Miller Center

Americanism (January 20, 1920)

Warren G. Harding

My countrymen, the first flaming torch of Americanism was lighted in framing the Federal Constitution in 1787. The pilgrims signed their simple and majestic covenant a full century and a half before, and set aflame their beacon of liberty on the coast of Massachusetts. Other pioneers of New World's freedom were rearing their new standards of liberty from Jamestown to Plymouth for five generations before Lexington and Concord heralded the new era. It is all American in the destined result, yet all of it lacked the soul of nationality.

In simple truth, there was no thought of nationality in the revolution for American independence. The colonists were resisting a wrong, and freedom was their solace. Once it was achieved, nationality was the only agency suited to its preservation. Americanism really began when robed in nationality. The American Republic began the blazed trail of representative popular government. Representative democracy was proclaimed the safe agency of highest human freedom. America headed the forward procession of civil, human, and religious liberty, which ultimately will affect the liberation of all mankind. The Federal Constitution is the very base of all Americanism, the "Ark of the Covenant" of American liberty, the very temple of equal rights. The Constitution does abide and ever will, so long as the Republic survives.

Let us hesitate before we surrender the nationality which is the very soul of highest Americanism. This republic has never failed humanity, or endangered civilization. We have been tardy sometimes--like when we were proclaiming democracy and neutrality, and yet ignored our national rights--but the ultimate and helpful part we played in the Great War will be the pride of Americans so long as the world recites the story. We do not mean to hold aloof, we choose no isolation, we shun no duty. I like to rejoice in an American conscience; and in a big conception of our obligation to liberty, justice, and civilization--aye, and more. I like to think of Columbia's helping hand to new republics which are seeking the blessings portrayed in our example. But I have a confidence in our America that requires no council of foreign powers to point the way of American duty. We wish to counsel, cooperate, and contribute, but we arrogate to ourselves the keeping of the American conscience, and every concept of our moral obligation.

It is time to idealize, but it's very practical to make sure our own house is in perfect order before we attempt the miracle of Old World stabilization. Call it selfishness of nationality if you will, I think it an inspiration to patriotic devotion-- to safeguard America first, to stabilize America first, to prosper America first, to think of America first, to exalt America first, to live for and revere America first.

Let the internationalist dream and the Bolshevist destroy. God pity him for whom no minstrel raptures swell. In the spirit of the Republic we proclaim Americanism and acclaim America.