Theodore Roosevelt.

Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Section 2 (of 2) of Supplemental Volume: Theodore Roosevelt, Supplement online

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farming and stock-growing interests. The products of the farm have taken
an unprecedented place in our export trade during the year that has just

Public opinion throughout the United States has moved steadily toward a
just appreciation of the value of forests, whether planted or of natural
growth. The great part played by them in the creation and maintenance of
the national wealth is now more fully realized than ever before.

Wise forest protection does not mean the withdrawal of forest resources,
whether of wood, water, or grass, from contributing their full share to
the welfare of the people, but, on the contrary, gives the assurance of
larger and more certain supplies. The fundamental idea of forestry is
the perpetuation of forests by use. Forest protection is not an end
of itself; it is a means to increase and sustain the resources of our
country and the industries which depend upon them. The preservation of
our forests is an imperative business necessity. We have come to see
clearly that whatever destroys the forest, except to make way for
agriculture, threatens our well being.

The practical usefulness of the national forest reserves to the mining,
grazing, irrigation, and other interests of the regions in which the
reserves lie has led to a widespread demand by the people of the West
for their protection and extension. The forest reserves will inevitably
be of still greater use in the future than in the past. Additions should
be made to them whenever practicable, and their usefulness should be
increased by a thoroughly business-like management.

At present the protection of the forest reserves rests with the General
Land Office, the mapping and description of their timber with the
United States Geological Survey, and the preparation of plans for their
conservative use with the Bureau of Forestry, which is also charged with
the general advancement of practical forestry in the United States.
These various functions should be united in the Bureau of Forestry,
to which they properly belong. The present diffusion of responsibility
is bad from every standpoint. It prevents that effective co-operation
between the Government and the men who utilize the resources of the
reserves, without which the interests of both must suffer. The
scientific bureaus generally should be put under the Department of
Agriculture. The President should have by law the power of transferring
lands for use as forest reserves to the Department of Agriculture. He
already has such power in the case of lands needed by the Departments
of War and the Navy.

The wise administration of the forest reserves will be not less helpful
to the interests which depend on water than to those which depend on
wood and grass. The water supply itself depends upon the forest. In
the arid region it is water, not land, which measures production. The
western half of the United States would sustain a population greater
than that of our whole country to-day if the waters that now run to
waste were saved and used for irrigation. The forest and water problems
are perhaps the most vital internal questions of the United States.

Certain of the forest reserves should also be made preserves for the
wild forest creatures. All of the reserves should be better protected
from fires. Many of them need special protection because of the great
injury done by live stock, above all by sheep. The increase in deer,
elk, and other animals in the Yellowstone Park shows what may be
expected when other mountain forests are properly protected by law and
properly guarded. Some of these areas have been so denuded of surface
vegetation by overgrazing that the ground breeding birds, including
grouse and quail, and many mammals, including deer, have been
exterminated or driven away. At the same time the water-storing capacity
of the surface has been decreased or destroyed, thus promoting floods in
times of rain and diminishing the flow of streams between rains.

In cases where natural conditions have been restored for a few
years, vegetation has again carpeted the ground, birds and deer are
coming back, and hundreds of persons, especially from the immediate
neighborhood, come each summer to enjoy the privilege of camping.
Some at least of the forest reserves should afford perpetual protection
to the native fauna and flora, safe havens of refuge to our rapidly
diminishing wild animals of the larger kinds, and free camping grounds
for the ever-increasing numbers of men and women who have learned
to find rest, health, and recreation in the splendid forests and
flower-clad meadows of our mountains. The forest reserves should be set
apart forever for the use and benefit of our people as a whole and not
sacrificed to the shortsighted greed of a few.

The forests are natural reservoirs. By restraining the streams in flood
and replenishing them in drought they make possible the use of waters
otherwise wasted. They prevent the soil from washing, and so protect the
storage reservoirs from filling up with silt. Forest conservation is
therefore an essential condition of water conservation.

The forests alone cannot, however, fully regulate and conserve the
waters of the arid region. Great storage works are necessary to equalize
the flow of streams and to save the flood waters. Their construction
has been conclusively shown to be an undertaking too vast for private
effort. Nor can it be best accomplished by the individual States acting
alone. Far-reaching interstate problems are involved; and the resources
of single States would often be inadequate. It is properly a national
function, at least in some of its features. It is as right for the
National Government to make the streams and rivers of the arid region
useful by engineering works for water storage as to make useful the
rivers and harbors of the humid region by engineering works of another
kind. The storing of the floods in reservoirs at the headwaters of our
rivers is but an enlargement of our present policy of river control,
under which levees are built on the lower reaches of the same streams.

