It must be clear to any man who has followed the development of the Conservation idea that no other policy now before the American people is so thoroughly democratic in its essence and in its tendencies as the Conservation policy. It asserts that the people have the right and the duty, and that it is their duty no less than their right, to protect themselves against the uncontrolled monopoly of the natural resources which yield the necessaries of life. We are beginning to realize that the Conservation question is a question of right and wrong, as any question must be which may involve the differences between prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, ignorance and education, well-being and misery, to hundreds of thousands of families. Seen from the point of view of human welfare and human progress, questions which begin as purely economic often end as moral issues. Conservation is a moral issue because it involves the rights and the duties of our people—their rights to prosperity and happiness, and their duties to themselves, to their descendants, and to the whole future progress and welfare of this Nation.
Violent crises in the lives of men and nations usually produce their own remedies. They grasp the attention and stir the consciences of men, and usually they evolve leaders and measures to meet their imperious needs. But the great evident crises are by no means the only ones of importance. The quiet turning point, reached and passed often with slight attention and wholly without struggle, is frequently not less decisive. Great decisions are made or great impulses given or withheld in the life of a man or a nation often so quietly that their critical character is seen only in retrospect. It is only the historian who can say just when some unnoticed, yet decisive and irrevocable, step was actually accomplished.
The United States has been in the midst of such a period of decision since the Spanish War called into blossom the quiet growth of years, and we are still face to face with questions of the most vital bearing upon our future. The changes now in progress are accompanied by no convulsions, yet the whole character of our civilization is being rapidly crystallized anew as our country takes its inevitable place in the world.