"AROUND THE UNITED STATES IN TWENTY MINUTES"
An Addres by RICHARD L. BOWDITCH Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States
Thursday, January 19th, 1956
CHAIRMAN: The President, Dr. C. C. Goldring.
DR. GOLDRING: Today, Mr. Richard L. Bowditch of Boston is going to speak to us on the subject, "Around the United States in Twenty Minutes".
Mr. Bowditch is Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, and a year or two ago was its President. He is also VicePresident of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. He has many business interests as he is Chairman of the Board of the C. H. Sprague & Son Company and President and Director of the C. H. Sprague & Son (Canada) Limited, as well as being President and Director of the Sprague Steamship Company.
He is a Director of several business organizations, among them being the Virginia Smelting Company, Sylvania Electric Products Incorporated, Transportation Association of America, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Ludlow Manufacturing and Sales Company, the First National Bank of Boston, and the American Research and Development Corporation. He is a Trustee of the United States Council of the International Chamber of Commerce and also the United States Inter-American Council. He is a member of several committees and groups interested in business and community activities.
Enough has been said to indicate that Mr. Bowditch must travel rather quickly to participate in the work of the various organizations and businesses in which he is interested. Accordingly, it may not seem strange to him to speak on the subject "Around the United States in Twenty Minutes", but it may leave some of the members of his audience a little breathless. Therefore, I wish our guest to know that he may stretch that twenty minutes to thirty or thirty-five minutes so that we may have a more leisurely trip.
It is a privilege to have a visit from Mr. Bowditch and we welcome him to this meeting of the Empire Club of Canada.
MR. BOWDITCH: This was an invitation that 1 could not resist.
I like Canada and the Canadian people almost as much as I do my own country and the rugged Yankees with whom I live. My native New England has more miles bordering on Canada than on the rest of the United States, and one out of every four persons now living in New England comes from Canada or is descended from your own people.
Your ancestors and mine shared a common boyhood, and you and I share a manhood which is made more and more a brotherhood by the constantly increasing economic and military pressures generated by aggressive international Communism.
It is my own conviction that the people of Canada and the United States have more in common than any other two nations in the world.
We can talk all we like about our North Atlantic Treaties and our Atlantic charters and our mutual ties with other democracies, but the most important thing in the world today, so far as the United States and Canada are concerned, are the unwritten treaties and the unwritten charters that underly the friendship of our two peoples.
It is almost axiomatic to say this-but the security of North America depends on the economic, political and military cooperation of our two nations, now strategically inseparable, as neighboring tenants of the same broad continent.
As long as there exists a threat to liberty, we must stand together - strong and ready - prepaying for our freedoms with mutual trust and vigilant cooperation.
If my remarks today can help tighten our existing family bonds, then I shall return home saying, "mission accomplished." Some of you may know what Canada means to me.
It has been my good fortune to travel in Canada more extensively than most of my countrymen ever find possible. In a manner of speaking, I am an adopted Canadian by the very simple process of personally adopting Canada as my second home-and sometimes when I make a speech south of the border, I tell my listeners what I know about your country. They don't seem to mind it - and my people - from Pembina, North Dakota, to Ponchatoula, Louisiana, seem to be interested - but it would be old stuff to you - and out of order. You know your own country a thousand times better than I can ever know it - and its biography is written in your faces.
You didn't ask me here to talk about Canada - so I am going to talk to you about the United States - and I hope that some of the things I say will be new stuff to you.
I have assigned myself to tell you all about the United States - in about 20 minutes.
To begin with, and as you know, we have a great deal of geography. Not as much as Canada, of course. You in Canada have more square miles of landscape. But we in the United States probably have more geographic variety - and a wider diversity of climate - than any other major continental nation in the world.
This geography and climate have influenced our cultural development. They have had a tremendous bearing on our political thinking, and they have been - and still are - basic factors in our economy.
The size of a country alone has an impact on its people. You Canadians would be the first to understand that. There is something about a big country that stimulates a free peoples to think in big terms. And neither Canada nor the United States suffers from claustrophobia of the imagination. We like to think big, but at the same time we don't ignore virtues.
Both countries have endeavored through the years to attain a moral stature consistent with the broad sweep of their acreage. Both have succeeded - as the rest of the free world can attest.
The Philippine Republic could bear witness for the United States in that regard. Our common enemies call us an aggressor nation, but just 10 years ago this next July 4, the flag of the Philippine Republic was raised in Manila at the same moment that the flag of the United States went down over what had been one of our possessions. We had promised the Philippines their independence, and we redeemed that promise on the day and hour it was due. It was an act of our government that reflected the spirit of a people whose geography has made them basically generous in character, optimistic by nature and unjealous of others' success. We may have a lot of sins, but I don't think that jealousy is one of them.
When the Canadian dollar first forged ahead of ours in the money markets of the world, there were a few Americans who thought it was almost illegal! But they were so few, they hardly count. The overwhelming bulk of our people thought it was a good joke on us!