The Government should construct and maintain these reservoirs as it
does other public works. Where their purpose is to regulate the flow of
streams, the water should be turned freely into the channels in the dry
season to take the same course under the same laws as the natural flow.

The reclamation of the unsettled arid public lands presents a different
problem. Here it is not enough to regulate the flow of streams. The
object of the Government is to dispose of the land to settlers who will
build homes upon it. To accomplish this object water must be brought
within their reach.

The pioneer settlers on the arid public domain chose their homes along
streams from which they could themselves divert the water to reclaim
their holdings. Such opportunities are practically gone. There remain,
however, vast areas of public land which can be made available for
homestead settlement, but only by reservoirs and main-line canals
impracticable for private enterprise. These irrigation works should be
built by the National Government. The lands reclaimed by them should
be reserved by the Government for actual settlers, and the cost of
construction should so far as possible be repaid by the land reclaimed.
The distribution of the water, the division of the streams among
irrigators, should be left to the settlers themselves in conformity
with State laws and without interference with those laws or with
vested rights. The policy of the National Government should be to aid
irrigation in the several States and Territories in such manner as will
enable the people in the local communities to help themselves, and as
will stimulate needed reforms in the State laws and regulations
governing irrigation.

The reclamation and settlement of the arid lands will enrich every
portion of our country, just as the settlement of the Ohio and
Mississippi valleys brought prosperity to the Atlantic States. The
increased demand for manufactured articles will stimulate industrial
production, while wider home markets and the trade of Asia will consume
the larger food supplies and effectually prevent Western competition
with Eastern agriculture. Indeed, the products of irrigation will be
consumed chiefly in upbuilding local centers of mining and other
industries, which would otherwise not come into existence at all.
Our people as a whole will profit, for successful home-making is but
another name for the upbuilding of the nation.

The necessary foundation has already been laid for the inauguration
of the policy just described. It would be unwise to begin by doing too
much, for a great deal will doubtless be learned, both as to what can
and what cannot be safely attempted, by the early efforts, which must
of necessity be partly experimental in character. At the very beginning
the Government should make clear, beyond shadow of doubt, its intention
to pursue this policy on lines of the broadest public interest. No
reservoir or canal should ever be built to satisfy selfish personal
or local interests; but only in accordance with the advice of trained
experts, after long investigation has shown the locality where all the
conditions combine to make the work most needed and fraught with the
greatest usefulness to the community as a whole. There should be no
extravagance, and the believers in the need of irrigation will most
benefit their cause by seeing to it that it is free from the least
taint of excessive or reckless expenditure of the public moneys.

Whatever the nation does for the extension of irrigation should
harmonize with, and tend to improve, the condition of those now living
on irrigated land. We are not at the starting point of this development.
Over two hundred millions of private capital has already been expended
in the construction of irrigation works, and many million acres of arid
land reclaimed. A high degree of enterprise and ability has been shown
in the work itself; but as much cannot be said in reference to the laws
relating thereto. The security and value of the homes created depend
largely on the stability of titles to water; but the majority of these
rest on the uncertain foundation of court decisions rendered in ordinary
suits at law. With a few creditable exceptions, the arid States have
failed to provide for the certain and just division of streams in times
of scarcity. Lax and uncertain laws have made it possible to establish
rights to water in excess of actual uses or necessities, and many
streams have already passed into private ownership, or a control
equivalent to ownership.

Whoever controls a stream practically controls the land it renders
productive, and the doctrine of private ownership of water apart from
land cannot prevail without causing enduring wrong. The recognition of
such ownership, which has been permitted to grow up in the arid regions,
should give way to a more enlightened and larger recognition of the
rights of the public in the control and disposal of the public water
supplies. Laws founded upon conditions obtaining in humid regions, where
water is too abundant to justify hoarding it, have no proper application
in a dry country.

In the arid States the only right to water which should be recognized
is that of use. In irrigation this right should attach to the land
reclaimed and be inseparable therefrom. Granting perpetual water rights
to others than users, without compensation to the public, is open to all
the objections which apply to giving away perpetual franchises to the
public utilities of cities. A few of the Western States have already
recognized this, and have incorporated in their constitutions the
doctrine of perpetual State ownership of water.

