Gentlemen of the Congress:
In fulfilling at this time the duty laid upon me by the Constitution of communicating
to you from time to time information of the state of the Union and recommending
to your consideration such legislative measures as may be judged necessary and
expedient, I shall continue the practice, which I hope has been acceptable to
you, of leaving to the reports of the several heads of the executive departments
the elaboration of the detailed needs of the public service and confine myself
to those matters of more general public policy with which it seems necessary
and feasible to deal at the present session of the Congress.
I realize the limitations of time under which you will necessarily act at
this session and shall make my suggestions as few as possible; but there were
some things left undone at the last session which there will now be time to
complete and which it seems necessary in the interest of the public to do at
In the first place, it seems to me imperatively necessary that the earliest
possible consideration and action should be accorded the remaining measures
of the program of settlement and regulation which I had occasion to recommend
to you at the close of your last session in view of the public dangers disclosed
by the unaccommodated difficulties which then existed, and which still unhappily
continue to exist, between the railroads of the country and their locomotive
engineers, conductors and trainmen.
I then recommended:
First, immediate provision for the enlargement and administrative reorganization
of the Interstate Commerce Commission along the lines embodied in the bill recently
passed by the House of Representatives and now awaiting action by the Senate;
in order that the Commission may be enabled to deal with the many great and
various duties now devolving upon it with a promptness and thoroughness which
are, with its present constitution and means of action, practically impossible.
Second, the establishment of an eight-hour day as the legal basis alike of
work and wages in the employment of all railway employes who are actually engaged
in the work of operating trains in interstate transportation.
Third, the authorization of the appointment by the President of a small body
of men to observe actual results in experience of the adoption of the eight-hour
day in railway transportation alike for the men and for the railroads.
Fourth, explicit approval by the Congress of the consideration by the Interstate
Commerce Commission of an increase of freight rates to meet such additional
expenditures by the railroads as may have been rendered necessary by the adoption
of the eight-hour day and which have not been offset by administrative readjustments
and economies, should the facts disclosed justify the increase.
Fifth, an amendment of the existing Federal statute which provides for the
mediation, conciliation and arbitration of such controversies as the present
by adding to it a provision that, in case the methods of accommodation now provided
for should fail, a full public investigation of the merits of every such dispute
shall be instituted and completed before a strike or lockout may lawfully be
And, sixth, the lodgment in the hands of the Executive of the power, in case
of military necessity, to take control of such portions and such rolling stock
of the railways of the country as may be required for military use and to operate
them for military purposes, with authority to draft into the military service
of the United States such train crews and administrative officials as the circumstances
require for their safe and efficient use.
The second and third of these recommendations the Congress immediately acted
on: it established the eight-hour day as the legal basis of work and wages in
train service and it authorized the appointment of a commission to observe and
report upon the practical results, deeming these the measures most immediately
needed; but it postponed action upon the other suggestions until an opportunity
should be offered for a more deliberate consideration of them.
The fourth recommendation I do not deem it necessary to renew. The power of
the Interstate Commerce Commission to grant an increase of rates on the ground
referred to is indisputably clear and a recommendation by the Congress with
regard to such a matter might seem to draw in question the scope of the commission's
authority or its inclination to do justice when there is no reason to doubt
The other suggestions-the increase in the Interstate Commerce Commission's
membership and in its facilities for performing its manifold duties; the provision
for full public investigation and assessment of industrial disputes, and the
grant to the Executive of the power to control and operate the railways when
necessary in time of war or other like public necessity-I now very earnestly
The necessity for such legislation is manifest and pressing. Those who have
entrusted us with the responsibility and duty of serving and safeguarding them
in such matters would find it hard, I believe, to excuse a failure to act upon
these grave matters or any unnecessary postponement of action upon them.
Not only does the Interstate Commerce Commission now find it practically impossible,
with its present membership and organization, to perform its great functions
promptly and thoroughly, but it is not unlikely that it may presently be found
advisable to add to its duties still others equally heavy and exacting. It must
first be perfected as an administrative instrument.
The country cannot and should not consent to remain any longer exposed to
profound industrial disturbances for lack of additional means of arbitration
and conciliation which the Congress can easily and promptly supply.
And all will agree that there must be no doubt as to the power of the Executive
to make immediate and uninterrupted use of the railroads for the concentration
of the military forces of the nation wherever they are needed and whenever they
This is a program of regulation, prevention and administrative efficiency
which argues its own case in the mere statement of it. With regard to one of
its items, the increase in the efficiency of the Interstate Commerce Commission,
the House of Representatives has already acted; its action needs only the concurrence
of the Senate.
