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Title: U.S. Presidential Inaugural Addresses
Author: United States. Presidents
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "U.S. Presidential Inaugural Addresses" ***


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  George Washington, First Inaugural Address, Thursday, April 30, 1789
  George Washington, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1793
  John Adams, Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1797
  Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, Wednesday, March 4, 1801
  Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1805
  James Madison, First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1809
  James Madison, Second Inaugural Address, Thursday, March 4, 1813
  James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, March 4, 1817
  James Monroe, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, March 5, 1821
  John Quincy Adams, Inaugural Address, Friday, March 4, 1825
  Andrew Jackson, First Inaugural Address, Wednesday, March 4, 1829
  Andrew Jackson, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1833
  Martin Van Buren, Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1837
  William Henry Harrison, Inaugural Address, Thursday, March 4, 1841
  James Knox Polk, Inaugural Address, Tuesday, March 4, 1845
  Zachary Taylor, Inaugural Address, Monday, March 5, 1849
  Franklin Pierce, Inaugural Address, Friday, March 4, 1853
  James Buchanan, Inaugural Address, Wednesday, March 4, 1857
  Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1861
  Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1865
  Ulysses S. Grant, First Inaugural Address, Thursday, March 4, 1869
  Ulysses S. Grant, Second Inaugural Address, Tuesday, March 4, 1873
  Rutherford B. Hayes, Inaugural Address, Monday, March 5, 1877
  James A. Garfield, Inaugural Address, Friday, March 4, 1881
  Grover Cleveland, First Inaugural Address, Wednesday, March 4, 1885
  Benjamin Harrison, Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1889
  Grover Cleveland, Second Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1893
  William McKinley, First Inaugural Address, Thursday, March 4, 1897
  William McKinley, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1901
  Theodore Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1905
  William Howard Taft, Inaugural Address, Thursday, March 4, 1909
  Woodrow Wilson, First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, March 4, 1913
  Woodrow Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, March 5, 1917
  Warren G. Harding, Inaugural Address, Friday, March 4, 1921
  Calvin Coolidge, Inaugural Address, Wednesday, March 4, 1925
  Herbert Hoover, Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1929
  Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1933
  Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address, Wednesday, January 20, 1937
  Franklin D. Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, Monday, January 20, 1941
  Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, Saturday, January 20, 1945
  Harry S. Truman, Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 1949
  Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, January 20, 1953
  Dwight D. Eisenhower, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, January 21, 1957
  John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Friday, January 20, 1961
  Lyndon Baines Johnson, Inaugural Address, Wednesday, January 20, 1965
  Richard Milhous Nixon, First Inaugural Address, Monday, January 20, 1969
  Richard Milhous Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, Saturday, January 20, 1973
  Jimmy Carter, Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 1977
  Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, January 20, 1981
  Ronald Reagan, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, January 21, 1985
  George Bush, Inaugural Address, Friday, January 20, 1989
  Bill Clinton, First Inaugural Address, Wednesday, January 21, 1993
  Bill Clinton, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, January 20, 1997
  George W. Bush, First Inaugural Address, Saturday, January 20, 2001
  George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 2005
  Barack Hussein Obama, Inaugural Address, Tuesday, January 20, 2009
  Barack Hussein Obama, Inaugural Address, Monday, January 21, 2013 


George Washington First Inaugural Address Thursday, April 30, 1789

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled
me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was
transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present
month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I
can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had
chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with
an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years--a retreat
which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me
by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions
in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other
hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of
my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and
most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his
qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who
(inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the
duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his
own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is
that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just
appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All
I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too
much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an
affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of
my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity
as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me,
my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its
consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality
in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the
public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly
improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications
to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the
councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every
human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and
happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by
themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument
employed in its administration to execute with success the functions
allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of
every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your
sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at
large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore
the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those
of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the
character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by
some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution
just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil
deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from
which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which
most governments have been established without some return of pious
gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings
which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the
present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be
suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are
none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free
government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty
of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as
he shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which I
now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further
than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are
assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects
to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with
those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which
actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular
measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the
patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them.
In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on
one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party
animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought
to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on
another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the
pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence
of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win
the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I
dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love
for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly
established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature
an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and
advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous
policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we
ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can
never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order
and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation
of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of
government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked
on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain
with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power
delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient
at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been
urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given
birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this
subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official
opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your
discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that
whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the
benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await
the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic
rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently
influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can
be impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously

To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most
properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself,
and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored
with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an
arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my
duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From
this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under
the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to
myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably
included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must
accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which
I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual
expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by
the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave;
but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human
Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor
the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect
tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity
on a form of government for the security of their union and the
advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally
conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the
wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.


George Washington Second Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1793

Fellow Citizens:

I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the
functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall
arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this
distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me
by the people of united America.

Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the
Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about
to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my
administration of the Government I have in any instance violated
willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring
constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are
now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.


John Adams Inaugural Address Saturday, March 4, 1797

When it was first perceived, in early times, that no middle course for
America remained between unlimited submission to a foreign legislature
and a total independence of its claims, men of reflection were less
apprehensive of danger from the formidable power of fleets and armies
they must determine to resist than from those contests and dissensions
which would certainly arise concerning the forms of government to be
instituted over the whole and over the parts of this extensive country.
Relying, however, on the purity of their intentions, the justice of
their cause, and the integrity and intelligence of the people, under an
overruling Providence which had so signally protected this country from
the first, the representatives of this nation, then consisting of little
more than half its present number, not only broke to pieces the chains
which were forging and the rod of iron that was lifted up, but frankly
cut asunder the ties which had bound them, and launched into an ocean of

The zeal and ardor of the people during the Revolutionary war, supplying
the place of government, commanded a degree of order sufficient at least
for the temporary preservation of society. The Confederation which was
early felt to be necessary was prepared from the models of the Batavian
and Helvetic confederacies, the only examples which remain with any
detail and precision in history, and certainly the only ones which the
people at large had ever considered. But reflecting on the striking
difference in so many particulars between this country and those where
a courier may go from the seat of government to the frontier in a single
day, it was then certainly foreseen by some who assisted in Congress at
the formation of it that it could not be durable.

Negligence of its regulations, inattention to its recommendations,
if not disobedience to its authority, not only in individuals but in
States, soon appeared with their melancholy consequences--universal
languor, jealousies and rivalries of States, decline of navigation and
commerce, discouragement of necessary manufactures, universal fall in
the value of lands and their produce, contempt of public and private
faith, loss of consideration and credit with foreign nations, and at
length in discontents, animosities, combinations, partial conventions,
and insurrection, threatening some great national calamity.

In this dangerous crisis the people of America were not abandoned by
their usual good sense, presence of mind, resolution, or integrity.
Measures were pursued to concert a plan to form a more perfect union,
establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common
defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of
liberty. The public disquisitions, discussions, and deliberations issued
in the present happy Constitution of Government.

Employed in the service of my country abroad during the whole course of
these transactions, I first saw the Constitution of the United States in
a foreign country. Irritated by no literary altercation, animated by
no public debate, heated by no party animosity, I read it with great
satisfaction, as the result of good heads prompted by good hearts, as
an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation,
and relations of this nation and country than any which had ever been
proposed or suggested. In its general principles and great outlines
it was conformable to such a system of government as I had ever most
esteemed, and in some States, my own native State in particular, had
contributed to establish. Claiming a right of suffrage, in common with
my fellow-citizens, in the adoption or rejection of a constitution which
was to rule me and my posterity, as well as them and theirs, I did not
hesitate to express my approbation of it on all occasions, in public and
in private. It was not then, nor has been since, any objection to it in
my mind that the Executive and Senate were not more permanent. Nor have
I ever entertained a thought of promoting any alteration in it but such
as the people themselves, in the course of their experience, should see
and feel to be necessary or expedient, and by their representatives
in Congress and the State legislatures, according to the Constitution
itself, adopt and ordain.

Returning to the bosom of my country after a painful separation from it
for ten years, I had the honor to be elected to a station under the
new order of things, and I have repeatedly laid myself under the most
serious obligations to support the Constitution. The operation of it
has equaled the most sanguine expectations of its friends, and from
an habitual attention to it, satisfaction in its administration, and
delight in its effects upon the peace, order, prosperity, and happiness
of the nation I have acquired an habitual attachment to it and
veneration for it.

What other form of government, indeed, can so well deserve our esteem
and love?

There may be little solidity in an ancient idea that congregations of
men into cities and nations are the most pleasing objects in the
sight of superior intelligences, but this is very certain, that to a
benevolent human mind there can be no spectacle presented by any nation
more pleasing, more noble, majestic, or august, than an assembly like
that which has so often been seen in this and the other Chamber of
Congress, of a Government in which the Executive authority, as well as
that of all the branches of the Legislature, are exercised by citizens
selected at regular periods by their neighbors to make and execute laws
for the general good. Can anything essential, anything more than mere
ornament and decoration, be added to this by robes and diamonds?
Can authority be more amiable and respectable when it descends from
accidents or institutions established in remote antiquity than when it
springs fresh from the hearts and judgments of an honest and enlightened
people? For it is the people only that are represented. It is their
power and majesty that is reflected, and only for their good, in every
legitimate government, under whatever form it may appear. The existence
of such a government as ours for any length of time is a full proof of a
general dissemination of knowledge and virtue throughout the whole body
of the people. And what object or consideration more pleasing than
this can be presented to the human mind? If national pride is ever
justifiable or excusable it is when it springs, not from power or
riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence,
information, and benevolence.

In the midst of these pleasing ideas we should be unfaithful to
ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties
if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free,
fair, virtuous, and independent elections. If an election is to be
determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by
a party through artifice or corruption, the Government may be the choice
of a party for its own ends, not of the nation for the national good. If
that solitary suffrage can be obtained by foreign nations by flattery
or menaces, by fraud or violence, by terror, intrigue, or venality, the
Government may not be the choice of the American people, but of foreign
nations. It may be foreign nations who govern us, and not we, the
people, who govern ourselves; and candid men will acknowledge that in
such cases choice would have little advantage to boast of over lot or

Such is the amiable and interesting system of government (and such
are some of the abuses to which it may be exposed) which the people of
America have exhibited to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and
virtuous of all nations for eight years under the administration of a
citizen who, by a long course of great actions, regulated by prudence,
justice, temperance, and fortitude, conducting a people inspired with
the same virtues and animated with the same ardent patriotism and
love of liberty to independence and peace, to increasing wealth and
unexampled prosperity, has merited the gratitude of his fellow-citizens,
commanded the highest praises of foreign nations, and secured immortal
glory with posterity.

In that retirement which is his voluntary choice may he long live to
enjoy the delicious recollection of his services, the gratitude of
mankind, the happy fruits of them to himself and the world, which are
daily increasing, and that splendid prospect of the future fortunes of
this country which is opening from year to year. His name may be still a
rampart, and the knowledge that he lives a bulwark, against all open or
secret enemies of his country's peace. This example has been recommended
to the imitation of his successors by both Houses of Congress and by the
voice of the legislatures and the people throughout the nation.

On this subject it might become me better to be silent or to speak with
diffidence; but as something may be expected, the occasion, I hope, will
be admitted as an apology if I venture to say that if a preference, upon
principle, of a free republican government, formed upon long and serious
reflection, after a diligent and impartial inquiry after truth; if an
attachment to the Constitution of the United States, and a conscientious
determination to support it until it shall be altered by the judgments
and wishes of the people, expressed in the mode prescribed in it; if a
respectful attention to the constitutions of the individual States and a
constant caution and delicacy toward the State governments; if an equal
and impartial regard to the rights, interest, honor, and happiness of
all the States in the Union, without preference or regard to a northern
or southern, an eastern or western, position, their various political
opinions on unessential points or their personal attachments; if a love
of virtuous men of all parties and denominations; if a love of science
and letters and a wish to patronize every rational effort to encourage
schools, colleges, universities, academies, and every institution for
propagating knowledge, virtue, and religion among all classes of the
people, not only for their benign influence on the happiness of life in
all its stages and classes, and of society in all its forms, but as the
only means of preserving our Constitution from its natural enemies, the
spirit of sophistry, the spirit of party, the spirit of intrigue, the
profligacy of corruption, and the pestilence of foreign influence, which
is the angel of destruction to elective governments; if a love of equal
laws, of justice, and humanity in the interior administration; if an
inclination to improve agriculture, commerce, and manufacturers for
necessity, convenience, and defense; if a spirit of equity and humanity
toward the aboriginal nations of America, and a disposition to meliorate
their condition by inclining them to be more friendly to us, and our
citizens to be more friendly to them; if an inflexible determination to
maintain peace and inviolable faith with all nations, and that system of
neutrality and impartiality among the belligerent powers of Europe which
has been adopted by this Government and so solemnly sanctioned by both
Houses of Congress and applauded by the legislatures of the States and
the public opinion, until it shall be otherwise ordained by Congress; if
a personal esteem for the French nation, formed in a residence of
seven years chiefly among them, and a sincere desire to preserve the
friendship which has been so much for the honor and interest of both
nations; if, while the conscious honor and integrity of the people of
America and the internal sentiment of their own power and energies must
be preserved, an earnest endeavor to investigate every just cause and
remove every colorable pretense of complaint; if an intention to pursue
by amicable negotiation a reparation for the injuries that have been
committed on the commerce of our fellow-citizens by whatever nation, and
if success can not be obtained, to lay the facts before the Legislature,
that they may consider what further measures the honor and interest
of the Government and its constituents demand; if a resolution to do
justice as far as may depend upon me, at all times and to all nations,
and maintain peace, friendship, and benevolence with all the world;
if an unshaken confidence in the honor, spirit, and resources of the
American people, on which I have so often hazarded my all and never been
deceived; if elevated ideas of the high destinies of this country and of
my own duties toward it, founded on a knowledge of the moral principles
and intellectual improvements of the people deeply engraven on my mind
in early life, and not obscured but exalted by experience and age; and,
with humble reverence, I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration
for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians,
and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity
among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in
any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor
that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without

With this great example before me, with the sense and spirit, the faith
and honor, the duty and interest, of the same American people pledged to
support the Constitution of the United States, I entertain no doubt
of its continuance in all its energy, and my mind is prepared without
hesitation to lay myself under the most solemn obligations to support it
to the utmost of my power.

And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the
Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of
virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its
Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with
the ends of His providence.


Thomas Jefferson First Inaugural Address Wednesday, March 4, 1801

Friends and Fellow-Citizens:

Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of
our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my
fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks
for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to
declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and
that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the
greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire.
A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing
all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in
commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly
to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye--when I contemplate these
transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes
of this beloved country committed to the issue, and the auspices of
this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the
magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed, should I despair did not
the presence of many whom I here see remind me that in the other high
authorities provided by our Constitution I shall find resources of
wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal on which to rely under all difficulties.
To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of
legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement
for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety
the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements
of a troubled world.

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation
of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might
impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write
what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation,
announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of
course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in
common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this
sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases
to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the
minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and
to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite
with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that
harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but
dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our
land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and
suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political
intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody
persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world,
during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and
slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation
of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that
this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and
should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference
of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different
names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all
Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this
Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as
monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated
where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest
men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this
Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the
full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so
far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this
Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to
preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the
strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every
man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and
would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern.
Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of
himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have
we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer
this question.

Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and
Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative
government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the
exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to
endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country,
with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth
generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of
our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and
confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from
our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion,
professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them
inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man;
acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its
dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and
his greater happiness hereafter--with all these blessings, what more is
necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing
more, fellow-citizens--a wise and frugal Government, which shall
restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free
to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall
not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the
sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our

About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which
comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should
understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government,
and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will
compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the
general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice
to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political;
peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling
alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their
rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic
concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies;
the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional
vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a
jealous care of the right of election by the people--a mild and safe
corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution
where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the
decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which
is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of
despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace
and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the
supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the
public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment
of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement
of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of
information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public
reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of
person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries
impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation
which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of
revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our
heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed
of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by
which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from
them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps
and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With
experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties
of this the greatest of all, I have learnt to expect that it will rarely
fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the
reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without pretensions to
that high confidence you reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary
character, whose preeminent services had entitled him to the first
place in his country's love and destined for him the fairest page in the
volume of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give
firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs. I shall
often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, I shall often be
thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the
whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never
be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may
condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts. The approbation
implied by your suffrage is a great consolation to me for the past, and
my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who
have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them
all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and
freedom of all.

Relying, then, on the patronage of your good will, I advance with
obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become
sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make. And may
that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our
councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace
and prosperity.


Thomas Jefferson Second Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1805

Proceeding, fellow-citizens, to that qualification which the
Constitution requires before my entrance on the charge again conferred
on me, it is my duty to express the deep sense I entertain of this new
proof of confidence from my fellow-citizens at large, and the zeal with
which it inspires me so to conduct myself as may best satisfy their just

On taking this station on a former occasion I declared the principles
on which I believed it my duty to administer the affairs of our
Commonwealth. My conscience tells me I have on every occasion acted
up to that declaration according to its obvious import and to the
understanding of every candid mind.

In the transaction of your foreign affairs we have endeavored to
cultivate the friendship of all nations, and especially of those with
which we have the most important relations. We have done them justice
on all occasions, favored where favor was lawful, and cherished mutual
interests and intercourse on fair and equal terms. We are firmly
convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations as with
individuals our interests soundly calculated will ever be found
inseparable from our moral duties, and history bears witness to the
fact that a just nation is trusted on its word when recourse is had to
armaments and wars to bridle others.

At home, fellow-citizens, you best know whether we have done well or
ill. The suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments
and expenses, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. These,
covering our land with officers and opening our doors to their
intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation which
once entered is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively
every article of property and produce. If among these taxes some minor
ones fell which had not been inconvenient, it was because their amount
would not have paid the officers who collected them, and because, if
they had any merit, the State authorities might adopt them instead of
others less approved.

The remaining revenue on the consumption of foreign articles is paid
chiefly by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic
comforts, being collected on our seaboard and frontiers only, and
incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it may
be the pleasure and the pride of an American to ask, What farmer, what
mechanic, what laborer ever sees a taxgatherer of the United States?
These contributions enable us to support the current expenses of the
Government, to fulfill contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the
native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, and to
apply such a surplus to our public debts as places at a short day their
final redemption, and that redemption once effected the revenue thereby
liberated may, by a just repartition of it among the States and a
corresponding amendment of the Constitution, be applied in time of peace
to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great
objects within each State. In time of war, if injustice by ourselves or
others must sometimes produce war, increased as the same revenue will
be by increased population and consumption, and aided by other resources
reserved for that crisis, it may meet within the year all the expenses
of the year without encroaching on the rights of future generations
by burthening them with the debts of the past. War will then be but a
suspension of useful works, and a return to a state of peace, a return
to the progress of improvement.

I have said, fellow-citizens, that the income reserved had enabled us to
extend our limits, but that extension may possibly pay for itself
before we are called on, and in the meantime may keep down the accruing
interest; in all events, it will replace the advances we shall have
made. I know that the acquisition of Louisiana had been disapproved by
some from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our territory
would endanger its union. But who can limit the extent to which the
federative principle may operate effectively? The larger our association
the less will it be shaken by local passions; and in any view is it not
better that the opposite bank of the Mississippi should be settled by
our own brethren and children than by strangers of another family?
With which should we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly

In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is
placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General
Government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion to prescribe
the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the
Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of the
church or state authorities acknowledged by the several religious

The aboriginal inhabitants of these countries I have regarded with the
commiseration their history inspires. Endowed with the faculties and the
rights of men, breathing an ardent love of liberty and independence, and
occupying a country which left them no desire but to be undisturbed, the
stream of overflowing population from other regions directed itself on
these shores; without power to divert or habits to contend against
it, they have been overwhelmed by the current or driven before it;
now reduced within limits too narrow for the hunter's state, humanity
enjoins us to teach them agriculture and the domestic arts; to encourage
them to that industry which alone can enable them to maintain their
place in existence and to prepare them in time for that state of society
which to bodily comforts adds the improvement of the mind and morals. We
have therefore liberally furnished them with the implements of husbandry
and household use; we have placed among them instructors in the arts of
first necessity, and they are covered with the aegis of the law against
aggressors from among ourselves.

But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their
present course of life, to induce them to exercise their reason, follow
its dictates, and change their pursuits with the change of circumstances
have powerful obstacles to encounter; they are combated by the habits
of their bodies, prejudices of their minds, ignorance, pride, and the
influence of interested and crafty individuals among them who feel
themselves something in the present order of things and fear to become
nothing in any other. These persons inculcate a sanctimonious reverence
for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did must be
done through all time; that reason is a false guide, and to advance
under its counsel in their physical, moral, or political condition is
perilous innovation; that their duty is to remain as their Creator made
them, ignorance being safety and knowledge full of danger; in short, my
friends, among them also is seen the action and counteraction of good
sense and of bigotry; they too have their antiphilosophists who find
an interest in keeping things in their present state, who dread
reformation, and exert all their faculties to maintain the ascendancy of
habit over the duty of improving our reason and obeying its mandates.

In giving these outlines I do not mean, fellow-citizens, to arrogate to
myself the merit of the measures. That is due, in the first place, to
the reflecting character of our citizens at large, who, by the weight of
public opinion, influence and strengthen the public measures. It is due
to the sound discretion with which they select from among themselves
those to whom they confide the legislative duties. It is due to the zeal
and wisdom of the characters thus selected, who lay the foundations of
public happiness in wholesome laws, the execution of which alone remains
for others, and it is due to the able and faithful auxiliaries, whose
patriotism has associated them with me in the executive functions.

During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it,
the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with
whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of
an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be
regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap
its safety. They might, indeed, have been corrected by the wholesome
punishments reserved to and provided by the laws of the several States
against falsehood and defamation, but public duties more urgent press on
the time of public servants, and the offenders have therefore been left
to find their punishment in the public indignation.

Nor was it uninteresting to the world that an experiment should be
fairly and fully made, whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power,
is not sufficient for the propagation and protection of truth--whether
a government conducting itself in the true spirit of its constitution,
with zeal and purity, and doing no act which it would be unwilling
the whole world should witness, can be written down by falsehood and
defamation. The experiment has been tried; you have witnessed the scene;
our fellow-citizens looked on, cool and collected; they saw the latent
source from which these outrages proceeded; they gathered around their
public functionaries, and when the Constitution called them to the
decision by suffrage, they pronounced their verdict, honorable to those
who had served them and consolatory to the friend of man who believes
that he may be trusted with the control of his own affairs.

No inference is here intended that the laws provided by the States
against false and defamatory publications should not be enforced; he who
has time renders a service to public morals and public tranquillity in
reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law; but
the experiment is noted to prove that, since truth and reason have
maintained their ground against false opinions in league with false
facts, the press, confined to truth, needs no other legal restraint;
the public judgment will correct false reasoning and opinions on a full
hearing of all parties; and no other definite line can be drawn
between the inestimable liberty of the press and its demoralizing
licentiousness. If there be still improprieties which this rule would
not restrain, its supplement must be sought in the censorship of public

Contemplating the union of sentiment now manifested so generally as
auguring harmony and happiness to our future course, I offer to our
country sincere congratulations. With those, too, not yet rallied to
the same point the disposition to do so is gaining strength; facts are
piercing through the veil drawn over them, and our doubting brethren
will at length see that the mass of their fellow-citizens with whom they
can not yet resolve to act as to principles and measures, think as they
think and desire what they desire; that our wish as well as theirs is
that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good,
that peace be cultivated, civil and religious liberty unassailed, law
and order preserved, equality of rights maintained, and that state of
property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own
industry or that of his father's. When satisfied of these views it is
not in human nature that they should not approve and support them. In
the meantime let us cherish them with patient affection, let us do them
justice, and more than justice, in all competitions of interest; and
we need not doubt that truth, reason, and their own interests will at
length prevail, will gather them into the fold of their country, and
will complete that entire union of opinion which gives to a nation the
blessing of harmony and the benefit of all its strength.

I shall now enter on the duties to which my fellow-citizens have again
called me, and shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which
they have approved. I fear not that any motives of interest may lead me
astray; I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me knowingly from
the path of justice, but the weaknesses of human nature and the limits
of my own understanding will produce errors of judgment sometimes
injurious to your interests. I shall need, therefore, all the indulgence
which I have heretofore experienced from my constituents; the want of it
will certainly not lessen with increasing years. I shall need, too,
the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers,
as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country
flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered
our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and
power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with
me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their
councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall
result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and
approbation of all nations.


James Madison First Inaugural Address Saturday, March 4, 1809

Unwilling to depart from examples of the most revered authority, I avail
myself of the occasion now presented to express the profound impression
made on me by the call of my country to the station to the duties of
which I am about to pledge myself by the most solemn of sanctions. So
distinguished a mark of confidence, proceeding from the deliberate
and tranquil suffrage of a free and virtuous nation, would under any
circumstances have commanded my gratitude and devotion, as well as
filled me with an awful sense of the trust to be assumed. Under the
various circumstances which give peculiar solemnity to the existing
period, I feel that both the honor and the responsibility allotted to me
are inexpressibly enhanced.

The present situation of the world is indeed without a parallel and that
of our own country full of difficulties. The pressure of these, too, is
the more severely felt because they have fallen upon us at a moment
when the national prosperity being at a height not before attained, the
contrast resulting from the change has been rendered the more striking.
Under the benign influence of our republican institutions, and the
maintenance of peace with all nations whilst so many of them were
engaged in bloody and wasteful wars, the fruits of a just policy were
enjoyed in an unrivaled growth of our faculties and resources. Proofs
of this were seen in the improvements of agriculture, in the successful
enterprises of commerce, in the progress of manufacturers and useful
arts, in the increase of the public revenue and the use made of it in
reducing the public debt, and in the valuable works and establishments
everywhere multiplying over the face of our land.

It is a precious reflection that the transition from this prosperous
condition of our country to the scene which has for some time been
distressing us is not chargeable on any unwarrantable views, nor, as I
trust, on any involuntary errors in the public councils. Indulging no
passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations,
it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace
by observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the
nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most
scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth
of these assertions will not be questioned; posterity at least will do
justice to them.

This unexceptionable course could not avail against the injustice and
violence of the belligerent powers. In their rage against each other,
or impelled by more direct motives, principles of retaliation have been
introduced equally contrary to universal reason and acknowledged law.
How long their arbitrary edicts will be continued in spite of the
demonstrations that not even a pretext for them has been given by
the United States, and of the fair and liberal attempt to induce a
revocation of them, can not be anticipated. Assuring myself that under
every vicissitude the determined spirit and united councils of the
nation will be safeguards to its honor and its essential interests, I
repair to the post assigned me with no other discouragement than what
springs from my own inadequacy to its high duties. If I do not sink
under the weight of this deep conviction it is because I find some
support in a consciousness of the purposes and a confidence in the
principles which I bring with me into this arduous service.

