The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, March 07, 1913, Image 1

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The Commoner.
VOL. 13, NO. 9
Lincoln, Nebraska, March 7, 1913
Whole Number 633
President Wilson's Inaugural Address
There has been a change of government. It
began two years ago, when tho house of repre
sentatives became democratic by a decisive ma
jority. It has now been completed. Tho senate
about to assemble will also bo democratic. The
offices of president and vice president have been
put into tho hands of democrats. What does the
change mean? That Is tho question that is
uppermost In our minds today. That is tho
question I am going to try to answer, in order,
if I may, to interpret tho occasion.
It means much more than the mere success
of a party. The success of a party means littlo
except when the nation is using that party for
a largo and definite purpose. No one can, mis
take the purpose for which tho nation now
seeks to use the democratic party. It seeks to
use it to interpret a change in its own plans and
point of vlow. Some old things with which wo
had grown familiar, and which had begun to
creep into the very habit of our thought and
of our lives, have altered their aspect as wo
have latterly looked critically upon them, with
fresh, awakened eyes; have dropped their dis
guises and shown themselves alien and sinister.
Some new things, as we look frankly upon them,
willing to comprehend their real character, have
come to assume the aspect of things long be
lieved in and familiar, stuff of our own convic
tions. Wo have been refreshed by a new insight
into our own life.
We see that in many things that life is very
great. It is incomparably great in Its material
aspects, in its body of wealth, in tho diversity
and sweep of its energy, in the industries which
have been conceived and built up by tho genius
of individual men and the limitless enterpriso
of groups of men. It is great, also, very great,
in its moral force. Nowhere else in tho world
have noble men and women exhibited in mora
striking forms the beauty and tho energy of
sympathy and helpfulness and counsel in their
efforts to rectify wrong, alleviate suffering, and
set tho weak in the way of strength and hope.
We have built up, moreover, a great system of
government, which has stood through a long
ago as in many respects a model for thoso who
seek to set liberty upon foundations that will
endure against fortuitous change, against storm
and accident. Our life contains every great
thing, and contains it in rich abundance.
But the evil has come with the good, and
much fine gold has been corroded. With riches
has come inexcusable waste. Wo have squan
dered a great part of what we might have used,
and have not stopped to conserve the exceeding
bounty of nature, without which our genius for
enterprise would have been worthless and im
potent, scorning to be careful, shamefully prodi
gal as well as admirably efficient Wo have been
proud of our industrial achievements, but we
have not hitherto stopped thoughtfully enough
to count the human cost, the cost of lives snuffed
out, of energies overtaxed and broken, the fear
ful physical and spiritual cost to tho men and
women and children upon whom the dead weight
and burden of it all has fallen pitilessly the years
through. The groans and agony of it all had
not yet reached our ears, the solemn, moving
undertone of our life, coming up out of the
mines and factories and out of every homo whore
tho struggle had its Intlmato and familiar seat.
With tho great government went many deep
secret things which wo too long delayed to look
into and scrutinize with candid, fearless oyes.
The groat government wo loved has too often
been made uso of for private and selfish pur
poses, and thoso who used it had forgotten tho
At last a vision has been vouchsafed us of
our lifo as a whole. Wo seo tho bad with tho
good, tho debased and decadent with the sound
and vital. With this vision wo approach new
affairs. Our duty Is to cleanse, to reconsider,
to restore, to correct tho ovil without impairing
the good, to purify and humanizo every pro
cess of our common lifo without weakening or
sentimentalizing it. There has been something
cm do and heartless and unfeeling in our haste
to succeed and bo great. Our thought has been
"Let every man look out for himself, let every
generation look out for Itself,' while wo reared
giant machinery which mado it Impossible that
any but thoso who stood at tho levers of con
trol should have a chqnce to look out for them
selves. Wo have not forgotten our morals. Wo
remembjj&e.d,.,well enough .thatfi we had set up
a policy which wais meant to serve tnThumblPst
as well as the most powerful, with an eyo single
to tho standards of justice and fair play, and
remembered it with pride. But wo were very
heedless and in a hurry to bo great.