The benefits which have followed the unaided development of the past
justify the nation's aid and co-operation in the more difficult and
important work yet to be accomplished. Laws so vitally affecting homes
as those which control the water supply will only be effective when they
have the sanction of the irrigators; reforms can only be final and
satisfactory when they come through the enlightenment of the people most
concerned. The larger development which national aid insures should,
however, awaken in every arid State the determination to make its
irrigation system equal in justice and effectiveness that of any country
in the civilized world. Nothing could be more unwise than for isolated
communities to continue to learn everything experimentally, instead of
profiting by what is already known elsewhere. We are dealing with a new
and momentous question, in the pregnant years while institutions are
forming, and what we do will affect not only the present but future

Our aim should be not simply to reclaim the largest area of land and
provide homes for the largest number of people, but to create for this
new industry the best possible social and industrial conditions; and
this requires that we not only understand the existing situation, but
avail ourselves of the best experience of the time in the solution of
its problems. A careful study should be made, both by the Nation and
the States, of the irrigation laws and conditions here and abroad.
Ultimately it will probably be necessary for the Nation to co-operate
with the several arid States in proportion as these States by their
legislation and administration show themselves fit to receive it.

In Hawaii our aim must be to develop the Territory on the traditional
American lines. We do not wish a region of large estates tilled by cheap
labor; we wish a healthy American community of men who themselves till
the farms they own. All our legislation for the islands should be shaped
with this end in view; the well-being of the average home-maker must
afford the true test of the healthy development of the islands. The land
policy should as nearly as possible be modeled on our homestead system.

It is a pleasure to say that it is hardly more necessary to report as
to Puerto Rico than as to any State or Territory within our continental
limits. The island is thriving as never before, and it is being
administered efficiently and honestly. Its people are now enjoying
liberty and order under the protection of the United States, and upon
this fact we congratulate them and ourselves. Their material welfare
must be as carefully and jealously considered as the welfare of any
other portion of our country. We have given them the great gift of free
access for their products to the markets of the United States. I ask
the attention of the Congress to the need of legislation concerning the
public lands of Puerto Rico.

In Cuba such progress has been made toward putting the independent
government of the island upon a firm footing that before the present
session of the Congress closes this will be an accomplished fact. Cuba
will then start as her own mistress; and to the beautiful Queen of the
Antilles, as she unfolds this new page of her destiny, we extend our
heartiest greetings and good wishes. Elsewhere I have discussed the
question of reciprocity. In the case of Cuba, however, there are weighty
reasons of morality and of national interest why the policy should be
held to have a peculiar application, and I most earnestly ask your
attention to the wisdom, indeed to the vital need, of providing for a
substantial reduction in the tariff duties on Cuban imports into the
United States. Cuba has in her constitution affirmed what we desired,
that she should stand, in international matters, in closer and more
friendly relations with us than with any other power; and we are bound
by every consideration of honor and expediency to pass commercial
measures in the interest of her material well-being.

In the Philippines our problem is larger. They are very rich tropical
islands, inhabited by many varying tribes, representing widely different
stages of progress toward civilization. Our earnest effort is to help
these people upward along the stony and difficult path that leads to
self-government. We hope to make our administration of the islands
honorable to our Nation by making it of the highest benefit to the
Filipinos themselves; and as an earnest of what we intend to do, we
point to what we have done. Already a greater measure of material
prosperity and of governmental honesty and efficiency has been attained
in the Philippines than ever before in their history.

It is no light task for a nation to achieve the temperamental qualities
without which the institutions of free government are but an empty
mockery. Our people are now successfully governing themselves, because
for more than a thousand years they have been slowly fitting themselves,
sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, toward this end. What
has taken us thirty generations to achieve, we cannot expect to see
another race accomplish out of hand, especially when large portions
of that race start very far behind the point which our ancestors had
reached even thirty generations ago. In dealing with the Philippine
people we must show both patience and strength, forbearance and
steadfast resolution. Our aim is high. We do not desire to do for the
islanders merely what has elsewhere been done for tropic peoples by even
the best foreign governments. We hope to do for them what has never
before been done for any people of the tropics - to make them fit for
self-government after the fashion of the really free nations.

History may safely be challenged to show a single instance in which a
masterful race such as ours, having been forced by the exigencies of war
to take possession of an alien land, has behaved to its inhabitants with
the disinterested zeal for their progress that our people have shown in
the Philippines. To leave the islands at this time would mean that they
would fall into a welter of murderous anarchy. Such desertion of duty on
our part would be a crime against humanity. The character of Governor
Taft and of his associates and subordinates is a proof, if such be
needed, of the sincerity of our effort to give the islanders a
constantly increasing measure of self-government, exactly as fast as
they show themselves fit to exercise it. Since the civil government was
established not an appointment has been made in the islands with any
reference to considerations of political influence, or to aught else
save the fitness of the man and the needs of the service.

