First Inaugural Address

Herbert Hoover

March 04, 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.

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.

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 structure.

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.

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 crime.

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.

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.

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 force.

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 progress.

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.

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.

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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