To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having
correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality toward
belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and
reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an
appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities,
so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster
a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too
proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices
ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold
the union of the States as the basis of their peace and happiness; to
support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well
in its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights
and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally
incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system;
to avoid the slightest interference with the right of conscience or the
functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to
preserve in their full energy the other salutary provisions in behalf of
private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press; to observe
economy in public expenditures; to liberate the public resources by an
honorable discharge of the public debts; to keep within the requisite
limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed
and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics--that without
standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large
ones safe; to promote by authorized means improvements friendly to
agriculture, to manufactures, and to external as well as internal
commerce; to favor in like manner the advancement of science and the
diffusion of information as the best aliment to true liberty; to carry
on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to
the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and
wretchedness of savage life to a participation of the improvements
of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized
state--as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the
fulfillment of my duty, they will be a resource which can not fail me.

It is my good fortune, moreover, to have the path in which I am to tread
lighted by examples of illustrious services successfully rendered in the
most trying difficulties by those who have marched before me. Of those
of my immediate predecessor it might least become me here to speak. I
may, however, be pardoned for not suppressing the sympathy with which
my heart is full in the rich reward he enjoys in the benedictions of
a beloved country, gratefully bestowed or exalted talents zealously
devoted through a long career to the advancement of its highest interest
and happiness.

But the source to which I look or the aids which alone can supply
my deficiencies is in the well-tried intelligence and virtue of my
fellow-citizens, and in the counsels of those representing them in the
other departments associated in the care of the national interests. In
these my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed, next to
that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and
guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of
nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to
this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout
gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best
hopes for the future.


James Madison Second Inaugural Address Thursday, March 4, 1813

About to add the solemnity of an oath to the obligations imposed by a
second call to the station in which my country heretofore placed me,
I find in the presence of this respectable assembly an opportunity of
publicly repeating my profound sense of so distinguished a confidence
and of the responsibility united with it. The impressions on me are
strengthened by such an evidence that my faithful endeavors to discharge
my arduous duties have been favorably estimated, and by a consideration
of the momentous period at which the trust has been renewed. From the
weight and magnitude now belonging to it I should be compelled to shrink
if I had less reliance on the support of an enlightened and generous
people, and felt less deeply a conviction that the war with a powerful
nation, which forms so prominent a feature in our situation, is stamped
with that justice which invites the smiles of Heaven on the means of
conducting it to a successful termination.

May we not cherish this sentiment without presumption when we reflect on
the characters by which this war is distinguished?

It was not declared on the part of the United States until it had been
long made on them, in reality though not in name; until arguments and
postulations had been exhausted; until a positive declaration had been
received that the wrongs provoking it would not be discontinued; nor
until this last appeal could no longer be delayed without breaking down
the spirit of the nation, destroying all confidence in itself and in its
political institutions, and either perpetuating a state of disgraceful
suffering or regaining by more costly sacrifices and more severe
struggles our lost rank and respect among independent powers.

On the issue of the war are staked our national sovereignty on the
high seas and the security of an important class of citizens whose
occupations give the proper value to those of every other class. Not to
contend for such a stake is to surrender our equality with other powers
on the element common to all and to violate the sacred title which every
member of the society has to its protection. I need not call into view
the unlawfulness of the practice by which our mariners are forced at the
will of every cruising officer from their own vessels into foreign
ones, nor paint the outrages inseparable from it. The proofs are in the
records of each successive Administration of our Government, and the
cruel sufferings of that portion of the American people have found their
way to every bosom not dead to the sympathies of human nature.

As the war was just in its origin and necessary and noble in its
objects, we can reflect with a proud satisfaction that in carrying it
on no principle of justice or honor, no usage of civilized nations, no
precept of courtesy or humanity, have been infringed. The war has been
waged on our part with scrupulous regard to all these obligations, and
in a spirit of liberality which was never surpassed.

How little has been the effect of this example on the conduct of the

They have retained as prisoners of war citizens of the United States not
liable to be so considered under the usages of war.

They have refused to consider as prisoners of war, and threatened to
punish as traitors and deserters, persons emigrating without restraint
to the United States, incorporated by naturalization into our political
family, and fighting under the authority of their adopted country in
open and honorable war for the maintenance of its rights and safety.
Such is the avowed purpose of a Government which is in the practice of
naturalizing by thousands citizens of other countries, and not only of
permitting but compelling them to fight its battles against their native

They have not, it is true, taken into their own hands the hatchet and
the knife, devoted to indiscriminate massacre, but they have let loose
the savages armed with these cruel instruments; have allured them into
their service, and carried them to battle by their sides, eager to glut
their savage thirst with the blood of the vanquished and to finish the
work of torture and death on maimed and defenseless captives. And, what
was never before seen, British commanders have extorted victory over the
unconquerable valor of our troops by presenting to the sympathy of their
chief captives awaiting massacre from their savage associates. And now
we find them, in further contempt of the modes of honorable warfare,
supplying the place of a conquering force by attempts to disorganize our
political society, to dismember our confederated Republic. Happily, like
others, these will recoil on the authors; but they mark the degenerate
counsels from which they emanate, and if they did not belong to a
sense of unexampled inconsistencies might excite the greater wonder as
proceeding from a Government which founded the very war in which it
has been so long engaged on a charge against the disorganizing and
insurrectional policy of its adversary.

To render the justice of the war on our part the more conspicuous, the
reluctance to commence it was followed by the earliest and strongest
manifestations of a disposition to arrest its progress. The sword
was scarcely out of the scabbard before the enemy was apprised of the
reasonable terms on which it would be resheathed. Still more precise
advances were repeated, and have been received in a spirit forbidding
every reliance not placed on the military resources of the nation.

These resources are amply sufficient to bring the war to an honorable
issue. Our nation is in number more than half that of the British
Isles. It is composed of a brave, a free, a virtuous, and an intelligent
people. Our country abounds in the necessaries, the arts, and the
comforts of life. A general prosperity is visible in the public
countenance. The means employed by the British cabinet to undermine it
have recoiled on themselves; have given to our national faculties a more
rapid development, and, draining or diverting the precious metals from
British circulation and British vaults, have poured them into those of
the United States. It is a propitious consideration that an unavoidable
war should have found this seasonable facility for the contributions
required to support it. When the public voice called for war, all knew,
and still know, that without them it could not be carried on through the
period which it might last, and the patriotism, the good sense, and the
manly spirit of our fellow-citizens are pledges for the cheerfulness
with which they will bear each his share of the common burden. To render
the war short and its success sure, animated and systematic exertions
alone are necessary, and the success of our arms now may long preserve
our country from the necessity of another resort to them. Already
have the gallant exploits of our naval heroes proved to the world
our inherent capacity to maintain our rights on one element. If the
reputation of our arms has been thrown under clouds on the other,
presaging flashes of heroic enterprise assure us that nothing is wanting
to correspondent triumphs there also but the discipline and habits which
are in daily progress.


James Monroe First Inaugural Address Tuesday, March 4, 1817

I should be destitute of feeling if I was not deeply affected by the
strong proof which my fellow-citizens have given me of their confidence
in calling me to the high office whose functions I am about to assume.
As the expression of their good opinion of my conduct in the public
service, I derive from it a gratification which those who are conscious
of having done all that they could to merit it can alone feel. My
sensibility is increased by a just estimate of the importance of the
trust and of the nature and extent of its duties, with the proper
discharge of which the highest interests of a great and free people are
intimately connected. Conscious of my own deficiency, I cannot enter
on these duties without great anxiety for the result. From a just
responsibility I will never shrink, calculating with confidence that in
my best efforts to promote the public welfare my motives will always
be duly appreciated and my conduct be viewed with that candor and
indulgence which I have experienced in other stations.

In commencing the duties of the chief executive office it has been the
practice of the distinguished men who have gone before me to explain the
principles which would govern them in their respective Administrations.
In following their venerated example my attention is naturally drawn to
the great causes which have contributed in a principal degree to produce
the present happy condition of the United States. They will best explain
the nature of our duties and shed much light on the policy which ought
to be pursued in future.

From the commencement of our Revolution to the present day almost forty
years have elapsed, and from the establishment of this Constitution
twenty-eight. Through this whole term the Government has been what may
emphatically be called self-government. And what has been the effect? To
whatever object we turn our attention, whether it relates to our foreign
or domestic concerns, we find abundant cause to felicitate ourselves
in the excellence of our institutions. During a period fraught with
difficulties and marked by very extraordinary events the United States
have flourished beyond example. Their citizens individually have been
happy and the nation prosperous.

Under this Constitution our commerce has been wisely regulated with
foreign nations and between the States; new States have been admitted
into our Union; our territory has been enlarged by fair and honorable
treaty, and with great advantage to the original States; the States,
respectively protected by the National Government under a mild, parental
system against foreign dangers, and enjoying within their separate
spheres, by a wise partition of power, a just proportion of the
sovereignty, have improved their police, extended their settlements, and
attained a strength and maturity which are the best proofs of wholesome
laws well administered. And if we look to the condition of individuals
what a proud spectacle does it exhibit! On whom has oppression fallen in
any quarter of our Union? Who has been deprived of any right of person
or property? Who restrained from offering his vows in the mode which
he prefers to the Divine Author of his being? It is well known that all
these blessings have been enjoyed in their fullest extent; and I add
with peculiar satisfaction that there has been no example of a capital
punishment being inflicted on anyone for the crime of high treason.

Some who might admit the competency of our Government to these
beneficent duties might doubt it in trials which put to the test its
strength and efficiency as a member of the great community of nations.
Here too experience has afforded us the most satisfactory proof in its
favor. Just as this Constitution was put into action several of the
principal States of Europe had become much agitated and some of them
seriously convulsed. Destructive wars ensued, which have of late only
been terminated. In the course of these conflicts the United States
received great injury from several of the parties. It was their interest
to stand aloof from the contest, to demand justice from the party
committing the injury, and to cultivate by a fair and honorable conduct
the friendship of all. War became at length inevitable, and the result
has shown that our Government is equal to that, the greatest of trials,
under the most unfavorable circumstances. Of the virtue of the people
and of the heroic exploits of the Army, the Navy, and the militia I need
not speak.

Such, then, is the happy Government under which we live--a Government
adequate to every purpose for which the social compact is formed; a
Government elective in all its branches, under which every citizen may
by his merit obtain the highest trust recognized by the Constitution;
which contains within it no cause of discord, none to put at variance
one portion of the community with another; a Government which protects
every citizen in the full enjoyment of his rights, and is able to
protect the nation against injustice from foreign powers.

Other considerations of the highest importance admonish us to cherish
our Union and to cling to the Government which supports it. Fortunate as
we are in our political institutions, we have not been less so in other
circumstances on which our prosperity and happiness essentially depend.
Situated within the temperate zone, and extending through many degrees
of latitude along the Atlantic, the United States enjoy all the
varieties of climate, and every production incident to that portion
of the globe. Penetrating internally to the Great Lakes and beyond
the sources of the great rivers which communicate through our whole
interior, no country was ever happier with respect to its domain.
Blessed, too, with a fertile soil, our produce has always been very
abundant, leaving, even in years the least favorable, a surplus for
the wants of our fellow-men in other countries. Such is our peculiar
felicity that there is not a part of our Union that is not particularly
interested in preserving it. The great agricultural interest of the
nation prospers under its protection. Local interests are not less
fostered by it. Our fellow-citizens of the North engaged in navigation
find great encouragement in being made the favored carriers of the
vast productions of the other portions of the United States, while
the inhabitants of these are amply recompensed, in their turn, by the
nursery for seamen and naval force thus formed and reared up for
the support of our common rights. Our manufactures find a generous
encouragement by the policy which patronizes domestic industry, and the
surplus of our produce a steady and profitable market by local wants in
less-favored parts at home.

Such, then, being the highly favored condition of our country, it is
the interest of every citizen to maintain it. What are the dangers
which menace us? If any exist they ought to be ascertained and guarded

In explaining my sentiments on this subject it may be asked, What raised
us to the present happy state? How did we accomplish the Revolution?
How remedy the defects of the first instrument of our Union, by infusing
into the National Government sufficient power for national purposes,
without impairing the just rights of the States or affecting those of
individuals? How sustain and pass with glory through the late war?
The Government has been in the hands of the people. To the people,
therefore, and to the faithful and able depositaries of their trust is
the credit due. Had the people of the United States been educated in
different principles, had they been less intelligent, less independent,
or less virtuous, can it be believed that we should have maintained the
same steady and consistent career or been blessed with the same
success? While, then, the constituent body retains its present sound and
healthful state everything will be safe. They will choose competent
and faithful representatives for every department. It is only when
the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into
a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty.
Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The
people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement
and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to
preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional
measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of
preserving our liberties.

Dangers from abroad are not less deserving of attention. Experiencing
the fortune of other nations, the United States may be again involved
in war, and it may in that event be the object of the adverse party to
overset our Government, to break our Union, and demolish us as a nation.
Our distance from Europe and the just, moderate, and pacific policy of
our Government may form some security against these dangers, but they
ought to be anticipated and guarded against. Many of our citizens are
engaged in commerce and navigation, and all of them are in a certain
degree dependent on their prosperous state. Many are engaged in the
fisheries. These interests are exposed to invasion in the wars between
other powers, and we should disregard the faithful admonition of
experience if we did not expect it. We must support our rights or lose
our character, and with it, perhaps, our liberties. A people who fail
to do it can scarcely be said to hold a place among independent nations.
National honor is national property of the highest value. The sentiment
in the mind of every citizen is national strength. It ought therefore to
be cherished.

To secure us against these dangers our coast and inland frontiers should
be fortified, our Army and Navy, regulated upon just principles as to
the force of each, be kept in perfect order, and our militia be placed
on the best practicable footing. To put our extensive coast in such a
state of defense as to secure our cities and interior from invasion will
be attended with expense, but the work when finished will be permanent,
and it is fair to presume that a single campaign of invasion by a naval
force superior to our own, aided by a few thousand land troops, would
expose us to greater expense, without taking into the estimate the loss
of property and distress of our citizens, than would be sufficient
for this great work. Our land and naval forces should be moderate, but
adequate to the necessary purposes--the former to garrison and preserve
our fortifications and to meet the first invasions of a foreign foe,
and, while constituting the elements of a greater force, to preserve the
science as well as all the necessary implements of war in a state to be
brought into activity in the event of war; the latter, retained within
the limits proper in a state of peace, might aid in maintaining the
neutrality of the United States with dignity in the wars of other powers
and in saving the property of their citizens from spoliation. In time
of war, with the enlargement of which the great naval resources of the
country render it susceptible, and which should be duly fostered in
time of peace, it would contribute essentially, both as an auxiliary
of defense and as a powerful engine of annoyance, to diminish the
calamities of war and to bring the war to a speedy and honorable

But it ought always to be held prominently in view that the safety of
these States and of everything dear to a free people must depend in an
eminent degree on the militia. Invasions may be made too formidable to
be resisted by any land and naval force which it would comport either
with the principles of our Government or the circumstances of the United
States to maintain. In such cases recourse must be had to the great body
of the people, and in a manner to produce the best effect. It is of the
highest importance, therefore, that they be so organized and trained as
to be prepared for any emergency. The arrangement should be such as to
put at the command of the Government the ardent patriotism and youthful
vigor of the country. If formed on equal and just principles, it can not
be oppressive. It is the crisis which makes the pressure, and not the
laws which provide a remedy for it. This arrangement should be formed,
too, in time of peace, to be the better prepared for war. With such an
organization of such a people the United States have nothing to dread
from foreign invasion. At its approach an overwhelming force of gallant
men might always be put in motion.

Other interests of high importance will claim attention, among which the
improvement of our country by roads and canals, proceeding always with
a constitutional sanction, holds a distinguished place. By thus
facilitating the intercourse between the States we shall add much to the
convenience and comfort of our fellow-citizens, much to the ornament
of the country, and, what is of greater importance, we shall shorten
distances, and, by making each part more accessible to and dependent
on the other, we shall bind the Union more closely together. Nature
has done so much for us by intersecting the country with so many great
rivers, bays, and lakes, approaching from distant points so near to each
other, that the inducement to complete the work seems to be peculiarly
strong. A more interesting spectacle was perhaps never seen than is
exhibited within the limits of the United States--a territory so vast
and advantageously situated, containing objects so grand, so useful, so
happily connected in all their parts!

Our manufacturers will likewise require the systematic and fostering
care of the Government. Possessing as we do all the raw materials, the
fruit of our own soil and industry, we ought not to depend in the
degree we have done on supplies from other countries. While we are thus
dependent the sudden event of war, unsought and unexpected, can not fail
to plunge us into the most serious difficulties. It is important, too,
that the capital which nourishes our manufacturers should be domestic,
as its influence in that case instead of exhausting, as it may do in
foreign hands, would be felt advantageously on agriculture and every
other branch of industry. Equally important is it to provide at home a
market for our raw materials, as by extending the competition it will
enhance the price and protect the cultivator against the casualties
incident to foreign markets.

With the Indian tribes it is our duty to cultivate friendly relations
and to act with kindness and liberality in all our transactions.
Equally proper is it to persevere in our efforts to extend to them the
advantages of civilization.

The great amount of our revenue and the flourishing state of the
Treasury are a full proof of the competency of the national resources
for any emergency, as they are of the willingness of our fellow-citizens
to bear the burdens which the public necessities require. The vast
amount of vacant lands, the value of which daily augments, forms an
additional resource of great extent and duration. These resources,
besides accomplishing every other necessary purpose, put it completely
in the power of the United States to discharge the national debt at an
early period. Peace is the best time for improvement and preparation of
every kind; it is in peace that our commerce flourishes most, that taxes
are most easily paid, and that the revenue is most productive.

The Executive is charged officially in the Departments under it with the
disbursement of the public money, and is responsible for the faithful
application of it to the purposes for which it is raised. The
Legislature is the watchful guardian over the public purse. It is its
duty to see that the disbursement has been honestly made. To meet
the requisite responsibility every facility should be afforded to the
Executive to enable it to bring the public agents intrusted with
the public money strictly and promptly to account. Nothing should be
presumed against them; but if, with the requisite facilities, the public
money is suffered to lie long and uselessly in their hands, they will
not be the only defaulters, nor will the demoralizing effect be
confined to them. It will evince a relaxation and want of tone in the
Administration which will be felt by the whole community. I shall do
all I can to secure economy and fidelity in this important branch of the
Administration, and I doubt not that the Legislature will perform its
duty with equal zeal. A thorough examination should be regularly made,
and I will promote it.

It is particularly gratifying to me to enter on the discharge of these
duties at a time when the United States are blessed with peace. It is a
state most consistent with their prosperity and happiness. It will be
my sincere desire to preserve it, so far as depends on the Executive, on
just principles with all nations, claiming nothing unreasonable of any
and rendering to each what is its due.

Equally gratifying is it to witness the increased harmony of opinion
which pervades our Union. Discord does not belong to our system.
Union is recommended as well by the free and benign principles of our
Government, extending its blessings to every individual, as by the other
eminent advantages attending it. The American people have encountered
together great dangers and sustained severe trials with success. They
constitute one great family with a common interest. Experience has
enlightened us on some questions of essential importance to the country.
The progress has been slow, dictated by a just reflection and a faithful
regard to every interest connected with it. To promote this harmony in
accord with the principles of our republican Government and in a manner
to give them the most complete effect, and to advance in all other
respects the best interests of our Union, will be the object of my
constant and zealous exertions.

Never did a government commence under auspices so favorable, nor ever
was success so complete. If we look to the history of other nations,
ancient or modern, we find no example of a growth so rapid, so gigantic,
of a people so prosperous and happy. In contemplating what we have still
to perform, the heart of every citizen must expand with joy when he
reflects how near our Government has approached to perfection; that in
respect to it we have no essential improvement to make; that the great
object is to preserve it in the essential principles and features which
characterize it, and that is to be done by preserving the virtue and
enlightening the minds of the people; and as a security against foreign
dangers to adopt such arrangements as are indispensable to the support
of our independence, our rights and liberties. If we persevere in the
career in which we have advanced so far and in the path already traced,
we can not fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence, to attain the
high destiny which seems to await us.

In the Administrations of the illustrious men who have preceded me
in this high station, with some of whom I have been connected by the
closest ties from early life, examples are presented which will always
be found highly instructive and useful to their successors. From these I
shall endeavor to derive all the advantages which they may afford. Of my
immediate predecessor, under whom so important a portion of this
great and successful experiment has been made, I shall be pardoned for
expressing my earnest wishes that he may long enjoy in his retirement
the affections of a grateful country, the best reward of exalted talents
and the most faithful and meritorious service. Relying on the aid to
be derived from the other departments of the Government, I enter on the
trust to which I have been called by the suffrages of my fellow-citizens
with my fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously
pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so
conspicuously displayed in our favor.


James Monroe Second Inaugural Address Monday, March 5, 1821


I shall not attempt to describe the grateful emotions which the new
and very distinguished proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens,
evinced by my reelection to this high trust, has excited in my bosom.
The approbation which it announces of my conduct in the preceding term
affords me a consolation which I shall profoundly feel through life. The
general accord with which it has been expressed adds to the great and
never-ceasing obligations which it imposes. To merit the continuance
of this good opinion, and to carry it with me into my retirement as the
solace of advancing years, will be the object of my most zealous and
unceasing efforts.

Having no pretensions to the high and commanding claims of my
predecessors, whose names are so much more conspicuously identified
with our Revolution, and who contributed so preeminently to promote its
success, I consider myself rather as the instrument than the cause of
the union which has prevailed in the late election. In surmounting, in
favor of my humble pretensions, the difficulties which so often produce
division in like occurrences, it is obvious that other powerful
causes, indicating the great strength and stability of our Union, have
essentially contributed to draw you together. That these powerful causes
exist, and that they are permanent, is my fixed opinion; that they may
produce a like accord in all questions touching, however remotely, the
liberty, prosperity, and happiness of our country will always be the
object of my most fervent prayers to the Supreme Author of All Good.

In a government which is founded by the people, who possess exclusively
the sovereignty, it seems proper that the person who may be placed by
their suffrages in this high trust should declare on commencing its
duties the principles on which he intends to conduct the Administration.
If the person thus elected has served the preceding term, an opportunity
is afforded him to review its principal occurrences and to give such
further explanation respecting them as in his judgment may be useful
to his constituents. The events of one year have influence on those
of another, and, in like manner, of a preceding on the succeeding
Administration. The movements of a great nation are connected in all
their parts. If errors have been committed they ought to be corrected;
if the policy is sound it ought to be supported. It is by a thorough
knowledge of the whole subject that our fellow-citizens are enabled
to judge correctly of the past and to give a proper direction to the

Just before the commencement of the last term the United States had
concluded a war with a very powerful nation on conditions equal and
honorable to both parties. The events of that war are too recent and too
deeply impressed on the memory of all to require a development from
me. Our commerce had been in a great measure driven from the sea, our
Atlantic and inland frontiers were invaded in almost every part; the
waste of life along our coast and on some parts of our inland frontiers,
to the defense of which our gallant and patriotic citizens were called,
was immense, in addition to which not less than $120,000,000 were added
at its end to the public debt.

As soon as the war had terminated, the nation, admonished by its
events, resolved to place itself in a situation which should be better
calculated to prevent the recurrence of a like evil, and, in case it
should recur, to mitigate its calamities. With this view, after reducing
our land force to the basis of a peace establishment, which has been
further modified since, provision was made for the construction of
fortifications at proper points through the whole extent of our coast
and such an augmentation of our naval force as should be well adapted
to both purposes. The laws making this provision were passed in 1815
and 1816, and it has been since the constant effort of the Executive to
carry them into effect.

The advantage of these fortifications and of an augmented naval force
in the extent contemplated, in a point of economy, has been
fully illustrated by a report of the Board of Engineers and Naval
Commissioners lately communicated to Congress, by which it appears that
in an invasion by 20,000 men, with a correspondent naval force, in a
campaign of six months only, the whole expense of the construction of
the works would be defrayed by the difference in the sum necessary to
maintain the force which would be adequate to our defense with the aid
of those works and that which would be incurred without them. The reason
of this difference is obvious. If fortifications are judiciously placed
on our great inlets, as distant from our cities as circumstances will
permit, they will form the only points of attack, and the enemy will be
detained there by a small regular force a sufficient time to enable our
militia to collect and repair to that on which the attack is made.
A force adequate to the enemy, collected at that single point, with
suitable preparation for such others as might be menaced, is all that
would be requisite. But if there were no fortifications, then the enemy
might go where he pleased, and, changing his position and sailing from
place to place, our force must be called out and spread in vast numbers
along the whole coast and on both sides of every bay and river as
high up in each as it might be navigable for ships of war. By these
fortifications, supported by our Navy, to which they would afford like
support, we should present to other powers an armed front from St. Croix
to the Sabine, which would protect in the event of war our whole coast
and interior from invasion; and even in the wars of other powers, in
which we were neutral, they would be found eminently useful, as, by
keeping their public ships at a distance from our cities, peace and
order in them would be preserved and the Government be protected from

It need scarcely be remarked that these measures have not been resorted
to in a spirit of hostility to other powers. Such a disposition does
not exist toward any power. Peace and good will have been, and will
hereafter be, cultivated with all, and by the most faithful regard to
justice. They have been dictated by a love of peace, of economy, and
an earnest desire to save the lives of our fellow-citizens from that
destruction and our country from that devastation which are inseparable
from war when it finds us unprepared for it. It is believed, and
experience has shown, that such a preparation is the best expedient
that can be resorted to prevent war. I add with much pleasure that
considerable progress has already been made in these measures of
defense, and that they will be completed in a few years, considering the
great extent and importance of the object, if the plan be zealously and
steadily persevered in.

The conduct of the Government in what relates to foreign powers
is always an object of the highest importance to the nation. Its
agriculture, commerce, manufactures, fisheries, revenue, in short, its
peace, may all be affected by it. Attention is therefore due to this

At the period adverted to the powers of Europe, after having been
engaged in long and destructive wars with each other, had concluded a
peace, which happily still exists. Our peace with the power with whom we
had been engaged had also been concluded. The war between Spain and the
colonies in South America, which had commenced many years before, was
then the only conflict that remained unsettled. This being a contest
between different parts of the same community, in which other powers had
not interfered, was not affected by their accommodations.

This contest was considered at an early stage by my predecessor a civil
war in which the parties were entitled to equal rights in our ports.
This decision, the first made by any power, being formed on great
consideration of the comparative strength and resources of the parties,
the length of time, and successful opposition made by the colonies, and
of all other circumstances on which it ought to depend, was in strict
accord with the law of nations. Congress has invariably acted on this
principle, having made no change in our relations with either party. Our
attitude has therefore been that of neutrality between them, which has
been maintained by the Government with the strictest impartiality. No
aid has been afforded to either, nor has any privilege been enjoyed by
the one which has not been equally open to the other party, and every
exertion has been made in its power to enforce the execution of the laws
prohibiting illegal equipments with equal rigor against both.

