Skip Navigation

Inaugural Address
of
Governor
E. F. Morgan

Delivered in the Armory, Charleston
March 4, 1921

It is with a sincere appreciation of the honor that has been conferred upon me, and a very deep sense of the responsibility of the duties of the high office I am about to assume, that I appear before you on this occasion.

We have recently emerged from two very active and in some respects, bitter campaigns, and to be nominated and elected Governor under the conditions that characterized the opposition in these campaigns by such an unprecedented plurality is a compliment which any one should deeply appreciate and for which I am profoundly grateful. I sincerely appreciate the assistance and support given me by the thousands of voters of opposite political faith to that of mine. It shall be my chief aim and sole endeavor to merit the confidence that a great people has manifested by electing me as their chief executive officer and servant by exerting my best efforts in procuring for them an absolutely impartial enforcement of the laws, without regard to political party, class, race or creed.

It is needless for me to remind you that during all my life I have been an ardent Republican, and as the years go by my faith grows stronger in the progressive and constructive principles of the party of Lincoln, McKinley, Roosevelt and Harding.

Elected as a Republican, I feel that in the distribution of patronage my party should have first consideration, but under no circumstances should incompetent, inefficient persons, with nothing to recommend them but partisan service, be appointed to positions of trust and responsibility and I want to assure my fellow citizens that competency and efficiency and a desire to promote the public welfare will be the chief guiding stars that shall influence my actions in the selection of those who are to assist in conducting the governmental affairs of the State, to the end that we may have a wise, efficient and economical administration.

Women Voters and Political Parties

We are confronted with the fact that very recently the voting citizenship of the State has been almost doubled by the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, granting to women equal suffrage.

This action came too late to allow the women any participation in the selection of party candidates, but did give them full power as electors in the general election.

Even those who looked on this step with grave misgivings are now convinced that only good will come from it and that the influence of women in political affairs will be for good. The same splendid qualities that made the women of West Virginia equal to every duty during the World War, when their burden was a grievous one, will make them helpful co-workers in the political field.

There is only one danger as I see it, and of this I am impelled to speak: This government of ours is so fashioned and shaped that political parties, differing as to certain fundamental or basic principles are necessary, and it would be unfortunate indeed should the women of the State organize themselves into a party having as a sole foundation that of sex. There certainly can be no more reason for a woman's party than there would be for a man's party, and, as has been well said, women can assuredly find within the lines of party organizations that "independence of action so wholesomely necessary to our political well being."

Surely, in the last election, the action of the newly enfranchised women voters gave splendid promise of the benefit to follow their equal political partnership with us. They are entitled to, and must, share in the distribution of patronage in the future.

Unrest Follows World War

As a result of the recent great World War, with its attendant waste, recklessness and extravagance, there is an almost universal spirit of unrest and discontent. There has been, during the past few years, a growing disposition or feeling manifesting itself in legislation, social, industrial and economic problems that the Government can by law do almost any and everything; that, by a wave of the governmental wand, all economic laws are suspended or annihilated. This doctrine is fallacious. Permanent prosperity is never created by the enactment of freak statutes. The public interest is generally much better subserved by the enactment of few well considered laws than a multitude of half-baked statutes. Quality is much more to be desired than quantity. No legislation can supplant thrift, industry and economy, - the principles that actuated our forefathers who builded for us a State and Nation that have even surpassed their fondest dreams.

It is well that we should recur of those time-honored principles, rededicate ourselves unselfishly to the task of making better and greater our beloved State, and then, and not until then, will the clouds of unrest and discontent cease to obscure the sunshine of prosperity and contentment.

Capital and Labor

The peace, happiness and prosperity of the citizens in some sections of West Virginia have been marred during the past few years at frequent intervals by industrial strife. The press throughout the country has eagerly exaggerated and exploited this unpleasant situation and, as a result our ill-advised neighbors look upon us as lawless and uncivilized. An infraction of the law committed in one of the southern counties of West Virginia is given many times the space, under flaming headlines, by the New York press that is given a far more heinous offense committed in the "Bowery." That serious crimes have been committed within our borders within the past few months is undeniable, and it is deplorable that in this, the most favored state in the Union by an all-wise Providence in the bestowal of natural resources, her people educated, cultured and refined, where happiness should reign supreme, the Governor has found it necessary, in order to protect her citizens and their property from violence, to invoke the aid of the Federal Government.

Under a government of laws and not of men, like that of ours, the law is supreme, and it is the duty of the officers of the State and the Country, also of the citizens, to see that it is upheld at all hazards, and no man, whether he be employer or employee, has the right under the law to use unlawful means even to accomplish an otherwise just result. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the boasted rights of an American citizen, and, if our Government fails to secure to any citizen, be he ever so poor or humble, these rights, it becomes a mockery and is no longer entitled to the respect and support of its citizenship.

