The Century Chest Collection

Address of Governor Lee Cruce, 1913

(Transcribed from the original)

(Address of Lee Cruce)

On an occasion like this, when we are
met to commemorate the opening of this country to
settlement and its dedication to civilization, and to
provide an hour's entertainment for a generation
yet unborn, I can think of no better way to employ
the time allotted to me upon this program than in a
discussion of the problems of government.

Five and a half years of State government
in Oklahoma have tended to whet the appetite of
our people for sweeping reforms. Beginning our history
as a State with a Constitution that contained many
provisions at war with governmental conditions that
had hitherto prevailed, these years of test and trial
have brought us to a realization of the fact that
ours is not yet an ideal government, and that
much work is yet to be done, many reforms are yet
to be accomplished if we are measurably to approach
that idealism in government to which all human
effort should tend.

It is unnecessary to recount the steps
we have taken in arriving at this hour; history
will record the progress made and chronicle the
battles fought and the victories won. As for us,
we can render no greater service to those of the
next century than to discharge properly our duties
as citizens of this generation, and nothing will
be of more interest to them when they are met a
hundred years hence to celebrate this day, than
to have an accurate account of conditions in
governmental affairs as they exist today.

The need of Oklahoma in a governmental
way is the need of the Nation, The spirit of
progressiveism knows no State lines, nor is it compassed
within any party's limits. Change is written upon the
face of all things political. The old order is passing
away and a new doctrine is being preached and believed.
There is an increasing demand that the government become
more responsive to the will of the people, and that through
its public officials it reflect more accurately the hopes
and aspirations of its citizens. Recent amendments
to the Federal Constitution, paving the way for the
levying of an income tax and providing for the election
of United States Senators by a direct vote of the
people, but emphasize the fact that the people are break-
ing away from the restraint placed about them by the
Constitution as fashioned by the founders of the Re-
public. Whether these changes shall bring to pass a
better condition of affairs in the State and Nation
depends upon the spirit with which we meet existing
problems and the judgment with which we solve them.

Government by the people is a doctrine
generally preached today, and to it most of us
willingly subscribe; but government by the people
will be satisfactory and wholesome only to the extent
that each citizen contributes his effort to make it
so. The natural law which forbids that the stream
shall rise above its source is no more inflexible
than this rule, - no government in its purity and
accomplishments can rise above the moral, intel-
lectualy and physical standard of the people who
constitute that government. Therefore the answer
to the question of whether or not the future portends
weal or woe for this State and Nation will be determined
by whether or not the moral, physical and intellectual
development of our people shall tend towards higher

Would you have a government dispensing
blessings and charities and breathing a benediction
upon its citizens? Then inculcate into the citizenship
of that government high ideals of moral living. Would
you have a Nation strong and virile, capable of success-
fully meeting the difficulties that come in the history
of every Nation? Then lead the people along paths
that develop strong men and women. Would you have
a Republic that can withstand the superstitions of the
ages and become a perpetual inspiration to the Nations
of the earth? Then feed the minds of the people until
they shall hunger no more.

The future welfare of Oklahoma rests with
the individual citizen. A failure on his part
to meet the entire obligations of citizenship can
only result in a corresponding degree of failure
in government. The greatest danger confronting
our State today is the manifest indifference on the
part of many of her citizens in the affairs of
government. The forces of good and evil fight
just as ceaselessly and just as bitterly in the
life of a Nation as they do in the life of the
individual. Let us not decieve ourselves into
believing that all of the people of Oklahoma
are advocates of or desire good government. Those
most active usually are those whose interest in
government is largely selfish.

During the past and present generation
our people have grown money-mad. In their quest
for gold they have too frequently forgotten or
neglected their duties as citizens. Crafty politicians
and unfaithful public officials have taken advantage
of this and have imposed upon the people conditions
well night intolerable. Certain interests, alert
to the lethargy of the citizen, have procured the
enactment of laws conferring special favors upon such
interests and working a corresponding injury upon the

This axiom of government can be truthfully
stated:- any law which confers a benefit upon a special
interest, individual or community necessarily brings injury
to other interests, other people or other communities
existing under that government. This government is
but an aggregation of the people; it possesses no
power except power derived from the people; it has
no assets except assets of the people, and when it
confers upon a locality or individual any special
grant or favor, it takes that much from all of the

The spirit of selfishness is overdeveloped
in Oklahoma, and the five and half years of State
government have only intensified this evil. We have
opened the treasury of the State and have bidden the
representatives of the people to place their hands
therein and extract therefrom money to be used in
building institutions to the profit of favored
localities without regard to the need of these com-
munities or the rights of the people. Following
this same principle we have created a horde of
needless officers who draw their substance from
a burdened and tax-ridden people, and in the midst
of it all the legislative branch of government sits
helpless and impotent.