We have como now to tho sober second
thought. The scales of heedlessness have fal
len from our oyes. Wo have made up our
minds to squaTe every process of our national
life again with tho standards we so proudly set
up at tho beginning and havo always carried at
our hearts. Our work Is a work of restoration.
We have Itemized with some degree of par
ticularity tho things that ought to bo altered
and here are some of the chief Items: A tariff
which cuts us off from our proper part In tho
commerce of the world, violates the just prin
ciples of taxation, and makes the government
a facile instrument in the hands of private in
terests; a banking and currency system based
upon tho necessity of the government to sell Its
bonds fifty years ago and perfectly adapted to
concentrating cash and restricting credits: an
industrial system which, take it on all Its sides,
financial as well as administrative, holds capital
In leading strings, restricts the liberties and
limits the opportunities of labor, and exploits
without renewing or conserving the natural re
sources of the country: a body of agricultural
activities never yet given the efficiency of great
business undertakings or served as it should bo
through tho instrumentality of science taken
directly to the farm, or afforded the facilities
of credit best suited to its practical needs;
watercourses undeveloped, waste places unre
claimed, forests untended, fast disappearing
without plan or prospect of renewal, unregarded
waBte heaps at every mine. Wt havo studied
as perhaps no other nation has the most effec
tive means of production, bat we have not
studied cost or economy as we should either as
organizers of industry tm statesmen, or as In
dividuals. fc
Nor havo we studied and perfected tho means
by which government may bo put at tho service
of humanityTIn safeguarding tho health of tho
nation, tho health of its mon and Its women
and its children, as well ns their rights in the
strugglo for existence. This is no sentlmontal
duty. Tho firm basis of government is Justice
not pity. Thoso aro matters of Justice There
can bo no equality or opportunity, the first
essential of justice in tho body politics, if mon
and women and children bo not shielded In their
lives, tholr vitality, from tho consequences of
great Industrial and social processes which they
can not alter, contr61, or singly cope with.
Society must seo to it that it does not itself
crush or weaken or damage Its own constituent
parts. Tho first duty of law is to keep sound
tho society it serves. Sanitary laws, puro food
laws, and laws determining conditions of labor
which individuals aro powerless to dotormlne
for themselves aro Intlmato parts of tho very
business of justico and legal efficiency.
These are some of the things wo ought to do,
and not leave tho others undone, the old
fashioned, nover-to-be-neglected, fundamental
safeguarding of property and of individual
righfi 'This is tho high enterprise -of tho now
day: to lift everything that concerns our lifo as
a nation to tho light that shines from tho hearth
firo of every man's conscience and vision of the
right. It Is Inconceivable that wo should do this
as partisans; it Is Inconceivable wo should do It
in ignorance of tho facts as they aro or in blind
haste. Wo shall restore, not destroy. Wo shall
deal with our economic system as it Is and as it
may bo modified, not as it might bo if wo had a
clean sheet of paper to write upon; and stop by
step wo shall make ft what It should bo. In tho
spirit of those who question their own wisdom
and seek counsel and knowledge, not shallow
self-satisfaction or tho excitement of excursions
whither they can not tell. Justice, and only
justice, shall always bo our motto.
And yet it will bo no cool process of mero
science. Tho nation has been deeply stirred,
stirred by a solemn passion, stirred by the
knowledge of wrong, of ideals lost, of govern
ment too often debauched and mado an instru
ment of ovil. The feelings with which wo face
this new age of right and opportunity sweep
across our heart-strings llko some air out of
God's own presence, where Justice and mercy
aro reconciled and the Judge and tho brother
aro one. We know our task to be no mere task
of politics but a task which shall search us
through and through, whether wo be able to
understand our time and the need of our people,
whether wo be indeed their spokesmen and in
terpreters, whether we havo the puro heart to
comprehend and the rectified will to choose our
high course of action.
This is not a day of triumph; It Is a day of
dedication. Hero muster, not tho forces of
party, but the forces of humanity. Men's hearts
wait upon us; men's lives hang In the balance;
men's hopes call upon us to say what wo will
do. Who shall live up to the great trust? Who
dares fall to try? I summon all honest men, all
patriotic, all forward-looking men, to my sldo.
God helping me, I will not fail them, If they will
but counsel and sustain me!