Kansas Under Brownback: The Meth Lab of Democracy

Document: Teddy Roosevelt (1907): The Malefactors of Great Wealth

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Document: Teddy Roosevelt (1907): Address of President Roosevelt on the occasion of the laying of the corner stone of the Pilgrim memorial monument https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0Ygwj9sjmrS-tI0aypbStC40A: "We can not as a nation be too profoundly grateful for the fact that the Puritan has stamped his influence so deeply on our national life. We need have but scant patience with the men who now rail at the Puritan's faults. They were evident, of course, for it is a quality of strong natures that their failings, like their virtues, should stand out in bold relief; but there is nothing easier than to belittle the great men of the past by dwelling only on the points where they come short of the universally recognized standards of the present...

...Men must be judged with reference to the age in which they dwell, and the work they have to do. The Puritan's task was to conquer a continent… to build upon it a high industrial and social life; and… to lay deep the immovable foundations of our whole American system of civil, political, and religious liberty achieved through the orderly process of law….

We have traveled far since his day. That liberty of conscience which he demanded for himself, we now realize must be as freely accorded to others as it is resolutely insisted upon for ourselves. The splendid qualities which he left to his children, we other Americans who are not of Puritan blood also claim as our heritage. You, sons of the Puritans, and we, who are descended from races whom the Puritans would have deemed alien—we are all Americans together. We all feel the same pride in the genesis, in the history, of our people; and therefore this shrine of Puritanism is one at which we all gather to pay homage, no matter from what country our ancestors sprang.

We have gained some things that the Puritan had not—we of this generation, we of the twentieth century, here in this great Republic; but we are also in danger of losing certain things which the Puritan had and which we can by no manner of means afford to lose. We have gained a joy of living which he had not, and which it is a good thing for every people to have and to develop.

Let us see to it that we do not lose what is more important still ; that we do not lose the Puritan's iron sense of duty, his unbending, unflinching will to do the right as it was given him to see the right. It is a good thing that life should gain in sweetness, but only provided that it does not lose in strength….

Ease and rest and pleasure are good things, but only if they come as the reward of work well done, of a good fight well won, of strong effort resolutely made and crowned by high achievement. The life of mere pleasure, of mere effortless ease, is as ignoble for a nation as for an individual….

Almost every big business concern is engaged in interstate commerce, and such a concern must not be all… through their representatives in Congress… tried two remedies… the antitrust law… the interstate-commerce law…. Ultimately, and I hope with reasonable speed, the National Government must pass laws which, while increasing the supervisory and regulatory power of the Government, also permits such useful combinations as are made with absolute openness and as the representatives of the Government may previously approve.

In dealing with those who offend against the antitrust and interstate commerce laws the Department of Justice has to encounter many and great difficulties….

In a criminal action the law is strictly construed in favor of the defendant, and in our country, at least, both judge and jury are far more inclined to consider his rights than they are the interests of the general public; while in addition it is always true that a man's general practices may be so bad that a civil action will lie when it may not be possible to convict him of any one criminal act. There is unfortunately a certain number of our fellow-countrymen who seem to accept the view that unless a man can be proved guilty of some particular crime he shall be counted a good citizen, no matter how infamous the life he has led, no matter how pernicious his doctrines or his practices.

In a recent case against the Licorice Trust we indicted and tried the two corporations and their respective presidents. The contracts and other transactions establishing the guilt of the corporations were made through, and so far as they were in writing were signed by, the two presidents. Yet the jury convicted the two corporations and acquitted the two men.

Both verdicts could not possibly have been correct; but apparently the average juryman wishes to see trusts broken up, and is quite ready to fine the corporation itself; but is very reluctant to find the facts “proven beyond a reasonable doubt” when it comes to sending to jail a reputable member of the business community for doing what the business community has unhappily grown to recognize as well-nigh normal in business….

In the last six years we have shown that there is no individual and no corporation so powerful that he or it stands above the possibility of punishment under the law. Our aim is to try to do something effective; our purpose is to stamp out the evil; we shall seek to find the most effective device for this purpose; and we shall then use it, whether the device can be found in existing law or must be supplied by legislation. Moreover, when we thus take action against the wealth which works iniquity, we are acting in the interest of every man of property who acts decently and fairly by his fellows….

There is a world-wide financial disturbance…. Most of it I believe to be due to matters not peculiar to the United States, and most of the remainder to matters wholly unconnected with any governmental action; but it may well be that the determination of the Government (in which, gentlemen, it will not waver), to punish certain malefactors of great wealth, has been responsible for something of the trouble; at least to the extent of having caused these men to combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the Government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing.

That they have misled many good people into believing that there should be such reversal of policy is possible. If so I am sorry; but it will not alter my attitude. Once for all let me say that so far as I am concerned, and for the eighteen months of my Presidency that remain, there will be no change in the policy we have steadily pursued, no let up in the effort to secure the honest observance of the law ; for I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents or a few ruthless and domineering men, whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable, because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.

I wish there to be no mistake on this point…. Our purpose is to act with the minimum of harshness compatible with attaining our ends. In the man of great wealth who has earned his wealth honestly and uses it wisely we recognize a good citizen of the best type, worthy of all praise and respect. Business can only be done under modern conditions through corporations, and our purpose is heartily to favor the corporations that do well…