What is the remedy?- the people. Back of the
courts, back of the executive, back of the legislative
department of government stands the individual citizen.
He is primarily responsible for the type of government
that exists and he must correct it if we are to have
correction. Those who expect reformation in government
to come through the voluntary acts of chosen officials
are dreamers. The average public official is a moral,
self-interested coward. Every public act of his is
determined by the effect it will have upon his political
fortunes. If the people's interests run counter to his
personal ambitions, they must be sacrificed. And again
when you seek a remedy for this condition you will find
it in the people.

In the Constitution of this State an effort
has been made to bring the government closer to the
people and to place upon them in tangible form the re-
sponsibilities of useful citizenship. Through the medium
of the initiative and referendum a weapon is offered
the people whereby they can take in to their hands the
affairs of government, and undertake, in their own way,
the correction of existing wrongs. This is an innovation
in our government of recent origin and gives promise of
becoming a potent factor in making the future government
of Oklahoma in reality a government by the people. With
this tendency to bring the government closer to the
people and to make the individual a more important
factor in government, how important becomes the develop-
ment of a citizenship that will be capable of meeting
the responsibilities of the age.

Another change in government that claims
attention at this time is the tendency towards
extending to women the unrestricted right of suffrage.
A number of the States of the Union have adopted this
reform, and while Oklahoma has once given an adverse
vote upon the proposition, a student of the times can
clearly see that the day is inevitably coming when this
right will be accorded the women of Oklahoma. What
will be the result of the changed conditions upon the
home and upon the government can only be guessed at.
Our hope is that it will improve both. Great moral
questions are to be settled if the government is to be
properly adjusted to the needs of the human race, and in
the settlement of those problems the women of the Nation
should prove a valuable adjunct. In all things that
tend towards good citizenship, women is the peer of
man; and in surrounding the obstacles that hinder
the progress of good government, she may confidently
be relied upon to do her part. Conditions and not
theories are bringing these changes to pass, and whether
we welcome them or not, if we are wise we will adjust
ourselves to them.

Another great problem that must be dealt
with by this generation if our posterity is to
profit by our living is to bring about an equitable
distribution of the benefits and the burdens of
government. No government can exist without entail-
ing burdens upon the people, but the burdens should
be placed upon those who can the easiest endure them.
In fashioning our revenue laws, we should be fair
in our dealing with all men whether they be men of
large estate or small. Wealth is not an undesirable
thing if it be honestly obtained and wisely used,
and we fail in our efforts for perfection in govern-
ment if we blindly ignore this fact. Certainly we
owe it to each individual in the State to endeavor
to bring about a condition that will enable that
individual to possess and enjoy the products of his

In the battle for better government and
in the struggle for a fairer distribution of its
burdens and its benefits, the press of the State is
an indispensable factor. It is regretable that
some of the papers of the State have not always
aligned themselves upon the side of good government.
They have not supported many movements that tend towards
better morals for our people and great devotion to
duty among public officials. If they have not agreed
with the individual holding office, they have done
all they could to criticise his acts and bring about
confusion in his work. Let us hope that in the future
the press will stand a unit in the advocacy of those things
that mean a wholesome advance in governmental affairs.

We cannot know what conditions will confront
those who will gather here a hundred years hence. We
can only indulge in idle prophesies, but this we do
know, that whether or not we shall project our govern-
ment into their time, our laws into their laws, depends
upon whether or not we meet the obligations of the
present, and we can render to our posterity no greater
service than courageously to meet and successfully combat
the evils of today.

Let us therefore not forget, in this hour of
rejoicing, the debt we owe to those who shall live when
we are gone. Let us remember that the greatest and most
useful among us is that one who sacrifices most for his
fellowman, and if we are to live in the generations
that are to come, it must be through the sacrifices we
make in the interest of that generation. And when at
the end of another century there shall be gathered
those to commemorate the day we now celebrate, let us
indulge the hope that in the midst of plenty, under a
government dispensing with prodigal and impartial hand
the blessings of good government, they may be able to
look back upon this generation in veneration and love
and attribute many of their blessings and much of their
prosperity to the endeavors we have contributed towards
that condition. My friends, would you have this be?
Then set your hands to the task, uprooting evil in
government, overthrowing corruption in public places,
arousing the public conscience until every citizen of
the State shall understand his duty to Oklahoma and
willingly and effectively performs it.

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