“I regard this movement as of the utmost importance.” – President William Howard Taft.
Continuing The U.S. National Association of Governors Began,
our selection from Letters to Colliers Weekly by The Governors published in 1910. The selection is presented in 1.5 installments, each one 5 minutes long. The first half of this installment concludes William G. Jordan’s article.
Previously in The U.S. National Association of Governors Began.
Place: Washington D.C.
The fading of sectional prejudice in the glow of sympathetic understanding was clearly evident. Some of the Western Governors in their speeches said that their people of the West had felt that they were isolated, misrepresented, misunderstood, and misjudged; but now these Governors could go back to their States and their people with messages of good will and tell them of the identity of interest, the communion of purpose, the kinship of common citizenship, and the closer knowledge that bound them more firmly to the East, to the South, and to the North. Other Governors spoke of the facilitating of official business between the States because of these meetings. They would no longer, in correspondence, write to a State Executive as a mere name without personality, but their letters would carry with them the memories of close contact and cordial association with those whom they had learned to know. There was no faintest tinge of State jealousies or rivalry. The Governors talked frankly, freely, earnestly of their States and for them, but it was ever with the honest pride of trusteeship, never the petty vanity of proprietorship.
Patriotism seemed to throw down the walls of political party and partisanship and in the three days’ session the words Republican or Democrat were never once spoken. The Governors showed themselves an able body of men keenly alive to the importance of their work and with a firm grasp on the essential issues. The meeting added a new dignity to Statehood and furnished a new revelation of the power, prestige, and possibilities of the Governor’s office. The atmosphere of the session was that of States’ rights, but it was a new States’ rights, a purified, finer, higher recognition by the States of their individual right and duty of self-government within their Constitutional limitations. It meant no lessening of interest in the Federal Government or of respect and honor of it. It was as a family of sons growing closer together, strengthened as individuals and working to solve those problems they have in common, and to make their own way rather than to depend in weakness on the father of the household to manage all their affairs and do their thinking for them. To him should be left the watchfulness of the family as a whole, not the dictation of their individual living.
President Taft had no part in the Conference, but in an address of welcome to the Governors at the White House showed his realization of the vital possibility of the meeting in these words:
“I regard this movement as of the utmost importance. The Federal Constitution has stood the test of more than one hundred years in supplying the powers that have been needed to make the central Government as strong as it ought to be, and with this movement toward uniform legislation and agreement between the States I do not see why the Constitution may not serve our purpose always.”
Augustus E. Willson, Governor of Kentucky
President Roosevelt held two conferences of Governors, and as a member of a committee chosen to do so, I have invited the Governors of all of the States and Territories to meet at the White House in Washington, January 18th, 19th, and 20th.
The conference has no legal authority of any kind. At the previous conferences, the conservation subject was the one chiefly thought of, and it will be brought up in the next conference. The question of what the Governors will recommend on the income-tax constitutional amendment may come up. The matter of handling extradition papers is important. Uniform State laws on matters of universal interest, school laws, road laws, tax laws, commercial paper, warehouse receipts, bills of lading, etc.; the control of corporations, of which taxation is one branch, the action of the States in regard to water-powers within the States; marriage, divorce, wills, schools, roads, are all within the range of this conference, and the agreement of all of the Governors on some of these subjects, and by many of them on any, would be of useful influence.
The meeting has further interest and importance in being for two days in touch with the National Civic Federation, which will afford all of the Governors a chance to learn what that association of many of the most prominent men of this country is doing, and get the benefit of its discussions and the pleasure of being acquainted with many leaders of thought and action in the country, who will attend its sessions.
I am sure that I speak the sentiment of all of the Governors that they do not wish any legal power or any authority except that of the weight of their opinion as chosen State officers. They only wish the benefit of discussion of important subjects interesting to all of the States, and to establish kindly and mutually helpful relations between the Governors and the Governments of the States.
Eben S. Draper, Governor of Massachusetts
I believe that a meeting of Governors may accomplish much good for every section of the country. They naturally can not legislate, nor should they attempt to. They can discuss and can learn many things which are now controlled by law in different States and which would be improvements to the laws of their own States; and they can recommend to the legislatures of their own States the enactment of laws which will bring about these improvements.
These Governors will be the forty-six [now forty-eight] representative units of the States of this great nation. By coming together they will be more than ever convinced that they are integral parts of one nation, and I believe their meeting will tend to remove all notions of sectionalism and will help the patriotism and solidarity of the country.
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