and the execution of the law.

There is yet another manifest disposition which has preyed on the
weakness of the race from its infancy, denounced alike by the letter
and the spirit of the Constitution, and repugnant to all that is
American, the attempt to create class distinctions. In its full
development this means the caste system, wherein such civilization
as exists is rigidly set, and that elasticity so necessary for progress,
and that recognition of equality which has been the aim and glory of
our institutions, are destroyed and denied. Society to advance must
be not a dead form but a living organism, plastic, inviting progress.
There are no classes here. There are different occupations and
different stations, certainly there can be no class of employer and
employed. All true Americans are working for each other,
exchanging the results of the efforts of hand and brain wrought
through the unconsumed efforts of yesterday, which we call capital,
all paying and being paid by each other, serving and being served.
To do otherwise is to stand disgraced and alien to our institutions.
This means that government must look at the part in the light of the
whole, that legislation must be directed not for private interest but
for public welfare, and that thereby alone will each of our citizens
find their greatest accomplishment and success.

If the great conflict has disturbed our political conditions it has
caused an upheaval in our economic relations. The mounting prices
of all sorts of commodities has put a well nigh unbearable burden on
every home. Much of this is beyond relief from law, but forces of the
government can and must afford a considerable remedy.

The most obvious place to begin retrenching is by eliminating the
extravagance of the government itself. In this the Congress has
made a commendable beginning, but although the Congress makes
the appropriations, the departments make the expenditures which
are not under legislative but executive control. The extravagant
standards bred of recent years must be eliminated. This should
show immediately in reduced taxation. The great breeder of public
and private extravagance, the excess profits tax, should be revised
and recourse had to customs taxes on imports, one of the most
wholesome of all means of raising revenue, for it is voluntary in
effect, and taxes consumption rather than production. It should be
laid according to the needs of a creditor nation, for the protection of
the public, with a purpose to render us both economically and
defensively independent.

A revision of taxation must be accompanied with a reduction of that
private extravagance which the returns from luxury taxes reveal as
surpassing all comprehension. Waiving the moral effect, the
economic effect of such extravagance is to withdraw needed capital
and labor from essential industries, greatly increasing the public
distress and unrest.

There has been profiteering. It should be punished because it is
wrong. But it is idle to look to such action for relief. This class profit
by scarcity, but they do not cause it.

As every one knows now, the difficulty is caused by a scarcity of
material, an abundance of money, and insufficient production. The
government must reduce the amount of money as fast as it can
without curtailing necessary credits. Production must be increased.
All easy to say but difficult of accomplishment.

One of the chief hindrances to production is lack of adequate
railroad facilities. Transportation must be re-established. A few
glaring instances in the past of improper management joined with an
improper public attitude thereby created, wrought great harm to our
railroads. Government operation left them disintegrated,
disorganized, and demoralized. On their service depends
agriculture and industry, the entire public welfare. They must be
provided with credit and capital and given the power to serve. This
can only be done by removing them from speculation, restoring their
prosperity by increased revenues where necessary, thereby
re-establishing them in the confidence of the investing public. Their
employees must be compensated in accordance with the great
importance of the service they render. The whole railroad operation
must be restored to public confidence by public support.

There must be a different public attitude toward industry, a larger
comprehension of the interdependence of capital, management,
and labor, and better facilities for the prompt and reasonable
adjustment of industrial disputes. It is well to remember, too, that
high prices produce their own remedy under the law of supply and
demand. Already in the great leather and woolen industries there is
a recession in the basic elements which must soon be reflected in
retail prices. When buying stops prices come down.

This condition has borne with especial severity on the agricultural
interests of the nation. To cope with it the farmers need an enlarged
power of organization whereby the original producer may profit to a
larger degree by the high prices paid for his produce by the ultimate
consumer, and at the same time decrease the cost of food. The
economic strength of a country rests on the farm. Industrial activity
is dependent upon it. It replenishes the entire life of the nation.
Agriculture is entitled to be suitably rewarded and on its
encouragement and success will depend upon the production of a
food supply large enough to meet the public needs at reasonable

But all these difficulties depend for final solution on the character
and moral force of the nation. Unless these forces abound and
manifest themselves in work done there is no real remedy.

There has been a great deal of misconception as to what was won
by the victory in France. That victory will not be found to be a
substitute for further human effort and endeavor. It did not create
magic resources out of which wages could be paid that were not
earned, or profits be made without corresponding service, it did not
overcome any natural law, it did conquer an artificial thralldom
sought to be imposed on mankind and establish for all the earth a
new freedom and a larger liberty. But that does not, cannot, mean
less responsibility, it means more responsibility, and until the people
of this nation understand and accept this increased responsibility
and meet it with increased effort there will be no relief from the
present economic burdens.

In all things a return to a peace basis does not mean the basis of
1914. That day is gone. It means a peace basis of the present,
higher, nobler, because of the sacrifices made and the duties
assumed. It is not a retreat, it is a new summons to advance.

Diminishing resources warn us of the necessity of conservation. The
public domain is the property of the public. It is held in trust for
present and future generations. The material resources of our
country are great, very great, but they are not inexhaustible. They
are becoming more and more valuable and more and more
necessary to the public welfare. It is not wise either to withhold water
power, reservoir sites, and mineral deposits from development or to
deny a reasonable profit to such operations. But these natural
resources are not to be turned over to speculation to the detriment
of the public. Such a policy would soon remove these resources
from public control and the result would be that soon the people
would be paying tribute to private greed. Conservation does not
desire to retard development. It permits it and encourages it. It is a
desire honestly to administer the public domain. The time has
passed when public franchises and public grants can be used for
private speculation.