By this equality between the parties their public vessels have been
received in our ports on the same footing; they have enjoyed an equal
right to purchase and export arms, munitions of war, and every other
supply, the exportation of all articles whatever being permitted under
laws which were passed long before the commencement of the contest; our
citizens have traded equally with both, and their commerce with each has
been alike protected by the Government.

Respecting the attitude which it may be proper for the United States to
maintain hereafter between the parties, I have no hesitation in stating
it as my opinion that the neutrality heretofore observed should still
be adhered to. From the change in the Government of Spain and the
negotiation now depending, invited by the Cortes and accepted by the
colonies, it may be presumed, that their differences will be settled
on the terms proposed by the colonies. Should the war be continued, the
United States, regarding its occurrences, will always have it in their
power to adopt such measures respecting it as their honor and interest
may require.

Shortly after the general peace a band of adventurers took advantage
of this conflict and of the facility which it afforded to establish a
system of buccaneering in the neighboring seas, to the great annoyance
of the commerce of the United States, and, as was represented, of that
of other powers. Of this spirit and of its injurious bearing on the
United States strong proofs were afforded by the establishment at Amelia
Island, and the purposes to which it was made instrumental by this
band in 1817, and by the occurrences which took place in other parts
of Florida in 1818, the details of which in both instances are too well
known to require to be now recited. I am satisfied had a less decisive
course been adopted that the worst consequences would have resulted
from it. We have seen that these checks, decisive as they were, were not
sufficient to crush that piratical spirit. Many culprits brought within
our limits have been condemned to suffer death, the punishment due to
that atrocious crime. The decisions of upright and enlightened tribunals
fall equally on all whose crimes subject them, by a fair interpretation
of the law, to its censure. It belongs to the Executive not to suffer
the executions under these decisions to transcend the great purpose
for which punishment is necessary. The full benefit of example being
secured, policy as well as humanity equally forbids that they should
be carried further. I have acted on this principle, pardoning those who
appear to have been led astray by ignorance of the criminality of the
acts they had committed, and suffering the law to take effect on those
only in whose favor no extenuating circumstances could be urged.

Great confidence is entertained that the late treaty with Spain, which
has been ratified by both the parties, and the ratifications whereof
have been exchanged, has placed the relations of the two countries on a
basis of permanent friendship. The provision made by it for such of our
citizens as have claims on Spain of the character described will, it
is presumed, be very satisfactory to them, and the boundary which is
established between the territories of the parties westward of the
Mississippi, heretofore in dispute, has, it is thought, been settled
on conditions just and advantageous to both. But to the acquisition
of Florida too much importance can not be attached. It secures to the
United States a territory important in itself, and whose importance is
much increased by its bearing on many of the highest interests of the
Union. It opens to several of the neighboring States a free passage to
the ocean, through the Province ceded, by several rivers, having their
sources high up within their limits. It secures us against all future
annoyance from powerful Indian tribes. It gives us several excellent
harbors in the Gulf of Mexico for ships of war of the largest size.
It covers by its position in the Gulf the Mississippi and other great
waters within our extended limits, and thereby enables the United States
to afford complete protection to the vast and very valuable productions
of our whole Western country, which find a market through those streams.

By a treaty with the British Government, bearing date on the 20th of
October, 1818, the convention regulating the commerce between the United
States and Great Britain, concluded on the 3d of July, 1815, which was
about expiring, was revived and continued for the term of ten years from
the time of its expiration. By that treaty, also, the differences which
had arisen under the treaty of Ghent respecting the right claimed by the
United States for their citizens to take and cure fish on the coast of
His Britannic Majesty's dominions in America, with other differences on
important interests, were adjusted to the satisfaction of both parties.
No agreement has yet been entered into respecting the commerce between
the United States and the British dominions in the West Indies and
on this continent. The restraints imposed on that commerce by Great
Britain, and reciprocated by the United States on a principle of
defense, continue still in force.

The negotiation with France for the regulation of the commercial
relations between the two countries, which in the course of the last
summer had been commenced at Paris, has since been transferred to this
city, and will be pursued on the part of the United States in the spirit
of conciliation, and with an earnest desire that it may terminate in an
arrangement satisfactory to both parties.

Our relations with the Barbary Powers are preserved in the same state
and by the same means that were employed when I came into this office.
As early as 1801 it was found necessary to send a squadron into the
Mediterranean for the protection of our commerce, and no period has
intervened, a short term excepted, when it was thought advisable to
withdraw it. The great interests which the United States have in the
Pacific, in commerce and in the fisheries, have also made it necessary
to maintain a naval force there. In disposing of this force in both
instances the most effectual measures in our power have been taken,
without interfering with its other duties, for the suppression of the
slave trade and of piracy in the neighboring seas.

The situation of the United States in regard to their resources, the
extent of their revenue, and the facility with which it is raised
affords a most gratifying spectacle. The payment of nearly $67,000,000
of the public debt, with the great progress made in measures of defense
and in other improvements of various kinds since the late war, are
conclusive proofs of this extraordinary prosperity, especially when
it is recollected that these expenditures have been defrayed without a
burthen on the people, the direct tax and excise having been repealed
soon after the conclusion of the late war, and the revenue applied to
these great objects having been raised in a manner not to be felt. Our
great resources therefore remain untouched for any purpose which may
affect the vital interests of the nation. For all such purposes they
are inexhaustible. They are more especially to be found in the virtue,
patriotism, and intelligence of our fellow-citizens, and in the devotion
with which they would yield up by any just measure of taxation all their
property in support of the rights and honor of their country.

Under the present depression of prices, affecting all the productions
of the country and every branch of industry, proceeding from causes
explained on a former occasion, the revenue has considerably diminished,
the effect of which has been to compel Congress either to abandon these
great measures of defense or to resort to loans or internal taxes to
supply the deficiency. On the presumption that this depression and the
deficiency in the revenue arising from it would be temporary, loans
were authorized for the demands of the last and present year. Anxious
to relieve my fellow-citizens in 1817 from every burthen which could
be dispensed with, and the state of the Treasury permitting it, I
recommended the repeal of the internal taxes, knowing that such relief
was then peculiarly necessary in consequence of the great exertions made
in the late war. I made that recommendation under a pledge that should
the public exigencies require a recurrence to them at any time while I
remained in this trust, I would with equal promptitude perform the duty
which would then be alike incumbent on me. By the experiment now making
it will be seen by the next session of Congress whether the revenue
shall have been so augmented as to be adequate to all these necessary
purposes. Should the deficiency still continue, and especially should it
be probable that it would be permanent, the course to be pursued appears
to me to be obvious. I am satisfied that under certain circumstances
loans may be resorted to with great advantage. I am equally well
satisfied, as a general rule, that the demands of the current year,
especially in time of peace, should be provided for by the revenue of
that year.

I have never dreaded, nor have I ever shunned, in any situation in which
I have been placed making appeals to the virtue and patriotism of my
fellow-citizens, well knowing that they could never be made in vain,
especially in times of great emergency or for purposes of high
national importance. Independently of the exigency of the case, many
considerations of great weight urge a policy having in view a provision
of revenue to meet to a certain extent the demands of the nation,
without relying altogether on the precarious resource of foreign
commerce. I am satisfied that internal duties and excises, with
corresponding imposts on foreign articles of the same kind, would,
without imposing any serious burdens on the people, enhance the price of
produce, promote our manufactures, and augment the revenue, at the same
time that they made it more secure and permanent.

The care of the Indian tribes within our limits has long been an
essential part of our system, but, unfortunately, it has not been
executed in a manner to accomplish all the objects intended by it.
We have treated them as independent nations, without their having any
substantial pretensions to that rank. The distinction has flattered
their pride, retarded their improvement, and in many instances paved
the way to their destruction. The progress of our settlements westward,
supported as they are by a dense population, has constantly driven them
back, with almost the total sacrifice of the lands which they have been
compelled to abandon. They have claims on the magnanimity and, I may
add, on the justice of this nation which we must all feel. We should
become their real benefactors; we should perform the office of their
Great Father, the endearing title which they emphatically give to the
Chief Magistrate of our Union. Their sovereignty over vast territories
should cease, in lieu of which the right of soil should be secured to
each individual and his posterity in competent portions; and for the
territory thus ceded by each tribe some reasonable equivalent should
be granted, to be vested in permanent funds for the support of civil
government over them and for the education of their children, for their
instruction in the arts of husbandry, and to provide sustenance for
them until they could provide it for themselves. My earnest hope is that
Congress will digest some plan, founded on these principles, with such
improvements as their wisdom may suggest, and carry it into effect as
soon as it may be practicable.

Europe is again unsettled and the prospect of war increasing. Should the
flame light up in any quarter, how far it may extend it is impossible to
foresee. It is our peculiar felicity to be altogether unconnected with
the causes which produce this menacing aspect elsewhere. With every
power we are in perfect amity, and it is our interest to remain so if
it be practicable on just conditions. I see no reasonable cause to
apprehend variance with any power, unless it proceed from a violation
of our maritime rights. In these contests, should they occur, and to
whatever extent they may be carried, we shall be neutral; but as a
neutral power we have rights which it is our duty to maintain. For
like injuries it will be incumbent on us to seek redress in a spirit
of amity, in full confidence that, injuring none, none would knowingly
injure us. For more imminent dangers we should be prepared, and it
should always be recollected that such preparation adapted to the
circumstances and sanctioned by the judgment and wishes of our
constituents can not fail to have a good effect in averting dangers of
every kind. We should recollect also that the season of peace is best
adapted to these preparations.

If we turn our attention, fellow-citizens, more immediately to the
internal concerns of our country, and more especially to those on which
its future welfare depends, we have every reason to anticipate the
happiest results. It is now rather more than forty-four years since we
declared our independence, and thirty-seven since it was acknowledged.
The talents and virtues which were displayed in that great struggle were
a sure presage of all that has since followed. A people who were able to
surmount in their infant state such great perils would be more competent
as they rose into manhood to repel any which they might meet in their
progress. Their physical strength would be more adequate to foreign
danger, and the practice of self-government, aided by the light of
experience, could not fail to produce an effect equally salutary on
all those questions connected with the internal organization. These
favorable anticipations have been realized.

In our whole system, national and State, we have shunned all the
defects which unceasingly preyed on the vitals and destroyed the ancient
Republics. In them there were distinct orders, a nobility and a people,
or the people governed in one assembly. Thus, in the one instance
there was a perpetual conflict between the orders in society for the
ascendency, in which the victory of either terminated in the overthrow
of the government and the ruin of the state; in the other, in which
the people governed in a body, and whose dominions seldom exceeded the
dimensions of a county in one of our States, a tumultuous and disorderly
movement permitted only a transitory existence. In this great nation
there is but one order, that of the people, whose power, by a peculiarly
happy improvement of the representative principle, is transferred from
them, without impairing in the slightest degree their sovereignty, to
bodies of their own creation, and to persons elected by themselves, in
the full extent necessary for all the purposes of free, enlightened
and efficient government. The whole system is elective, the complete
sovereignty being in the people, and every officer in every department
deriving his authority from and being responsible to them for his

Our career has corresponded with this great outline. Perfection in our
organization could not have been expected in the outset either in the
National or State Governments or in tracing the line between their
respective powers. But no serious conflict has arisen, nor any contest
but such as are managed by argument and by a fair appeal to the good
sense of the people, and many of the defects which experience had
clearly demonstrated in both Governments have been remedied. By steadily
pursuing this course in this spirit there is every reason to believe
that our system will soon attain the highest degree of perfection of
which human institutions are capable, and that the movement in all its
branches will exhibit such a degree of order and harmony as to command
the admiration and respect of the civilized world.

Our physical attainments have not been less eminent. Twenty-five years
ago the river Mississippi was shut up and our Western brethren had no
outlet for their commerce. What has been the progress since that time?
The river has not only become the property of the United States from its
source to the ocean, with all its tributary streams (with the exception
of the upper part of the Red River only), but Louisiana, with a fair and
liberal boundary on the western side and the Floridas on the eastern,
have been ceded to us. The United States now enjoy the complete and
uninterrupted sovereignty over the whole territory from St. Croix to the
Sabine. New States, settled from among ourselves in this and in other
parts, have been admitted into our Union in equal participation in
the national sovereignty with the original States. Our population has
augmented in an astonishing degree and extended in every direction.
We now, fellow-citizens, comprise within our limits the dimensions
and faculties of a great power under a Government possessing all the
energies of any government ever known to the Old World, with an utter
incapacity to oppress the people.

Entering with these views the office which I have just solemnly sworn
to execute with fidelity and to the utmost of my ability, I derive great
satisfaction from a knowledge that I shall be assisted in the several
Departments by the very enlightened and upright citizens from whom I
have received so much aid in the preceding term. With full confidence
in the continuance of that candor and generous indulgence from my
fellow-citizens at large which I have heretofore experienced, and with
a firm reliance on the protection of Almighty God, I shall forthwith
commence the duties of the high trust to which you have called me.


John Quincy Adams Inaugural Address Friday, March 4, 1825

In compliance with an usage coeval with the existence of our Federal
Constitution, and sanctioned by the example of my predecessors in the
career upon which I am about to enter, I appear, my fellow-citizens, in
your presence and in that of Heaven to bind myself by the solemnities of
religious obligation to the faithful performance of the duties allotted
to me in the station to which I have been called.

In unfolding to my countrymen the principles by which I shall be
governed in the fulfillment of those duties my first resort will be
to that Constitution which I shall swear to the best of my ability to
preserve, protect, and defend. That revered instrument enumerates the
powers and prescribes the duties of the Executive Magistrate, and in its
first words declares the purposes to which these and the whole action
of the Government instituted by it should be invariably and sacredly
devoted--to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure
domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the
general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to the people of
this Union in their successive generations. Since the adoption of this
social compact one of these generations has passed away. It is the work
of our forefathers. Administered by some of the most eminent men who
contributed to its formation, through a most eventful period in the
annals of the world, and through all the vicissitudes of peace and war
incidental to the condition of associated man, it has not disappointed
the hopes and aspirations of those illustrious benefactors of their age
and nation. It has promoted the lasting welfare of that country so dear
to us all; it has to an extent far beyond the ordinary lot of humanity
secured the freedom and happiness of this people. We now receive it as
a precious inheritance from those to whom we are indebted for its
establishment, doubly bound by the examples which they have left us and
by the blessings which we have enjoyed as the fruits of their labors to
transmit the same unimpaired to the succeeding generation.

In the compass of thirty-six years since this great national covenant
was instituted a body of laws enacted under its authority and in
conformity with its provisions has unfolded its powers and carried into
practical operation its effective energies. Subordinate departments
have distributed the executive functions in their various relations to
foreign affairs, to the revenue and expenditures, and to the military
force of the Union by land and sea. A coordinate department of the
judiciary has expounded the Constitution and the laws, settling in
harmonious coincidence with the legislative will numerous weighty
questions of construction which the imperfection of human language had
rendered unavoidable. The year of jubilee since the first formation of
our Union has just elapsed; that of the declaration of our independence
is at hand. The consummation of both was effected by this Constitution.

Since that period a population of four millions has multiplied to
twelve. A territory bounded by the Mississippi has been extended from
sea to sea. New States have been admitted to the Union in numbers nearly
equal to those of the first Confederation. Treaties of peace, amity, and
commerce have been concluded with the principal dominions of the earth.
The people of other nations, inhabitants of regions acquired not by
conquest, but by compact, have been united with us in the participation
of our rights and duties, of our burdens and blessings. The forest has
fallen by the ax of our woodsmen; the soil has been made to teem by
the tillage of our farmers; our commerce has whitened every ocean. The
dominion of man over physical nature has been extended by the invention
of our artists. Liberty and law have marched hand in hand. All the
purposes of human association have been accomplished as effectively as
under any other government on the globe, and at a cost little exceeding
in a whole generation the expenditure of other nations in a single year.

Such is the unexaggerated picture of our condition under a Constitution
founded upon the republican principle of equal rights. To admit that
this picture has its shades is but to say that it is still the condition
of men upon earth. From evil--physical, moral, and political--it is not
our claim to be exempt. We have suffered sometimes by the visitation
of Heaven through disease; often by the wrongs and injustice of other
nations, even to the extremities of war; and, lastly, by dissensions
among ourselves--dissensions perhaps inseparable from the enjoyment
of freedom, but which have more than once appeared to threaten
the dissolution of the Union, and with it the overthrow of all the
enjoyments of our present lot and all our earthly hopes of the future.
The causes of these dissensions have been various, founded upon
differences of speculation in the theory of republican government; upon
conflicting views of policy in our relations with foreign nations; upon
jealousies of partial and sectional interests, aggravated by prejudices
and prepossessions which strangers to each other are ever apt to

It is a source of gratification and of encouragement to me to observe
that the great result of this experiment upon the theory of human rights
has at the close of that generation by which it was formed been crowned
with success equal to the most sanguine expectations of its founders.
Union, justice, tranquillity, the common defense, the general welfare,
and the blessings of liberty--all have been promoted by the Government
under which we have lived. Standing at this point of time, looking
back to that generation which has gone by and forward to that which is
advancing, we may at once indulge in grateful exultation and in cheering
hope. From the experience of the past we derive instructive lessons for
the future. Of the two great political parties which have divided the
opinions and feelings of our country, the candid and the just will now
admit that both have contributed splendid talents, spotless integrity,
ardent patriotism, and disinterested sacrifices to the formation and
administration of this Government, and that both have required a liberal
indulgence for a portion of human infirmity and error. The revolutionary
wars of Europe, commencing precisely at the moment when the Government
of the United States first went into operation under this Constitution,
excited a collision of sentiments and of sympathies which kindled all
the passions and imbittered the conflict of parties till the nation was
involved in war and the Union was shaken to its center. This time of
trial embraced a period of five and twenty years, during which the
policy of the Union in its relations with Europe constituted the
principal basis of our political divisions and the most arduous part of
the action of our Federal Government. With the catastrophe in which the
wars of the French Revolution terminated, and our own subsequent peace
with Great Britain, this baneful weed of party strife was uprooted. From
that time no difference of principle, connected either with the theory
of government or with our intercourse with foreign nations, has
existed or been called forth in force sufficient to sustain a continued
combination of parties or to give more than wholesome animation to
public sentiment or legislative debate. Our political creed is, without
a dissenting voice that can be heard, that the will of the people is
the source and the happiness of the people the end of all legitimate
government upon earth; that the best security for the beneficence and
the best guaranty against the abuse of power consists in the freedom,
the purity, and the frequency of popular elections; that the General
Government of the Union and the separate governments of the States
are all sovereignties of limited powers, fellow-servants of the same
masters, uncontrolled within their respective spheres, uncontrollable by
encroachments upon each other; that the firmest security of peace is the
preparation during peace of the defenses of war; that a rigorous economy
and accountability of public expenditures should guard against the
aggravation and alleviate when possible the burden of taxation; that the
military should be kept in strict subordination to the civil power; that
the freedom of the press and of religious opinion should be inviolate;
that the policy of our country is peace and the ark of our salvation
union are articles of faith upon which we are all now agreed. If there
have been those who doubted whether a confederated representative
democracy were a government competent to the wise and orderly management
of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been
dispelled; if there have been projects of partial confederacies to be
erected upon the ruins of the Union, they have been scattered to the
winds; if there have been dangerous attachments to one foreign nation
and antipathies against another, they have been extinguished. Ten years
of peace, at home and abroad, have assuaged the animosities of political
contention and blended into harmony the most discordant elements of
public opinion. There still remains one effort of magnanimity, one
sacrifice of prejudice and passion, to be made by the individuals
throughout the nation who have heretofore followed the standards of
political party. It is that of discarding every remnant of rancor
against each other, of embracing as countrymen and friends, and of
yielding to talents and virtue alone that confidence which in times of
contention for principle was bestowed only upon those who bore the badge
of party communion.

The collisions of party spirit which originate in speculative opinions
or in different views of administrative policy are in their nature
transitory. Those which are founded on geographical divisions, adverse
interests of soil, climate, and modes of domestic life are more
permanent, and therefore, perhaps, more dangerous. It is this which
gives inestimable value to the character of our Government, at once
federal and national. It holds out to us a perpetual admonition to
preserve alike and with equal anxiety the rights of each individual
State in its own government and the rights of the whole nation in that
of the Union. Whatsoever is of domestic concernment, unconnected
with the other members of the Union or with foreign lands, belongs
exclusively to the administration of the State governments. Whatsoever
directly involves the rights and interests of the federative fraternity
or of foreign powers is of the resort of this General Government. The
duties of both are obvious in the general principle, though sometimes
perplexed with difficulties in the detail. To respect the rights of
the State governments is the inviolable duty of that of the Union; the
government of every State will feel its own obligation to respect and
preserve the rights of the whole. The prejudices everywhere too commonly
entertained against distant strangers are worn away, and the jealousies
of jarring interests are allayed by the composition and functions of
the great national councils annually assembled from all quarters of the
Union at this place. Here the distinguished men from every section of
our country, while meeting to deliberate upon the great interests of
those by whom they are deputed, learn to estimate the talents and do
justice to the virtues of each other. The harmony of the nation is
promoted and the whole Union is knit together by the sentiments of
mutual respect, the habits of social intercourse, and the ties of
personal friendship formed between the representatives of its several
parts in the performance of their service at this metropolis.

Passing from this general review of the purposes and injunctions of the
Federal Constitution and their results as indicating the first traces
of the path of duty in the discharge of my public trust, I turn to the
Administration of my immediate predecessor as the second. It has passed
away in a period of profound peace, how much to the satisfaction of our
country and to the honor of our country's name is known to you all. The
great features of its policy, in general concurrence with the will
of the Legislature, have been to cherish peace while preparing for
defensive war; to yield exact justice to other nations and maintain the
rights of our own; to cherish the principles of freedom and of equal
rights wherever they were proclaimed; to discharge with all possible
promptitude the national debt; to reduce within the narrowest limits
of efficiency the military force; to improve the organization and
discipline of the Army; to provide and sustain a school of military
science; to extend equal protection to all the great interests of the
nation; to promote the civilization of the Indian tribes, and to proceed
in the great system of internal improvements within the limits of the
constitutional power of the Union. Under the pledge of these promises,
made by that eminent citizen at the time of his first induction to
this office, in his career of eight years the internal taxes have
been repealed; sixty millions of the public debt have been discharged;
provision has been made for the comfort and relief of the aged and
indigent among the surviving warriors of the Revolution; the regular
armed force has been reduced and its constitution revised and perfected;
the accountability for the expenditure of public moneys has been made
more effective; the Floridas have been peaceably acquired, and our
boundary has been extended to the Pacific Ocean; the independence of the
southern nations of this hemisphere has been recognized, and recommended
by example and by counsel to the potentates of Europe; progress has been
made in the defense of the country by fortifications and the increase
of the Navy, toward the effectual suppression of the African traffic
in slaves; in alluring the aboriginal hunters of our land to the
cultivation of the soil and of the mind, in exploring the interior
regions of the Union, and in preparing by scientific researches and
surveys for the further application of our national resources to the
internal improvement of our country.

In this brief outline of the promise and performance of my immediate
predecessor the line of duty for his successor is clearly delineated. To
pursue to their consummation those purposes of improvement in our common
condition instituted or recommended by him will embrace the whole sphere
of my obligations. To the topic of internal improvement, emphatically
urged by him at his inauguration, I recur with peculiar satisfaction.
It is that from which I am convinced that the unborn millions of our
posterity who are in future ages to people this continent will derive
their most fervent gratitude to the founders of the Union; that in which
the beneficent action of its Government will be most deeply felt and
acknowledged. The magnificence and splendor of their public works are
among the imperishable glories of the ancient republics. The roads and
aqueducts of Rome have been the admiration of all after ages, and have
survived thousands of years after all her conquests have been swallowed
up in despotism or become the spoil of barbarians. Some diversity
of opinion has prevailed with regard to the powers of Congress for
legislation upon objects of this nature. The most respectful deference
is due to doubts originating in pure patriotism and sustained by
venerated authority. But nearly twenty years have passed since the
construction of the first national road was commenced. The authority
for its construction was then unquestioned. To how many thousands of
our countrymen has it proved a benefit? To what single individual has it
ever proved an injury? Repeated, liberal, and candid discussions in
the Legislature have conciliated the sentiments and approximated the
opinions of enlightened minds upon the question of constitutional power.
I can not but hope that by the same process of friendly, patient, and
persevering deliberation all constitutional objections will ultimately
be removed. The extent and limitation of the powers of the General
Government in relation to this transcendently important interest will
be settled and acknowledged to the common satisfaction of all, and every
speculative scruple will be solved by a practical public blessing.

Fellow-citizens, you are acquainted with the peculiar circumstances of
the recent election, which have resulted in affording me the opportunity
of addressing you at this time. You have heard the exposition of the
principles which will direct me in the fulfillment of the high and
solemn trust imposed upon me in this station. Less possessed of your
confidence in advance than any of my predecessors, I am deeply conscious
of the prospect that I shall stand more and oftener in need of your
indulgence. Intentions upright and pure, a heart devoted to the welfare
of our country, and the unceasing application of all the faculties
allotted to me to her service are all the pledges that I can give for
the faithful performance of the arduous duties I am to undertake. To the
guidance of the legislative councils, to the assistance of the executive
and subordinate departments, to the friendly cooperation of the
respective State governments, to the candid and liberal support of the
people so far as it may be deserved by honest industry and zeal, I shall
look for whatever success may attend my public service; and knowing that
"except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain," with
fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I
commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future
destinies of my country.


Andrew Jackson First Inaugural Address Wednesday, March 4, 1829


About to undertake the arduous duties that I have been appointed to
perform by the choice of a free people, I avail myself of this customary
and solemn occasion to express the gratitude which their confidence
inspires and to acknowledge the accountability which my situation
enjoins. While the magnitude of their interests convinces me that no
thanks can be adequate to the honor they have conferred, it admonishes
me that the best return I can make is the zealous dedication of my
humble abilities to their service and their good.

As the instrument of the Federal Constitution it will devolve on me for
a stated period to execute the laws of the United States, to superintend
their foreign and their confederate relations, to manage their revenue,
to command their forces, and, by communications to the Legislature, to
watch over and to promote their interests generally. And the principles
of action by which I shall endeavor to accomplish this circle of duties
it is now proper for me briefly to explain.

In administering the laws of Congress I shall keep steadily in view
the limitations as well as the extent of the Executive power, trusting
thereby to discharge the functions of my office without transcending its
authority. With foreign nations it will be my study to preserve peace
and to cultivate friendship on fair and honorable terms, and in the
adjustment of any differences that may exist or arise to exhibit the
forbearance becoming a powerful nation rather than the sensibility
belonging to a gallant people.

