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Herbert Hoover
Inaugural Address, 1929
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Monday, March 4, 1929

My Countrymen:

This occasion is not alone the administration of the most sacred
oath which can be assumed by an American citizen. It is a dedication
and consecration under God to the highest office in service of our
people. I assume this trust in the humility of knowledge that only
through the guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge
its ever-increasing burdens.

It is in keeping with tradition throughout our history that I should
express simply and directly the opinions which I hold concerning
some of the matters of present importance.

Our Progress

If we survey the situation of our Nation both at home and abroad,
we find many satisfactions; we find some causes for concern. We
have emerged from the losses of the Great War and the
reconstruction following it with increased virility and strength. From
this strength we have contributed to the recovery and progress of
the world. What America has done has given renewed hope and
courage to all who have faith in government by the people. In the
large view, we have reached a higher degree of comfort and security
than ever existed before in the history of the world. Through
liberation from widespread poverty we have reached a higher degree
of individual freedom than ever before. The devotion to and concern
for our institutions are deep and sincere. We are steadily building a
new race? a new civilization great in its own attainments. The
influence and high purposes of our Nation are respected among the
peoples of the world. We aspire to distinction in the world, but to a
distinction based upon confidence in our sense of justice as well as
our accomplishments within our own borders and in our own lives.
For wise guidance in this great period of recovery the Nation is
deeply indebted to Calvin Coolidge.

But all this majestic advance should not obscure the constant
dangers from which self-government must be safeguarded. The
strong man must at all times be alert to the attack of insidious disease.

The Failure of Our System of Criminal Justice

The most malign of all these dangers today is disregard and
disobedience of law. Crime is increasing. Confidence in rigid and
speedy justice is decreasing. I am not prepared to believe that
this indicates any decay in the moral fiber of the American people.
I am not prepared to believe that it indicates an impotence of the
Federal Government to enforce its laws.

It is only in part due to the additional burdens imposed upon our
judicial system by the eighteenth amendment. The problem is much
wider than that. Many influences had increasingly complicated and
weakened our law enforcement organization long before the
adoption of the eighteenth amendment.

To reestablish the vigor and effectiveness of law enforcement
we must critically consider the entire Federal machinery of justice,
the redistribution of its functions, the simplification of its procedure,
the provision of additional special tribunals, the better selection of
juries, and the more effective organization of our agencies of
investigation and prosecution that justice may be sure and that
it may be swift. While the authority of the Federal Government
extends to but part of our vast system of national, State, and
local justice, yet the standards which the Federal Government
establishes have the most profound influence upon the whole

We are fortunate in the ability and integrity of our Federal
judges and attorneys. But the system which these officers are
called upon to administer is in many respects ill adapted to
present-day conditions. Its intricate and involved rules of procedure
have become the refuge of both big and little criminals. There is
a belief abroad that by invoking technicalities, subterfuge, and
delay, the ends of justice may be thwarted by those who can
pay the cost.

Reform, reorganization and strengthening of our whole judicial
and enforcement system, both in civil and criminal sides, have
been advocated for years by statesmen, judges, and bar
associations. First steps toward that end should not longer
be delayed. Rigid and expeditious justice is the first safeguard
of freedom, the basis of all ordered liberty, the vital force of
progress. It must not come to be in our Republic that it can be
defeated by the indifference of the citizen, by exploitation of the
delays and entanglements of the law, or by combinations of
criminals. Justice must not fail because the agencies of enforcement
are either delinquent or inefficiently organized. To consider these
evils, to find their remedy, is the most sore necessity of our times.
Enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment

Of the undoubted abuses which have grown up under the
eighteenth amendment, part are due to the causes I have
just mentioned; but part are due to the failure of some States
to accept their share of responsibility for concurrent enforcement
and to the failure of many State and local officials to accept the
obligation under their oath of office zealously to enforce the laws.
With the failures from these many causes has come a dangerous
expansion in the criminal elements who have found enlarged
opportunities in dealing in illegal liquor.

