Pension Bill for Washington Firemen
It is indeed an honor and a pleasure to be present here with this great body of representative firemen and to have an opportunity to address you briefly on behalf of the Firemen’s Association of the National Capital, of which organization I have the honor to hold its highest office. Although the city of Washington has but 482 men whose duty it is to protect the life and property of her citizens, yet it is with pride that I can state that almost the entire membership of our fire department there are members of our local Firemen’s Association. When you consider that our local organization is less than two years old, and that its membership has already passed the 400 mark, out of a total of 484 members of the department, I am sure you will agree that we have at least shown the spirit of strength and progress. It must be remembered also that the fire department of the national capital occupies a position different from that of any other in the United States. In our city we are under the control of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, the members of which body are appointed by the President of the United States to administer all laws and regulations covering all municipal affairs of the City of Washington. We therefore have to look direct to the National Congress for all legislation affecting the firemen of our city. All laws governing the District of Columbia must be approved by the District Committee of the United States Senate and the House of Represenatives before they are presented to the open sessions of Congress for final action. These congressional committees are made up of Senators and Members from all parts of the country, who live in Washington only during the sessions of the House and Senate, and who return to their homes in the various States at the close of Congress. There are no elections held in the City of Washington and, consequently, there is no voting by the citizens there. We have no City Council or Board of Aldermen, but the District Commissioners appointed by the President reign supreme. You can therefore readily see that the laws by which we are governed in our city come direct from the Congress of the United States, and to the honorable members of that great body we have to appeal when we seek legislation affecting the interests of the firemen in the District of Columbia. I know that each of our brother firemen in every part of the country take great pride in their home city and in their local organization, but whatever the State or whatever the city in which you live, you must also bear in mind that Washington, D. C., is your mother city and to her you owe still greater pride as the official clearing house of our great nation. The patriotic pride of all the citizens of our country are striving to make our capital the model city of the world, and, to accomplish this, each of its public utilities must be a model in itself. Right here is where we need you and your associations to co-operate by lending your aid and assistance in bringing the fire department in the national capital up to that high plane of equipment, personnel and efficiency which will reflect credit upon each and every member of that great body of preservers of life and liberty throughout our land, and to reflect the patriotic pride of all associations in the capital of our country. Our association at Washington now has before Congress a bill providing for the free transportation of the members of the fire department by the surface railways while on duty. This bill has met with unanimous approval of those Senators and Members of Congress who have investigated the provisions of the bill, and who are familiar with conditions that exist in other cities with regard to the transportation of fire-fighters. It is to acquaint the other Senators and Members of Congress as to condition of affairs in this regard that we ask your assistance by addressing communications to your representatives requesting their approval and support of the measure now pending and to see that justice is done the members of our association. Although the local street railway companies have assured us that they would be glad to transport our firemen without charge while on duty, yet the regulations governing the public utilities have denied us that privilege and placed upon us the additional hardship of paying car fares out of the meagre pay which our boys are receiving. It is for the purpose of eliminating this additional burden upon us that the bill was presented to Congress, and I appeal to you and to the individual members of your associations that you take this matter up with your respective Senators and Members and ask fair treatment at their hands. It should further be borne in mind that when your vote is asked for a candidate to these high offices of our Government that assurance should be given of their attitude in such matters which so vitally affect the welfare of your brother firemen and comrades. Of course, yott know that the regulations affecting our department at the national capital in making it the model city of the world not only affects our organization, but the associations throughout the country, as well. In conclusion, I am directed by the Firemen’s Association of the City of Washington to extend to the members of the National Association its greetings and good wishes, and to assure you of our help and assistance in times of need in all matters looking to the betterment of all the associations represented here and of the individual members who remain at home, ready by night and by day to respond to the call of duty. On behalf of our organization, I extend a hearty welcome to each and every member of the associations represented here to-day. to visit our city and to feel at home with the boys who, amid the clanging of gongs, the blinding smoke, the ruddy flames and falling walls, ever hold that unity of spirit, goodfellowship and patriotic pride in the rescuing of the perishing and the protection of property, for which we men arc ever ready to sacrifice our lives and happiness.
* Address made at National Firemen’s Association Convention, Chicago, December 1-3, 1914.