The majority of our people did not hold your dollar advantage against the government of Canada - or against the Canadian people. Instead, they began to wonder what was wrong with our dollar'
We were just plain chagrined, but our chagrin was exceeded by our admiration for Canada's skill in handling its fiscal affairs. And that's the way we still feel about it. Canada's strong dollars keeps us on our mettle. And no matter what your dollar does, it won't dampen our enthusiasm or our optimism.
Exuberance is part of the American temperament. We are basically optimistic. Maybe it's a fault - but it's a fact.
We have our share of croaking ravens-calamity Janes and professional Jeremiahs of disaster. Even today - after the greatest business year in our history - we have to listen to the pessimists who tell us that what goes up must inevitably come down faster than it went up-but they cannot squelch the innate confidence of the American people. And our geography is part of the reason. We are accustomed to having our geography perform miracles for us with a little encouragement from science and ingenuity, and so we have latched on to the idea that somewhere in the United States, there is always a new frontier for the ambitious, and I have a strong hunch that you Canadians feel the same way about your country. Change is part of our national make-up. In the 1930's, our great plains area was hard hit by drought. A few of our native pessimists wrote off the great plains area as a new American desert beyond hope of salvation. Since then, the rains have restored its productive capacity – but - just as importantly, the wheat fields of the Williston basin are sprouting oil wells in every direction. (I'm not sure, but perhaps some of your oil has dribbled down across the border.)
We are still pioneer-minded. We have never quite gotten over the old maxim of Horace Greeley who advised the young men of his time to go west. Today, our people travel in all directions in search of opportunity. But in spirit they are still "going west," whether they go south, east or north. Our industrial development may have altered the pioneering urge, but it has not stamped it out. The flexibility of our economy is in direct proportion to the diversity of our climate and geography.
All this is on the plus side for our natural geographic and climate resources. But there is a strong minus factor involved which we are only now beginning to recognize. The fact that we have all kinds of geography and all kinds of weather has tended in the past to make us overly complacent about our self-sufficiency. We have been slow to think in terms of the advantages that may lie in more international commerce because we had been so much a market to ourselves.
A major irritant to both the United States and Canada is the formidable economic barrier built up between us out of tariffs and quotas.
Each nation is the other's best customer, yet the flow of trade is frequently slowed or choked by many regulations, policies and practices which seem outmoded in this age of jets and atoms.
It must be admitted that the United States has been the prime contributor to preventing a freer flow of goods and materials between our countries. Canada, traditionally more dependent on world trade than is the United States, has fostered the more liberal policy.
This has not been prejudice on our part. The past reluctance of the United States to welcome imports was based on stubbornness and prejudice in only a very slight degree. It stemmed – instead - from generations that were in fact almost completely self-sufficient - and had to be self-sufficient for self-survival at the time. At one time we almost stood alone-because we had no one else to depend upon for what we needed. As an infant Republic, we were a Robinson Crusoe. This was both good and bad.
It is possible, you know, that a people can be the victims as well as the beneficiaries of climate and geography. It is actually very easy to see how this tradition of self-sufficiency developed. All we need to do is to look at the course of the Mississippi River. We share, to a degree, the St. Lawrence with Canada. We originate the Red River of the north, and Canada gets most of it as it flows across the border toward Winnipeg. But the Mississippi is strictly our property. It begins as a little trickle among the pine trees of Northern Minnesota and winds up among the palm trees of Louisiana before it dumps itself in the Gulf of Mexico.
At its source, the thermometer can go down to 50 degrees or more below zero, but it's always summer at the mouth of the Mississippi.
Its course illustrates the diversity of our geography and our economy as few things can. We grow hard spring wheat at one end of the river-and sugar cane at the other. In between the two extremes, the river winds through some of the most valuable farm land in the world. It skirts the banks of great industrial and processing centers. It is bordered by the center of our corn and 'feeder cattle industry, by one of the richest dairy areas in the world and by thousands of miles of cotton-growing country.
The range of our climate can be summed up about like this:
In September the frost is on the pumpkin in the northern part of the United States; but we export rice, a subtropical and tropical grain. We go skiing in July (in Idaho) - but we can dip ourselves in salt water in January off the beaches of Florida.
It is no wonder that our political thinking has largely developed along the lines of self-sufficiency. Many of us look at a typical breakfast of orange juice, eggs, bacon, toast and coffee and draw our entire conclusion about foreign commerce from that typical menu. Everything is home-produced--except the coffee.
It comes as something of a shock to many of our people that we are deficient in certain vital ores and minerals that our industry must have for civilian production as well as defence. We must import tin, chromite, industrial diamonds, mica, nickel, asbestos, and a long list of other things, many of which Canadians could name.
It has come as a greater shock - but it is dawning on our people - that our program of foreign aid in the past few years was - in effect - a subsidy for our exports. As a creditor nation we would not long expect to continue that practice except as a heavy toll on the pocketbooks of the American taxpayer and consumer.