But a large responsibility rests directly upon our citizens. There
would be little traffic in illegal liquor if only criminals patronized it.
We must awake to the fact that this patronage from large numbers
of law-abiding citizens is supplying the rewards and stimulating

I have been selected by you to execute and enforce the laws of
the country. I propose to do so to the extent of my own abilities,
but the measure of success that the Government shall attain will
depend upon the moral support which you, as citizens, extend.
The duty of citizens to support the laws of the land is coequal
with the duty of their Government to enforce the laws which exist.
No greater national service can be given by men and women of
good will? who, I know, are not unmindful of the responsibilities
of citizenship? than that they should, by their example, assist in
stamping out crime and outlawry by refusing participation in and
condemning all transactions with illegal liquor. Our whole system
of self-government will crumble either if officials elect what laws
they will enforce or citizens elect what laws they will support. The
worst evil of disregard for some law is that it destroys respect for
all law. For our citizens to patronize the violation of a particular law
on the ground that they are opposed to it is destructive of the very
basis of all that protection of life, of homes and property which they
rightly claim under other laws. If citizens do not like a law, their duty
as honest men and women is to discourage its violation; their right
is openly to work for its repeal.

To those of criminal mind there can be no appeal but vigorous
enforcement of the law. Fortunately they are but a small percentage
of our people. Their activities must be stopped.

A National Investigation

I propose to appoint a national commission for a searching
investigation of the whole structure of our Federal system of
jurisprudence, to include the method of enforcement of the
eighteenth amendment and the causes of abuse under it. Its
purpose will be to make such recommendations for reorganization
of the administration of Federal laws and court procedure as may
be found desirable. In the meantime it is essential that a large part
of the enforcement activities be transferred from the Treasury
Department to the Department of Justice as a beginning of more
effective organization.

The Relation of Government to Business

The election has again confirmed the determination of the
American people that regulation of private enterprise and not
Government ownership or operation is the course rightly to be
pursued in our relation to business. In recent years we have
established a differentiation in the whole method of business
regulation between the industries which produce and distribute
commodities on the one hand and public utilities on the other.
In the former, our laws insist upon effective competition; in the
latter, because we substantially confer a monopoly by limiting
competition, we must regulate their services and rates. The rigid
enforcement of the laws applicable to both groups is the very
base of equal opportunity and freedom from domination for all
our people, and it is just as essential for the stability and prosperity
of business itself as for the protection of the public at large. Such
regulation should be extended by the Federal Government within
the limitations of the Constitution and only when the individual
States are without power to protect their citizens through their
own authority. On the other hand, we should be fearless when
the authority rests only in the Federal Government.

Cooperation by the Government

The larger purpose of our economic thought should be to establish
more firmly stability and security of business and employment and
thereby remove poverty still further from our borders. Our people
have in recent years developed a new-found capacity for cooperation
among themselves to effect high purposes in public welfare. It is an
advance toward the highest conception of self-government.
Self-government does not and should not imply the use of political
agencies alone. Progress is born of cooperation in the community?
not from governmental restraints. The Government should assist
and encourage these movements of collective self-help by itself
cooperating with them. Business has by cooperation made great
progress in the advancement of service, in stability, in regularity
of employment and in the correction of its own abuses. Such
progress, however, can continue only so long as business
manifests its respect for law.

There is an equally important field of cooperation by the Federal
Government with the multitude of agencies, State, municipal and
private, in the systematic development of those processes which
directly affect public health, recreation, education, and the home.
We have need further to perfect the means by which Government
can be adapted to human service.


Although education is primarily a responsibility of the States
and local communities, and rightly so, yet the Nation as a whole
is vitally concerned in its development everywhere to the highest
standards and to complete universality. Self-government can
succeed only through an instructed electorate. Our objective is
not simply to overcome illiteracy. The Nation has marched far
beyond that. The more complex the problems of the Nation
become, the greater is the need for more and more advanced
instruction. Moreover, as our numbers increase and as our life
expands with science and invention, we must discover more and
more leaders for every walk of life. We can not hope to succeed
in directing this increasingly complex civilization unless we can
draw all the talent of leadership from the whole people. One
civilization after another has been wrecked upon the attempt
to secure sufficient leadership from a single group or class. If
we would prevent the growth of class distinctions and would
constantly refresh our leadership with the ideals of our people,
we must draw constantly from the general mass. The full
opportunity for every boy and girl to rise through the selective
processes of education can alone secure to us this leadership.