In such measures as I may be called on to pursue in regard to the rights
of the separate States I hope to be animated by a proper respect for
those sovereign members of our Union, taking care not to confound the
powers they have reserved to themselves with those they have granted to
the Confederacy.

The management of the public revenue--that searching operation in all
governments--is among the most delicate and important trusts in ours,
and it will, of course, demand no inconsiderable share of my official
solicitude. Under every aspect in which it can be considered it would
appear that advantage must result from the observance of a strict and
faithful economy. This I shall aim at the more anxiously both because it
will facilitate the extinguishment of the national debt, the unnecessary
duration of which is incompatible with real independence, and because it
will counteract that tendency to public and private profligacy which
a profuse expenditure of money by the Government is but too apt to
engender. Powerful auxiliaries to the attainment of this desirable end
are to be found in the regulations provided by the wisdom of Congress
for the specific appropriation of public money and the prompt
accountability of public officers.

With regard to a proper selection of the subjects of impost with a view
to revenue, it would seem to me that the spirit of equity, caution, and
compromise in which the Constitution was formed requires that the great
interests of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures should be equally
favored, and that perhaps the only exception to this rule should consist
in the peculiar encouragement of any products of either of them that may
be found essential to our national independence.

Internal improvement and the diffusion of knowledge, so far as they can
be promoted by the constitutional acts of the Federal Government, are of
high importance.

Considering standing armies as dangerous to free governments in time
of peace, I shall not seek to enlarge our present establishment, nor
disregard that salutary lesson of political experience which teaches
that the military should be held subordinate to the civil power. The
gradual increase of our Navy, whose flag has displayed in distant climes
our skill in navigation and our fame in arms; the preservation of our
forts, arsenals, and dockyards, and the introduction of progressive
improvements in the discipline and science of both branches of our
military service are so plainly prescribed by prudence that I should be
excused for omitting their mention sooner than for enlarging on their
importance. But the bulwark of our defense is the national militia,
which in the present state of our intelligence and population must
render us invincible. As long as our Government is administered for
the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as
it secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty of
conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending; and so long
as it is worth defending a patriotic militia will cover it with an
impenetrable aegis. Partial injuries and occasional mortifications we
may be subjected to, but a million of armed freemen, possessed of the
means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe. To any just
system, therefore, calculated to strengthen this natural safeguard of
the country I shall cheerfully lend all the aid in my power.

It will be my sincere and constant desire to observe toward the Indian
tribes within our limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that
humane and considerate attention to their rights and their wants which
is consistent with the habits of our Government and the feelings of our

The recent demonstration of public sentiment inscribes on the list of
Executive duties, in characters too legible to be overlooked, the task
of reform, which will require particularly the correction of those
abuses that have brought the patronage of the Federal Government into
conflict with the freedom of elections, and the counteraction of those
causes which have disturbed the rightful course of appointment and have
placed or continued power in unfaithful or incompetent hands.

In the performance of a task thus generally delineated I shall
endeavor to select men whose diligence and talents will insure in their
respective stations able and faithful cooperation, depending for the
advancement of the public service more on the integrity and zeal of the
public officers than on their numbers.

A diffidence, perhaps too just, in my own qualifications will teach
me to look with reverence to the examples of public virtue left by my
illustrious predecessors, and with veneration to the lights that flow
from the mind that founded and the mind that reformed our system. The
same diffidence induces me to hope for instruction and aid from the
coordinate branches of the Government, and for the indulgence and
support of my fellow-citizens generally. And a firm reliance on the
goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our
national infancy, and has since upheld our liberties in various
vicissitudes, encourages me to offer up my ardent supplications that He
will continue to make our beloved country the object of His divine care
and gracious benediction.


Andrew Jackson Second Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1833


The will of the American people, expressed through their unsolicited
suffrages, calls me before you to pass through the solemnities
preparatory to taking upon myself the duties of President of the United
States for another term. For their approbation of my public conduct
through a period which has not been without its difficulties, and for
this renewed expression of their confidence in my good intentions, I am
at a loss for terms adequate to the expression of my gratitude. It shall
be displayed to the extent of my humble abilities in continued efforts
so to administer the Government as to preserve their liberty and promote
their happiness.

So many events have occurred within the last four years which have
necessarily called forth--sometimes under circumstances the most
delicate and painful--my views of the principles and policy which ought
to be pursued by the General Government that I need on this occasion but
allude to a few leading considerations connected with some of them.

The foreign policy adopted by our Government soon after the formation
of our present Constitution, and very generally pursued by successive
Administrations, has been crowned with almost complete success, and has
elevated our character among the nations of the earth. To do justice to
all and to submit to wrong from none has been during my Administration
its governing maxim, and so happy have been its results that we are not
only at peace with all the world, but have few causes of controversy,
and those of minor importance, remaining unadjusted.

In the domestic policy of this Government there are two objects
which especially deserve the attention of the people and their
representatives, and which have been and will continue to be the
subjects of my increasing solicitude. They are the preservation of the
rights of the several States and the integrity of the Union.

These great objects are necessarily connected, and can only be attained
by an enlightened exercise of the powers of each within its appropriate
sphere in conformity with the public will constitutionally expressed.
To this end it becomes the duty of all to yield a ready and patriotic
submission to the laws constitutionally enacted, and thereby promote
and strengthen a proper confidence in those institutions of the several
States and of the United States which the people themselves have
ordained for their own government.

My experience in public concerns and the observation of a life somewhat
advanced confirm the opinions long since imbibed by me, that the
destruction of our State governments or the annihilation of their
control over the local concerns of the people would lead directly
to revolution and anarchy, and finally to despotism and military
domination. In proportion, therefore, as the General Government
encroaches upon the rights of the States, in the same proportion does
it impair its own power and detract from its ability to fulfill the
purposes of its creation. Solemnly impressed with these considerations,
my countrymen will ever find me ready to exercise my constitutional
powers in arresting measures which may directly or indirectly encroach
upon the rights of the States or tend to consolidate all political power
in the General Government. But of equal, and, indeed, of incalculable,
importance is the union of these States, and the sacred duty of all
to contribute to its preservation by a liberal support of the General
Government in the exercise of its just powers. You have been wisely
admonished to "accustom yourselves to think and speak of the Union as of
the palladium of your political safety and prosperity, watching for its
preservation with jealous anxiety, discountenancing whatever may suggest
even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly
frowning upon the first dawning of any attempt to alienate any portion
of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now
link together the various parts." Without union our independence and
liberty would never have been achieved; without union they never can
be maintained. Divided into twenty-four, or even a smaller number, of
separate communities, we shall see our internal trade burdened with
numberless restraints and exactions; communication between distant
points and sections obstructed or cut off; our sons made soldiers to
deluge with blood the fields they now till in peace; the mass of our
people borne down and impoverished by taxes to support armies and
navies, and military leaders at the head of their victorious legions
becoming our lawgivers and judges. The loss of liberty, of all good
government, of peace, plenty, and happiness, must inevitably follow a
dissolution of the Union. In supporting it, therefore, we support all
that is dear to the freeman and the philanthropist.

The time at which I stand before you is full of interest. The eyes of
all nations are fixed on our Republic. The event of the existing crisis
will be decisive in the opinion of mankind of the practicability of our
federal system of government. Great is the stake placed in our hands;
great is the responsibility which must rest upon the people of the
United States. Let us realize the importance of the attitude in which we
stand before the world. Let us exercise forbearance and firmness. Let
us extricate our country from the dangers which surround it and learn
wisdom from the lessons they inculcate.

Deeply impressed with the truth of these observations, and under
the obligation of that solemn oath which I am about to take, I shall
continue to exert all my faculties to maintain the just powers of the
Constitution and to transmit unimpaired to posterity the blessings of
our Federal Union. At the same time, it will be my aim to inculcate by
my official acts the necessity of exercising by the General Government
those powers only that are clearly delegated; to encourage simplicity
and economy in the expenditures of the Government; to raise no more
money from the people than may be requisite for these objects, and in
a manner that will best promote the interests of all classes of the
community and of all portions of the Union. Constantly bearing in mind
that in entering into society "individuals must give up a share of
liberty to preserve the rest," it will be my desire so to discharge
my duties as to foster with our brethren in all parts of the country
a spirit of liberal concession and compromise, and, by reconciling our
fellow-citizens to those partial sacrifices which they must unavoidably
make for the preservation of a greater good, to recommend our invaluable
Government and Union to the confidence and affections of the American

Finally, it is my most fervent prayer to that Almighty Being before whom
I now stand, and who has kept us in His hands from the infancy of our
Republic to the present day, that He will so overrule all my intentions
and actions and inspire the hearts of my fellow-citizens that we may be
preserved from dangers of all kinds and continue forever a united and
happy people.


Martin Van Buren Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1837


The practice of all my predecessors imposes on me an obligation I
cheerfully fulfill--to accompany the first and solemn act of my public
trust with an avowal of the principles that will guide me in performing
it and an expression of my feelings on assuming a charge so responsible
and vast. In imitating their example I tread in the footsteps of
illustrious men, whose superiors it is our happiness to believe are not
found on the executive calendar of any country. Among them we recognize
the earliest and firmest pillars of the Republic--those by whom our
national independence was first declared, him who above all others
contributed to establish it on the field of battle, and those whose
expanded intellect and patriotism constructed, improved, and perfected
the inestimable institutions under which we live. If such men in
the position I now occupy felt themselves overwhelmed by a sense
of gratitude for this the highest of all marks of their country's
confidence, and by a consciousness of their inability adequately to
discharge the duties of an office so difficult and exalted, how much
more must these considerations affect one who can rely on no such
claims for favor or forbearance! Unlike all who have preceded me, the
Revolution that gave us existence as one people was achieved at the
period of my birth; and whilst I contemplate with grateful reverence
that memorable event, I feel that I belong to a later age and that I
may not expect my countrymen to weigh my actions with the same kind and
partial hand.

So sensibly, fellow-citizens, do these circumstances press themselves
upon me that I should not dare to enter upon my path of duty did I not
look for the generous aid of those who will be associated with me in the
various and coordinate branches of the Government; did I not repose
with unwavering reliance on the patriotism, the intelligence, and the
kindness of a people who never yet deserted a public servant honestly
laboring their cause; and, above all, did I not permit myself humbly
to hope for the sustaining support of an ever-watchful and beneficent

To the confidence and consolation derived from these sources it would
be ungrateful not to add those which spring from our present fortunate
condition. Though not altogether exempt from embarrassments that
disturb our tranquillity at home and threaten it abroad, yet in all the
attributes of a great, happy, and flourishing people we stand without a
parallel in the world. Abroad we enjoy the respect and, with scarcely an
exception, the friendship of every nation; at home, while our Government
quietly but efficiently performs the sole legitimate end of political
institutions--in doing the greatest good to the greatest number--we
present an aggregate of human prosperity surely not elsewhere to be

How imperious, then, is the obligation imposed upon every citizen, in
his own sphere of action, whether limited or extended, to exert himself
in perpetuating a condition of things so singularly happy! All the
lessons of history and experience must be lost upon us if we are content
to trust alone to the peculiar advantages we happen to possess. Position
and climate and the bounteous resources that nature has scattered with
so liberal a hand--even the diffused intelligence and elevated character
of our people--will avail us nothing if we fail sacredly to uphold those
political institutions that were wisely and deliberately formed with
reference to every circumstance that could preserve or might endanger
the blessings we enjoy. The thoughtful framers of our Constitution
legislated for our country as they found it. Looking upon it with the
eyes of statesmen and patriots, they saw all the sources of rapid and
wonderful prosperity; but they saw also that various habits, opinions
and institutions peculiar to the various portions of so vast a region
were deeply fixed. Distinct sovereignties were in actual existence,
whose cordial union was essential to the welfare and happiness of
all. Between many of them there was, at least to some extent, a real
diversity of interests, liable to be exaggerated through sinister
designs; they differed in size, in population, in wealth, and in actual
and prospective resources and power; they varied in the character of
their industry and staple productions, and [in some] existed domestic
institutions which, unwisely disturbed, might endanger the harmony of
the whole. Most carefully were all these circumstances weighed, and the
foundations of the new Government laid upon principles of reciprocal
concession and equitable compromise. The jealousies which the smaller
States might entertain of the power of the rest were allayed by a rule
of representation confessedly unequal at the time, and designed forever
to remain so. A natural fear that the broad scope of general legislation
might bear upon and unwisely control particular interests was
counteracted by limits strictly drawn around the action of the Federal
authority, and to the people and the States was left unimpaired their
sovereign power over the innumerable subjects embraced in the internal
government of a just republic, excepting such only as necessarily
appertain to the concerns of the whole confederacy or its intercourse as
a united community with the other nations of the world.

This provident forecast has been verified by time. Half a century,
teeming with extraordinary events, and elsewhere producing astonishing
results, has passed along, but on our institutions it has left no
injurious mark. From a small community we have risen to a people
powerful in numbers and in strength; but with our increase has gone
hand in hand the progress of just principles. The privileges, civil and
religious, of the humblest individual are still sacredly protected at
home, and while the valor and fortitude of our people have removed far
from us the slightest apprehension of foreign power, they have not yet
induced us in a single instance to forget what is right. Our commerce
has been extended to the remotest nations; the value and even nature of
our productions have been greatly changed; a wide difference has arisen
in the relative wealth and resources of every portion of our country;
yet the spirit of mutual regard and of faithful adherence to existing
compacts has continued to prevail in our councils and never long been
absent from our conduct. We have learned by experience a fruitful
lesson--that an implicit and undeviating adherence to the principles
on which we set out can carry us prosperously onward through all the
conflicts of circumstances and vicissitudes inseparable from the lapse
of years.

The success that has thus attended our great experiment is in itself
a sufficient cause for gratitude, on account of the happiness it has
actually conferred and the example it has unanswerably given But to
me, my fellow-citizens, looking forward to the far-distant future with
ardent prayers and confiding hopes, this retrospect presents a ground
for still deeper delight. It impresses on my mind a firm belief that
the perpetuity of our institutions depends upon ourselves; that if we
maintain the principles on which they were established they are destined
to confer their benefits on countless generations yet to come, and that
America will present to every friend of mankind the cheering proof
that a popular government, wisely formed, is wanting in no element of
endurance or strength. Fifty years ago its rapid failure was boldly
predicted. Latent and uncontrollable causes of dissolution were supposed
to exist even by the wise and good, and not only did unfriendly or
speculative theorists anticipate for us the fate of past republics, but
the fears of many an honest patriot overbalanced his sanguine hopes.
Look back on these forebodings, not hastily but reluctantly made, and
see how in every instance they have completely failed.

An imperfect experience during the struggles of the Revolution was
supposed to warrant the belief that the people would not bear the
taxation requisite to discharge an immense public debt already incurred
and to pay the necessary expenses of the Government. The cost of two
wars has been paid, not only without a murmur, but with unequaled
alacrity. No one is now left to doubt that every burden will be
cheerfully borne that may be necessary to sustain our civil institutions
or guard our honor or welfare. Indeed, all experience has shown that
the willingness of the people to contribute to these ends in cases of
emergency has uniformly outrun the confidence of their representatives.

In the early stages of the new Government, when all felt the imposing
influence as they recognized the unequaled services of the first
President, it was a common sentiment that the great weight of his
character could alone bind the discordant materials of our Government
together and save us from the violence of contending factions. Since
his death nearly forty years are gone. Party exasperation has been often
carried to its highest point; the virtue and fortitude of the people
have sometimes been greatly tried; yet our system, purified and enhanced
in value by all it has encountered, still preserves its spirit of free
and fearless discussion, blended with unimpaired fraternal feeling.

The capacity of the people for self-government, and their willingness,
from a high sense of duty and without those exhibitions of coercive
power so generally employed in other countries, to submit to all needful
restraints and exactions of municipal law, have also been favorably
exemplified in the history of the American States. Occasionally, it is
true, the ardor of public sentiment, outrunning the regular progress
of the judicial tribunals or seeking to reach cases not denounced
as criminal by the existing law, has displayed itself in a manner
calculated to give pain to the friends of free government and to
encourage the hopes of those who wish for its overthrow. These
occurrences, however, have been far less frequent in our country than
in any other of equal population on the globe, and with the diffusion of
intelligence it may well be hoped that they will constantly diminish in
frequency and violence. The generous patriotism and sound common sense
of the great mass of our fellow-citizens will assuredly in time produce
this result; for as every assumption of illegal power not only wounds
the majesty of the law, but furnishes a pretext for abridging the
liberties of the people, the latter have the most direct and permanent
interest in preserving the landmarks of social order and maintaining
on all occasions the inviolability of those constitutional and legal
provisions which they themselves have made.

In a supposed unfitness of our institutions for those hostile
emergencies which no country can always avoid their friends found a
fruitful source of apprehension, their enemies of hope. While they
foresaw less promptness of action than in governments differently
formed, they overlooked the far more important consideration that with
us war could never be the result of individual or irresponsible will,
but must be a measure of redress for injuries sustained voluntarily
resorted to by those who were to bear the necessary sacrifice, who
would consequently feel an individual interest in the contest, and whose
energy would be commensurate with the difficulties to be encountered.
Actual events have proved their error; the last war, far from impairing,
gave new confidence to our Government, and amid recent apprehensions of
a similar conflict we saw that the energies of our country would not be
wanting in ample season to vindicate its rights. We may not possess, as
we should not desire to poss ess, the extended and ever-ready military
organization of other nations; we may occasionally suffer in the outset
for the want of it; but among ourselves all doubt upon this great point
has ceased, while a salutary experience will prevent a contrary opinion
from inviting aggression from abroad.

Certain danger was foretold from the extension of our territory, the
multiplication of States, and the increase of population. Our system was
supposed to be adapted only to boundaries comparatively narrow. These
have been widened beyond conjecture; the members of our Confederacy are
already doubled, and the numbers of our people are incredibly augmented.
The alleged causes of danger have long surpassed anticipation, but
none of the consequences have followed. The power and influence of the
Republic have arisen to a height obvious to all mankind; respect for its
authority was not more apparent at its ancient than it is at its present
limits; new and inexhaustible sources of general prosperity have been
opened; the effects of distance have been averted by the inventive
genius of our people, developed and fostered by the spirit of our
institutions; and the enlarged variety and amount of interests,
productions, and pursuits have strengthened the chain of mutual
dependence and formed a circ le of mutual benefits too apparent ever to
be overlooked.

In justly balancing the powers of the Federal and State authorities
difficulties nearly insurmountable arose at the outset and subsequent
collisions were deemed inevitable. Amid these it was scarcely believed
possible that a scheme of government so complex in construction could
remain uninjured. From time to time embarrassments have certainly
occurred; but how just is the confidence of future safety imparted
by the knowledge that each in succession has been happily removed!
Overlooking partial and temporary evils as inseparable from the
practical operation of all human institutions, and looking only to the
general result, every patriot has reason to be satisfied. While the
Federal Government has successfully performed its appropriate functions
in relation to foreign affairs and concerns evidently national, that of
every State has remarkably improved in protecting and developing local
interests and individual welfare; and if the vibrations of authority
have occasionally tended too much toward one or the other, it is
unquestionably certain that the ultimate operation of the entire system
has been to strengthen all the existing institutions and to elevate our
whole country in prosperity and renown.

The last, perhaps the greatest, of the prominent sources of discord and
disaster supposed to lurk in our political condition was the institution
of domestic slavery. Our forefathers were deeply impressed with the
delicacy of this subject, and they treated it with a forbearance so
evidently wise that in spite of every sinister foreboding it never until
the present period disturbed the tranquillity of our common country.
Such a result is sufficient evidence of the justice and the patriot ism
of their course; it is evidence not to be mistaken that an adherence to
it can prevent all embarrassment from this as well as from every other
anticipated cause of difficulty or danger. Have not recent events made
it obvious to the slightest reflection that the least deviation from
this spirit of forbearance is injurious to every interest, that of
humanity included? Amidst the violence of excited passions this generous
and fraternal feeling has been sometimes disregarded; and standing as I
now do before my countrymen, in this high place of honor and of trust,
I can not refrain from anxiously invoking my fellow-citizens never to
be deaf to its dictates. Perceiving before my election the deep interest
this subject was beginning to excite, I believed it a solemn duty fully
to make known my sentiments in regard to it, and now, when every
motive for misrepresentation has passed away, I trust that they will be
candidly weighed and understood. At least they will be my standard of
conduct in the path before me. I then declared that if the desire of
those of my countrymen who were favorable to my election was gratified
"I must go into the Presidential chair the inflexible and uncompromising
opponent of every attempt on the part of Congress to abolish slavery in
the District of Columbia against the wishes of the slaveholding States,
and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest
interference with it in the States where it exists." I submitted also to
my fellow-citizens, with fullness and frankness, the reasons which led
me to this determination. The result authorizes me to believe that they
have been approved and are confided in by a majority of the people of
the United States, including those whom they most immediately affect. It
now only remains to add that no bill conflicting with these views
can ever receive my constitutional sanction. These opinions have been
adopted in the firm belief that they are in accordance with the spirit
that actuated the venerated fathers of the Republic, and that succeeding
experience has proved them to be humane, patriotic, expedient,
honorable, and just. If the agitation of this subject was intended to
reach the stability of our institutions, enough has occurred to show
that it has signally failed, and that in this as in every other instance
the apprehensions of the timid and the hopes of the wicked for the
destruction of our Government are again destined to be disappointed.
Here and there, indeed, scenes of dangerous excitement have occurred,
terrifying instances of local violence have been witnessed, and a
reckless disregard of the consequences of their conduct has exposed
individuals to popular indignation; but neither masses of the people nor
sections of the country have been swerved from their devotion to the
bond of union and the principles it has made sacred. It will be ever
thus. Such attempts at dangerous agitation may periodically return,
but with each the object will be better understood. That predominating
affection for our political system which prevails throughout our
territorial limits, that calm and enlightened judgment which ultimately
governs our people as one vast body, will always be at hand to resist
and control every effort, foreign or domestic, which aims or would lead
to overthrow our institutions.

What can be more gratifying than such a retrospect as this? We look back
on obstacles avoided and dangers overcome, on expectations more than
realized and prosperity perfectly secured. To the hopes of the hostile,
the fears of the timi d, and the doubts of the anxious actual experience
has given the conclusive reply. We have seen time gradually dispel
every unfavorable foreboding and our Constitution surmount every adverse
circumstance dreaded at the outset as beyond control. Present excitement
will at all times magnify present dangers, but true philosophy must
teach us that none more threatening than the past can remain to be
overcome; and we ought (for we have just reason) to entertain an abiding
confidence in the stability of our institutions and an entire conviction
that if administered in the true form, character, and spirit in which
they were established they are abundantly adequate to preserve to us and
our children the rich blessings already derived from them, to make our
beloved land for a thousand generations that chosen spot where happiness
springs from a perfect equality of political rights.

For myself, therefore, I desire to declare that the principle that will
govern me in the high duty to which my country calls me is a strict
adherence to the letter and spirit of the Constitution as it was
designed by those who framed it. Looking back to it as a sacred
instrument carefully and not easily framed; remembering that it was
throughout a work of concession and compromise; viewing it as limited to
national objects; regarding it as leaving to the people and the States
all power not explicitly parted with, I shall endeavor to preserve,
protect, and defend it by anxiously referring to its provision for
direction in every action. To matters of domestic concernment which it
has intrusted to the Federal Government and to such as rel ate to our
intercourse with foreign nations I shall zealously devote myself; beyond
those limits I shall never pass.

To enter on this occasion into a further or more minute exposition of my
views on the various questions of domestic policy would be as obtrusive
as it is probably unexpected. Before the suffrages of my countrymen were
conferred upon me I submitted to them, with great precision, my opinions
on all the most prominent of these subjects. Those opinions I shall
endeavor to carry out with my utmost ability.

Our course of foreign policy has been so uniform and intelligible as
to constitute a rule of Executive conduct which leaves little to my
discretion, unless, indeed, I were willing to run counter to the lights
of experience and the know n opinions of my constituents. We sedulously
cultivate the friendship of all nations as the conditions most
compatible with our welfare and the principles of our Government.
We decline alliances as adverse to our peace. We desire commercial
relations on equal terms, being ever willing to give a fair equivalent
for advantages received. We endeavor to conduct our intercourse with
openness and sincerity, promptly avowing our objects and seeking to
establish that mutual frankness which is as beneficial in the dealings
of nations as of men. We have no disposition and we disclaim all right
to meddle in disputes, whether internal or foreign, that may molest
other countries, regarding them in their actual state as social
communities, and preserving a strict neutrality in all their
controversies. Well knowing the tried valor of our people and our
exhaustless resources, we neither anticipate nor fear any designed
aggression; and in the consciousness of our own just conduct we feel a
security that we shall never be called upon to exert our determination
never to permit an invasion of our rights without punishment or redress.

In approaching, then, in the presence of my assembled countrymen, to
make the solemn promise that yet remains, and to pledge myself that I
will faithfully execute the office I am about to fill, I bring with me
a settled purpose to main tain the institutions of my country, which I
trust will atone for the errors I commit.

In receiving from the people the sacred trust twice confided to my
illustrious predecessor, and which he has discharged so faithfully and
so well, I know that I can not expect to perform the arduous task with
equal ability and success. But united as I have been in his counsels, a
daily witness of his exclusive and unsurpassed devotion to his country's
welfare, agreeing with him in sentiments which his countrymen have
warmly supported, and permitted to partake largely of his confidence, I
may hope that somewhat of the same cheering approbation will be found
to attend upon my path. For him I but express with my own the wishes
of all, that he may yet long live to enjoy the brilliant evening of his
well-spent life; and for myself, conscious of but one desire, faithfully
to serve my country, I throw myself without fear on its justice and
its kindness. Beyond that I only look to the gracious protection of the
Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom
I fervently pray to look down upon us all. May it be among the
dispensations of His providence to bless our beloved country with honors
and with length of days. May her ways be ways of pleasantness and all
her paths be peace!


William Henry Harrison Inaugural Address Thursday, March 4, 1841

Called from a retirement which I had supposed was to continue for the
residue of my life to fill the chief executive office of this great and
free nation, I appear before you, fellow-citizens, to take the oaths
which the Constitution prescribes as a necessary qualification for the
performance of its duties; and in obedience to a custom coeval with
our Government and what I believe to be your expectations I proceed to
present to you a summary of the principles which will govern me in the
discharge of the duties which I shall be called upon to perform.

It was the remark of a Roman consul in an early period of that
celebrated Republic that a most striking contrast was observable in the
conduct of candidates for offices of power and trust before and after
obtaining them, they seldom carrying out in the latter case the pledges
and promises made in the former. However much the world may have
improved in many respects in the lapse of upward of two thousand years
since the remark was made by the virtuous and indignant Roman, I fear
that a strict examination of the annals of some of the modern elective
governments would develop similar instances of violated confidence.

