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A president of the United States, one supposes, can hardly avoid being put to the necessity oftentimes of issuing public statements when he really has nothing to say. Such apparently was the case last Friday when the Eucharistic Congress met at Chicago and Mr. Coolidge discovered that the etiquette of the occasion demanded a message from the White House. He might, as he has been known to do have sent a message which said nothing. Or he might, as is his more common custom, have sent one which did say something, but something which everyone knew before. Instead the President's new secretary for public statements (who by the way is not nearly so competent as the lamented Mr. Judson C. Welliver) drafted a manifesto which unexpectedly said a great deal,--a great deal more surely than Mr. Coolidge, if he had stpped to think, would have been willing to endorse.
The heart of it must be quoted:
". . . .Our country has long been under the imputation of putting too much emphasis on material things. . . . But no doubt a most conclusive answer to such criticism lies in the fact that material prosperity cannot be secured unless it rests upon spiritual realities it is impossible to create a commercial system which is not built on credit, confidence, and faith. Without the elements of honor and honesty there can be no economic advance. If the requirements of character be withdrawn from our business structure the whole fabric would collapse. IF AMERICA IS ADVANCING ECONOMICALLY. IT IS BECAUSE OF THE DEEP RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS OF ITS PEOPLE."
Our wealth Mr. Coolidge thus informs us, is the measure of our faith. We are rich because we are honest. The entire structure of industrial America is builder upon ultimate spiritual realities and only because it is so builded, does it endure. So speaks the man who told Europe that if it had conducted its affairs as intelligently and efficiently as we have conducted ours, it would be as happy and prosperous as we.
It was perhaps pardonable to mistake for an abiding spirituality that enlightened fear which secures credit and maintains the sanctity of contract. One might even pass over the intrepidity of an attempted explanation of American economic history in terms of a mysterious religious instinct that inheres in residence on this continent. But the unabashed hardihood of justifying the whole past and present of American industrialism by making it one with the deepest spiritual feelings of the people--especially at a time when that industrialism has just flowered in one of the most insidious assaults on democratic government that our history records--ought surely to be more than this nation can stomach. Mr. Coolidge's religion, apparently, is of a piece with that of the leading layman of the Episcopal Church in America, who, with the backing of the dominant leader in the President's own cabinet, has just spent over eight times more in a senatorial primary than any candidate is known to have spent before, and bribed with ten dollar bills one-third of the voters of a great state.
Mr. Coolidge has done and said many astonishing things. But seldom has he done or said anything more astonishing than when he proclaims to the world his willingness to rest the salvation of his soul upon the ethics of big business. And seldom has there been a more revealing confession of faith than this naive acknowledgement that whatever is right, and that the President of the United States is content to accept as his own faith and the faith of the American people the spiritual implications of modern industrialism.
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