Religion figured prominently in the 1928 presidential election when Alfred E. Smith, the Democratic governor of New York, became the first Catholic to run as the candidate of a major political party. Smith, who ran against the Republican Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, tried to downplay the subject of his religion. In his speech accepting the presidential nomination, Smith sought to reassure voters that he would not favor Catholics, “Wets” (supporters of Prohibition), or Easterners if elected president. While his words may have reassured some, his obvious New York accent reinforced the worries—and prejudices—of others.Listen to Audio:
Al Smith: I am entirely unwilling to accept the old order of things as the best, unless, and until I become convinced, that it cannot be made better. While this is a government of laws, and not of men, laws do not execute themselves. We must have people of character and outstanding ability to save the nation. To me, the greatest elements of satisfaction, in my nomination, is the fact that I owe it to no man, or to no set of men. I can with complete honesty make the statement that my nomination was brought out by no promise, given or implied, by me or anybody in my behalf. I will not be influenced in appointments by the question of a person’s wet or dry attitude. I will not be influenced in appointments by the fact that a man is either rich or poor, whether he comes from the North, the East, the South or the West, or by what church he attends in the worship of God. The sole standard of my appointment will be the same as they’ve been in my governorship: integrity of the man or woman, and his ability, or her ability, to give me the greatest possible aid in devoted service to the people.
Source: Courtesy of the Michigan State University, G. Robert Vincent Voice Library.