There does not exist that amicable feeling between the so-called capital and labor classes that is necessary to produce peace and contentment. The false doctrine that we often hear preached that the interests of certain groups or classes are irreconcilably opposed to the interests of certain other groups or classes, having for its object the arraying of class against class, is in a large measure, responsible for this unpleasant situation. Under our form of government, there is no class distinction. The laborer of today is the capitalist of tomorrow.

Another disturbing factor in some sections of the State is what is commonly called the "private guard system." The party of which I have the honor to be a member, through its legally constituted representatives, recently declared that,

"In a Republic the enforcement of laws made by the people should be and must always be in the hands of public servants elected by the people. We deplore the abuses that have grown up under the so-called private guard or detective systems in this State and we pledge a Republican Legislature to enact laws that will correct those abuses and at the same time maintain and protect all lawful property and personal rights."

I have no doubt but that the Legislature, being composed as it is of high class representative citizens from all sections of the State, will unhesitatingly fulfill this solemn pledge of the party by the enactment of imperative laws for that purpose.

Much of the dispute between employer and employee is the result of misunderstanding and suspicion. How is this situation to be remedied? Wise, humane, progressive laws will aid in its solution, but not until, a new spirit animates both the employer and employee will the final solution occur. Carlyle has well said:

"Capital and labor never can or will agree until both decide on doing their work faithfully throughout, and like men of conscience and honor, whose highest aim is to behave like faithful citizens of the universe and obey the eternal Commandments of Almighty God who made them."

We are approaching the period, which has happily been reached in many places, when the great mass of high-minded, right-thinking citizens will no longer tolerate the arrogant, grasping employer on one hand, or the arbitrary, fanatic labor leader on the other. Each must remember that the other has certain rights that, under our system of government, must be respected, and that the public interest is paramount to the rights of either.

The employer has the legal right to refuse to employ a laborer, but he has no right to maltreat or abuse him. The laborer has the legal right to quit work or strike, but he has no right to injure or destroy the property of his employer. A resort to violence is un-American and must not be tolerated, and the person who advocates such a course is a menace to society and an enemy to the interests he pretends to represent.

The future success and progress of our State is inseparably bound up with and depends upon the relation of our citizenship to each other. We must either all go up together or we will ultimately all go down together.

Good Roads

One of the great tasks of the incoming administration will be the carrying out of the expressed wishes of the voters in the construction of good roads in West Virginia. A recent census report discloses there are ten per cent fewer farms in the State than there were ten years ago. This is an alarming situation which we do not fully comprehend by the mere recital of statistics. The best way to increase interest in farming is to make rural life more attractive. Those who have given much thought to our problems of rural life have discarded the "back to the farm" slogan. They have found it more practicable to use their talents in an endeavor to keep the farmer and his family on the farm. They know this aim can be accomplished only by making rural life so attractive that the exodus of the farmers to more populous communities will be stopped. Our rural citizens must be given the same advantages as those enjoyed by the residents of our communities if we are to give needed and proper encouragement to the great agricultural and horticultural industry.

These advantages to the rural population will follow the construction of good roads. "They eliminate distance and are the guarantee of increased production." With good roads the problem of transportation and distribution of farm commodities is solved. Access to the schools is assured and the pleasure car of the city becomes the indispensible conveyance of the rural resident.

While the betterment and attractive expansion of our rural life may be considered the chief reason for good roads, let us not forget, as recited in our State platform, that "West Virginia is the wonderland of America," and with her magnificent mountain scenery, her many medicinal springs from which are constantly flowing healing waters, is destined to become, with improved and permanent arteries to travel, a real "mecca" for tourists.

Permanent roads are just as essential to our industrial and commercial expansion as they are to our rural life. Difficulties of transportation have contributed greatly to retard the growth of the State as a manufacturing empire. With unlimited stores of the best and cheapest fuel at our very doors, West Virginia is becoming widely recognized as one of the most favored sites for manufacturing enterprises, and the day is not far distant when the State will be widely known for her manufactured products, as she is today for her wealth of natural resources. Possessing the latter in abundance, the growth of our manufacturing industry is but a logical sequence.

In recent years, we have seen the Federal Government, after full investigation of the claims of sister states, designate West Virginia as the most favorable site for manufacturing. The other day I was a witness to the fruition of the nation's plan to manufacture her armor plate in West Virginia. I believe that our economic independence and our industrial growth will be augmented by the construction of an enduring system of permanent lines of transportation.

I am convinced, from the interest manifested, that the Legislature at the present session will enact wise, conservative laws in harmony with the expression of our people who voted overwhelmingly to amend our organic law, - first, to create a comprehensive plan and system for road construction; and, secondly, for the removal of a constitutional inhibition so that the created plan might be made effective.