I would hesitate to recommend, and I dare say the Congress would hesitate
to act upon the suggestion should I make it, that any man in any I occupation
should be obliged by law to continue in an employment which he desired to leave.
To pass a law which forbade or prevented the individual workman to leave his
work before receiving the approval of society in doing so would be to adopt
a new principle into our jurisprudence, which I take it for granted we are not
prepared to introduce.
But the proposal that the operation of the railways of the country shall not
be stopped or interrupted by the concerted action of organized bodies of men
until a public investigation shall have been instituted, which shall make the
whole question at issue plain for the judgment of the opinion of the nation,
is not to propose any such principle.
It is based upon the very different principle that the concerted action of
powerful bodies of men shall not be permitted to stop the industrial processes
of the nation, at any rate before the nation shall have had an opportunity to
acquaint itself with the merits of the case as between employe and employer,
time to form its opinion upon an impartial statement of the merits, and opportunity
to consider all practicable means of conciliation or arbitration.
I can see nothing in that proposition but the justifiable safeguarding by
society of the necessary processes of its very life. There is nothing arbitrary
or unjust in it unless it be arbitrarily and unjustly done. It can and should
be done with a full and scrupulous regard for the interests and liberties of
all concerned as well as for the permanent interests of society itself.
Three matters of capital importance await the action of the Senate which have
already been acted upon by the House of Representatives; the bill which seeks
to extend greater freedom of combination to those engaged in promoting the foreign
commerce of the country than is now thought by some to be legal under the terms
of the laws against monopoly; the bill amending the present organic law of Puerto
Rico; and the bill proposing a more thorough and systematic regulation of the
expenditure of money in elections, commonly called the Corrupt Practices Act.
I need not labor my advice that these measures be enacted into law. Their
urgency lies in the manifest circumstances which render their adoption at this
time not only opportune but necessary. Even delay would seriously jeopard the
interests of the country and of the Government.
Immediate passage of the bill to regulate the expenditure of money in elections
may seem to be less necessary than the immediate enactment of the other measures
to which I refer, because at least two years will elapse before another election
in which Federal offices are to be filled; but it would greatly relieve the
public mind if this important matter were dealt with while the circumstances
and the dangers to the public morals of the present method of obtaining and
spending campaign funds stand clear under recent observation, and the methods
of expenditure can be frankly studied in the light of present experience; and
a delay would have the further very serious disadvantage of postponing action
until another election was at hand and some special object connected with it
might be thought to be in the mind of those who urged it. Action can be taken
now with facts for guidance and without suspicion of partisan purpose.
I shall not argue at length the desirability of giving a freer hand in the
matter of combined and concerted effort to those who shall undertake the essential
enterprise of building up our export trade. That enterprise will presently,
will immediately assume, has indeed already assumed a magnitude unprecedented
in our experience. We have not the necessary instrumentalities for its prosecution;
it is deemed to be doubtful whether they could be created upon an adequate scale
under our present laws.
We should clear away all legal obstacles and create a basis of undoubted law
for it which will give freedom without permitting unregulated license. The thing
must be done now, because the opportunity is here and may escape us if we hesitate
The argument for the proposed amendments of the organic law of Puerto Rico
is brief and conclusive. The present laws governing the island and regulating
the rights and privileges of its people are not just. We have created expectations
of extended privilege which we have not satisfied. There is uneasiness among
the people of the island and even a suspicious doubt with regard to our intentions
concerning them which the adoption of the pending measure would happily remove.
We do not doubt what we wish to do in any essential particular. We ought to
do it at once.
At the last session of the Congress a bill was passed by the Senate which
provides for the promotion of vocational and industrial education, which is
of vital importance to the whole country because it concerns a matter, too long
neglected, upon which the thorough industrial preparation of the country for
the critical years of economic development immediately ahead of us in very large
May I not urge its early and favorable consideration by the House of Representatives
and its early enactment into law? It contains plans which affect all interests
and all parts of the country, and I am sure that there is no legislation now
pending before the Congress whose passage the country awaits with more thoughtful
approval or greater impatience to see a great and admirable thing set in the
way of being done.
There are other matters already advanced to the stage of conference between
the two houses of which it is not necessary that I should speak. Some practicable
basis of agreement concerning them will no doubt be found an action taken upon
Inasmuch as this is, gentlemen, probably the last occasion I shall have to
address the Sixty-fourth Congress, I hope that you will permit me to say with
what genuine pleasure and satisfaction I have co-operated with you in the many
measures of constructive policy with which you have enriched the legislative
annals of the country. It has been a privilege to labor in such company. I take
the liberty of congratulating you upon the completion of a record of rare serviceableness