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Woodrow Wilson's Message to the American People
Sea Girt, N. J., Oct. 19, 1912.
To the Voters of America:
J I am glad to have an opportunity to state very
simply and directly why I am seeking to be elect
ed President of the United States. I feel very
deeply that this is not an ambition a man should
entertain for his own sake. He must seek to
serve a cause, and must know very clearly what
cause it is he is seeking to serve.
The cause I am enlisted in lies very plain
to my own view: The Government of the United
States, as now bound by the policies which have
become characteristic of Republican administra
tion in recent years, is not free to serve the
whole people impartially, and it ought to be set
free. It has been tied up, whether deliberately
or merely by unintentional development, with
particular interests, which have used their pow
er, both to control the government and to con
trol the industrial development of the country.
It must be freed from such entanglements and al
liances. Until it is freed, it cannot serve the
people as a whole. Until it is freed, it cannot
undertake any programme of social and economic
betterment, but must be checked and thwarted at
every turn by its patrons and masters.
In practically every speech that I make, I
put at the front of what I have to say the ques
tion of the tariff and the question of the trusts,
v but not because of any thought of party strategy,
because I believe the solution of these ques
tions to lie at the very heart of the bigger
question, whether the government shall be free
or not. The government is not free because it
has granted special favors to particular classes
by means of the tariff. The men to whom these
special favors have been granted have formed
great combinations by which to control enter
prise and determine the prices of commodities.
They could not have done this had it not been for
the tariff. No party, therefore, which does not
propose to take away these special favors and
prevent monopoly absolutely in the markets of the
country sees even so much as the most elementary
part of the method by which the government is
to be set free.
The control to which tariff legislation has
led, both in the field of politics and in the
field of business, is what has produced the most
odious feature of our present political situa
tion, namely, the absolute domination of power
ful bosses. Bosses cannot exist without busi
ness alliances. With them politics is hardly
distinguishable from business. Bosses maintain
their control because they are allied with men
who wish their assistance in order to get con
tracts, in order to obtain special legislative
advantages, in order to prevent reforms which
will interfere with monopoly or with their en
joyment of special exemptions. Merely as polit
ical leaders, not backed by money, not supported
*by securely intrenched special interests, bosses
would be entirely manageable and comparatively
powerless. By freeing the government, there
fore, we at the same time break the power of the
boss. He trades, he does not govern. He ar
ranges, he does not lead. He sets the stage for
what the people are to do; he does not act as
their agent or servant, but as their director.
For him the real business of politics is done
The same means that will set the government
free from the influences which now constantly
control it would set industry free. The enter
prise and initiative of all Americans would be
substituted for the enterprise and initiative
of a small group of them. Economic democracy
would take the place of monopoly and selfish
management. American industry would have a new
buoyancy of hope, a new energy, a new variety.
With the restoration of freedom would come the
restoration of opportunity.
Moreover, an administration would at last be
set up in Washington, and a legislative regime,
under which real programmes of social better
ment could be undertaken as they cannot now.
The government might be serviceable for many
things. It might assist in a hundred ways to
safeguard the lives and the health and promote
the comfort and the happiness of the people ; but
it can do these things only if its actions be
distinterested, only if they respond to public
opinion, only if those who lead government see
the country as a whole, feel a deep thrill of
intimate sympathy with every class and every in
terest in it, know how to hold an even hand and
listen to men of every sort and quality and
origin, in taking counsel what is to be done.
Interest must not fight against interest. There
must be a common understanding and a free ac
tion all together.
The reason that I feel justified in appeal
ing to the voters of this country to support the
Democratic party at this critical juncture in
its affairs is that the leaders of neither of
the other parties propose to attack the problem
of a free government at its heart. Neither pro
poses to make a fundamental change in the policy
of the government with regard to tariff duties.
It is with both of them in respect of the tariff
merely a question of more or less, merely a ques
tion of lopping off a little here and amending
a little there ; while with the Democrats it is
a question of principle. Their object is to cut
every special favor out, and cut it out just as
fast as it can be cut out without upsetting the
business processes of the country. Neither does
either of the other parties propose seriously to
disturb the supremacy of the trusts. Their only
remedy is to accept the trusts and regulate
them, notwithstanding the fact that most of the
trusts are so constructed as to insure high
prices, because they are not based upon effici
ency but upon monopoly. Their success lies in
control. The competition of more efficient com
petitors, not loaded down by the debts created
when the combinations were made, would embarrass
and conquer them. The Trusts want the protection
of the government, and are likely to get it if
either the Republican or the so-called ■ 'Progres
sive 1 * party prevails.
Surely this is a cause. Surely the questions
of the pending election, looked at from this
point of view, rise into a cause. They are not
merely the debates of a casual party contest.
They are the issues of life and death to a na
tion which must be free in order to be strong.
What will patriotic men do?