Miller Center

Enduring Popular Government (July 22, 1920)

Warren G. Harding


Mr. Chairman*, the message which you have formally conveyed brings me to a realization of responsibility which is not underestimated. It is a supreme task to interpret the covenant of a great political party, the activities of which are so woven into the history of this Republic. I believe in party government, as distinguished from personal government—individual, dictatorial, autocratic, or what not. It was the intent of the founding fathers to give this Republic a dependable and enduring popular government, representative in form, and it was designed to make political parties the effective agencies through which hopes and aspirations and convictions and conscience may be translated into public performance. Popular government has been an inspiration of liberty since the dawn of civilization. Republics have risen and fallen, and a transition from party to personal government has preceded every failure since the world began.

Under the Constitution we have the charted the way to security in perpetuity. We know it gave to us the safe path to a developing eminence which no people in the world ever rivaled. It has guaranteed the rule of intelligent, deliberate public opinion expressed through parties. The American achievement under the plan of the fathers is nowhere disputed. The American example has been the model of every republic which glorifies the progress of liberty, and is everywhere the leaven of representative democracy which has expanded human freedom.

No one man is big enough to run this great Republic**. There never has been one. Such domination was never intended. Tranquility, stability, dependability--all are assured in party sponsorship, and we mean to renew the assurances which were rended in the cataclysmal war. Our first committal is the restoration of representative popular government under the Constitution through the agency of the Republican Party.

It is not difficult to make ourselves clear on the question of international relationships. We Republicans of the Senate--conscious of our solemn oaths and mindful of our constitutional obligations, when we saw the structure of a world supergovernment taking visionary form--joined in a becoming warning [out] of our devotion to this Republic. If the torch of constitutionalism had not been dimmed, the delayed peace of the world and the tragedy of disappointment and Europe’s misunderstanding of America easily might have been avoided. The Republicans of the Senate halted the barter of independent American eminence and influence--which it was proposed to exchange for an obscure and unequal place in the merged governments of the world. Our party means to hold the heritage of American nationality unimpaired and unsurrendered.

The world will not misconstrue. We do not mean to hold aloof, we do not mean to shun a single responsibility of this Republic to world civilization. There is no hate in the American heart. We have no envy, no suspicion, no aversion for any people in the world. We hold to our rights, and mean to defend--aye, we mean to sustain the rights of this nation and our citizens alike everywhere under the shining sun. Yet there is the concord of amity and sympathy and fraternity in every resolution. There is a genuine aspiration in every American breast for a tranquil friendship with all the world.

* Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (Republican of Massachusetts), Chairman of the Notification Committee