Although the fiat of the people has gone forth proclaiming me the Chief
Magistrate of this glorious Union, nothing upon their part remaining
to be done, it may be thought that a motive may exist to keep up the
delusion under which they may be supposed to have acted in relation
to my principles and opinions; and perhaps there may be some in this
assembly who have come here either prepared to condemn those I shall now
deliver, or, approving them, to doubt the sincerity with which they are
now uttered. But the lapse of a few months will confirm or dispel their
fears. The outline of principles to govern and measures to be adopted
by an Administration not yet begun will soon be exchanged for immutable
history, and I shall stand either exonerated by my countrymen or
classed with the mass of those who promised that they might deceive and
flattered with the intention to betray. However strong may be my present
purpose to realize the expectations of a magnanimous and confiding
people, I too well understand the dangerous temptations to which I
shall be exposed from the magnitude of the power which it has been
the pleasure of the people to commit to my hands not to place my chief
confidence upon the aid of that Almighty Power which has hitherto
protected me and enabled me to bring to favorable issues other important
but still greatly inferior trusts heretofore confided to me by my

The broad foundation upon which our Constitution rests being the
people--a breath of theirs having made, as a breath can unmake, change,
or modify it--it can be assigned to none of the great divisions of
government but to that of democracy. If such is its theory, those who
are called upon to administer it must recognize as its leading principle
the duty of shaping their measures so as to produce the greatest good
to the greatest number. But with these broad admissions, if we would
compare the sovereignty acknowledged to exist in the mass of our people
with the power claimed by other sovereignties, even by those which have
been considered most purely democratic, we shall find a most essential
difference. All others lay claim to power limited only by their
own will. The majority of our citizens, on the contrary, possess a
sovereignty with an amount of power precisely equal to that which has
been granted to them by the parties to the national compact, and nothing
beyond. We admit of no government by divine right, believing that so
far as power is concerned the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction
amongst men; that all are upon an equality, and that the only legitimate
right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed. The
Constitution of the United States is the instrument containing this
grant of power to the several departments composing the Government.
On an examination of that instrument it will be found to contain
declarations of power granted and of power withheld. The latter is also
susceptible of division into power which the majority had the right to
grant, but which they do not think proper to intrust to their agents,
and that which they could not have granted, not being possessed by
themselves. In other words, there are certain rights possessed by each
individual American citizen which in his compact with the others he
has never surrendered. Some of them, indeed, he is unable to surrender,
being, in the language of our system, unalienable. The boasted privilege
of a Roman citizen was to him a shield only against a petty provincial
ruler, whilst the proud democrat of Athens would console himself under a
sentence of death for a supposed violation of the national faith--which
no one understood and which at times was the subject of the mockery of
all--or the banishment from his home, his family, and his country with
or without an alleged cause, that it was the act not of a single tyrant
or hated aristocracy, but of his assembled countrymen. Far different
is the power of our sovereignty. It can interfere with no one's
faith, prescribe forms of worship for no one's observance, inflict no
punishment but after well-ascertained guilt, the result of investigation
under rules prescribed by the Constitution itself. These precious
privileges, and those scarcely less important of giving expression to
his thoughts and opinions, either by writing or speaking, unrestrained
but by the liability for injury to others, and that of a full
participation in all the advantages which flow from the Government,
the acknowledged property of all, the American citizen derives from no
charter granted by his fellow-man. He claims them because he is himself
a man, fashioned by the same Almighty hand as the rest of his species
and entitled to a full share of the blessings with which He has endowed
them. Notwithstanding the limited sovereignty possessed by the people
of the United States and the restricted grant of power to the Government
which they have adopted, enough has been given to accomplish all the
objects for which it was created. It has been found powerful in war,
and hitherto justice has been administered, and intimate union effected,
domestic tranquillity preserved, and personal liberty secured to the
citizen. As was to be expected, however, from the defect of language and
the necessarily sententious manner in which the Constitution is written,
disputes have arisen as to the amount of power which it has actually
granted or was intended to grant.

This is more particularly the case in relation to that part of the
instrument which treats of the legislative branch, and not only as
regards the exercise of powers claimed under a general clause giving
that body the authority to pass all laws necessary to carry into
effect the specified powers, but in relation to the latter also. It is,
however, consolatory to reflect that most of the instances of alleged
departure from the letter or spirit of the Constitution have ultimately
received the sanction of a majority of the people. And the fact that
many of our statesmen most distinguished for talent and patriotism have
been at one time or other of their political career on both sides of
each of the most warmly disputed questions forces upon us the inference
that the errors, if errors there were, are attributable to the intrinsic
difficulty in many instances of ascertaining the intentions of the
framers of the Constitution rather than the influence of any sinister
or unpatriotic motive. But the great danger to our institutions does
not appear to me to be in a usurpation by the Government of power not
granted by the people, but by the accumulation in one of the departments
of that which was assigned to others. Limited as are the powers which
have been granted, still enough have been granted to constitute a
despotism if concentrated in one of the departments. This danger is
greatly heightened, as it has been always observable that men are less
jealous of encroachments of one department upon another than upon their
own reserved rights. When the Constitution of the United States first
came from the hands of the Convention which formed it, many of the
sternest republicans of the day were alarmed at the extent of the power
which had been granted to the Federal Government, and more particularly
of that portion which had been assigned to the executive branch. There
were in it features which appeared not to be in harmony with their
ideas of a simple representative democracy or republic, and knowing the
tendency of power to increase itself, particularly when exercised by a
single individual, predictions were made that at no very remote period
the Government would terminate in virtual monarchy. It would not become
me to say that the fears of these patriots have been already realized;
but as I sincerely believe that the tendency of measures and of men's
opinions for some years past has been in that direction, it is, I
conceive, strictly proper that I should take this occasion to repeat
the assurances I have heretofore given of my determination to arrest the
progress of that tendency if it really exists and restore the Government
to its pristine health and vigor, as far as this can be effected by any
legitimate exercise of the power placed in my hands.

I proceed to state in as summary a manner as I can my opinion of the
sources of the evils which have been so extensively complained of
and the correctives which may be applied. Some of the former are
unquestionably to be found in the defects of the Constitution; others,
in my judgment, are attributable to a misconstruction of some of its
provisions. Of the former is the eligibility of the same individual to a
second term of the Presidency. The sagacious mind of Mr. Jefferson
early saw and lamented this error, and attempts have been made, hitherto
without success, to apply the amendatory power of the States to its
correction. As, however, one mode of correction is in the power of every
President, and consequently in mine, it would be useless, and perhaps
invidious, to enumerate the evils of which, in the opinion of many of
our fellow-citizens, this error of the sages who framed the Constitution
may have been the source and the bitter fruits which we are still
to gather from it if it continues to disfigure our system. It may be
observed, however, as a general remark, that republics can commit no
greater error than to adopt or continue any feature in their systems of
government which may be calculated to create or increase the lover of
power in the bosoms of those to whom necessity obliges them to commit
the management of their affairs; and surely nothing is more likely to
produce such a state of mind than the long continuance of an office of
high trust. Nothing can be more corrupting, nothing more destructive
of all those noble feelings which belong to the character of a devoted
republican patriot. When this corrupting passion once takes possession
of the human mind, like the love of gold it becomes insatiable. It is
the never-dying worm in his bosom, grows with his growth and strengthens
with the declining years of its victim. If this is true, it is the part
of wisdom for a republic to limit the service of that officer at least
to whom she has intrusted the management of her foreign relations, the
execution of her laws, and the command of her armies and navies to a
period so short as to prevent his forgetting that he is the accountable
agent, not the principal; the servant, not the master. Until an
amendment of the Constitution can be effected public opinion may
secure the desired object. I give my aid to it by renewing the pledge
heretofore given that under no circumstances will I consent to serve a
second term.

But if there is danger to public liberty from the acknowledged defects
of the Constitution in the want of limit to the continuance of the
Executive power in the same hands, there is, I apprehend, not much
less from a misconstruction of that instrument as it regards the powers
actually given. I can not conceive that by a fair construction any or
either of its provisions would be found to constitute the President a
part of the legislative power. It can not be claimed from the power
to recommend, since, although enjoined as a duty upon him, it is
a privilege which he holds in common with every other citizen; and
although there may be something more of confidence in the propriety
of the measures recommended in the one case than in the other, in the
obligations of ultimate decision there can be no difference. In the
language of the Constitution, "all the legislative powers" which it
grants "are vested in the Congress of the United States." It would be a
solecism in language to say that any portion of these is not included in
the whole.

It may be said, indeed, that the Constitution has given to the Executive
the power to annul the acts of the legislative body by refusing to
them his assent. So a similar power has necessarily resulted from that
instrument to the judiciary, and yet the judiciary forms no part of the
Legislature. There is, it is true, this difference between these grants
of power: The Executive can put his negative upon the acts of the
Legislature for other cause than that of want of conformity to the
Constitution, whilst the judiciary can only declare void those which
violate that instrument. But the decision of the judiciary is final in
such a case, whereas in every instance where the veto of the Executive
is applied it may be overcome by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses of
Congress. The negative upon the acts of the legislative by the executive
authority, and that in the hands of one individual, would seem to be
an incongruity in our system. Like some others of a similar character,
however, it appears to be highly expedient, and if used only with the
forbearance and in the spirit which was intended by its authors it may
be productive of great good and be found one of the best safeguards
to the Union. At the period of the formation of the Constitution the
principle does not appear to have enjoyed much favor in the State
governments. It existed but in two, and in one of these there was a
plural executive. If we would search for the motives which operated
upon the purely patriotic and enlightened assembly which framed the
Constitution for the adoption of a provision so apparently repugnant
to the leading democratic principle that the majority should govern, we
must reject the idea that they anticipated from it any benefit to the
ordinary course of legislation. They knew too well the high degree
of intelligence which existed among the people and the enlightened
character of the State legislatures not to have the fullest confidence
that the two bodies elected by them would be worthy representatives of
such constituents, and, of course, that they would require no aid in
conceiving and maturing the measures which the circumstances of the
country might require. And it is preposterous to suppose that a thought
could for a moment have been entertained that the President, placed at
the capital, in the center of the country, could better understand the
wants and wishes of the people than their own immediate representatives,
who spend a part of every year among them, living with them, often
laboring with them, and bound to them by the triple tie of interest,
duty, and affection. To assist or control Congress, then, in its
ordinary legislation could not, I conceive, have been the motive for
conferring the veto power on the President. This argument acquires
additional force from the fact of its never having been thus used by the
first six Presidents--and two of them were members of the Convention,
one presiding over its deliberations and the other bearing a larger
share in consummating the labors of that august body than any other
person. But if bills were never returned to Congress by either of the
Presidents above referred to upon the ground of their being inexpedient
or not as well adapted as they might be to the wants of the people, the
veto was applied upon that of want of conformity to the Constitution or
because errors had been committed from a too hasty enactment.

There is another ground for the adoption of the veto principle, which
had probably more influence in recommending it to the Convention than
any other. I refer to the security which it gives to the just and
equitable action of the Legislature upon all parts of the Union. It
could not but have occurred to the Convention that in a country so
extensive, embracing so great a variety of soil and climate, and
consequently of products, and which from the same causes must ever
exhibit a great difference in the amount of the population of its
various sections, calling for a great diversity in the employments of
the people, that the legislation of the majority might not always justly
regard the rights and interests of the minority, and that acts of this
character might be passed under an express grant by the words of the
Constitution, and therefore not within the competency of the judiciary
to declare void; that however enlightened and patriotic they might
suppose from past experience the members of Congress might be, and
however largely partaking, in the general, of the liberal feelings
of the people, it was impossible to expect that bodies so constituted
should not sometimes be controlled by local interests and sectional
feelings. It was proper, therefore, to provide some umpire from whose
situation and mode of appointment more independence and freedom from
such influences might be expected. Such a one was afforded by the
executive department constituted by the Constitution. A person elected
to that high office, having his constituents in every section, State,
and subdivision of the Union, must consider himself bound by the most
solemn sanctions to guard, protect, and defend the rights of all and of
every portion, great or small, from the injustice and oppression of the
rest. I consider the veto power, therefore, given by the Constitution to
the Executive of the United States solely as a conservative power, to be
used only first, to protect the Constitution from violation; secondly,
the people from the effects of hasty legislation where their will has
been probably disregarded or not well understood, and, thirdly,
to prevent the effects of combinations violative of the rights of
minorities. In reference to the second of these objects I may observe
that I consider it the right and privilege of the people to decide
disputed points of the Constitution arising from the general grant of
power to Congress to carry into effect the powers expressly given; and
I believe with Mr. Madison that "repeated recognitions under varied
circumstances in acts of the legislative, executive, and judicial
branches of the Government, accompanied by indications in different
modes of the concurrence of the general will of the nation," as
affording to the President sufficient authority for his considering such
disputed points as settled.

Upward of half a century has elapsed since the adoption of the present
form of government. It would be an object more highly desirable than the
gratification of the curiosity of speculative statesmen if its precise
situation could be ascertained, a fair exhibit made of the operations of
each of its departments, of the powers which they respectively claim and
exercise, of the collisions which have occurred between them or between
the whole Government and those of the States or either of them. We could
then compare our actual condition after fifty years' trial of our system
with what it was in the commencement of its operations and ascertain
whether the predictions of the patriots who opposed its adoption or
the confident hopes of its advocates have been best realized. The great
dread of the former seems to have been that the reserved powers of
the States would be absorbed by those of the Federal Government and a
consolidated power established, leaving to the States the shadow only of
that independent action for which they had so zealously contended and
on the preservation of which they relied as the last hope of liberty.
Without denying that the result to which they looked with so much
apprehension is in the way of being realized, it is obvious that
they did not clearly see the mode of its accomplishment. The General
Government has seized upon none of the reserved rights of the States. As
far as any open warfare may have gone, the State authorities have amply
maintained their rights. To a casual observer our system presents no
appearance of discord between the different members which compose it.
Even the addition of many new ones has produced no jarring. They move
in their respective orbits in perfect harmony with the central head and
with each other. But there is still an undercurrent at work by which,
if not seasonably checked, the worst apprehensions of our antifederal
patriots will be realized, and not only will the State authorities be
overshadowed by the great increase of power in the executive department
of the General Government, but the character of that Government, if not
its designation, be essentially and radically changed. This state of
things has been in part effected by causes inherent in the Constitution
and in part by the never-failing tendency of political power to
increase itself. By making the President the sole distributer of all
the patronage of the Government the framers of the Constitution do
not appear to have anticipated at how short a period it would become
a formidable instrument to control the free operations of the State
governments. Of trifling importance at first, it had early in Mr.
Jefferson's Administration become so powerful as to create great alarm
in the mind of that patriot from the potent influence it might exert in
controlling the freedom of the elective franchise. If such could have
then been the effects of its influence, how much greater must be the
danger at this time, quadrupled in amount as it certainly is and
more completely under the control of the Executive will than their
construction of their powers allowed or the forbearing characters of all
the early Presidents permitted them to make. But it is not by the
extent of its patronage alone that the executive department has become
dangerous, but by the use which it appears may be made of the appointing
power to bring under its control the whole revenues of the country. The
Constitution has declared it to be the duty of the President to see that
the laws are executed, and it makes him the Commander in Chief of
the Armies and Navy of the United States. If the opinion of the most
approved writers upon that species of mixed government which in modern
Europe is termed monarchy in contradistinction to despotism is
correct, there was wanting no other addition to the powers of our Chief
Magistrate to stamp a monarchical character on our Government but the
control of the public finances; and to me it appears strange indeed
that anyone should doubt that the entire control which the President
possesses over the officers who have the custody of the public money,
by the power of removal with or without cause, does, for all mischievous
purposes at least, virtually subject the treasure also to his disposal.
The first Roman Emperor, in his attempt to seize the sacred treasure,
silenced the opposition of the officer to whose charge it had been
committed by a significant allusion to his sword. By a selection of
political instruments for the care of the public money a reference to
their commissions by a President would be quite as effectual an argument
as that of Caesar to the Roman knight. I am not insensible of the great
difficulty that exists in drawing a proper plan for the safe-keeping and
disbursement of the public revenues, and I know the importance which has
been attached by men of great abilities and patriotism to the divorce,
as it is called, of the Treasury from the banking institutions It is
not the divorce which is complained of, but the unhallowed union of the
Treasury with the executive department, which has created such extensive
alarm. To this danger to our republican institutions and that created by
the influence given to the Executive through the instrumentality of the
Federal officers I propose to apply all the remedies which may be at
my command. It was certainly a great error in the framers of the
Constitution not to have made the officer at the head of the Treasury
Department entirely independent of the Executive. He should at least
have been removable only upon the demand of the popular branch of
the Legislature. I have determined never to remove a Secretary of the
Treasury without communicating all the circumstances attending such
removal to both Houses of Congress.

The influence of the Executive in controlling the freedom of the
elective franchise through the medium of the public officers can
be effectually checked by renewing the prohibition published by Mr.
Jefferson forbidding their interference in elections further than giving
their own votes, and their own independence secured by an assurance of
perfect immunity in exercising this sacred privilege of freemen under
the dictates of their own unbiased judgments. Never with my consent
shall an officer of the people, compensated for his services out of
their pockets, become the pliant instrument of Executive will.

There is no part of the means placed in the hands of the Executive
which might be used with greater effect for unhallowed purposes than the
control of the public press. The maxim which our ancestors derived from
the mother country that "the freedom of the press is the great bulwark
of civil and religious liberty" is one of the most precious legacies
which they have left us. We have learned, too, from our own as well as
the experience of other countries, that golden shackles, by whomsoever
or by whatever pretense imposed, are as fatal to it as the iron bonds
of despotism. The presses in the necessary employment of the Government
should never be used "to clear the guilty or to varnish crime." A decent
and manly examination of the acts of the Government should be not only
tolerated, but encouraged.

Upon another occasion I have given my opinion at some length upon
the impropriety of Executive interference in the legislation of
Congress--that the article in the Constitution making it the duty of the
President to communicate information and authorizing him to recommend
measures was not intended to make him the source in legislation, and, in
particular, that he should never be looked to for schemes of finance.
It would be very strange, indeed, that the Constitution should have
strictly forbidden one branch of the Legislature from interfering in the
origination of such bills and that it should be considered proper that
an altogether different department of the Government should be permitted
to do so. Some of our best political maxims and opinions have been
drawn from our parent isle. There are others, however, which can not be
introduced in our system without singular incongruity and the production
of much mischief, and this I conceive to be one. No matter in which of
the houses of Parliament a bill may originate nor by whom introduced--a
minister or a member of the opposition--by the fiction of law, or rather
of constitutional principle, the sovereign is supposed to have prepared
it agreeably to his will and then submitted it to Parliament for their
advice and consent. Now the very reverse is the case here, not only with
regard to the principle, but the forms prescribed by the Constitution.
The principle certainly assigns to the only body constituted by the
Constitution (the legislative body) the power to make laws, and the
forms even direct that the enactment should be ascribed to them.
The Senate, in relation to revenue bills, have the right to propose
amendments, and so has the Executive by the power given him to return
them to the House of Representatives with his objections. It is in his
power also to propose amendments in the existing revenue laws, suggested
by his observations upon their defective or injurious operation. But the
delicate duty of devising schemes of revenue should be left where the
Constitution has placed it--with the immediate representatives of the
people. For similar reasons the mode of keeping the public treasure
should be prescribed by them, and the further removed it may be from the
control of the Executive the more wholesome the arrangement and the more
in accordance with republican principle.

Connected with this subject is the character of the currency. The idea
of making it exclusively metallic, however well intended, appears to me
to be fraught with more fatal consequences than any other scheme having
no relation to the personal rights of the citizens that has ever been
devised. If any single scheme could produce the effect of arresting at
once that mutation of condition by which thousands of our most indigent
fellow-citizens by their industry and enterprise are raised to the
possession of wealth, that is the one. If there is one measure better
calculated than another to produce that state of things so much
deprecated by all true republicans, by which the rich are daily adding
to their hoards and the poor sinking deeper into penury, it is an
exclusive metallic currency. Or if there is a process by which the
character of the country for generosity and nobleness of feeling may be
destroyed by the great increase and neck toleration of usury, it is an
exclusive metallic currency.

Amongst the other duties of a delicate character which the President
is called upon to perform is the supervision of the government of the
Territories of the United States. Those of them which are destined to
become members of our great political family are compensated by their
rapid progress from infancy to manhood for the partial and temporary
deprivation of their political rights. It is in this District only
where American citizens are to be found who under a settled policy are
deprived of many important political privileges without any inspiring
hope as to the future. Their only consolation under circumstances of
such deprivation is that of the devoted exterior guards of a camp--that
their sufferings secure tranquillity and safety within. Are there any of
their countrymen, who would subject them to greater sacrifices, to any
other humiliations than those essentially necessary to the security
of the object for which they were thus separated from their
fellow-citizens? Are their rights alone not to be guaranteed by the
application of those great principles upon which all our constitutions
are founded? We are told by the greatest of British orators and
statesmen that at the commencement of the War of the Revolution the most
stupid men in England spoke of "their American subjects." Are there,
indeed, citizens of any of our States who have dreamed of their subjects
in the District of Columbia? Such dreams can never be realized by any
agency of mine. The people of the District of Columbia are not the
subjects of the people of the States, but free American citizens. Being
in the latter condition when the Constitution was formed, no words used
in that instrument could have been intended to deprive them of that
character. If there is anything in the great principle of unalienable
rights so emphatically insisted upon in our Declaration of Independence,
they could neither make nor the United States accept a surrender of
their liberties and become the subjects--in other words, the slaves--of
their former fellow-citizens. If this be true--and it will scarcely be
denied by anyone who has a correct idea of his own rights as an American
citizen--the grant to Congress of exclusive jurisdiction in the District
of Columbia can be interpreted, so far as respects the aggregate people
of the United States, as meaning nothing more than to allow to Congress
the controlling power necessary to afford a free and safe exercise of
the functions assigned to the General Government by the Constitution.
In all other respects the legislation of Congress should be adapted
to their peculiar position and wants and be conformable with their
deliberate opinions of their own interests.

I have spoken of the necessity of keeping the respective departments
of the Government, as well as all the other authorities of our country,
within their appropriate orbits. This is a matter of difficulty in some
cases, as the powers which they respectively claim are often not defined
by any distinct lines. Mischievous, however, in their tendencies as
collisions of this kind may be, those which arise between the respective
communities which for certain purposes compose one nation are much more
so, for no such nation can long exist without the careful culture of
those feelings of confidence and affection which are the effective bonds
to union between free and confederated states. Strong as is the tie
of interest, it has been often found ineffectual. Men blinded by their
passions have been known to adopt measures for their country in direct
opposition to all the suggestions of policy. The alternative, then, is
to destroy or keep down a bad passion by creating and fostering a good
one, and this seems to be the corner stone upon which our American
political architects have reared the fabric of our Government. The
cement which was to bind it and perpetuate its existence was the
affectionate attachment between all its members. To insure the
continuance of this feeling, produced at first by a community of
dangers, of sufferings, and of interests, the advantages of each were
made accessible to all. No participation in any good possessed by any
member of our extensive Confederacy, except in domestic government, was
withheld from the citizen of any other member. By a process attended
with no difficulty, no delay, no expense but that of removal, the
citizen of one might become the citizen of any other, and successively
of the whole. The lines, too, separating powers to be exercised by the
citizens of one State from those of another seem to be so distinctly
drawn as to leave no room for misunderstanding. The citizens of each
State unite in their persons all the privileges which that character
confers and all that they may claim as citizens of the United States,
but in no case can the same persons at the same time act as the citizen
of two separate States, and he is therefore positively precluded from
any interference with the reserved powers of any State but that of
which he is for the time being a citizen. He may, indeed, offer to the
citizens of other States his advice as to their management, and the
form in which it is tendered is left to his own discretion and sense of
propriety. It may be observed, however, that organized associations of
citizens requiring compliance with their wishes too much resemble the
recommendations of Athens to her allies, supported by an armed and
powerful fleet. It was, indeed, to the ambition of the leading States
of Greece to control the domestic concerns of the others that the
destruction of that celebrated Confederacy, and subsequently of all its
members, is mainly to be attributed, and it is owing to the absence of
that spirit that the Helvetic Confederacy has for so many years been
preserved. Never has there been seen in the institutions of the separate
members of any confederacy more elements of discord. In the principles
and forms of government and religion, as well as in the circumstances
of the several Cantons, so marked a discrepancy was observable as to
promise anything but harmony in their intercourse or permanency in their
alliance, and yet for ages neither has been interrupted. Content with
the positive benefits which their union produced, with the independence
and safety from foreign aggression which it secured, these sagacious
people respected the institutions of each other, however repugnant to
their own principles and prejudices.

Our Confederacy, fellow-citizens, can only be preserved by the same
forbearance. Our citizens must be content with the exercise of the
powers with which the Constitution clothes them. The attempt of those
of one State to control the domestic institutions of another can only
result in feelings of distrust and jealousy, the certain harbingers of
disunion, violence, and civil war, and the ultimate destruction of our
free institutions. Our Confederacy is perfectly illustrated by the terms
and principles governing a common copartnership. There is a fund of
power to be exercised under the direction of the joint councils of
the allied members, but that which has been reserved by the individual
members is intangible by the common Government or the individual members
composing it. To attempt it finds no support in the principles of our

It should be our constant and earnest endeavor mutually to cultivate
a spirit of concord and harmony among the various parts of our
Confederacy. Experience has abundantly taught us that the agitation
by citizens of one part of the Union of a subject not confided to the
General Government, but exclusively under the guardianship of the local
authorities, is productive of no other consequences than bitterness,
alienation, discord, and injury to the very cause which is intended to
be advanced. Of all the great interests which appertain to our country,
that of union--cordial, confiding, fraternal union--is by far the most
important, since it is the only true and sure guaranty of all others.