Education

Among the resources of the nation, none can equal in importance the character of its citizens and no service is comparable to that which raises the standards of citizenship. Our schools, therefore, hold and must retain a most prominent position in any plan for the improvement of our condition. Much honor and credit belongs to those who have been in charge of our school system in the past for the splendid results they have accomplished.

Our State University now compares favorably with similar institutions in other states, and many private and denominational schools, with the rank of colleges, have grown up and prospered among our hills and are performing valuable services in the education of our youth. Our Normal Schools have grown in usefulness. They have performed splendid services in the cause of secondary education and in the preparation of teachers, and are now finding broader fields of usefulness. Nearly every county in the State boasts one or more institutions of high school grade, many of which give training courses for teachers, and it can be truly said that advanced education has been placed within reach of every boy and girl of West Virginia. The school systems of our cities and towns are fully equal to those of any other part of the Union. Millions of dollars have been and are being freely expended for these purposes.

But while much has been done, there yet remains much to do. We must not forget the fact, revealed by the great war, that hundreds of thousands of our youth, and these of the best blood of our land, are so deficient in education that they cannot even read and write. Such a condition is intolerable and must not continue. It is well to support our higher institutions of learning and support them liberally for these develop our great thinkers, investigators and leaders, but we must now, as always, look to the elementary school as the agency which will educate the great mass of our people and elevate the standards of our citizenship. No nation can be truly great that ignores the education of the many, no matter how highly it may educate a few. It must, rather, base its claim to greatness and its hope for the safety and perpetuation of its institutions on the average intelligence, honesty and uprightness of the whole body of its people.

Two-thirds of our population live in the rural districts, where many of our schools are closed because of the scarcity of teachers, and hundreds of teachers are teaching under emergency certificates, under stress of existing conditions, whose age and education but poorly fit them to perform the important work of the school room.

Measures must be taken to remedy these conditions. Teachers' salaries should be made attractive enough to induce the most capable men and women to return to the school room or to enter upon the work of teaching, money must be provided for building comfortable, sanitary and attractive school houses in the rural districts, and every effort should be made to place our elementary and rural schools abreast of the best in the Union. Until this is done, we cannot feel that we have made adequate provisions for properly developing the greatest of all our resources, which is the intelligence of our people.

Some day our hills will be stripped of their timber, our mountains will be robbed of their coal, gas and oil; but, if we then have an intelligent and educated people of sturdy character and conduct, our future will remain secure and our happiness and safety will be assured.

Taxation

The big problem of the State Administration will be financial - a question of income and outgo - of revenue and expenditures.

As all know, there was an actual deficit in the State funds for general revenue purposes for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1920, of nearly one-half million dollars. The deficiency for the current fiscal year ending June 30, 1921, is estimated at a sum approximately of one and one-half million dollars. This deficiency is accounted for in part because the Act of the Legislature of the Extraordinary Session 1919, providing a special privilege tax on the transportation of oil and gas through pipe lines has been held to be constitutional only in part, and is still in litigation. No revenue has been collected thereunder. The great building program now called for by the various old and new State institutions, due to the growth of the demands, made upon them; the largely increased appropriations required for education; and, in addition, the heavy deficiencies for the past two years, already noted, are of themselves a big problem, calling for wise revenue legislation., There is added the calamitous and utter destruction of the State Capitol, necessitating the expenditure of many hundreds of thousands of dollars for temporary, and a modest, fire-proof new Capitol.

We are also, it might be added, in the high tide of the financial burdens imposed upon the State by the adjudicated Virginia debt, with its hundreds of thousands of interest and sinking fund requirements annually.

In addition to the foregoing demands, there is also the State-wide road building project, involving enormous expenditures, to be partially met by bond issues of the State.

The mere recital in this brief form of some of the immediate financial responsibilities is enough to warrant the statement that the chief problem of the State Administration will have to do with finances.

It is not my purpose, nor is this the time and place, to suggest how some of the demands may be met, further than to say that the whole taxation system of the state is involved. Between the taxing laws of the Nation, the State and the lesser taxing units, the business men and institutions and taxpayers generally are put to great expense and much valuable time is consumed by the harassing details of the requirements of the numerous tax reports. The average business man is bewildered by the verbiage of the laws and complex regulations or interpretations. We should not needlessly add to those burdens. Simpler tax laws are required.

