On Another Decoration Day

Decoration Day is our best solemn national holiday which ought to be observed with impressive ceremony. No lapse or diminution should be permitted in the yearly devotion which the people pay to the memory of those who have served in our armed forces. 

As the ranks of the Grand Army of the Republic who established Memorial Day fade away, there is danger that the observance will be obscured in other more recent events. The principle involved must not be obscured. The day is sacred to the memory of all the dead who wore our uniform, from the earliest Indian wars to the present hour. In honoring their memory we are not glorifying war. We are a peaceful nation; our efforts led in securing the world treaty renouncing war as a national policy. But we honor their memory that we may glorify citizenship. 

They were the antithesis of selfish individualism, merging freedom and even chance of life in the common welfare of country. In danger, choosing the course that really counts, they preserved their rights by discharging their duties. No nation can live which cannot command that kind of service. No people worthy of such service will fail to do it in reverence. 

— Calvin Coolidge, May 29, 1931

On Whose Duty It Is

Gov CC 6-14-1919

War-time Governor Calvin Coolidge, June 1919

Naturally the question arises, what shall we do to defend our birthright?

In the first place everybody must take a more active part in public affairs. It will not do for men to send, they must go. 

It is not enough to draw a check. Good government cannot be bought, it has to be given. 

Office has great opportunities for doing wrong, but equal chance for doing right. 

Unless good citizens hold office bad citizens will. 

People see the office-holder rather than the Government. Let the worth of the office-holder speak the worth of the government. 

The voice of the people speaks by the voice of the individual. 

Duty is not collective, it is personal. 

Let every inhabitant make known his determination to support law and order. That duty is supreme…

All these are the result of ordered liberty–the result of living under the law…

Those who are attempting to wrench the scepter of authority from the representatives of the people, to subvert the jurisdiction of her laws, are the enemies not only of progress, but of all present achievement, not only of what we hope for, but of what we have. 

This is the cause of all the people, especially of the weak and defenseless. Their only refuge is the protection of the law. The people have come to understand this. 

They are taking the deciding of this election into their own hands regardless of party. If the people win who can lose? 

They are awake to the words of Daniel Webster, ‘nothing will ruin the country if the people themselves will undertake its safety; nothing can save it if they leave that safety in any hands but their own.’ 

— Calvin Coolidge, speech at Tremont Temple, Boston, November 1, 1919

On the Courts and Judging

Taft Court LOC

Taft Court, 1925

Courts are established, not to determine the popularity of a cause, but to adjudicate and enforce rights. 

No litigant should be required to submit his case to the hazard and expense of a political campaign. 

No judge should be required to seek or receive political rewards…

The electorate and judiciary cannot combine. 

A hearing means a hearing. 

When the trial of causes goes outside the court-room…constitutional government ends. 

If I appoint..a judge, can he see the issues of the case over the heads of the parties? 

I do not intend to appoint any man…to any court, who cannot do that.

It is well known that when the House of Representatives sits as a judicial body, to determine contested elections, it has a strong tendency to decide in a partisan way. It is to be remembered also that under recent political practice there is a strong tendency for legislatures to be very much influenced by the Executive. Whether we like this practice or not, there is no use denying that it exists. 

With a dominant Executive and a subservient legislature, the opportunity would be very inviting to aggrandizement and very dangerous to liberty. That way leads toward imperialism. 

Some people do not seem to understand fully the purpose of our constitutional restraints. They are not for protecting the majority, either in or out of the Congress. They can protect themselves with their votes. We have adopted a written constitution in order that the minority even down to the most insignificant individual, might have their rights protected. 

If the authority now vested in the Supreme Court were transferred to the Congress, any majority no matter what their motive could vote away any of these most precious rights. Majorities are notoriously irresponsible. Every minority body that may be weak in resources or unpopular in the public estimation, also nearly every race and religious belief, would find themselves practically without protection, if the authority of the Supreme Court should be broken down and its powers lodged with the Congress. 

The same reasoning that applies to the individual person applies to the individual state. A very broad twilight zone exists in which it is difficult to distinguish where state right ends and federal right begins. Deprived of the privilege of its day in court, each state would be compelled to submit to the exactions of the Congress or resort to resistance by force. 

On the other hand, the legislatures of states, and sometimes the people, through the initiative and referendum, may pass laws which are very injurious to the minority residents of that state, by attempting to take away the privilege which they hold under the Federal Constitution. Except for the courts, such a minority would have no remedy for wrong done to them…

A deliberate and determined effort is being made to break down the guarantees of our fundamental law. It has for its purpose the confiscation of property and the destruction of liberty…This is not the struggle of the rich and powerful. They will be able to survive. It is the struggle of the common run of the people. Unless we can maintain our institutions of liberty unimpaired they will see their savings swept away, their homes devastated, and their children perish from want and hunger. 

The time to stop those who would loosen and weaken the fabric of our government is before they begin…

Those who want to continue to enjoy the high estate of American citizenship will resist all attempts to encroach upon their liberties by encroachment upon the power of the courts. 

We must combat every attempt to break down or to make it easy, under the pretended guise of legal procedure, to throw open the way to reaction or revolution. 

— Calvin Coolidge