In consequence of the embarrassed state of business and the currency,
some of the States may meet with difficulty in their financial concerns.
However deeply we may regret anything imprudent or excessive in the
engagements into which States have entered for purposes of their own,
it does not become us to disparage the States governments, nor to
discourage them from making proper efforts for their own relief. On
the contrary, it is our duty to encourage them to the extent of our
constitutional authority to apply their best means and cheerfully to
make all necessary sacrifices and submit to all necessary burdens to
fulfill their engagements and maintain their credit, for the character
and credit of the several States form a part of the character and credit
of the whole country. The resources of the country are abundant, the
enterprise and activity of our people proverbial, and we may well hope
that wise legislation and prudent administration by the respective
governments, each acting within its own sphere, will restore former

Unpleasant and even dangerous as collisions may sometimes be between the
constituted authorities of the citizens of our country in relation to
the lines which separate their respective jurisdictions, the results
can be of no vital injury to our institutions if that ardent patriotism,
that devoted attachment to liberty, that spirit of moderation and
forbearance for which our countrymen were once distinguished, continue
to be cherished. If this continues to be the ruling passion of our
souls, the weaker feeling of the mistaken enthusiast will be corrected,
the Utopian dreams of the scheming politician dissipated, and the
complicated intrigues of the demagogue rendered harmless. The spirit of
liberty is the sovereign balm for every injury which our institutions
may receive. On the contrary, no care that can be used in the
construction of our Government, no division of powers, no distribution
of checks in its several departments, will prove effectual to keep us
a free people if this spirit is suffered to decay; and decay it
will without constant nurture. To the neglect of this duty the best
historians agree in attributing the ruin of all the republics with whose
existence and fall their writings have made us acquainted. The same
causes will ever produce the same effects, and as long as the love
of power is a dominant passion of the human bosom, and as long as the
understandings of men can be warped and their affections changed
by operations upon their passions and prejudices, so long will the
liberties of a people depend on their own constant attention to its
preservation. The danger to all well-established free governments arises
from the unwillingness of the people to believe in its existence or
from the influence of designing men diverting their attention from the
quarter whence it approaches to a source from which it can never come.
This is the old trick of those who would usurp the government of their
country. In the name of democracy they speak, warning the people against
the influence of wealth and the danger of aristocracy. History, ancient
and modern, is full of such examples. Caesar became the master of
the Roman people and the senate under the pretense of supporting the
democratic claims of the former against the aristocracy of the latter;
Cromwell, in the character of protector of the liberties of the people,
became the dictator of England, and Bolivar possessed himself of
unlimited power with the title of his country's liberator. There is, on
the contrary, no instance on record of an extensive and well-established
republic being changed into an aristocracy. The tendencies of all
such governments in their decline is to monarchy, and the antagonist
principle to liberty there is the spirit of faction--a spirit which
assumes the character and in times of great excitement imposes itself
upon the people as the genuine spirit of freedom, and, like the false
Christs whose coming was foretold by the Savior, seeks to, and were
it possible would, impose upon the true and most faithful disciples of
liberty. It is in periods like this that it behooves the people to be
most watchful of those to whom they have intrusted power. And although
there is at times much difficulty in distinguishing the false from the
true spirit, a calm and dispassionate investigation will detect the
counterfeit, as well by the character of its operations as the results
that are produced. The true spirit of liberty, although devoted,
persevering, bold, and uncompromising in principle, that secured is
mild and tolerant and scrupulous as to the means it employs, whilst the
spirit of party, assuming to be that of liberty, is harsh, vindictive,
and intolerant, and totally reckless as to the character of the allies
which it brings to the aid of its cause. When the genuine spirit of
liberty animates the body of a people to a thorough examination of their
affairs, it leads to the excision of every excrescence which may have
fastened itself upon any of the departments of the government, and
restores the system to its pristine health and beauty. But the reign
of an intolerant spirit of party amongst a free people seldom fails to
result in a dangerous accession to the executive power introduced and
established amidst unusual professions of devotion to democracy.

The foregoing remarks relate almost exclusively to matters connected
with our domestic concerns. It may be proper, however, that I should
give some indications to my fellow-citizens of my proposed course of
conduct in the management of our foreign relations. I assure them,
therefore, that it is my intention to use every means in my power to
preserve the friendly intercourse which now so happily subsists with
every foreign nation, and that although, of course, not well informed
as to the state of pending negotiations with any of them, I see in
the personal characters of the sovereigns, as well as in the mutual
interests of our own and of the governments with which our relations are
most intimate, a pleasing guaranty that the harmony so important to
the interests of their subjects as well as of our citizens will not be
interrupted by the advancement of any claim or pretension upon their
part to which our honor would not permit us to yield. Long the defender
of my country's rights in the field, I trust that my fellow-citizens
will not see in my earnest desire to preserve peace with foreign powers
any indication that their rights will ever be sacrificed or the honor
of the nation tarnished by any admission on the part of their Chief
Magistrate unworthy of their former glory. In our intercourse with our
aboriginal neighbors the same liberality and justice which marked the
course prescribed to me by two of my illustrious predecessors when
acting under their direction in the discharge of the duties of
superintendent and commissioner shall be strictly observed. I can
conceive of no more sublime spectacle, none more likely to propitiate an
impartial and common Creator, than a rigid adherence to the principles
of justice on the part of a powerful nation in its transactions with
a weaker and uncivilized people whom circumstances have placed at its

Before concluding, fellow-citizens, I must say something to you on the
subject of the parties at this time existing in our country. To me it
appears perfectly clear that the interest of that country requires
that the violence of the spirit by which those parties are at this time
governed must be greatly mitigated, if not entirely extinguished, or
consequences will ensue which are appalling to be thought of.

If parties in a republic are necessary to secure a degree of vigilance
sufficient to keep the public functionaries within the bounds of law
and duty, at that point their usefulness ends. Beyond that they become
destructive of public virtue, the parent of a spirit antagonist to that
of liberty, and eventually its inevitable conqueror. We have examples of
republics where the love of country and of liberty at one time were
the dominant passions of the whole mass of citizens, and yet, with the
continuance of the name and forms of free government, not a vestige of
these qualities remaining in the bosoms of any one of its citizens. It
was the beautiful remark of a distinguished English writer that "in
the Roman senate Octavius had a party and Anthony a party, but the
Commonwealth had none." Yet the senate continued to meet in the temple
of liberty to talk of the sacredness and beauty of the Commonwealth and
gaze at the statues of the elder Brutus and of the Curtii and Decii, and
the people assembled in the forum, not, as in the days of Camillus and
the Scipios, to cast their free votes for annual magistrates or pass
upon the acts of the senate, but to receive from the hands of the
leaders of the respective parties their share of the spoils and to shout
for one or the other, as those collected in Gaul or Egypt and the lesser
Asia would furnish the larger dividend. The spirit of liberty had fled,
and, avoiding the abodes of civilized man, had sought protection in the
wilds of Scythia or Scandinavia; and so under the operation of the same
causes and influences it will fly from our Capitol and our forums. A
calamity so awful, not only to our country, but to the world, must be
deprecated by every patriot and every tendency to a state of things
likely to produce it immediately checked. Such a tendency has
existed--does exist. Always the friend of my countrymen, never their
flatterer, it becomes my duty to say to them from this high place to
which their partiality has exalted me that there exists in the land a
spirit hostile to their best interests--hostile to liberty itself. It
is a spirit contracted in its views, selfish in its objects. It looks to
the aggrandizement of a few even to the destruction of the interests of
the whole. The entire remedy is with the people. Something, however, may
be effected by the means which they have placed in my hands. It is union
that we want, not of a party for the sake of that party, but a union of
the whole country for the sake of the whole country, for the defense of
its interests and its honor against foreign aggression, for the defense
of those principles for which our ancestors so gloriously contended. As
far as it depends upon me it shall be accomplished. All the influence
that I possess shall be exerted to prevent the formation at least of
an Executive party in the halls of the legislative body. I wish for the
support of no member of that body to any measure of mine that does not
satisfy his judgment and his sense of duty to those from whom he holds
his appointment, nor any confidence in advance from the people but that
asked for by Mr. Jefferson, "to give firmness and effect to the legal
administration of their affairs."

I deem the present occasion sufficiently important and solemn to justify
me in expressing to my fellow-citizens a profound reverence for
the Christian religion and a thorough conviction that sound morals,
religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility are
essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness; and to
that good Being who has blessed us by the gifts of civil and religious
freedom, who watched over and prospered the labors of our fathers and
has hitherto preserved to us institutions far exceeding in excellence
those of any other people, let us unite in fervently commending every
interest of our beloved country in all future time.

Fellow-citizens, being fully invested with that high office to which the
partiality of my countrymen has called me, I now take an affectionate
leave of you. You will bear with you to your homes the remembrance of
the pledge I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my
exalted station according to the best of my ability, and I shall enter
upon their performance with entire confidence in the support of a just
and generous people.


James Knox Polk Inaugural Address Tuesday, March 4, 1845


Without solicitation on my part, I have been chosen by the free and
voluntary suffrages of my countrymen to the most honorable and most
responsible office on earth. I am deeply impressed with gratitude
for the confidence reposed in me. Honored with this distinguished
consideration at an earlier period of life than any of my predecessors,
I can not disguise the diffidence with which I am about to enter on the
discharge of my official duties.

If the more aged and experienced men who have filled the office of
President of the United States even in the infancy of the Republic
distrusted their ability to discharge the duties of that exalted
station, what ought not to be the apprehensions of one so much younger
and less endowed now that our domain extends from ocean to ocean, that
our people have so greatly increased in numbers, and at a time when
so great diversity of opinion prevails in regard to the principles and
policy which should characterize the administration of our Government?
Well may the boldest fear and the wisest tremble when incurring
responsibilities on which may depend our country's peace and prosperity,
and in some degree the hopes and happiness of the whole human family.

In assuming responsibilities so vast I fervently invoke the aid of
that Almighty Ruler of the Universe in whose hands are the destinies
of nations and of men to guard this Heaven-favored land against the
mischiefs which without His guidance might arise from an unwise public
policy. With a firm reliance upon the wisdom of Omnipotence to sustain
and direct me in the path of duty which I am appointed to pursue, I
stand in the presence of this assembled multitude of my countrymen to
take upon myself the solemn obligation "to the best of my ability to
preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

A concise enumeration of the principles which will guide me in the
administrative policy of the Government is not only in accordance with
the examples set me by all my predecessors, but is eminently befitting
the occasion.

The Constitution itself, plainly written as it is, the safeguard of our
federative compact, the offspring of concession and compromise, binding
together in the bonds of peace and union this great and increasing
family of free and independent States, will be the chart by which I
shall be directed.

It will be my first care to administer the Government in the true spirit
of that instrument, and to assume no powers not expressly granted or
clearly implied in its terms. The Government of the United States is one
of delegated and limited powers, and it is by a strict adherence to the
clearly granted powers and by abstaining from the exercise of doubtful
or unauthorized implied powers that we have the only sure guaranty
against the recurrence of those unfortunate collisions between the
Federal and State authorities which have occasionally so much disturbed
the harmony of our system and even threatened the perpetuity of our
glorious Union.

"To the States, respectively, or to the people" have been reserved
"the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor
prohibited by it to the States." Each State is a complete sovereignty
within the sphere of its reserved powers. The Government of the Union,
acting within the sphere of its delegated authority, is also a complete
sovereignty. While the General Government should abstain from the
exercise of authority not clearly delegated to it, the States should
be equally careful that in the maintenance of their rights they do
not overstep the limits of powers reserved to them. One of the most
distinguished of my predecessors attached deserved importance to "the
support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most
competent administration for our domestic concerns and the surest
bulwark against antirepublican tendencies," and to the "preservation of
the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet
anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad."

To the Government of the United States has been intrusted the exclusive
management of our foreign affairs. Beyond that it wields a few general
enumerated powers. It does not force reform on the States. It leaves
individuals, over whom it casts its protecting influence, entirely free
to improve their own condition by the legitimate exercise of all their
mental and physical powers. It is a common protector of each and all
the States; of every man who lives upon our soil, whether of native or
foreign birth; of every religious sect, in their worship of the Almighty
according to the dictates of their own conscience; of every shade of
opinion, and the most free inquiry; of every art, trade, and occupation
consistent with the laws of the States. And we rejoice in the general
happiness, prosperity, and advancement of our country, which have been
the offspring of freedom, and not of power.

This most admirable and wisest system of well-regulated self-government
among men ever devised by human minds has been tested by its successful
operation for more than half a century, and if preserved from the
usurpations of the Federal Government on the one hand and the exercise
by the States of powers not reserved to them on the other, will, I
fervently hope and believe, endure for ages to come and dispense the
blessings of civil and religious liberty to distant generations. To
effect objects so dear to every patriot I shall devote myself with
anxious solicitude. It will be my desire to guard against that most
fruitful source of danger to the harmonious action of our system
which consists in substituting the mere discretion and caprice of
the Executive or of majorities in the legislative department of
the Government for powers which have been withheld from the Federal
Government by the Constitution. By the theory of our Government
majorities rule, but this right is not an arbitrary or unlimited one. It
is a right to be exercised in subordination to the Constitution and in
conformity to it. One great object of the Constitution was to restrain
majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just
rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a
shield against such oppression.

That the blessings of liberty which our Constitution secures may be
enjoyed alike by minorities and majorities, the Executive has been
wisely invested with a qualified veto upon the acts of the Legislature.
It is a negative power, and is conservative in its character. It arrests
for the time hasty, inconsiderate, or unconstitutional legislation,
invites reconsideration, and transfers questions at issue between the
legislative and executive departments to the tribunal of the people.
Like all other powers, it is subject to be abused. When judiciously and
properly exercised, the Constitution itself may be saved from infraction
and the rights of all preserved and protected.

The inestimable value of our Federal Union is felt and acknowledged by
all. By this system of united and confederated States our people are
permitted collectively and individually to seek their own happiness in
their own way, and the consequences have been most auspicious. Since the
Union was formed the number of the States has increased from thirteen to
twenty-eight; two of these have taken their position as members of the
Confederacy within the last week. Our population has increased from
three to twenty millions. New communities and States are seeking
protection under its aegis, and multitudes from the Old World are
flocking to our shores to participate in its blessings. Beneath its
benign sway peace and prosperity prevail. Freed from the burdens and
miseries of war, our trade and intercourse have extended throughout the
world. Mind, no longer tasked in devising means to accomplish or resist
schemes of ambition, usurpation, or conquest, is devoting itself to
man's true interests in developing his faculties and powers and the
capacity of nature to minister to his enjoyments. Genius is free
to announce its inventions and discoveries, and the hand is free to
accomplish whatever the head conceives not incompatible with the rights
of a fellow-being. All distinctions of birth or of rank have been
abolished. All citizens, whether native or adopted, are placed upon
terms of precise equality. All are entitled to equal rights and equal
protection. No union exists between church and state, and perfect
freedom of opinion is guaranteed to all sects and creeds.

These are some of the blessings secured to our happy land by our Federal
Union. To perpetuate them it is our sacred duty to preserve it. Who
shall assign limits to the achievements of free minds and free hands
under the protection of this glorious Union? No treason to mankind since
the organization of society would be equal in atrocity to that of him
who would lift his hand to destroy it. He would overthrow the noblest
structure of human wisdom, which protects himself and his fellow-man.
He would stop the progress of free government and involve his country
either in anarchy or despotism. He would extinguish the fire of liberty,
which warms and animates the hearts of happy millions and invites all
the nations of the earth to imitate our example. If he say that error
and wrong are committed in the administration of the Government, let
him remember that nothing human can be perfect, and that under no other
system of government revealed by Heaven or devised by man has reason
been allowed so free and broad a scope to combat error. Has the sword of
despots proved to be a safer or surer instrument of reform in government
than enlightened reason? Does he expect to find among the ruins of this
Union a happier abode for our swarming millions than they now have
under it? Every lover of his country must shudder at the thought of the
possibility of its dissolution, and will be ready to adopt the patriotic
sentiment, "Our Federal Union--it must be preserved." To preserve it
the compromises which alone enabled our fathers to form a common
constitution for the government and protection of so many States
and distinct communities, of such diversified habits, interests, and
domestic institutions, must be sacredly and religiously observed. Any
attempt to disturb or destroy these compromises, being terms of the
compact of union, can lead to none other than the most ruinous and
disastrous consequences.

It is a source of deep regret that in some sections of our country
misguided persons have occasionally indulged in schemes and agitations
whose object is the destruction of domestic institutions existing
in other sections--institutions which existed at the adoption of the
Constitution and were recognized and protected by it. All must see that
if it were possible for them to be successful in attaining their object
the dissolution of the Union and the consequent destruction of our happy
form of government must speedily follow.

I am happy to believe that at every period of our existence as a nation
there has existed, and continues to exist, among the great mass of
our people a devotion to the Union of the States which will shield
and protect it against the moral treason of any who would seriously
contemplate its destruction. To secure a continuance of that devotion
the compromises of the Constitution must not only be preserved, but
sectional jealousies and heartburnings must be discountenanced, and
all should remember that they are members of the same political family,
having a common destiny. To increase the attachment of our people to
the Union, our laws should be just. Any policy which shall tend to favor
monopolies or the peculiar interests of sections or classes must operate
to the prejudice of the interest of their fellow-citizens, and should
be avoided. If the compromises of the Constitution be preserved, if
sectional jealousies and heartburnings be discountenanced, if our laws
be just and the Government be practically administered strictly within
the limits of power prescribed to it, we may discard all apprehensions
for the safety of the Union.

With these views of the nature, character, and objects of the Government
and the value of the Union, I shall steadily oppose the creation of
those institutions and systems which in their nature tend to pervert
it from its legitimate purposes and make it the instrument of sections,
classes, and individuals. We need no national banks or other extraneous
institutions planted around the Government to control or strengthen it
in opposition to the will of its authors. Experience has taught us
how unnecessary they are as auxiliaries of the public authorities--how
impotent for good and how powerful for mischief.

Ours was intended to be a plain and frugal government, and I shall
regard it to be my duty to recommend to Congress and, as far as the
Executive is concerned, to enforce by all the means within my power the
strictest economy in the expenditure of the public money which may be
compatible with the public interests.

A national debt has become almost an institution of European monarchies.
It is viewed in some of them as an essential prop to existing
governments. Melancholy is the condition of that people whose government
can be sustained only by a system which periodically transfers large
amounts from the labor of the many to the coffers of the few. Such a
system is incompatible with the ends for which our republican Government
was instituted. Under a wise policy the debts contracted in our
Revolution and during the War of 1812 have been happily extinguished. By
a judicious application of the revenues not required for other necessary
purposes, it is not doubted that the debt which has grown out of the
circumstances of the last few years may be speedily paid off.

I congratulate my fellow-citizens on the entire restoration of the
credit of the General Government of the Union and that of many of the
States. Happy would it be for the indebted States if they were freed
from their liabilities, many of which were incautiously contracted.
Although the Government of the Union is neither in a legal nor a moral
sense bound for the debts of the States, and it would be a violation
of our compact of union to assume them, yet we can not but feel a deep
interest in seeing all the States meet their public liabilities and pay
off their just debts at the earliest practicable period. That they will
do so as soon as it can be done without imposing too heavy burdens
on their citizens there is no reason to doubt. The sound moral and
honorable feeling of the people of the indebted States can not be
questioned, and we are happy to perceive a settled disposition on their
part, as their ability returns after a season of unexampled pecuniary
embarrassment, to pay off all just demands and to acquiesce in any
reasonable measures to accomplish that object.

One of the difficulties which we have had to encounter in the practical
administration of the Government consists in the adjustment of our
revenue laws and the levy of the taxes necessary for the support of
Government. In the general proposition that no more money shall be
collected than the necessities of an economical administration shall
require all parties seem to acquiesce. Nor does there seem to be
any material difference of opinion as to the absence of right in the
Government to tax one section of country, or one class of citizens,
or one occupation, for the mere profit of another. "Justice and sound
policy forbid the Federal Government to foster one branch of industry to
the detriment of another, or to cherish the interests of one portion to
the injury of another portion of our common country." I have heretofore
declared to my fellow-citizens that "in my judgment it is the duty of
the Government to extend, as far as it may be practicable to do so, by
its revenue laws and all other means within its power, fair and just
protection to all of the great interests of the whole Union, embracing
agriculture, manufactures, the mechanic arts, commerce, and navigation."
I have also declared my opinion to be "in favor of a tariff for
revenue," and that "in adjusting the details of such a tariff I have
sanctioned such moderate discriminating duties as would produce
the amount of revenue needed and at the same time afford reasonable
incidental protection to our home industry," and that I was "opposed to
a tariff for protection merely, and not for revenue."

The power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises" was
an indispensable one to be conferred on the Federal Government, which
without it would possess no means of providing for its own support. In
executing this power by levying a tariff of duties for the support of
Government, the raising of revenue should be the object and protection
the incident. To reverse this principle and make protection the object
and revenue the incident would be to inflict manifest injustice upon all
other than the protected interests. In levying duties for revenue it
is doubtless proper to make such discriminations within the revenue
principle as will afford incidental protection to our home interests.
Within the revenue limit there is a discretion to discriminate; beyond
that limit the rightful exercise of the power is not conceded. The
incidental protection afforded to our home interests by discriminations
within the revenue range it is believed will be ample. In making
discriminations all our home interests should as far as practicable be
equally protected. The largest portion of our people are agriculturists.
Others are employed in manufactures, commerce, navigation, and the
mechanic arts. They are all engaged in their respective pursuits and
their joint labors constitute the national or home industry. To tax one
branch of this home industry for the benefit of another would be unjust.
No one of these interests can rightfully claim an advantage over the
others, or to be enriched by impoverishing the others. All are equally
entitled to the fostering care and protection of the Government. In
exercising a sound discretion in levying discriminating duties within
the limit prescribed, care should be taken that it be done in a manner
not to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the toiling millions by
taxing lowest the luxuries of life, or articles of superior quality and
high price, which can only be consumed by the wealthy, and highest the
necessaries of life, or articles of coarse quality and low price, which
the poor and great mass of our people must consume. The burdens of
government should as far as practicable be distributed justly and
equally among all classes of our population. These general views, long
entertained on this subject, I have deemed it proper to reiterate. It is
a subject upon which conflicting interests of sections and occupations
are supposed to exist, and a spirit of mutual concession and compromise
in adjusting its details should be cherished by every part of our
widespread country as the only means of preserving harmony and a
cheerful acquiescence of all in the operation of our revenue laws. Our
patriotic citizens in every part of the Union will readily submit to
the payment of such taxes as shall be needed for the support of their
Government, whether in peace or in war, if they are so levied as to
distribute the burdens as equally as possible among them.

The Republic of Texas has made known her desire to come into our Union,
to form a part of our Confederacy and enjoy with us the blessings of
liberty secured and guaranteed by our Constitution. Texas was once a
part of our country--was unwisely ceded away to a foreign power--is now
independent, and possesses an undoubted right to dispose of a part or
the whole of her territory and to merge her sovereignty as a separate
and independent state in ours. I congratulate my country that by an act
of the late Congress of the United States the assent of this Government
has been given to the reunion, and it only remains for the two countries
to agree upon the terms to consummate an object so important to both.

I regard the question of annexation as belonging exclusively to the
United States and Texas. They are independent powers competent to
contract, and foreign nations have no right to interfere with them or
to take exceptions to their reunion. Foreign powers do not seem
to appreciate the true character of our Government. Our Union is a
confederation of independent States, whose policy is peace with
each other and all the world. To enlarge its limits is to extend the
dominions of peace over additional territories and increasing millions.
The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government.
While the Chief Magistrate and the popular branch of Congress are
elected for short terms by the suffrages of those millions who must
in their own persons bear all the burdens and miseries of war, our
Government can not be otherwise than pacific. Foreign powers should
therefore look on the annexation of Texas to the United States not as
the conquest of a nation seeking to extend her dominions by arms and
violence, but as the peaceful acquisition of a territory once her own,
by adding another member to our confederation, with the consent of that
member, thereby diminishing the chances of war and opening to them new
and ever-increasing markets for their products.

To Texas the reunion is important, because the strong protecting arm of
our Government would be extended over her, and the vast resources of her
fertile soil and genial climate would be speedily developed, while the
safety of New Orleans and of our whole southwestern frontier against
hostile aggression, as well as the interests of the whole Union, would
be promoted by it.

In the earlier stages of our national existence the opinion prevailed
with some that our system of confederated States could not operate
successfully over an extended territory, and serious objections have at
different times been made to the enlargement of our boundaries. These
objections were earnestly urged when we acquired Louisiana. Experience
has shown that they were not well founded. The title of numerous Indian
tribes to vast tracts of country has been extinguished; new States have
been admitted into the Union; new Territories have been created and
our jurisdiction and laws extended over them. As our population
has expanded, the Union has been cemented and strengthened. As our
boundaries have been enlarged and our agricultural population has
been spread over a large surface, our federative system has acquired
additional strength and security. It may well be doubted whether it
would not be in greater danger of overthrow if our present population
were confined to the comparatively narrow limits of the original
thirteen States than it is now that they are sparsely settled over a
more expanded territory. It is confidently believed that our system may
be safely extended to the utmost bounds of our territorial limits, and
that as it shall be extended the bonds of our Union, so far from being
weakened, will become stronger.

None can fail to see the danger to our safety and future peace if Texas
remains an independent state or becomes an ally or dependency of some
foreign nation more powerful than herself. Is there one among our
citizens who would not prefer perpetual peace with Texas to occasional
wars, which so often occur between bordering independent nations? Is
there one who would not prefer free intercourse with her to high duties
on all our products and manufactures which enter her ports or cross
her frontiers? Is there one who would not prefer an unrestricted
communication with her citizens to the frontier obstructions which must
occur if she remains out of the Union? Whatever is good or evil in the
local institutions of Texas will remain her own whether annexed to the
United States or not. None of the present States will be responsible for
them any more than they are for the local institutions of each other.
They have confederated together for certain specified objects. Upon the
same principle that they would refuse to form a perpetual union with
Texas because of her local institutions our forefathers would have been
prevented from forming our present Union. Perceiving no valid objection
to the measure and many reasons for its adoption vitally affecting the
peace, the safety, and the prosperity of both countries, I shall on the
broad principle which formed the basis and produced the adoption of our
Constitution, and not in any narrow spirit of sectional policy, endeavor
by all constitutional, honorable, and appropriate means to consummate
the expressed will of the people and Government of the United States
by the reannexation of Texas to our Union at the earliest practicable

Nor will it become in a less degree my duty to assert and maintain by
all constitutional means the right of the United States to that portion
of our territory which lies beyond the Rocky Mountains. Our title to the
country of the Oregon is "clear and unquestionable," and already are our
people preparing to perfect that title by occupying it with their wives
and children. But eighty years ago our population was confined on the
west by the ridge of the Alleghanies. Within that period--within the
lifetime, I might say, of some of my hearers--our people, increasing
to many millions, have filled the eastern valley of the Mississippi,
adventurously ascended the Missouri to its headsprings, and are already
engaged in establishing the blessings of self-government in valleys of
which the rivers flow to the Pacific. The world beholds the peaceful
triumphs of the industry of our emigrants. To us belongs the duty of
protecting them adequately wherever they may be upon our soil. The
jurisdiction of our laws and the benefits of our republican institutions
should be extended over them in the distant regions which they have
selected for their homes. The increasing facilities of intercourse will
easily bring the States, of which the formation in that part of our
territory can not be long delayed, within the sphere of our federative
Union. In the meantime every obligation imposed by treaty or
conventional stipulations should be sacredly respected.

In the management of our foreign relations it will be my aim to observe
a careful respect for the rights of other nations, while our own will
be the subject of constant watchfulness. Equal and exact justice should
characterize all our intercourse with foreign countries. All alliances
having a tendency to jeopard the welfare and honor of our country or
sacrifice any one of the national interests will be studiously
avoided, and yet no opportunity will be lost to cultivate a favorable
understanding with foreign governments by which our navigation and
commerce may be extended and the ample products of our fertile soil, as
well as the manufactures of our skillful artisans, find a ready market
and remunerating prices in foreign countries.

