Good Government Association Speech

Speech Before the Good Government Association

Louis D. Brandeis

December 11, 1903

You are gathered together not as business men, but as citizens of Boston. If you were considering merely your selfish business interests, you would be at your stores or your offices; for you could better afford to pay the increases of taxes due to inefficiency, wastefulness and corruption in government than to spend the time, the effort and the money necessary to secure good government. The increase of taxes would for you be but a small price to pay for immunity from public cares.

But as men of honor, you cannot submit meekly to be represented and to be governed by men criminal or inefficient. As men of honor, you cannot without a struggle permit the city of Boston, around which cluster the noblest and most sacred memories of American history -- the city of Boston which you love, and whose fair name and welfare are now entrusted to your care, to be disgraced by the election to high office of men whose criminal practices are not only known but have been established after full hearing by legally constituted tribunals.

Think of the effrontery of this man Curley -- standing before the people of Boston as the nominee of a great political party within three months of the day when he was convicted by a jury of the crime of conspiracy to defraud the government of the United States.

The waste and theft of public monies which result from having such men in office is bad enough, but a hundred times worse is the demoralization of our people which results. Nothing breeds faster than corruption. Every criminal in the public service is a plague spot spreading contagion on every hand. Think what a heritage we shall leave to our children if corruption is allowed to stalk about unstayed. The ships which carry the products of our rich country to other lands come back freighted with thousands of men and women and children who, fleeing from the oppression or the hopelessness of their old homes, seek this as the land of liberty and of opportunity. Shall we permit these, our fellow citizens -- perhaps our future rulers -- to be taught that in Boston liberty means license to loot the public treasury -- that in Boston opportunity means the chance for graft.

You do well to pause among the engrossing occupations of your business to consider the evils that are upon us and the greater evils that are threatened. As men of honor you must strive to protect your city from insult -- you must endeavor to preserve it in all its glory for your children. You must have good government because it is a disgrace in a free country to submit to the government of the bad. And if you do strive, strive earnestly, persistently -- you will not fail.