In our anxiety for the welfare and progress of the Philippines, it may
be that here and there we have gone too rapidly in giving them local
self-government. It is on this side that our error, if any, has been
committed. No competent observer, sincerely desirous of finding out the
facts and influenced only by a desire for the welfare of the natives,
can assert that we have not gone far enough. We have gone to the very
verge of safety in hastening the process. To have taken a single step
farther or faster in advance would have been folly and weakness, and
might well have been crime. We are extremely anxious that the natives
shall show the power of governing themselves. We are anxious, first for
their sakes, and next, because it relieves us of a great burden. There
need not be the slightest fear of our not continuing to give them all
the liberty for which they are fit.

The only fear is lest in our overanxiety we give them a degree of
independence for which they are unfit, thereby inviting reaction and
disaster. As fast as there is any reasonable hope that in a given
district the people can govern themselves, self-government has
been given in that district. There is not a locality fitted for
self-government which has not received it. But it may well be that in
certain cases it will have to be withdrawn because the inhabitants show
themselves unfit to exercise it; such instances have already occurred.
In other words, there is not the slightest chance of our failing to show
a sufficiently humanitarian spirit. The danger comes in the opposite

There are still troubles ahead in the islands. The insurrection has
become an affair of local banditti and marauders, who deserve no higher
regard than the brigands of portions of the Old World. Encouragement,
direct or indirect, to these insurrectors stands on the same footing as
encouragement to hostile Indians in the days when we still had Indian
wars. Exactly as our aim is to give to the Indian who remains peaceful
the fullest and amplest consideration, but to have it understood that
we will show no weakness if he goes on the warpath, so we must make it
evident, unless we are false to our own traditions and to the demands of
civilization and humanity, that while we will do everything in our power
for the Filipino who is peaceful, we will take the sternest measures
with the Filipino who follows the path of the insurrecto and the

The heartiest praise is due to large numbers of the natives of the
islands for their steadfast loyalty. The Macabebes have been conspicuous
for their courage and devotion to the flag. I recommend that the
Secretary of War be empowered to take some systematic action in the way
of aiding those of these men who are crippled in the service and the
families of those who are killed.

The time has come when there should be additional legislation for
the Philippines. Nothing better can be done for the islands than to
introduce industrial enterprises. Nothing would benefit them so much as
throwing them open to industrial development. The connection between
idleness and mischief is proverbial, and the opportunity to do
remunerative work is one of the surest preventatives of war. Of course
no business man will go into the Philippines unless it is to his
interest to do so; and it is immensely to the interest of the islands
that he should go in. It is therefore necessary that the Congress should
pass laws by which the resources of the islands can be developed; so
that franchises (for limited terms of years) can be granted to companies
doing business in them, and every encouragement be given to the incoming
of business men of every kind.

Not to permit this is to do a wrong to the Philippines. The franchises
must be granted and the business permitted only under regulations which
will guarantee the islands against any kind of improper exploitation.
But the vast natural wealth of the islands must be developed, and the
capital willing to develop it must be given the opportunity. The field
must be thrown open to individual enterprise, which has been the real
factor in the development of every region over which our flag has flown.
It is urgently necessary to enact suitable laws dealing with general
transportation, mining, banking, currency, homesteads, and the use and
ownership of the lands and timber. These laws will give free play to
industrial enterprise; and the commercial development which will surely
follow will accord to the people of the islands the best proofs of the
sincerity of our desire to aid them.

I call your attention most earnestly to the crying need of a cable to
Hawaii and the Philippines, to be continued from the Philippines to
points in Asia. We should not defer a day longer than necessary the
construction of such a cable. It is demanded not merely for commercial
but for political and military considerations.

Either the Congress should immediately provide for the construction of
a Government cable, or else an arrangement should be made by which like
advantages to those accruing from a Government cable may be secured to
the Government by contract with a private cable company.

No single great material work which remains to be undertaken on this
continent is of such consequence to the American people as the building
of a canal across the Isthmus connecting North and South America. Its
importance to the Nation is by no means limited merely to its material
effects upon our business prosperity; and yet with view to these effects
alone it would be to the last degree important for us immediately to
begin it. While its beneficial effects would perhaps be most marked upon
the Pacific Coast and the Gulf and South Atlantic States, it would also
greatly benefit other sections. It is emphatically a work which it is
for the interest of the entire country to begin and complete as soon as
possible; it is one of those great works which only a great nation can
undertake with prospects of success, and which when done are not only
permanent assets in the nation's material interests, but standing
monuments to its constructive ability.

I am glad to be able to announce to you that our negotiations on this

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Online LibraryTheodore RooseveltCompilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Section 2 (of 2) of Supplemental Volume: Theodore Roosevelt, Supplement → online text (page 3 of 13)