William Stephens

24th Governor, Republican

Second Inaugural Address

Delivered: January 7, 1919

First Inaugural Address - March 15, 1917


Conscious of the great honor conferred upon me by the people of California, grateful that they have reposed such trust in me, and realizing fully the difficulties and the responsibilities confronting me, I have taken an oath to serve all the people of this great State to the best of my ability.

You and I are to be fellow workers in the public service. Together we must face the perplexing problems which the future holds. These we must meet with courage, with sincerity and with unswerving devotion to the public good. Working in this spirit we can do much to promote the development and welfare of the people of this great State. I seek your help and co-operation and at all times it will be my pleasure to render to you all the assistance I can.

Since last I addressed the Legislature in joint assembly, a world war has been fought and won. Events have occurred of such momentous importance as to modify, if not completely to alter, the thought and purposes of men and women throughout the world.

The occasion of my last meeting with you in March, 1917, was to make provision for participation in the colossal struggle in which our country was soon to become involved. Those were days of grim determination, but California was ready with unflinching courage to meet the shock of the most brutal warfare that history has known.

With sad but proud hearts we gave the best of our young men for the front. More than 135,000 Californians donned Uncle Sam’s uniform and went forth with resolute purpose to endure whatever of danger and of sacrifice was necessary to hasten the bright day of peace.

Quicker than we had dared to hope, that day of peace has dawned. Our brave defenders are coming back to us, and we look forward with joyous hearts to their return. Unhappily some who went will not come back. California’s service flag will be emblazoned with two thousand stars of gold, and to the memory of those dead heroes we all join in tributes of honor and affection.

I am proud of the sound patriotism shown by our people at every stage of the war. California’s war record is an inspiring object lesson of the triumph of popular government. Every call from Washington was answered promptly, and with a thoroughness that demonstrated the splendid, patriotic fervor of our people. Not once did California fail or even lag in the heavy demands made upon our resources and our man power.

Today we are face to face with the problems of peace. History records that the aftermath of war is usually a period of industrial depression. The sudden release of the soldiers and their restoration to the vocations from which they were called by the clang of war has caused some persons to fear that history will be repeated and that at least a temporary slackening of the country’s industrial activities is inevitable.

But there is no occasion for even a shadow of gloom concerning the industrial situation. California is this moment at the threshold of the greatest industrial era in its history. What is needed most at this time is confidence in the future. Our people must devote themselves to the problems of peace with the same earnest zeal with which they devoted themselves to the problems of war. The surplus labor that may result from the transition from war-time to peace-time activities can and will be quickly absorbed. The tasks that were suspended when war was declared must now be taken up and carried forward promptly and intelligently. If that is done, there will be employment for everyone, and our people will at once begin to enjoy the real fruits of a well earned peace.

The successful termination of the war, toward which the United States in the last two years has made such stupendous contributions of men, of money and of materials, not only has provided for the security of free institutions and has made safe the honor and lives of the women and children of the world, but has rendered it imperative that popular government justify itself by demonstrating that a republican form of government is the best and most efficient government yet devised by men. It must be shown that such government imposes a minimum of burdens and provides a maximum of benefits?that the average industrious and right minded citizen, living under a government such as ours, not only enjoys a larger personal freedom than he would have under any other form of government, but that as well he is enabled to secure for himself and for his family a larger share of the necessities and the comforts of life. Popular government in its final analysis must be judged by the measure in which it promotes the happiness and the welfare of all the people.

It is reasonable to believe?and our own experience has proved?that when the people themselves arrange, order and control public institutions all secure greater benefits from government than when the people submit to the rule of the few who regard government primarily as an agency to serve their own special or private ends.

The terrific struggle through which we have just passed has humbled the despot and overthrown the tyrant. Kaiser and czar and king have been sloughed into the discard of the ages. With them has gone, or soon will go, each and every form of special privilege.

Neither birth, nor race, nor position, nor wealth will procure any immunity or unjust privilege for any person; but every human being, by virtue of his birthright, will stand equal before the law in every quarter of the globe.

In this world-trend toward democratic government every true American should find peculiar pride and gratification. In the great sisterhood of republics, the United States has furnished the inspiration and example and ever must retain first place. California, the most truly democratic commonwealth in the Union, also greatly rejoices that the hope and aspiration of the honest, intelligent and right minded people of all lands, is to work out for themselves exactly such institutions as we have secured for ourselves.

But the very fact that California is the most truly democratic state in the Union, brings with it a sense of responsibility that may not be lightly regarded. The cause of popular government throughout the world, in some measure, will be advanced or retarded as we here work out our problems. We must see to it that nothing is done in California that will militate against the success of that great movement which embodies the aspirations of almost the entire human race. Rather must we so arrange and order our affairs that they may most successfully contribute to our own welfare and happiness and at the same time prove an inspiration and an encouragement to those in other lands who are striving to establish government by and for the people.

Our laws must be so just and fair and our institutions so beneficent that there will exist neither reason nor excuse for discontent. It is true that there does exist a treasonable propaganda directed against all order and against all law, which is wholly destructive and unreasoning, and which is a menace not only to honest labor, but threatens as well to plunge the whole human race back in the savagery and misery from which it sprang.

I refer to that anarchistic movement which in Europe is termed the Bolshevik and has its counterpart here in the so-called I. W. W. Some of these inciters of violence falsely claim to be acting in behalf of laboring men, an assertion which labor denies and resents. It is important that every person should understand that neither labor?organized or unorganized?nor any honest man who works either with his hands or with his brain, has anything in common with these skulking wielders of the torch and contemptible setters of time-explosions.

Unless vigorously punished and stamped out this evil thing will destroy labor as completely as it will destroy every other existing thing which is honest, and noble and right. We must not ignore this present danger. Not only must we visit the full weight of the law upon these lawless fiends, but we must meet their vicious propaganda with an aroused public sentiment. There is need for an organization to point out the falsities and the impossibilities of terrorist doctrines. In this work honest labor might well take the lead.

One phase of the labor problem which immediately concerns us is finding work for returning soldiers. It is our duty to provide employment for every one of our brave boys who was willing to die, if need be, that free government, such as ours, might live.

Happily, California is in position to furnish immediate employment upon the highways of the State. I have arranged with the Highway Commission that returning soldiers shall have preference and that work will be provided on the highways for every California soldier that needs it.

California owes much to its splendid women and many of our best laws and improved conditions are due directly to woman’s participation in public affairs equally with men. It is fitting that the women of this State who live under the laws should have a voice in making these laws. For the first time women are sitting as members of the California Legislature. I desire to welcome them among us. I am sure their influence and their work will prove highly beneficial to the State.

The year just closed brought to an end a period of great strain, and of great sacrifice?a period which applied the acid test to character. At the commencement of this year we look forward to an era of peace and prosperity. With thanks to a Divine Providence who has guided us through the dark and fearful days of war, we enter upon our new duties with new courage, new hope and new resolve.