White Column

The people have the right to make any kind of government it pleases and change the government it makes in any way that it pleases, and the implication is that it is nobody else’s business how they change it • The labor provisions are indeed a magnificent piece of legislation, according to the working people of our country the rational, constitutional and inherent rights of which they have too long been denied • Mexico’s fortunes are in her own hands. But we have at least proved that we will not take advantage of her in her distress and undertake to impose upon her an order and government of our own choosing • What we are striving for is a new international order based upon broad and universal principles of right and justice,—no mere peace of shreds and patches • It has been Princeton’s work, in all ordinary seasons, not to change but to strengthen society, to give, not yeast, but bread for the raising • If law is at liberty to adjust the general conditions of society itself, it is at liberty to control these great instrumentalities which nowadays, in so large part, determine the character of society • The business of government is to see that no other organization is as strong as itself; to see that no body or group of men, no matter what their private interest is, may come into competition with the authority of society • Literature is the door to nature and to ourselves. It opens our hearts to receive the experiences of great men and the conceptions of great races. Even though it puzzle or altogether escape the scientific method, literature may keep our horizon clear for us, and our eyes glad to look bravely forth among the world • Peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game • We can never turn back from a course chosen upon principle. We believe that our own desire for a new international order under which reason and justice and the common interests of mankind shall prevail is the desire of enlightened men everywhere. Without that new order the world will be without peace and human life will lack tolerable conditions of existence and development • It has never been natural, it has seldom been possible, in this country for learning to seek a place apart and hold aloof from affairs. The college in our day lives very near indeed to the affair of the world • The subject matter of their studies is not to be the lectures of their professors or the handful of text-books, but the reading which they should do for themselves in order to get a real first-hand command of the leading ideas, principles and processes of the subjects which they are studying • It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak • A steadfast concern for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations. It must be a league of honor, a partnership of opinion • I have every confidence that the great majority of the newspapers of the country will observe a patriotic reticence about everything  whose publication could be of injury, but in every other country there are some persons in a position to do mischief in this field who cannot be relied upon and whose interests or desires will lead to actions • The University in our day is no longer inclined to stand aloof from the practical world, and, surely, it ought never have had the disposition to do so. It is plain that it is the duty of an institution of learning set in the midst of a free population and amidst signs of social change, not merely to implant a sense of duty, but to illuminate duty by every lesson that can be drawn out of the past • A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike • There is an uneasy feeling throughout the State, in which, I dare say, we all share, that there are glaring inequalities in our system—or, at any rate, in our practice—of taxation • We must not pit power against weakness. We must have a workingman’s compensation act which will not put upon him the burden of fighting powerful composite employers to obtain his rights, but which will give him his rights without suit, directly, and without contest, by automatic operation of the law • Labor is not a commodity. It is a form of cooperation • No one who has observed the march of events in the last year can fail to note the absolute need of a definite programme to bring about an improvement in the conditions of labor • America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other • It moves her sons very deeply to find Princeton to have been from the first what they know her to have been in their own day: a school of duty • It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak • It is not learning but the spirit of service that will give a college a place in the public annals of our nation • Whatever affects the peace affects mankind, and nothing settled by military force, if settled wrong, is settled at all • The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty • There is more of a nation’s politics to be gotten out of its poetry than out of all its systemic writers upon public affairs and constitutions • It is not knowledge that moved the world, but ideals, convictions, the opinions or fancies that have been held or followed; and whoever studies humanity ought to study it alive, practice the vivisection of reading literature • Now, I am perfectly willing to anything that is just. I am not willing to do what may turn out to be unwise. An unwillingness even to discuss these matters produces only dissatisfaction and gives comfort to the extreme elements in our country which endeavor to stir up disturbances in order to provoke governments to embark upon a course of retaliation and repression • National aspirations must be respected; peoples may not be dominated and governed only by their own consent • The process is intended to be one of reading, comparing, reflecting; not cramming, but daily methodical study. It is our confident hope that such changes will bring about very gratifying results: that the undergraduate will take more pleasure in his studies, derive more profit and stimulation from them, and that the instructor will find vital intercourse with his pupils give place to dull routine • Now, what has been the matter? The matter has been that the Government of this country was privately controlled and that the business of this country was privately controlled; that we did not have genuine representative government and that the people of this country did not have the control of their own affairs. I mean to put it specifically that the Government of this country was managed by politicians who gained the contributions which they used by solicitation from particular groups of business interests, on the understanding, explicit or implied, that the first care of the Government was to be for those particular interests • Any minority looks as if it were discriminated against. But suppose Negroes were the majority in the departments in the clerkships and this segregation occurred? Then it would look like discrimination against the whites, because it is always the minority that looks discriminated against, whereas the discrimination may not be intended against anyone, but for the benefit of both • There is only one way, gentlemen, in which the relations of capital and labor can be made satisfactory—that is, by, in the first place, regarding labor as a human relationship of men with men • It is plain that our laws