The three to five millions of increased or added revenues needed to meet the extraordinary, as well as the growing, burdens of the State cannot and should not be raised by levying direct taxes upon the assessed values of the real estate and personal property of the people of West Virginia. The direct State taxes, equally as well as the direct County and municipal taxes, should be held down, - not increased. I hope to see no Acts of the Legislature increasing local taxes, unless accompanied by a proviso that such increased taxes should not be made unless voted and approved by the people of the locality affected. The time has come to halt the direct tax rate and to perfect the assessments. "Accurate assessment is as important to the individual as a good tax system is to the community." Our tax assessment system has largely deteriorated during the past decade. It is time to see that all property which is assessed bears its just proportion of the load of taxation. A direct State-wide tax accentuates the inequalities of local assessments in the fifty-five counties, and should therefore be kept at the lowest possible rate in order that injustice in taxation be kept at a. minimum.

New Commissions

In view of the onerous burdens already imposed by taxation, I am opposed to the creation of any additional Boards or Commissions, or the employment of any clerks, agents or assistants that are not absolutely essential to an efficient administration of the State's affairs. And, while I heartily favor the payment of reasonable salaries to public officials and servants, in making provisions for future revenues for the payment of the salaries of officials and employees and current expenses of the departments and institutions, we should remember that we are emerging from the period of inflated "war prices" and that conditions are rapidly becoming stabilized.

Enforcement of Prohibition

Frequent complaints are heard from different sections of the country concerning the illicit manufacture and sale of numerous varieties of intoxicating beverages. There is no doubt that the Prohibition Amendment is enforced in West Virginia much more rigidly than in many other states of the Union, yet its enforcement in many sections of the State has been lax and unsatisfactory, due in a large measure to the sentiment against the law in those particular localities. It is claimed by the State Prohibition Department that some of the local officials, who should enforce the law, wink at, and sometimes actually participate in, its violation. An official who violates a law, whose duty it is to see that it is enforced, is society's most dangerous type of criminal, and there should be no delay in placing him with the class where he properly belongs that the public may be advised and treat him accordingly. When we have officials in sympathy with the Amendment, backed by a strong public sentiment in favor of its enforcement, complaint against its non-enforcement will no longer be heard.

Primary Elections

The sentiment against our present primary system is generally conceded. The two dominant political parties have registered their disapproval and promised relief through amendment or repeal of the present law. The necessary expense that has to be incurred by a candidate for State office practically prohibits a poor man, however superior may be his qualifications, from entering the contest. Any law that permits a small minority of the voters of any party, through the aid and connivance or collusion of parties of opposite political faith, to force upon that party a candidate to be voted for at a general election is subversive of the boasted democratic principles on which our Government rests; and, as aptly stated by the Governor of Minnesota, "Any law which permits a party candidate who is defeated at the primary election of his party to become the candidate of another party for the same office at the ensuing general election is not only absurd and politically dishonest but it makes a mockery of the oaths of party allegiance voluntarily taken by all candidates who file at the primary." Bills have already been introduced in the Legislature for the purpose of amending the present Primary Law and thereby redeeming the solemn pledge of the party to the citizens of the State.

Recommendations

I desire to take this opportunity of publicly endorsing the recommendations of my distinguished predecessor, Governor Cornwell, contained in his recent very able message to the Legislature, in relation to the following subjects, viz: Banking Department, Depository Bonds, Reorganization National Guard, State Sinking Fund Commission, Department of Public Safety (this department should be loyally supported and maintained until the National Guard shall have been reorganized), Reforestation, Revision of Water Power Act and Public Printing.

State Officials

We are all to be congratulated on the assurance of the continuation of the efficient service of our faithful and experienced State officials, General England, Secretary of State Young, Commissioner Stewart and Treasurer Johnson, and, while Major Bond and Captain Ford are just entering upon the discharge of the duties of their respective offices of Auditor and State Superintendent of Free Schools, they enjoy the proud distinction of being numbered among those brave West Virginians who volunteered in the Great World War and on the bloody battlefields of Europe unflinchingly and heroically served the cause of civilization by doing their part toward stemming the tide of the onrushing Hun and sounded forever the death knell of German Autocracy. West Virginia need have no fears but that men possessing patriotism of that character will make honest and faithful public officials.

Conclusion

With the aid and co-operation of these able and experienced officials and with the assistance of all the good citizens of West Virginia, without regard to party, race, creed, class or sex, for which I plead and confidently expect to receive, and without which our administration would be a miserable failure, striving to emulate the worthy examples of my distinguished predecessors, whose devoted public service has aided so much in our unparalleled progress, emphasizing my former declarations that I am under no special obligation to any class, sect or individual, and that the door to the executive office will be open alike to the humblest toiler and the greatest captain of industry, it shall be my sole aim to honestly and conscientiously perform the duties incumbent upon me as the Chief Executive of our Great State.

Humbly imploring Divine guidance from the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, the source of all Wisdom, I am ready to take the oath of office and enter upon the discharge of my duties.

Biography


West Virginia's Governors

West Virginia History CenterWest Virginia History Center

West Virginia Archives and History