Whenever in the future this nation undertakes to assess its strength
and resources, the largest item will be the roll of those who served
her in every patriotic capacity in the world war. There are those who
bore the civil tasks of that great undertaking, often at heavy
sacrifices, always with the disinterested desire to serve their
country. There are those who wore the uniform. The presence of
the living, the example of the dead, will ever be a standing guaranty
of the stability of our republic. From their rugged virtue springs a
never-ending obligation to hold unimpaired the principles
established by their victory. Honor is theirs forevermore.

Duty compels that those promises, so freely made, that out of their
sacrifices they should have a larger life, be speedily redeemed.
Care of dependents, relief from distress, restoration from infirmity,
provision for education, honorable preferment in the public service,
a helping hand everywhere, are theirs not as a favor but by right.
They have conquered the claim to suitable recognition in all things.
The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.

Our country has a heart as well as a head. It is social as well as
individual. It has a broad and extending sympathy. It looks with the
deepest concern to the welfare of those whom adversity still holds at
the gateways of the all-inclusive American opportunity. Conscious
that our resources have now reached a point where there is an
abundance for all, we are determined that no imposition shall
hereafter restrain the worthy their heritage. There will be, can be,
no escape from the obligation of the strong to bear the burdens of
civilization, but the weak must be aided to become strong. Ample
opportunity for education at public expense, reasonable hours of
employment always under sanitary conditions, a fair and always a
living wage for faithful work, healthful living conditions, childhood
and motherhood, cherished, honored, rescued from the grasp of all
selfishness and rededicated to the noblest aspiration of the race,
these are not socialistic vagaries but the mark of an advancing
American civilization, revealed in larger social justice, tempered with
an abounding mercy. In this better appreciation of humanity the war
carried the nation forward to a new position, which it is our solemn
duty not only to maintain but amplify and extend.

There is especially due to the colored race a more general
recognition of their constitutional rights. Tempted with disloyalty they
remained loyal, serving in the military forces with distinction,
obedient to the draft to the extent of hundreds of thousands,
investing $1 out of every $5 they possessed in Liberty Bonds,
surely they hold the double title of citizenship, by birth and by
conquest, to be relieved from all imposition, to be defended from
lynching, and to be freely granted equal opportunities.

Equal suffrage for which I have always voted is coming. It is not a
party question, although nearly six-sevenths of the ratifying
legislatures have been Republican. The Party stands pledged to
use its endeavor to hasten ratification, which I trust will be at once

There are many domestic questions which I cannot discuss here,
their solution is amply revealed in the platform, such as merchant
marine, an adequate army anti navy, the establishment of a
Department of Public Works, support of the classified civil service
laws, provision for public waterways and highways, a budget system
and other equally pressing subjects. I am not unmindful of their
deep importance.

The foreign relations of our country ought not to be partisan, but
American. If restored to the limitations of constitutional authority on
the one hand, and to the protection of the constitutional rights of
our citizens on the other, much of their present difficulty would

There can be no sovereignty without a corresponding duty. It is
fundamental that each citizen is entitled to the equal protection of
the laws. That goes with his citizenship and abides where he lawfully
abides, whether at home or abroad. This inherent right must be
restored to our people and observed by our government. The
persons and property of Americans, wherever they may lawfully be,
while lawfully engaged, must forever have protection sufficient to
insure their safety and cause the punishment of all who violate it.
This is theirs as a plain constitutional duty. A government
disregarding it invites the contempt of the world and is on the way to
humiliation and war. Rejecting the rule of law is accepting the sword
of force.

The country cannot be securely restored to a peace basis in
anything until a peace is first made with those with whom we have
been at war. The Republicans in Congress, realizing that because
of the necessary reliance of one nation on another, there was, more
than ever before, mutual need of the sustaining influence of friendly
co-operation and rapprochement, twice attempted the establishment
of such peace by offers of ratification, which were rejected by the
Democratic administration. No one knows now whether war or peace
prevails. Our Party stands pledged to make an immediate peace as
soon as it is given power by the people.

The proposed League of Nations without reservations as submitted
by the President to the Senate met with deserved opposition from
the Republican Senators. To a League in that form, subversive of
the traditions and the independence of America, the Republican
Party is opposed. But our Party by the record of its members in the
Senate and by the solemn declaration of its platform, by
performance and by promise, approves the principle of agreement,
among nations to preserve peace, and pledges itself to the making
of such an agreement, preserving American independence, and
rights, as will meet every duty America owes to humanity.

This language is purposely broad, not exclusive but in inclusive.
The Republican Party is not narrow enough to limit itself to one
idea, but wise and broad enough to provide for the adoption of the
best plan that can be devised at the time of action. The Senate
received a concrete proposition, utterly unacceptable without
modifications, which the publican Senators effected by reservations,
and so modified twice voted for ratification, which the Democratic
administration twice defeated. The platform approves this action of
the Senators. The Republicans insisted on reservations which limit.
The Democratic platform and record permit only of reservations
unessential and explanatory.

We have been taking counsel together concerning the welfare of
America. We have spent much time discussing the affairs of
government, yet most of the great concourse of people around me
hold no public office, expect to hold no public office. Still in solemn
truth they are the government, they are America. We shall search in
vain in legislative halls, executive mansions, and the chambers of
the judiciary for the greatness of the government of our country. We
shall behold there but a reflection, not a reality, successful in
proportion to its accuracy.

In a free republic a great government is the product of a great
people. They will look to themselves rather than government for
success. The destiny, the greatness of America lies around the
hearthstone. If thrift and industry are taught there, and the example
of self-sacrifice oft appears, if honor abide there, and high ideals, if
there the building of fortune be subordinate to the building of
character, America will live in security, rejoicing in an abundant
prosperity and good government at home, and in peace, respect,
and confidence abroad. If these virtues be absent there is no power
that can supply these blessings. Look well then to the hearthstone,
therein all hope for America lies.