Herbert Hoover or Franklin Roosevelt will be elected our next President on November 8th. There is no other possibility. I hear men and women say that they do not approve of Hoover or Roosevelt nor their respective platforms; therefore, in protest, they propose to vote for a minor party candidate. They think they think. But I call such a conclusion a clear evasion of logic. There is nothing to be gained by throwing votes away. On the other hand, whoever is elected, will be strengthened and encouraged by every additional vote he receives.
Come, fellow citizens, look these two men in the face and choose. One will be elected with you or without you. Stop dodging.
We are now in the most critical condition this nation has ever experienced. Yet, there is a long way to go before we shall fall into as low a state as most nations in Europe have already endured. I went through Europe, including Austria, Germany, and France, four years after the war. The money in these countries was newly printed paper. Postage stamps served as change. A few American dollars from a letter of credit were exchanged at a bank for a huge bundle of this paper money nearly valueless. For once, I was not only a millionnaire, but a multi-millionnaire. I paid bills for modest accommodations, and which in dollars were not too high, with actual millions of paper notes. Streets were silent and deserted, stores were closed, and old friends, who had been plump and rosy when last I saw them, were now haggard, pale and weak with undernourishment. Millions were out of employment and proud, one-time important generals sold cigarettes upon the street for a living. It is possible for us to sink to that level. We need to mobilize our patriotism and pull together in a great campaign to prevent such a calamity.
Al Smith said in a speech recently that President Hoover came into office in 1928 and found the country prosperous, but he could not hold the prosperity he found and the situation, under his management, has been growing worse and worse ever since. This is a rumor that has travelled fast and far. The Great War, and nothing else, caused the world-around depression. Every great war has been followed by a financial crisis. The greater the war, the more serious and disturbing the consequent depression. There have been small depressions with no war to precede them, but no great war has ever failed to include in its aftermath a period of economic distress. How can a man read history and not know that fact?
You ask: "If the war caused the depression, why did it not affect us before 1928?" That is a fair question.
When the war broke out in 1914, we were living in a highly prosperous period and were not involved in the war. Few persons believed we would ever be drawn into it. It will be remembered that Mr. Wilson was re-elected in 1916 upon the slogan "He kept us out of war." Yet, in April 1917, we entered the war. Between August 1914 and April 1917, our country was in an intoxicating state of affluence. Four days after the United States entered the war, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, introduced into Congress the first Liberty Bond Act with these words: "This bill contains the largest authorization of bond issues ever contained in any bill presented to any legislative body in the history of the world." The first authorization was for five billions of dollars. Thus, prosperous American citizens loaned the government, through the purchase of these bonds, billions of dollars.
The news flashed around the world and agents from every warring country appeared forthwith to order and to buy provisions for every conceivable requirement of an army in camp, in battle, or on the march; rifles, guns, cannon, airplanes, automobiles, clothing, shoes, buttons, tents, cots, blankets, hospital equipment, horses, wagons, and all kinds of foodstuffs.
These countries, at the same time, borrowed money of our government and many billions of dollars worth of purchases were paid for by our own government with the money it had loaned the purchaser. These billions found their way into the financial streams of our nation's business and made us all richer still.
No nation in all the world was ever so rich as were we at that time. Millionnaires sprung up in amazing numbers. The man worth one million wanted two millions, and went to Wall Street to find the way to double his fortune. The man worth two millions wanted five and speculation was rampant. Men and women could not wait to buy stocks and pay for them. They purchased on the margin and thus destroyed the trail by means of which they might have saved themselves from ruin. The banks were filled with money and they loaned hither and yon. Dividends were high and prompt. It was not until afterwards that the world knew how wild and hysterical had been this speculation.
Then came the crash and the beginning of the depression which has now turned ten millions of our citizens out of work. Europe had been through it before. There was no power that could have saved us from our share in the world's penalty for the Great War and its wastefully spent 187 BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. President Hoover was no more responsible for it than a hero in an Arabian Night's tale. Nor was Mr. Coolidge to be credited for having kept us out of the depression. The time had not yet come for the bubble to burst. That it burst in his administration, was President Hoover's misfortune.
Our nation not only loaned money; we spent it, lavishly and wastefully.
During the first three months of the war, our expenses were two millions of dollars a day. During the next year, they averaged twenty-two millions of dollars a day. For the final ten months of the period, the daily average was over forty-four millions or $1,833,333 per hour.
I note that a depression is usually known by the date on which it began, but no one ever ventures to say when a depression will end. I remember, in 1872, I went to my first political meeting. We had had terrible times during the depression after the Civil War. The great man who made the chief speech announced that now the hard times were over. I was not old enough to doubt, so whenever I heard anyone say anything about hard times thereafter, I used to dispute the statement, because the man had told us the hard times had come to an end. So nearly as I can remember, the hard times after the Civil War lasted forty years. Indeed, I do not remember many easy times in my seventy years. It will require clearer understanding and more unified purpose if we cut this one shorter.
This is no time to make over human society, as Norman Thomas would have us do; no time to protest against President Hoover because some favorite plan is not included in his platform. It is no time to stop the machinery in order to revise the tariff. A tariff law rarely consumes less than a year of time. Nor, is it a good time to change horses while crossing the stream. After a presidential election, if there is a change, the Congress stands still until March; then there must be an organization of the new Congress, measures are introduced and debated, and a year is lost before anything of importance is achieved. Why waste that year? Why let the suffering stand still while a new government debates a possible remedy? " I do not have to engage in promises. I may point to performances" says President Hoover.
There are two issues in this campaign which rise above all others, put together. The first is getting jobs for the unemployed and money to restore business. The other is to build up peace machinery, so that we shall never again have such a war and, consequently, never again have such a depression. To my mind, it is as important to prevent the next depression as to stop this one.
I advise men and women to vote for President Hoover for these reasons and a more important one still. At the Disarmament Conference in Geneva an American proposal of a one-third cut of all kinds of armament for all nations is pending. It would save the taxpayers of all nations billions and billions of dollars. They will need those dollars before the appeals for help come to an end. Mr. Hoover proposed it and he, alone, can push it forward to victory. His strong, logical mind will guide and his strong arm steady the Ship of State if we but give him an opportunity to finish his job.
Catt, C. C. (1932). Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Speech and Article File, 1892-1946; Speeches; Untitled; 1928 to 1944. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mss154040425.
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.