We must look - in part - to political action to bring our imports closer to a balance with our exports, and that leads me into the political aspects of the United States. Our political structure is complex - so much so that it often bewilders even our native-born sons and daughters. Actually, we operate very successfully in what I might term an atmosphere of "chaotic efficiency."
Our country is exactly what its name implies, the United States of America. It is a federation of 48 separate Republics-sovereign unto themselves except for those powers delegated to the Federal Government by the constitution, this Federal-State relationship of ours is not entirely understood by many other peoples--but that should not be surprising! There are people in the United States who have little understanding of Canada's relation to the crown of England. So it could be tit for tat!
We, in the United States, live under more state laws than federal laws. We are assisted into the world by doctors who must pass state board examinations; we get our first haircuts from state-licensed barbers, and we go to school under teachers who hold state certificates. And it is no exaggeration to say that our state governors, in effect, have private armies, for they are commanders of the National Guards.
I might illustrate the degree of our state sovereignty with an extreme case. If a man breaks out of jail in one state and escapes to another, the state which wants him can't get him back unless the governor of the other state consents to his extradition.
And then - for the last word in state sovereignty, I might refer you to the home state of Mr. D. A. Hulcy, a former president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. His home state is Texas - of which you may have heard. Texas came into the union under a proviso that permits it to divide itself into five separate states at any time it feels so inclined. Besides that, Texas reserved the right to fly the Lone Star flag of the Texas Republic side by side with the Stars and Stripes, although not above it.
Today, we are thinking more and more in terms of restoring to our states and communities many functions and responsibilities acquired by the federal government in the last several decades. This will have no effect upon our relations with other countries, except that it will tend to strengthen our economy. And, I am sure, a strong American economy is just as important to Canada as a strong Canadian economy is to us.
We have today a national administration in Washington that is endeavoring to unleash the creative energies of our free enterprise system - but it should be clearly understood that we do not have a business party in the United States-nor a Labor Party. Our political differences do not stem from differences in our personal, social or economic situations. We like to think - and I believe it to be true - that we have a classless society.
There was a time when our Republican Party was known as the Tariff Party and the Democratic Party as the Free-Trade Party. In those days, our southern states had a strictly agricultural economy, and they held the sole copyright on the Democratic Party. Our northern industrial states had the copyright to the Republican Party. That is ancient history, and the tariff issue today cuts across both party lines.
You will find that both our political parties are in complete agreement on the commercial future of the United States. They may approach that future by different roads, but they agree that we are still a very youthful nation economically with no intention of ever growing old and stodgy.
In the year past, our investments in plants and equipment attained an all-time record. The present trend indicates another new record in 1956. Our Democrats say this results from their good spade work during twenty years of power, and our Republicans say that these investments would not have been made unless they had taken over as they did in 1953.
Be that as it may, it is not guesswork to suggest that the growth contradicts a number of moss-grown theories about the business of our economy cycle. We are discovering that our economy is not like the ocean tide. It defies a constant cycle of ebbs and flows because the economy itself refuses to remain constant.
So does our population. Our birth rate is providing us with 11,000 new, native-born citizens every day in the week - which means 77,000 a week. Today, we have 165 million people. Twenty years from now - we shall have 221 million if the present birth rate continues. Our present rate of growth is faster than India's - faster than the Soviet Union's.
I need hardly remind our Canadian friends that here is a brand new market for our domestic products - and for your products. We are adding to our consumer class in two ways-one through the birthrate - and the other by lengthening the span of life. We are adding to its buying power by a tremendous increase in our industrial retirement programs.
I want our Canadian friends to understand that we are anything but a hide-bound people. We are not irretrievably wedded to the past. I would go so far as to suggest that if Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, were with us at this session today he would feel quite at home. Mr. Hamilton has been painted as the Arch Priest of high tariffs and the father of the protectionist theory. The fact is that the great secretary negotiated our first tariff laws primarily as revenue acts. At the close of the 18th Century, 90 per cent of the revenues of our Federal Government came from import duties. It was the only way our Federal Government could earn enough money to survive.
Secretary Hamilton did believe, as we believe now, in protecting industries which are vital to the security of the United States, but you can search his writings from cover to cover and find nothing in them to defend tariffs as a means of perpetuating uneconomic production.
Let us hope that the shape of things to come was discerned by President Eisenhower in his address some two years and a few months ago to the House of Commons in Ottawa. He said: "The free world must come to recognize that trade barriers, although intended to protect their country's economy, often, in fact, shackle their prosperity. In the United States, there is growing recognition that free nations cannot expand their productivity and economic strength without a high level of international trade."
In summation, I need hardly tell you that the latch string of the United States is forever within easy reach of our Canadian brothers and sisters. I think there is not one of us in all of our 48 separate Republics who does not glory in the magnificent relations that our two nations enjoy. Although many of us may lack an intimate knowledge of Canada, we are all united in our respect and affection for Canada and its people.
Ours is not an alliance of two governments but the alliance of two peoples linked together by common ideals and common aspirations.