Public Health

In public health the discoveries of science have opened a new
era. Many sections of our country and many groups of our citizens
suffer from diseases the eradication of which are mere matters
of administration and moderate expenditure. Public health service
should be as fully organized and as universally incorporated into
our governmental system as is public education. The returns are
a thousand fold in economic benefits, and infinitely more in
reduction of suffering and promotion of human happiness.

World Peace

The United States fully accepts the profound truth that our own
progress, prosperity, and peace are interlocked with the progress,
prosperity, and peace of all humanity. The whole world is at peace.
The dangers to a continuation of this peace to-day are largely the
fear and suspicion which still haunt the world. No suspicion or fear
can be rightly directed toward our country.

Those who have a true understanding of America know that we
have no desire for territorial expansion, for economic or other
domination of other peoples. Such purposes are repugnant to our
ideals of human freedom. Our form of government is ill adapted to
the responsibilities which inevitably follow permanent limitation of
the independence of other peoples. Superficial observers seem to
find no destiny for our abounding increase in population, in wealth
and power except that of imperialism. They fail to see that the
American people are engrossed in the building for themselves of
a new economic system, a new social system, a new political system
all of which are characterized by aspirations of freedom of opportunity
and thereby are the negation of imperialism. They fail to realize that
because of our abounding prosperity our youth are pressing more
and more into our institutions of learning; that our people are seeking
a larger vision through art, literature, science, and travel; that they
are moving toward stronger moral and spiritual life? that from these
things our sympathies are broadening beyond the bounds of our
Nation and race toward their true expression in a real brotherhood
of man. They fail to see that the idealism of America will lead it to no
narrow or selfish channel, but inspire it to do its full share as a nation
toward the advancement of civilization. It will do that not by mere
declaration but by taking a practical part in supporting all useful
international undertakings. We not only desire peace with the world,
but to see peace maintained throughout the world. We wish to
advance the reign of justice and reason toward the extinction of

The recent treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument
of national policy sets an advanced standard in our conception
of the relations of nations. Its acceptance should pave the way
to greater limitation of armament, the offer of which we sincerely
extend to the world. But its full realization also implies a greater
and greater perfection in the instrumentalities for pacific settlement
of controversies between nations. In the creation and use of these
instrumentalities we should support every sound method of conciliation,
arbitration, and judicial settlement. American statesmen were among
the first to propose and they have constantly urged upon the world,
the establishment of a tribunal for the settlement of controversies
of a justiciable character. The Permanent Court of International
Justice in its major purpose is thus peculiarly identified with American
ideals and with American statesmanship. No more potent
instrumentality for this purpose has ever been conceived and no
other is practicable of establishment. The reservations placed upon
our adherence should not be misinterpreted. The United States
seeks by these reservations no special privilege or advantage but
only to clarify our relation to advisory opinions and other matters
which are subsidiary to the major purpose of the court. The way
should, and I believe will, be found by which we may take our
proper place in a movement so fundamental to the progress of peace.

Our people have determined that we should make no political
engagements such as membership in the League of Nations, which
may commit us in advance as a nation to become involved in the
settlements of controversies between other countries. They adhere
to the belief that the independence of America from such obligations
increases its ability and availability for service in all fields of human

I have lately returned from a journey among our sister Republics
of the Western Hemisphere. I have received unbounded hospitality
and courtesy as their expression of friendliness to our country. We
are held by particular bonds of sympathy and common interest with
them. They are each of them building a racial character and a culture
which is an impressive contribution to human progress. We wish
only for the maintenance of their independence, the growth of their
stability, and their prosperity. While we have had wars in the Western
Hemisphere, yet on the whole the record is in encouraging contrast
with that of other parts of the world. Fortunately the New World is
largely free from the inheritances of fear and distrust which have so
troubled the Old World. We should keep it so.

It is impossible, my countrymen, to speak of peace without
profound emotion. In thousands of homes in America, in millions
of homes around the world, there are vacant chairs. It would be a
shameful confession of our unworthiness if it should develop that
we have abandoned the hope for which all these men died. Surely
civilization is old enough, surely mankind is mature enough so that
we ought in our own lifetime to find a way to permanent peace.
Abroad, to west and east, are nations whose sons mingled their
blood with the blood of our sons on the battlefields. Most of these
nations have contributed to our race, to our culture, our knowledge,
and our progress. From one of them we derive our very language
and from many of them much of the genius of our institutions.
Their desire for peace is as deep and sincere as our own.