In taking "care that the laws be faithfully executed," a strict
performance of duty will be exacted from all public officers. From
those officers, especially, who are charged with the collection and
disbursement of the public revenue will prompt and rigid accountability
be required. Any culpable failure or delay on their part to account for
the moneys intrusted to them at the times and in the manner required
by law will in every instance terminate the official connection of such
defaulting officer with the Government.

Although in our country the Chief Magistrate must almost of necessity be
chosen by a party and stand pledged to its principles and measures, yet
in his official action he should not be the President of a part only,
but of the whole people of the United States. While he executes the
laws with an impartial hand, shrinks from no proper responsibility, and
faithfully carries out in the executive department of the Government
the principles and policy of those who have chosen him, he should not be
unmindful that our fellow-citizens who have differed with him in
opinion are entitled to the full and free exercise of their opinions
and judgments, and that the rights of all are entitled to respect and

Confidently relying upon the aid and assistance of the coordinate
departments of the Government in conducting our public affairs, I enter
upon the discharge of the high duties which have been assigned me by the
people, again humbly supplicating that Divine Being who has watched over
and protected our beloved country from its infancy to the present hour
to continue His gracious benedictions upon us, that we may continue to
be a prosperous and happy people.


Zachary Taylor Inaugural Address Monday, March 5, 1849

ELECTED by the American people to the highest office known to our laws,
I appear here to take the oath prescribed by the Constitution, and,
in compliance with a time-honored custom, to address those who are now

The confidence and respect shown by my countrymen in calling me to be
the Chief Magistrate of a Republic holding a high rank among the
nations of the earth have inspired me with feelings of the most profound
gratitude; but when I reflect that the acceptance of the office which
their partiality has bestowed imposes the discharge of the most arduous
duties and involves the weightiest obligations, I am conscious that the
position which I have been called to fill, though sufficient to satisfy
the loftiest ambition, is surrounded by fearful responsibilities.
Happily, however, in the performance of my new duties I shall not be
without able cooperation. The legislative and judicial branches of the
Government present prominent examples of distinguished civil attainments
and matured experience, and it shall be my endeavor to call to my
assistance in the Executive Departments individuals whose talents,
integrity, and purity of character will furnish ample guaranties for
the faithful and honorable performance of the trusts to be committed
to their charge. With such aids and an honest purpose to do whatever
is right, I hope to execute diligently, impartially, and for the best
interests of the country the manifold duties devolved upon me.

In the discharge of these duties my guide will be the Constitution,
which I this day swear to "preserve, protect, and defend." For the
interpretation of that instrument I shall look to the decisions of the
judicial tribunals established by its authority and to the practice of
the Government under the earlier Presidents, who had so large a share
in its formation. To the example of those illustrious patriots I shall
always defer with reverence, and especially to his example who was by so
many titles "the Father of his Country."

To command the Army and Navy of the United States; with the advice and
consent of the Senate, to make treaties and to appoint ambassadors and
other officers; to give to Congress information of the state of the
Union and recommend such measures as he shall judge to be necessary; and
to take care that the laws shall be faithfully executed--these are the
most important functions intrusted to the President by the Constitution,
and it may be expected that I shall briefly indicate the principles
which will control me in their execution.

Chosen by the body of the people under the assurance that my
Administration would be devoted to the welfare of the whole country, and
not to the support of any particular section or merely local interest,
I this day renew the declarations I have heretofore made and proclaim
my fixed determination to maintain to the extent of my ability the
Government in its original purity and to adopt as the basis of my public
policy those great republican doctrines which constitute the strength of
our national existence.

In reference to the Army and Navy, lately employed with so much
distinction on active service, care shall be taken to insure the highest
condition of efficiency, and in furtherance of that object the military
and naval schools, sustained by the liberality of Congress, shall
receive the special attention of the Executive.

As American freemen we can not but sympathize in all efforts to extend
the blessings of civil and political liberty, but at the same time
we are warned by the admonitions of history and the voice of our own
beloved Washington to abstain from entangling alliances with foreign
nations. In all disputes between conflicting governments it is our
interest not less than our duty to remain strictly neutral, while our
geographical position, the genius of our institutions and our people,
the advancing spirit of civilization, and, above all, the dictates of
religion direct us to the cultivation of peaceful and friendly relations
with all other powers. It is to be hoped that no international question
can now arise which a government confident in its own strength
and resolved to protect its own just rights may not settle by wise
negotiation; and it eminently becomes a government like our own, founded
on the morality and intelligence of its citizens and upheld by their
affections, to exhaust every resort of honorable diplomacy before
appealing to arms. In the conduct of our foreign relations I shall
conform to these views, as I believe them essential to the best
interests and the true honor of the country.

The appointing power vested in the President imposes delicate and
onerous duties. So far as it is possible to be informed, I shall make
honesty, capacity, and fidelity indispensable prerequisites to the
bestowal of office, and the absence of either of these qualities shall
be deemed sufficient cause for removal.

It shall be my study to recommend such constitutional measures to
Congress as may be necessary and proper to secure encouragement
and protection to the great interests of agriculture, commerce, and
manufactures, to improve our rivers and harbors, to provide for
the speedy extinguishment of the public debt, to enforce a strict
accountability on the part of all officers of the Government and the
utmost economy in all public expenditures; but it is for the wisdom
of Congress itself, in which all legislative powers are vested by the
Constitution, to regulate these and other matters of domestic policy. I
shall look with confidence to the enlightened patriotism of that body
to adopt such measures of conciliation as may harmonize conflicting
interests and tend to perpetuate that Union which should be the
paramount object of our hopes and affections. In any action calculated
to promote an object so near the heart of everyone who truly loves
his country I will zealously unite with the coordinate branches of the

In conclusion I congratulate you, my fellow-citizens, upon the high
state of prosperity to which the goodness of Divine Providence has
conducted our common country. Let us invoke a continuance of the same
protecting care which has led us from small beginnings to the eminence
we this day occupy, and let us seek to deserve that continuance by
prudence and moderation in our councils, by well-directed attempts to
assuage the bitterness which too often marks unavoidable differences
of opinion, by the promulgation and practice of just and liberal
principles, and by an enlarged patriotism, which shall acknowledge no
limits but those of our own widespread Republic.


Franklin Pierce Inaugural Address Friday, March 4, 1853

My Countrymen:

IT is a relief to feel that no heart but my own can know the personal
regret and bitter sorrow over which I have been borne to a position so
suitable for others rather than desirable for myself.

The circumstances under which I have been called for a limited period to
preside over the destinies of the Republic fill me with a profound
sense of responsibility, but with nothing like shrinking apprehension. I
repair to the post assigned me not as to one sought, but in obedience to
the unsolicited expression of your will, answerable only for a fearless,
faithful, and diligent exercise of my best powers. I ought to be,
and am, truly grateful for the rare manifestation of the nation's
confidence; but this, so far from lightening my obligations, only adds
to their weight. You have summoned me in my weakness; you must sustain
me by your strength. When looking for the fulfillment of reasonable
requirements, you will not be unmindful of the great changes which have
occurred, even within the last quarter of a century, and the consequent
augmentation and complexity of duties imposed in the administration both
of your home and foreign affairs.

Whether the elements of inherent force in the Republic have kept pace
with its unparalleled progression in territory, population, and wealth
has been the subject of earnest thought and discussion on both sides of
the ocean. Less than sixty-four years ago the Father of his Country made
"the" then "recent accession of the important State of North Carolina
to the Constitution of the United States" one of the subjects of his
special congratulation. At that moment, however, when the agitation
consequent upon the Revolutionary struggle had hardly subsided, when
we were just emerging from the weakness and embarrassments of the
Confederation, there was an evident consciousness of vigor equal to the
great mission so wisely and bravely fulfilled by our fathers. It was not
a presumptuous assurance, but a calm faith, springing from a clear view
of the sources of power in a government constituted like ours. It is no
paradox to say that although comparatively weak the new-born nation
was intrinsically strong. Inconsiderable in population and apparent
resources, it was upheld by a broad and intelligent comprehension of
rights and an all-pervading purpose to maintain them, stronger than
armaments. It came from the furnace of the Revolution, tempered to the
necessities of the times. The thoughts of the men of that day were as
practical as their sentiments were patriotic. They wasted no portion of
their energies upon idle and delusive speculations, but with a firm
and fearless step advanced beyond the governmental landmarks which had
hitherto circumscribed the limits of human freedom and planted their
standard, where it has stood against dangers which have threatened from
abroad, and internal agitation, which has at times fearfully menaced at
home. They proved themselves equal to the solution of the great problem,
to understand which their minds had been illuminated by the dawning
lights of the Revolution. The object sought was not a thing dreamed of;
it was a thing realized. They had exhibited only the power to achieve,
but, what all history affirms to be so much more unusual, the capacity
to maintain. The oppressed throughout the world from that day to the
present have turned their eyes hitherward, not to find those lights
extinguished or to fear lest they should wane, but to be constantly
cheered by their steady and increasing radiance.

In this our country has, in my judgment, thus far fulfilled its highest
duty to suffering humanity. It has spoken and will continue to speak,
not only by its words, but by its acts, the language of sympathy,
encouragement, and hope to those who earnestly listen to tones which
pronounce for the largest rational liberty. But after all, the most
animating encouragement and potent appeal for freedom will be its own
history--its trials and its triumphs. Preeminently, the power of our
advocacy reposes in our example; but no example, be it remembered,
can be powerful for lasting good, whatever apparent advantages may be
gained, which is not based upon eternal principles of right and justice.
Our fathers decided for themselves, both upon the hour to declare and
the hour to strike. They were their own judges of the circumstances
under which it became them to pledge to each other "their lives, their
fortunes, and their sacred honor" for the acquisition of the priceless
inheritance transmitted to us. The energy with which that great
conflict was opened and, under the guidance of a manifest and beneficent
Providence the uncomplaining endurance with which it was prosecuted to
its consummation were only surpassed by the wisdom and patriotic spirit
of concession which characterized all the counsels of the early fathers.

One of the most impressive evidences of that wisdom is to be found in
the fact that the actual working of our system has dispelled a degree
of solicitude which at the outset disturbed bold hearts and far-reaching
intellects. The apprehension of dangers from extended territory,
multiplied States, accumulated wealth, and augmented population has
proved to be unfounded. The stars upon your banner have become nearly
threefold their original number; your densely populated possessions
skirt the shores of the two great oceans; and yet this vast increase
of people and territory has not only shown itself compatible with
the harmonious action of the States and Federal Government in their
respective constitutional spheres, but has afforded an additional
guaranty of the strength and integrity of both.

With an experience thus suggestive and cheering, the policy of my
Administration will not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil
from expansion. Indeed, it is not to be disguised that our attitude as
a nation and our position on the globe render the acquisition of certain
possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our
protection, if not in the future essential for the preservation of the
rights of commerce and the peace of the world. Should they be obtained,
it will be through no grasping spirit, but with a view to obvious
national interest and security, and in a manner entirely consistent
with the strictest observance of national faith. We have nothing in our
history or position to invite aggression; we have everything to beckon
us to the cultivation of relations of peace and amity with all nations.
Purposes, therefore, at once just and pacific will be significantly
marked in the conduct of our foreign affairs. I intend that my
Administration shall leave no blot upon our fair record, and trust I may
safely give the assurance that no act within the legitimate scope of my
constitutional control will be tolerated on the part of any portion of
our citizens which can not challenge a ready justification before the
tribunal of the civilized world. An Administration would be unworthy of
confidence at home or respect abroad should it cease to be influenced by
the conviction that no apparent advantage can be purchased at a price so
dear as that of national wrong or dishonor. It is not your privilege
as a nation to speak of a distant past. The striking incidents of your
history, replete with instruction and furnishing abundant grounds for
hopeful confidence, are comprised in a period comparatively brief.
But if your past is limited, your future is boundless. Its obligations
throng the unexplored pathway of advancement, and will be limitless as
duration. Hence a sound and comprehensive policy should embrace not less
the distant future than the urgent present.

The great objects of our pursuit as a people are best to be attained by
peace, and are entirely consistent with the tranquillity and interests
of the rest of mankind. With the neighboring nations upon our continent
we should cultivate kindly and fraternal relations. We can desire
nothing in regard to them so much as to see them consolidate their
strength and pursue the paths of prosperity and happiness. If in the
course of their growth we should open new channels of trade and create
additional facilities for friendly intercourse, the benefits realized
will be equal and mutual. Of the complicated European systems of
national polity we have heretofore been independent. From their wars,
their tumults, and anxieties we have been, happily, almost entirely
exempt. Whilst these are confined to the nations which gave them
existence, and within their legitimate jurisdiction, they can not affect
us except as they appeal to our sympathies in the cause of human freedom
and universal advancement. But the vast interests of commerce are
common to all mankind, and the advantages of trade and international
intercourse must always present a noble field for the moral influence of
a great people.

With these views firmly and honestly carried out, we have a right to
expect, and shall under all circumstances require, prompt reciprocity.
The rights which belong to us as a nation are not alone to be regarded,
but those which pertain to every citizen in his individual capacity, at
home and abroad, must be sacredly maintained. So long as he can discern
every star in its place upon that ensign, without wealth to purchase
for him preferment or title to secure for him place, it will be his
privilege, and must be his acknowledged right, to stand unabashed
even in the presence of princes, with a proud consciousness that he is
himself one of a nation of sovereigns and that he can not in legitimate
pursuit wander so far from home that the agent whom he shall leave
behind in the place which I now occupy will not see that no rude hand
of power or tyrannical passion is laid upon him with impunity. He must
realize that upon every sea and on every soil where our enterprise may
rightfully seek the protection of our flag American citizenship is an
inviolable panoply for the security of American rights. And in this
connection it can hardly be necessary to reaffirm a principle which
should now be regarded as fundamental. The rights, security, and repose
of this Confederacy reject the idea of interference or colonization on
this side of the ocean by any foreign power beyond present jurisdiction
as utterly inadmissible.

The opportunities of observation furnished by my brief experience as a
soldier confirmed in my own mind the opinion, entertained and acted upon
by others from the formation of the Government, that the maintenance of
large standing armies in our country would be not only dangerous, but
unnecessary. They also illustrated the importance--I might well say
the absolute necessity--of the military science and practical skill
furnished in such an eminent degree by the institution which has made
your Army what it is, under the discipline and instruction of officers
not more distinguished for their solid attainments, gallantry, and
devotion to the public service than for unobtrusive bearing and high
moral tone. The Army as organized must be the nucleus around which in
every time of need the strength of your military power, the sure bulwark
of your defense--a national militia--may be readily formed into
a well-disciplined and efficient organization. And the skill and
self-devotion of the Navy assure you that you may take the performance
of the past as a pledge for the future, and may confidently expect that
the flag which has waved its untarnished folds over every sea will still
float in undiminished honor. But these, like many other subjects,
will be appropriately brought at a future time to the attention of the
coordinate branches of the Government, to which I shall always look with
profound respect and with trustful confidence that they will accord
to me the aid and support which I shall so much need and which their
experience and wisdom will readily suggest.

In the administration of domestic affairs you expect a devoted integrity
in the public service and an observance of rigid economy in all
departments, so marked as never justly to be questioned. If this
reasonable expectation be not realized, I frankly confess that one of
your leading hopes is doomed to disappointment, and that my efforts in a
very important particular must result in a humiliating failure.
Offices can be properly regarded only in the light of aids for the
accomplishment of these objects, and as occupancy can confer no
prerogative nor importunate desire for preferment any claim, the
public interest imperatively demands that they be considered with sole
reference to the duties to be performed. Good citizens may well claim
the protection of good laws and the benign influence of good government,
but a claim for office is what the people of a republic should never
recognize. No reasonable man of any party will expect the Administration
to be so regardless of its responsibility and of the obvious elements
of success as to retain persons known to be under the influence of
political hostility and partisan prejudice in positions which will
require not only severe labor, but cordial cooperation. Having no
implied engagements to ratify, no rewards to bestow, no resentments to
remember, and no personal wishes to consult in selections for official
station, I shall fulfill this difficult and delicate trust, admitting
no motive as worthy either of my character or position which does not
contemplate an efficient discharge of duty and the best interests of my
country. I acknowledge my obligations to the masses of my countrymen,
and to them alone. Higher objects than personal aggrandizement gave
direction and energy to their exertions in the late canvass, and
they shall not be disappointed. They require at my hands diligence,
integrity, and capacity wherever there are duties to be performed.
Without these qualities in their public servants, more stringent laws
for the prevention or punishment of fraud, negligence, and peculation
will be vain. With them they will be unnecessary.

But these are not the only points to which you look for vigilant
watchfulness. The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general
government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be
disregarded. You have a right, therefore, to expect your agents in
every department to regard strictly the limits imposed upon them by
the Constitution of the United States. The great scheme of our
constitutional liberty rests upon a proper distribution of power between
the State and Federal authorities, and experience has shown that
the harmony and happiness of our people must depend upon a just
discrimination between the separate rights and responsibilities of
the States and your common rights and obligations under the General
Government; and here, in my opinion, are the considerations which should
form the true basis of future concord in regard to the questions which
have most seriously disturbed public tranquillity. If the Federal
Government will confine itself to the exercise of powers clearly granted
by the Constitution, it can hardly happen that its action upon any
question should endanger the institutions of the States or interfere
with their right to manage matters strictly domestic according to the
will of their own people.

In expressing briefly my views upon an important subject rich has
recently agitated the nation to almost a fearful degree, I am moved by
no other impulse than a most earnest desire for the perpetuation of that
Union which has made us what we are, showering upon us blessings and
conferring a power and influence which our fathers could hardly have
anticipated, even with their most sanguine hopes directed to a far-off
future. The sentiments I now announce were not unknown before the
expression of the voice which called me here. My own position upon this
subject was clear and unequivocal, upon the record of my words and my
acts, and it is only recurred to at this time because silence might
perhaps be misconstrued. With the Union my best and dearest earthly
hopes are entwined. Without it what are we individually or collectively?
What becomes of the noblest field ever opened for the advancement of our
race in religion, in government, in the arts, and in all that dignifies
and adorns mankind? From that radiant constellation which both illumines
our own way and points out to struggling nations their course, let but a
single star be lost, and, if these be not utter darkness, the luster
of the whole is dimmed. Do my countrymen need any assurance that such
a catastrophe is not to overtake them while I possess the power to stay
it? It is with me an earnest and vital belief that as the Union has been
the source, under Providence, of our prosperity to this time, so it is
the surest pledge of a continuance of the blessings we have enjoyed, and
which we are sacredly bound to transmit undiminished to our children.
The field of calm and free discussion in our country is open, and will
always be so, but never has been and never can be traversed for good
in a spirit of sectionalism and uncharitableness. The founders of the
Republic dealt with things as they were presented to them, in a
spirit of self-sacrificing patriotism, and, as time has proved, with
a comprehensive wisdom which it will always be safe for us to consult.
Every measure tending to strengthen the fraternal feelings of all the
members of our Union has had my heartfelt approbation. To every theory
of society or government, whether the offspring of feverish ambition
or of morbid enthusiasm, calculated to dissolve the bonds of law
and affection which unite us, I shall interpose a ready and stern
resistance. I believe that involuntary servitude, as it exists in
different States of this Confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution.
I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the
States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the
constitutional provisions. I hold that the laws of 1850, commonly
called the "compromise measures," are strictly constitutional and to
be unhesitatingly carried into effect. I believe that the constituted
authorities of this Republic are bound to regard the rights of the South
in this respect as they would view any other legal and constitutional
right, and that the laws to enforce them should be respected and obeyed,
not with a reluctance encouraged by abstract opinions as to their
propriety in a different state of society, but cheerfully and according
to the decisions of the tribunal to which their exposition belongs.
Such have been, and are, my convictions, and upon them I shall act. I
fervently hope that the question is at rest, and that no sectional or
ambitious or fanatical excitement may again threaten the durability of
our institutions or obscure the light of our prosperity.

But let not the foundation of our hope rest upon man's wisdom. It will
not be sufficient that sectional prejudices find no place in the public
deliberations. It will not be sufficient that the rash counsels of human
passion are rejected. It must be felt that there is no national security
but in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His
overruling providence.

We have been carried in safety through a perilous crisis. Wise counsels,
like those which gave us the Constitution, prevailed to uphold it. Let
the period be remembered as an admonition, and not as an encouragement,
in any section of the Union, to make experiments where experiments are
fraught with such fearful hazard. Let it be impressed upon all hearts
that, beautiful as our fabric is, no earthly power or wisdom could ever
reunite its broken fragments. Standing, as I do, almost within view of
the green slopes of Monticello, and, as it were, within reach of
the tomb of Washington, with all the cherished memories of the past
gathering around me like so many eloquent voices of exhortation from
heaven, I can express no better hope for my country than that the kind
Providence which smiled upon our fathers may enable their children to
preserve the blessings they have inherited.


James Buchanan Inaugural Address Wednesday, March 4, 1857


I APPEAR before you this day to take the solemn oath "that I will
faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will
to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution
of the United States."

In entering upon this great office I must humbly invoke the God of our
fathers for wisdom and firmness to execute its high and responsible
duties in such a manner as to restore harmony and ancient friendship
among the people of the several States and to preserve our free
institutions throughout many generations. Convinced that I owe my
election to the inherent love for the Constitution and the Union which
still animates the hearts of the American people, let me earnestly ask
their powerful support in sustaining all just measures calculated to
perpetuate these, the richest political blessings which Heaven has ever
bestowed upon any nation. Having determined not to become a candidate
for reelection, I shall have no motive to influence my conduct in
administering the Government except the desire ably and faithfully to
serve my country and to live in grateful memory of my countrymen.

We have recently passed through a Presidential contest in which the
passions of our fellow-citizens were excited to the highest degree by
questions of deep and vital importance; but when the people proclaimed
their will the tempest at once subsided and all was calm.

The voice of the majority, speaking in the manner prescribed by the
Constitution, was heard, and instant submission followed. Our own
country could alone have exhibited so grand and striking a spectacle of
the capacity of man for self-government.

What a happy conception, then, was it for Congress to apply this simple
rule, that the will of the majority shall govern, to the settlement of
the question of domestic slavery in the Territories. Congress is neither
"to legislate slavery into any Territory or State nor to exclude it
therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and
regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to
the Constitution of the United States."

As a natural consequence, Congress has also prescribed that when the
Territory of Kansas shall be admitted as a State it "shall be received
into the Union with or without slavery, as their constitution may
prescribe at the time of their admission."

A difference of opinion has arisen in regard to the point of time when
the people of a Territory shall decide this question for themselves.

This is, happily, a matter of but little practical importance. Besides,
it is a judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the Supreme
Court of the United States, before whom it is now pending, and will, it
is understood, be speedily and finally settled. To their decision, in
common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit, whatever this
may be, though it has ever been my individual opinion that under the
Nebraska-Kansas act the appropriate period will be when the number
of actual residents in the Territory shall justify the formation of a
constitution with a view to its admission as a State into the Union. But
be this as it may, it is the imperative and indispensable duty of the
Government of the United States to secure to every resident inhabitant
the free and independent expression of his opinion by his vote.
This sacred right of each individual must be preserved. That being
accomplished, nothing can be fairer than to leave the people of a
Territory free from all foreign interference to decide their own destiny
for themselves, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.

The whole Territorial question being thus settled upon the principle
of popular sovereignty--a principle as ancient as free government
itself--everything of a practical nature has been decided. No other
question remains for adjustment, because all agree that under the
Constitution slavery in the States is beyond the reach of any human
power except that of the respective States themselves wherein it exists.
May we not, then, hope that the long agitation on this subject is
approaching its end, and that the geographical parties to which it has
given birth, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, will speedily
become extinct? Most happy will it be for the country when the public
mind shall be diverted from this question to others of more pressing and
practical importance. Throughout the whole progress of this agitation,
which has scarcely known any intermission for more than twenty years,
whilst it has been productive of no positive good to any human being it
has been the prolific source of great evils to the master, to the slave,
and to the whole country. It has alienated and estranged the people of
the sister States from each other, and has even seriously endangered
the very existence of the Union. Nor has the danger yet entirely ceased.
Under our system there is a remedy for all mere political evils in
the sound sense and sober judgment of the people. Time is a great
corrective. Political subjects which but a few years ago excited
and exasperated the public mind have passed away and are now nearly
forgotten. But this question of domestic slavery is of far graver
importance than any mere political question, because should the
agitation continue it may eventually endanger the personal safety of a
large portion of our countrymen where the institution exists. In that
event no form of government, however admirable in itself and however
productive of material benefits, can compensate for the loss of peace
and domestic security around the family altar. Let every Union-loving
man, therefore, exert his best influence to suppress this agitation,
which since the recent legislation of Congress is without any legitimate

It is an evil omen of the times that men have undertaken to calculate
the mere material value of the Union. Reasoned estimates have been
presented of the pecuniary profits and local advantages which would
result to different States and sections from its dissolution and of the
comparative injuries which such an event would inflict on other States
and sections. Even descending to this low and narrow view of the mighty
question, all such calculations are at fault. The bare reference to a
single consideration will be conclusive on this point. We at present
enjoy a free trade throughout our extensive and expanding country such
as the world has never witnessed. This trade is conducted on railroads
and canals, on noble rivers and arms of the sea, which bind together
the North and the South, the East and the West, of our Confederacy.
Annihilate this trade, arrest its free progress by the geographical
lines of jealous and hostile States, and you destroy the prosperity and
onward march of the whole and every part and involve all in one common
ruin. But such considerations, important as they are in themselves, sink
into insignificance when we reflect on the terrific evils which would
result from disunion to every portion of the Confederacy--to the North,
not more than to the South, to the East not more than to the West. These
I shall not attempt to portray, because I feel an humble confidence that
the kind Providence which inspired our fathers with wisdom to frame the
most perfect form of government and union ever devised by man will not
suffer it to perish until it shall have been peacefully instrumental by
its example in the extension of civil and religious liberty throughout
the world.

Next in importance to the maintenance of the Constitution and the Union
is the duty of preserving the Government free from the taint or even the
suspicion of corruption. Public virtue is the vital spirit of republics,
and history proves that when this has decayed and the love of money has
usurped its place, although the forms of free government may remain for
a season, the substance has departed forever.

Our present financial condition is without a parallel in history. No
nation has ever before been embarrassed from too large a surplus in
its treasury. This almost necessarily gives birth to extravagant
legislation. It produces wild schemes of expenditure and begets a race
of speculators and jobbers, whose ingenuity is exerted in contriving
and promoting expedients to obtain public money. The purity of official
agents, whether rightfully or wrongfully, is suspected, and the
character of the government suffers in the estimation of the people.
This is in itself a very great evil.

The natural mode of relief from this embarrassment is to appropriate
the surplus in the Treasury to great national objects for which a clear
warrant can be found in the Constitution. Among these I might mention
the extinguishment of the public debt, a reasonable increase of the
Navy, which is at present inadequate to the protection of our vast
tonnage afloat, now greater than that of any other nation, as well as to
the defense of our extended seacoast.