with regard to the employer and employee are in many respects wholly antiquated and impossible. New rules must be devised with regard to employees’ obligations and their rights, their obligations to their employers and their responsibilities to one another. New rules must be devised for their protection, for their compensation when injured, for their support when disabled • Monopolies are built up by unfair methods of competition, and the new Trade Commission has power to forbid and prevent unfair competition, whether upon a big scale or upon a little, whether just begun or grown old and formidable • Let bankers explain the technical features of the new system. Suffice is here to say that it provides a currency which expands as it is needed and contracts when it is not needed • There were some things which the government can do and private management cannot. Such governments represent always a stage of social development: the stage at which the people governed are conscious of no community of interest, no possible concert of action amongst them; do not feel themselves a single body or stir with any common purpose. We shall not only be distrusted but shall deserve to be distrusted if we do not enfranchise them with the fullest possible enfranchisement, as it is now certain that the other great free nations will enfranchise them • It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts,—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free • ‘Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action • Throughout the century men of the sturdy stocks of the north of Europe had made up the major strain of foreign blood which was every year added to the vital working force of the country, or else men of the Latin-Gallic stocks of France and northern Italy; but now there came multitudes of men of the lowest class from the south of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland, men out of the ranks where there was neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of quick intelligence. They came in numbers which increased from year to year, as if the countries of the south of Europe were disburdening themselves of the more sordid and hapless elements of their population • ‘T is a sore pity if that power cannot be made available in the classroom • Mexico was entitled, so far as we were concerned, if she did not interfere with us, to have any kind of order or any kind of disorder that she pleased—that was none of our business • I urge you to enact such laws at the earliest possible moment and feel that in doing so I am urging you to do nothing less than save the honor and self-respect of the nation• We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind • You cannot establish competition by law, but you can take away the obstacles by law that stand in the way of competition • The day of conquest and aggrandizement is gone by; so is the day of secret covenants entered into in the interests of particular governments and likely at some unlooked-for moment to upset the peace of the world. What is at stake now is the peace of the world • Now, what makes it look like discrimination is that the colored people are in a minority as compared with the white employees • I have heard men say that politicians interfere too much with business. I want to say that business men interfered too much with politics • We shall need women in our vision of affairs, as we have never needed them before, the sympathy and insight and clear moral instinct of the women of the world • It will be our wish and purpose that the processes of peace, when they are begun, shall be absolutely open and that they shall involve and permit henceforth no secret understandings of any kind • And the problem, as I have discussed it with my colleagues in the departments, is that they were seeking, not to put the Negro employees at a disadvantage, but they were seeking to make arrangements which would prevent any kind of friction between the white employees and the Negro employees. We can’t blink the fact, gentlemen that it does arise when the two races are mixed • We have made partners of women in this war, shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and not to a partnership of privilege and right? • Government does not stop with the protection of life, liberty, and property, as some have suggested; it goes on to serve every convenience of society • The thing most to be desired is that capital should be humanized by being brought into a comprehending contact with the conditions of labor • With the terrific slaughter taking place in Europe, if we, also, entered the war, what effect would the depletion of man power have upon the relations of the white and yellow races? Would the yellow races take advantage of it and attempt to subjugate the white races? • It takes the world generations to outlive all its prejudices • We believe in the eight-hour day because a man does better work within eight hours than he does within a more extended day • I want to help the colored people in every way I can, but there are some ways, some things that I could do myself that would hurt them more than it would help them • What we demand in this war is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation • A peace is not going to be permanent until this principle is accepted by everybody, that, given a political unit, it has the right to determine its own life • If law is at liberty to adjust the general conditions of society itself, it is at liberty to control these great instrumentalities which nowadays, in so large part, determine the character of society • Now, there isn’t any one kind of government which we have the right   to impose upon any nation. So that I am not fighting for democracy except for those people that want democracy. If they want it, then I am ready to fight until they get it. If they don’t want it, that is none of my business • Corporations have for the time being slipped out of the control of the very law that gave them leave to be and that can make or unmake them at pleasure • Just has been done the laborer. His labor is no longer to be treated as if it were merely an inanimate object of commerce to be dealt with as an object of sale and barter • It is plain that our laws with regard to the employer and employee are in many respects wholly antiquated and impossible • A teacher always gets his best results by direct, personal, intimate intercourse with his pupils, not as a class but as individuals. • We will aid and befriend Mexico, but we will not coerce her; and our course with regard to her ought to be sufficient proof to all America that we seek no political suzerainty or selfish control • Act to authorize and provide for the sterilization of feebleminded, including idiots, imbeciles and morons, epileptics, rapists, certain criminals and other defectives • We cannot make a homogeneous population out of people who do not blend with the Caucasian race. Their lower standards of living as laborers will crowd out the white agriculturalists and will in other fields prove a most serious industrial menace • Authority to exercise censorship over the press is absolutely necessary to the public safety • The seed of revolution is repression.


—Woodrow Wilson
13th President of Princeton University, 1902–1910
34th Governor of New Jersey, 1911–1913
28th President of the United States, 1913–1921