Readjustment, Warren Harding, Campaign Speech, 1920
My countrymen, there isn't anything the matter with the world's civilization except that
humanity is viewing it through a vision impaired in a cataclysmal war. Poise has been
disturbed, and nerves have been racked, and fever has rendered men irrational.
Sometimes there have been draught upon the dangerous cup of barbarity. Men have
wandered far from safe paths, but the human procession still marches in the right
direction. Here in the United States we feel the reflex, rather than the hurting wound
itself but we still think straight; and we mean to act straight; we mean to hold firmly
to all that was ours when war involved us and seek the higher attainments which are
the only compensations that so supreme a tragedy may give mankind.
America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not
revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not
the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence
in internationality but sustainment in triumphant nationality. It's one thing to battle
successfully against the world's domination by a military autocracy because the infinite
God never intended such a program; but it's quite another thing to revise human nature
and suspend the fundamental laws of life and all of life's requirements.
The world calls for peace. American demands peace, formal as well as actual, and means
to have it so we may set our own house in order. We challenge the proposal that an armed
autocrat should dominate the world, and we choose for ourselves the claim that the
representative democracy made us what we are. This republic has its ample task if we
put an end to false economics which lure humanity to utter chaos. Ours will be the
commanding example of world leadership today. If we can prove a representative popular
government under which the citizenship speaks what it may do for the government
and country rather than what the country may do for individuals, we shall do more to
make democracy safe for the world than all armed conflict ever recorded.
The world needs to be reminded that all human ills are not curable by legislation, and
that quantity of statutory enactments and excess of government offer no substitute
for quality of citizenship. The problems of maintained civilization are not to be solved
by a transfer of responsibility from citizenship to government and no eminent page in
history was ever drafted to the standards of mediocrity. Nor, no government worthy
of the name which is directed by influence on the one hand or moved by intimidation
on the other. My best judgement of America's need is to steady down, to get squarely
on our feet, to make sure of the right path. Let's get out of the fevered delirium of war
with the hallucination that all the money in the world is to be made in the madness
of war and the wildness of its aftermath. Let us stop to consider that tranquility at home
is more precious than peace abroad and that both our good fortune and our eminence
are dependent on the normal forward stride of all the American people. We want to go
on, secure and unafraid, holding fast to the American inheritance, and confident of the
supreme American fulfillment.
Harding, Warren G. "Readjustment." Nation's Forum 21. Boston. 24 May 1920. Americanrhetoric.com. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.
In lines 24-25, "The speaker suggests that Americans can do "more to make democracy safe for the world than all armed conflict ever recorded" if they