Words That Men Live By
Alfred E. Smith (1928)
|ALFRED E. SMITH|
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., Sept. 20, 1928 - Governor Alfred E. Smith, of New York, now campaigning for the Presidency as nominee of the Democratic party, tonight came to grips here with a question which his background unwittingly has injected for the first time into political debate in the United States.
The basic question is, whether a man's religion helps or hurts his qualifications for public office. Governor Smith is a Roman Catholic.
In the campaign, there have been many other issues. It has been an uphill fight all the way for this condidate, hurt by his lifelong political association with New York's Tammany Hall, and bitterly opposed by his own party followers in many instances be- cause of his open opposition to prohibition. But the great controversy, unexampled before in our political contests, has been the often-whispered one over the willingness of the American people to have as their President a member of the Catholic Church.
Governor Smith chose to bring this subject into the open in a speech in an area where religious controversy has fanned the whole subject into a hot flame.
I feel that I owe it to the Democratic Party to talk out plainly. If I had listened to the counselors that advised political expediency I would probably keep quiet, but I'm not by nature a quiet man.Printable version
I never keep anything to myself. I talk it out. And I feel I owe it, not only to the party, but I sincerely believe that I owe it to the country itself to drag this un-American propaganda out into the open.
Because this country, to my way of thinking, cannot be successful if it ever divides on sectarian lines. If there are any considerable number of our people that are going to listen to appeals to their passions and to their prejudice, if bigotry and intolerance and their sister vices are going to succeed, it is dangerous for the future life of the Republic, and the best way to kill anything un-American is to drag it out into the open; because anything un-American cannot live in the sunlight.
Where does all this propaganda come from? Who is vying for its distribution? Prior to the convention the grand dragon of the Realm of Arkansas wrote to one of the delegates from Arkansas, and in the letter he advised the delegate that he not vote for me in the national convention, and he put it on the ground of upholding American ideals against institutions as established by our forefathers. Now, can you think of any man or any group of men banded together in what they call the Ku Klux Klan, who profess to be 100 per cent Americans, and forget the great principle that Jefferson stood for, the equality of man, and forget that our forefathers in their wisdom, foreseeing probably such a sight as we look at today, wrote into the fundamental law of the country that at no time was religion to be regarded as a qualification for public office.
Just think of a man breathing the spirit of hatred against millions of his fellow citizens, proclaiming and subscribing at the same time to the doctrine of Jefferson, of Lincoln, of Roosevelt and of Wilson. Why, there is no greater mockery in this world today than the burning of the Cross, the emblem of faith, the emblem of salvation, the place upon which Christ Himself made the great sacrifice for all of mankind, by these people who are spreading this propaganda, while the Christ they are supposed to adore, love and venerate, during all of His lifetime on earth, taught the holy, sacred writ of brotherly love. . .
Let me make myself perfectly clear. I do not want any Catholic in the United States of America to vote for me on the 6th of November because I am a Catholic. If any Catholic in this country believes that the welfare, the well-being, the prosperity, the growth and the expansion of the United States is best conserved and best promoted by the election of Hoover, I want him to vote for Hoover and not for me.
But, on the other hand, I have the right to say that any citizen of this country that believes I can promote its welfare, that I am capable of steering the ship 0£ state safely through the next four years and then votes against me because of my religion, he is not a real, pure, genuine American.