Peace can be contributed to by respect for our ability in defense.
Peace can be promoted by the limitation of arms and by the
creation of the instrumentalities for peaceful settlement of
controversies. But it will become a reality only through self-restraint
and active effort in friendliness and helpfulness. I covet for this
administration a record of having further contributed to advance
the cause of peace.

Party Responsibilities

In our form of democracy the expression of the popular will
can be effected only through the instrumentality of political
parties. We maintain party government not to promote intolerant
partisanship but because opportunity must be given for expression
of the popular will, and organization provided for the execution of
its mandates and for accountability of government to the people.
It follows that the government both in the executive and the
legislative branches must carry out in good faith the platforms
upon which the party was entrusted with power. But the
government is that of the whole people; the party is the
instrument through which policies are determined and men
chosen to bring them into being. The animosities of elections
should have no place in our Government, for government must
concern itself alone with the common weal.

Special Session of the Congress

Action upon some of the proposals upon which the Republican
Party was returned to power, particularly further agricultural
relief and limited changes in the tariff, cannot in justice to our
farmers, our labor, and our manufacturers be postponed. I shall
therefore request a special session of Congress for the
consideration of these two questions. I shall deal with each
of them upon the assembly of the Congress.

Other Mandates from the Election

It appears to me that the more important further mandates
from the recent election were the maintenance of the integrity
of the Constitution; the vigorous enforcement of the laws; the
continuance of economy in public expenditure; the continued
regulation of business to prevent domination in the community;
the denial of ownership or operation of business by the
Government in competition with its citizens; the avoidance of
policies which would involve us in the controversies of foreign
nations; the more effective reorganization of the departments
of the Federal Government; the expansion of public works; and
the promotion of welfare activities affecting education and the

These were the more tangible determinations of the election,
but beyond them was the confidence and belief of the people
that we would not neglect the support of the embedded ideals
and aspirations of America. These ideals and aspirations are
the touchstones upon which the day-to-day administration and
legislative acts of government must be tested. More than this,
the Government must, so far as lies within its proper powers,
give leadership to the realization of these ideals and to the
fruition of these aspirations. No one can adequately reduce
these things of the spirit to phrases or to a catalogue of
definitions. We do know what the attainments of these ideals
should be: The preservation of self-government and its full
foundations in local government; the perfection of justice
whether in economic or in social fields; the maintenance of
ordered liberty; the denial of domination by any group or class;
the building up and preservation of equality of opportunity; the
stimulation of initiative and individuality; absolute integrity in
public affairs; the choice of officials for fitness to office; the
direction of economic progress toward prosperity for the further
lessening of poverty; the freedom of public opinion; the
sustaining of education and of the advancement of knowledge;
the growth of religious spirit and the tolerance of all faiths; the
strengthening of the home; the advancement of peace.

There is no short road to the realization of these aspirations.
Ours is a progressive people, but with a determination that
progress must be based upon the foundation of experience.
Ill-considered remedies for our faults bring only penalties after
them. But if we hold the faith of the men in our mighty past
who created these ideals, we shall leave them heightened
and strengthened for our children.


This is not the time and place for extended discussion. The
questions before our country are problems of progress to
higher standards; they are not the problems of degeneration.
They demand thought and they serve to quicken the conscience
and enlist our sense of responsibility for their settlement. And
that responsibility rests upon you, my countrymen, as much as
upon those of us who have been selected for office.

Ours is a land rich in resources; stimulating in its glorious
beauty; filled with millions of happy homes; blessed with
comfort and opportunity. In no nation are the institutions of
progress more advanced. In no nation are the fruits of
accomplishment more secure. In no nation is the government
more worthy of respect. No country is more loved by its people.
I have an abiding faith in their capacity, integrity and high
purpose. I have no fears for the future of our country. It is
bright with hope.

In the presence of my countrymen, mindful of the solemnity
of this occasion, knowing what the task means and the
responsibility which it involves, I beg your tolerance, your aid,
and your cooperation. I ask the help of Almighty God in this
service to my country to which you have called me.

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