It is beyond all question the true principle that no more revenue ought
to be collected from the people than the amount necessary to defray
the expenses of a wise, economical, and efficient administration of
the Government. To reach this point it was necessary to resort to a
modification of the tariff, and this has, I trust, been accomplished in
such a manner as to do as little injury as may have been practicable to
our domestic manufactures, especially those necessary for the defense
of the country. Any discrimination against a particular branch for the
purpose of benefiting favored corporations, individuals, or interests
would have been unjust to the rest of the community and inconsistent
with that spirit of fairness and equality which ought to govern in the
adjustment of a revenue tariff.

But the squandering of the public money sinks into comparative
insignificance as a temptation to corruption when compared with the
squandering of the public lands.

No nation in the tide of time has ever been blessed with so rich and
noble an inheritance as we enjoy in the public lands. In administering
this important trust, whilst it may be wise to grant portions of them
for the improvement of the remainder, yet we should never forget that
it is our cardinal policy to reserve these lands, as much as may be,
for actual settlers, and this at moderate prices. We shall thus not
only best promote the prosperity of the new States and Territories, by
furnishing them a hardy and independent race of honest and industrious
citizens, but shall secure homes for our children and our children's
children, as well as for those exiles from foreign shores who may seek
in this country to improve their condition and to enjoy the blessings
of civil and religious liberty. Such emigrants have done much to promote
the growth and prosperity of the country. They have proved faithful both
in peace and in war. After becoming citizens they are entitled, under
the Constitution and laws, to be placed on a perfect equality with
native-born citizens, and in this character they should ever be kindly

The Federal Constitution is a grant from the States to Congress of
certain specific powers, and the question whether this grant should
be liberally or strictly construed has more or less divided political
parties from the beginning. Without entering into the argument, I desire
to state at the commencement of my Administration that long experience
and observation have convinced me that a strict construction of the
powers of the Government is the only true, as well as the only safe,
theory of the Constitution. Whenever in our past history doubtful powers
have been exercised by Congress, these have never failed to produce
injurious and unhappy consequences. Many such instances might be adduced
if this were the proper occasion. Neither is it necessary for the public
service to strain the language of the Constitution, because all the
great and useful powers required for a successful administration of
the Government, both in peace and in war, have been granted, either in
express terms or by the plainest implication.

Whilst deeply convinced of these truths, I yet consider it clear that
under the war-making power Congress may appropriate money toward the
construction of a military road when this is absolutely necessary for
the defense of any State or Territory of the Union against foreign
invasion. Under the Constitution Congress has power "to declare war,"
"to raise and support armies," "to provide and maintain a navy," and to
call forth the militia to "repel invasions." Thus endowed, in an ample
manner, with the war-making power, the corresponding duty is required
that "the United States shall protect each of them [the States]
against invasion." Now, how is it possible to afford this protection
to California and our Pacific possessions except by means of a military
road through the Territories of the United States, over which men and
munitions of war may be speedily transported from the Atlantic States to
meet and to repel the invader? In the event of a war with a naval power
much stronger than our own we should then have no other available access
to the Pacific Coast, because such a power would instantly close
the route across the isthmus of Central America. It is impossible to
conceive that whilst the Constitution has expressly required Congress
to defend all the States it should yet deny to them, by any fair
construction, the only possible means by which one of these States can
be defended. Besides, the Government, ever since its origin, has been in
the constant practice of constructing military roads. It might also be
wise to consider whether the love for the Union which now animates our
fellow-citizens on the Pacific Coast may not be impaired by our neglect
or refusal to provide for them, in their remote and isolated condition,
the only means by which the power of the States on this side of the
Rocky Mountains can reach them in sufficient time to "protect" them
"against invasion." I forbear for the present from expressing an opinion
as to the wisest and most economical mode in which the Government can
lend its aid in accomplishing this great and necessary work. I believe
that many of the difficulties in the way, which now appear formidable,
will in a great degree vanish as soon as the nearest and best route
shall have been satisfactorily ascertained.

It may be proper that on this occasion I should make some brief remarks
in regard to our rights and duties as a member of the great family of
nations. In our intercourse with them there are some plain principles,
approved by our own experience, from which we should never depart. We
ought to cultivate peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations,
and this not merely as the best means of promoting our own material
interests, but in a spirit of Christian benevolence toward our
fellow-men, wherever their lot may be cast. Our diplomacy should be
direct and frank, neither seeking to obtain more nor accepting less than
is our due. We ought to cherish a sacred regard for the independence of
all nations, and never attempt to interfere in the domestic concerns
of any unless this shall be imperatively required by the great law of
self-preservation. To avoid entangling alliances has been a maxim of our
policy ever since the days of Washington, and its wisdom's no one will
attempt to dispute. In short, we ought to do justice in a kindly spirit
to all nations and require justice from them in return.

It is our glory that whilst other nations have extended their dominions
by the sword we have never acquired any territory except by fair
purchase or, as in the case of Texas, by the voluntary determination of
a brave, kindred, and independent people to blend their destinies with
our own. Even our acquisitions from Mexico form no exception. Unwilling
to take advantage of the fortune of war against a sister republic, we
purchased these possessions under the treaty of peace for a sum which
was considered at the time a fair equivalent. Our past history forbids
that we shall in the future acquire territory unless this be sanctioned
by the laws of justice and honor. Acting on this principle, no nation
will have a right to interfere or to complain if in the progress of
events we shall still further extend our possessions. Hitherto in all
our acquisitions the people, under the protection of the American flag,
have enjoyed civil and religious liberty, as well as equal and just
laws, and have been contented, prosperous, and happy. Their trade with
the rest of the world has rapidly increased, and thus every commercial
nation has shared largely in their successful progress.

I shall now proceed to take the oath prescribed by the Constitution,
whilst humbly invoking the blessing of Divine Providence on this great


Abraham Lincoln First Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1861

Fellow-Citizens of the United States:

IN compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear
before you to address you briefly and to take in your presence the oath
prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the
President "before he enters on the execution of this office."

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those
matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that
by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their
peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been
any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample
evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to
their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of
him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches
when I declare that--

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have
no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had
made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and
more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a
law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I
now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States,
and especially the right of each State to order and control its own
domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is
essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance
of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion
by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what
pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon
the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is
susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are
to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add,
too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution
and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States
when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause--as cheerfully to one section
as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from
service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the
Constitution as any other of its provisions:

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof,
escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation
therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered
up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those
who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and
the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear
their support to the whole Constitution--to this provision as much as to
any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come
within the terms of this clause "shall be delivered up" their oaths are
unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they
not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which
to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be
enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference
is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be
of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is
done. And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go
unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of
liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so
that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave? And might it
not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of
that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizens
of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of
citizens in the several States"?

I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no
purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules;
and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as
proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all,
both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all
those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting
to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President
under our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different
and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the
executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many
perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of
precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional
term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of
the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution
the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not
expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is
safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its
organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express
provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure
forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not
provided for in the instrument itself.

Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an
association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a
contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it?
One party to a contract may violate it--break it, so to speak--but does
it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that
in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history
of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution.
It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was
matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was
further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly
plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of
Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects
for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more
perfect Union."

But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the
States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the
Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can
lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that
effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or
States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or
revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the
Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care,
as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of
the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem
to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far
as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall
withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the
contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the
declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and
maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there
shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power
confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property
and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and
imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will
be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.
Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be
so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from
holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious
strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right
may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices,
the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable
withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts
of the Union. So far as possible the people everywhere shall have that
sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and
reflection. The course here indicated will be followed unless current
events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper,
and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised,
according to circumstances actually existing and with a view and a hope
of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of
fraternal sympathies and affections.

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the
Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither
affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them.
To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our
national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes,
would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you
hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any
portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while
the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly
from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union if all constitutional rights can
be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right plainly written in the
Constitution has been denied? I think not. Happily, the human mind is
so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this.
Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written
provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force
of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written
constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view justify
revolution; certainly would if such right were a vital one. But such is
not our case. All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are
so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guaranties
and prohibitions, in the Constitution that controversies never arise
concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision
specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical
administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of
reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions.
Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State
authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress
prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly
say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution
does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional
controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities.
If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government
must cease. There is no other alternative, for continuing the Government
is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case
will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn
will divide and ruin them, for a minority of their own will secede from
them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For
instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy a year or two
hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present
Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments
are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose
a new union as to produce harmony only and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A
majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and
always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and
sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects
it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is
impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is
wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy
or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional
questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that
such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit
as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high
respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments
of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision
may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it,
being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be
overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be
borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time,
the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government
upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably
fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in
ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will
have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically
resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor
is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is
a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought
before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their
decisions to political purposes.

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be
extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be
extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive-slave
clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the
foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can
ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly
supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry
legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I
think, can not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases
after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave
trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without
restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially
surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.

Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our
respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between
them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and
beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country
can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse,
either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible,
then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory
after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than
friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between
aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not
fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on
either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of
intercourse, are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit
it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they
can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their
revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant
of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of
having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation
of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the
people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes
prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing
circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being
afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me
the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to
originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to
take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen
for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would
wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to
the Constitution--which amendment, however, I have not seen--has
passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never
interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that
of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have
said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments
so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied
constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and

The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and
they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the
States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose, but the
Executive as such has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer
the present Government as it came to his hands and to transmit it
unimpaired by him to his successor.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice
of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our
present differences, is either party without faith of being in the
right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and
justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that
truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great
tribunal of the American people.

By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have
wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and
have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their
own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue
and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly
can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole
subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an
object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never
take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no
good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied
still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point,
the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration
will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it
were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the
dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action.
Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who
has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust
in the best way all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is
the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you.
You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You
have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I
shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be
enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds
of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every
battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all
over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again
touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.


Abraham Lincoln Second Inaugural Address Saturday, March 4, 1865


AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office
there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the
first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued
seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during
which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every
point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention
and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could
be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly
depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I
trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope
for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were
anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought
to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this
place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents
were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissolve
the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated
war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,
and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed
generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it.
These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew
that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen,
perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the
insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government
claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement
of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration
which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of
the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should
cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental
and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and
each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men
should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from
the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not
judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has
been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the
world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but
woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that
American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of
God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed
time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South
this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came,
shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes
which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we
hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily
pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled
by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall
be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid
by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years
ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and
righteous altogether." With malice toward none, with charity for all,
with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us
strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds,
to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and
his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting
peace among ourselves and with all nations.


Ulysses S. Grant First Inaugural Address Thursday, March 4, 1869

Citizens of the United States:

YOUR suffrages having elected me to the office of President of the
United States, I have, in conformity to the Constitution of our country,
taken the oath of office prescribed therein. I have taken this oath
without mental reservation and with the determination to do to the best
of my ability all that is required of me. The responsibilities of the
position I feel, but accept them without fear. The office has come to me
unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious
desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the
satisfaction of the people.

On all leading questions agitating the public mind I will always express
my views to Congress and urge them according to my judgment, and when
I think it advisable will exercise the constitutional privilege of
interposing a veto to defeat measures which I oppose; but all laws will
be faithfully executed, whether they meet my approval or not.

I shall on all subjects have a policy to recommend, but none to enforce
against the will of the people. Laws are to govern all alike--those
opposed as well as those who favor them. I know no method to secure
the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent

The country having just emerged from a great rebellion, many questions
will come before it for settlement in the next four years which
preceding Administrations have never had to deal with. In meeting
these it is desirable that they should be approached calmly, without
prejudice, hate, or sectional pride, remembering that the greatest good
to the greatest number is the object to be attained.

This requires security of person, property, and free religious and
political opinion in every part of our common country, without regard
to local prejudice. All laws to secure these ends will receive my best
efforts for their enforcement.

A great debt has been contracted in securing to us and our posterity
the Union. The payment of this, principal and interest, as well as
the return to a specie basis as soon as it can be accomplished without
material detriment to the debtor class or to the country at large,
must be provided for. To protect the national honor, every dollar
of Government indebtedness should be paid in gold, unless otherwise
expressly stipulated in the contract. Let it be understood that no
repudiator of one farthing of our public debt will be trusted in public
place, and it will go far toward strengthening a credit which ought to
be the best in the world, and will ultimately enable us to replace the
debt with bonds bearing less interest than we now pay. To this should be
added a faithful collection of the revenue, a strict accountability to
the Treasury for every dollar collected, and the greatest practicable
retrenchment in expenditure in every department of Government.

When we compare the paying capacity of the country now, with the ten
States in poverty from the effects of war, but soon to emerge, I trust,
into greater prosperity than ever before, with its paying capacity
twenty-five years ago, and calculate what it probably will be
twenty-five years hence, who can doubt the feasibility of paying every
dollar then with more ease than we now pay for useless luxuries? Why,
it looks as though Providence had bestowed upon us a strong box in the
precious metals locked up in the sterile mountains of the far West, and
which we are now forging the key to unlock, to meet the very contingency
that is now upon us.

Ultimately it may be necessary to insure the facilities to reach these
riches and it may be necessary also that the General Government should
give its aid to secure this access; but that should only be when a
dollar of obligation to pay secures precisely the same sort of dollar
to use now, and not before. Whilst the question of specie payments is
in abeyance the prudent business man is careful about contracting debts
payable in the distant future. The nation should follow the same rule. A
prostrate commerce is to be rebuilt and all industries encouraged.

The young men of the country--those who from their age must be its
rulers twenty-five years hence--have a peculiar interest in maintaining
the national honor. A moment's reflection as to what will be our
commanding influence among the nations of the earth in their day, if
they are only true to themselves, should inspire them with national
pride. All divisions--geographical, political, and religious--can join
in this common sentiment. How the public debt is to be paid or specie
payments resumed is not so important as that a plan should be adopted
and acquiesced in. A united determination to do is worth more than
divided counsels upon the method of doing. Legislation upon this subject
may not be necessary now, or even advisable, but it will be when the
civil law is more fully restored in all parts of the country and trade
resumes its wonted channels.

It will be my endeavor to execute all laws in good faith, to collect
all revenues assessed, and to have them properly accounted for and
economically disbursed. I will to the best of my ability appoint to
office those only who will carry out this design.

In regard to foreign policy, I would deal with nations as equitable law
requires individuals to deal with each other, and I would protect the
law-abiding citizen, whether of native or foreign birth, wherever
his rights are jeopardized or the flag of our country floats. I would
respect the rights of all nations, demanding equal respect for our own.
If others depart from this rule in their dealings with us, we may be
compelled to follow their precedent.

The proper treatment of the original occupants of this land--the Indians
one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course toward them
which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship.

The question of suffrage is one which is likely to agitate the public
so long as a portion of the citizens of the nation are excluded from
its privileges in any State. It seems to me very desirable that this
question should be settled now, and I entertain the hope and express the
desire that it may be by the ratification of the fifteenth article of
amendment to the Constitution.

In conclusion I ask patient forbearance one toward another throughout
the land, and a determined effort on the part of every citizen to do
his share toward cementing a happy union; and I ask the prayers of the
nation to Almighty God in behalf of this consummation.


Ulysses S. Grant Second Inaugural Address Tuesday, March 4, 1873


UNDER Providence I have been called a second time to act as Executive
over this great nation. It has been my endeavor in the past to maintain
all the laws, and, so far as lay in my power, to act for the best
interests of the whole people. My best efforts will be given in the same
direction in the future, aided, I trust, by my four years' experience in
the office.

When my first term of the office of Chief Executive began, the country
had not recovered from the effects of a great internal revolution, and
three of the former States of the Union had not been restored to their
Federal relations.

It seemed to me wise that no new questions should be raised so long as
that condition of affairs existed. Therefore the past four years, so far
as I could control events, have been consumed in the effort to restore
harmony, public credit, commerce, and all the arts of peace and
progress. It is my firm conviction that the civilized world is tending
toward republicanism, or government by the people through their chosen
representatives, and that our own great Republic is destined to be the
guiding star to all others.

Under our Republic we support an army less than that of any European
power of any standing and a navy less than that of either of at least
five of them. There could be no extension of territory on the continent
which would call for an increase of this force, but rather might such
extension enable us to diminish it.

The theory of government changes with general progress. Now that the
telegraph is made available for communicating thought, together with
rapid transit by steam, all parts of a continent are made contiguous for
all purposes of government, and communication between the extreme limits
of the country made easier than it was throughout the old thirteen
States at the beginning of our national existence.

The effects of the late civil strife have been to free the slave and
make him a citizen. Yet he is not possessed of the civil rights
which citizenship should carry with it. This is wrong, and should be
corrected. To this correction I stand committed, so far as Executive
influence can avail.

Social equality is not a subject to be legislated upon, nor shall I ask
that anything be done to advance the social status of the colored man,
except to give him a fair chance to develop what there is good in him,
give him access to the schools, and when he travels let him feel assured
that his conduct will regulate the treatment and fare he will receive.

The States lately at war with the General Government are now happily
rehabilitated, and no Executive control is exercised in any one of them
that would not be exercised in any other State under like circumstances.

In the first year of the past Administration the proposition came up for
the admission of Santo Domingo as a Territory of the Union. It was not
a question of my seeking, but was a proposition from the people of Santo
Domingo, and which I entertained. I believe now, as I did then, that
it was for the best interest of this country, for the people of Santo
Domingo, and all concerned that the proposition should be received
favorably. It was, however, rejected constitutionally, and therefore the
subject was never brought up again by me.

In future, while I hold my present office, the subject of acquisition
of territory must have the support of the people before I will recommend
any proposition looking to such acquisition. I say here, however, that
I do not share in the apprehension held by many as to the danger of
governments becoming weakened and destroyed by reason of their extension
of territory. Commerce, education, and rapid transit of thought and
matter by telegraph and steam have changed all this. Rather do I believe
that our Great Maker is preparing the world, in His own good time, to
become one nation, speaking one language, and when armies and navies
will be no longer required.

My efforts in the future will be directed to the restoration of good
feeling between the different sections of our common country; to the
restoration of our currency to a fixed value as compared with the
world's standard of values--gold--and, if possible, to a par with it; to
the construction of cheap routes of transit throughout the land, to
the end that the products of all may find a market and leave a living
remuneration to the producer; to the maintenance of friendly relations
with all our neighbors and with distant nations; to the reestablishment
of our commerce and share in the carrying trade upon the ocean; to the
encouragement of such manufacturing industries as can be economically
pursued in this country, to the end that the exports of home products
and industries may pay for our imports--the only sure method of
returning to and permanently maintaining a specie basis; to the
elevation of labor; and, by a humane course, to bring the aborigines of
the country under the benign influences of education and civilization.
It is either this or war of extermination: Wars of extermination,
engaged in by people pursuing commerce and all industrial pursuits,
are expensive even against the weakest people, and are demoralizing
and wicked. Our superiority of strength and advantages of civilization
should make us lenient toward the Indian. The wrong inflicted upon him
should be taken into account and the balance placed to his credit. The
moral view of the question should be considered and the question asked,
Can not the Indian be made a useful and productive member of society by
proper teaching and treatment? If the effort is made in good faith, we
will stand better before the civilized nations of the earth and in our
own consciences for having made it.

All these things are not to be accomplished by one individual, but they
will receive my support and such recommendations to Congress as will in
my judgment best serve to carry them into effect. I beg your support and

It has been, and is, my earnest desire to correct abuses that have grown
up in the civil service of the country. To secure this reformation rules
regulating methods of appointment and promotions were established and
have been tried. My efforts for such reformation shall be continued
to the best of my judgment. The spirit of the rules adopted will be

I acknowledge before this assemblage, representing, as it does, every
section of our country, the obligation I am under to my countrymen for
the great honor they have conferred on me by returning me to the highest
office within their gift, and the further obligation resting on me
to render to them the best services within my power. This I promise,
looking forward with the greatest anxiety to the day when I shall be
released from responsibilities that at times are almost overwhelming,
and from which I have scarcely had a respite since the eventful firing
upon Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, to the present day. My services were
then tendered and accepted under the first call for troops growing out
of that event.

I did not ask for place or position, and was entirely without influence
or the acquaintance of persons of influence, but was resolved to perform
my part in a struggle threatening the very existence of the nation. I
performed a conscientious duty, without asking promotion or command, and
without a revengeful feeling toward any section or individual.

Notwithstanding this, throughout the war, and from my candidacy for my
present office in 1868 to the close of the last Presidential campaign,
I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in
political history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in
view of your verdict, which I gratefully accept as my vindication.


Rutherford B. Hayes Inaugural Address Monday, March 5, 1877


WE have assembled to repeat the public ceremonial, begun by Washington,
observed by all my predecessors, and now a time-honored custom, which
marks the commencement of a new term of the Presidential office. Called
to the duties of this great trust, I proceed, in compliance with usage,
to announce some of the leading principles, on the subjects that now
chiefly engage the public attention, by which it is my desire to be
guided in the discharge of those duties. I shall not undertake to lay
down irrevocably principles or measures of administration, but rather
to speak of the motives which should animate us, and to suggest certain
important ends to be attained in accordance with our institutions and
essential to the welfare of our country.

At the outset of the discussions which preceded the recent Presidential
election it seemed to me fitting that I should fully make known my
sentiments in regard to several of the important questions which then
appeared to demand the consideration of the country. Following the
example, and in part adopting the language, of one of my predecessors,
I wish now, when every motive for misrepresentation has passed away, to
repeat what was said before the election, trusting that my countrymen
will candidly weigh and understand it, and that they will feel assured
that the sentiments declared in accepting the nomination for the
Presidency will be the standard of my conduct in the path before me,
charged, as I now am, with the grave and difficult task of carrying them
out in the practical administration of the Government so far as depends,
under the Constitution and laws on the Chief Executive of the nation.

The permanent pacification of the country upon such principles and by
such measures as will secure the complete protection of all its citizens
in the free enjoyment of all their constitutional rights is now the
one subject in our public affairs which all thoughtful and patriotic
citizens regard as of supreme importance.

Many of the calamitous efforts of the tremendous revolution which has
passed over the Southern States still remain. The immeasurable benefits
which will surely follow, sooner or later, the hearty and generous
acceptance of the legitimate results of that revolution have not yet
been realized. Difficult and embarrassing questions meet us at the
threshold of this subject. The people of those States are still
impoverished, and the inestimable blessing of wise, honest, and peaceful
local self-government is not fully enjoyed. Whatever difference of
opinion may exist as to the cause of this condition of things, the fact
is clear that in the progress of events the time has come when such
government is the imperative necessity required by all the varied
interests, public and private, of those States. But it must not be
forgotten that only a local government which recognizes and maintains
inviolate the rights of all is a true self-government.

With respect to the two distinct races whose peculiar relations to each
other have brought upon us the deplorable complications and perplexities
which exist in those States, it must be a government which guards the
interests of both races carefully and equally. It must be a government
which submits loyally and heartily to the Constitution and the laws--the
laws of the nation and the laws of the States themselves--accepting and
obeying faithfully the whole Constitution as it is.

Resting upon this sure and substantial foundation, the superstructure
of beneficent local governments can be built up, and not otherwise.
In furtherance of such obedience to the letter and the spirit of the
Constitution, and in behalf of all that its attainment implies, all
so-called party interests lose their apparent importance, and party
lines may well be permitted to fade into insignificance. The question we
have to consider for the immediate welfare of those States of the Union
is the question of government or no government; of social order and
all the peaceful industries and the happiness that belongs to it, or
a return to barbarism. It is a question in which every citizen of the
nation is deeply interested, and with respect to which we ought not
to be, in a partisan sense, either Republicans or Democrats, but
fellow-citizens and fellowmen, to whom the interests of a common country
and a common humanity are dear.

The sweeping revolution of the entire labor system of a large portion
of our country and the advance of 4,000,000 people from a condition
of servitude to that of citizenship, upon an equal footing with their
former masters, could not occur without presenting problems of the
gravest moment, to be dealt with by the emancipated race, by their
former masters, and by the General Government, the author of the act of
emancipation. That it was a wise, just, and providential act, fraught
with good for all concerned, is not generally conceded throughout the
country. That a moral obligation rests upon the National Government to
employ its constitutional power and influence to establish the rights of
the people it has emancipated, and to protect them in the enjoyment
of those rights when they are infringed or assailed, is also generally

The evils which afflict the Southern States can only be removed or
remedied by the united and harmonious efforts of both races, actuated by
motives of mutual sympathy and regard; and while in duty bound and fully
determined to protect the rights of all by every constitutional means at
the disposal of my Administration, I am sincerely anxious to use
every legitimate influence in favor of honest and efficient local
self-government as the true resource of those States for the promotion
of the contentment and prosperity of their citizens. In the effort I
shall make to accomplish this purpose I ask the cordial cooperation of
all who cherish an interest in the welfare of the country, trusting
that party ties and the prejudice of race will be freely surrendered in
behalf of the great purpose to be accomplished. In the important work of
restoring the South it is not the political situation alone that merits
attention. The material development of that section of the country has
been arrested by the social and political revolution through which
it has passed, and now needs and deserves the considerate care of
the National Government within the just limits prescribed by the
Constitution and wise public economy.

But at the basis of all prosperity, for that as well as for every other
part of the country, lies the improvement of the intellectual and moral
condition of the people. Universal suffrage should rest upon universal
education. To this end, liberal and permanent provision should be made
for the support of free schools by the State governments, and, if need
be, supplemented by legitimate aid from national authority.

Let me assure my countrymen of the Southern States that it is my earnest
desire to regard and promote their truest interest--the interests of the
white and of the colored people both and equally--and to put forth my
best efforts in behalf of a civil policy which will forever wipe out in
our political affairs the color line and the distinction between North
and South, to the end that we may have not merely a united North or a
united South, but a united country.

I ask the attention of the public to the paramount necessity of reform
in our civil service--a reform not merely as to certain abuses and
practices of so-called official patronage which have come to have the
sanction of usage in the several Departments of our Government, but
a change in the system of appointment itself; a reform that shall
be thorough, radical, and complete; a return to the principles and
practices of the founders of the Government. They neither expected
nor desired from public officers any partisan service. They meant that
public officers should owe their whole service to the Government and to
the people. They meant that the officer should be secure in his
tenure as long as his personal character remained untarnished and the
performance of his duties satisfactory. They held that appointments to
office were not to be made nor expected merely as rewards for partisan
services, nor merely on the nomination of members of Congress, as being
entitled in any respect to the control of such appointments.

The fact that both the great political parties of the country, in
declaring their principles prior to the election, gave a prominent place
to the subject of reform of our civil service, recognizing and strongly
urging its necessity, in terms almost identical in their specific
import with those I have here employed, must be accepted as a conclusive
argument in behalf of these measures. It must be regarded as the
expression of the united voice and will of the whole country upon this
subject, and both political parties are virtually pledged to give it
their unreserved support.

The President of the United States of necessity owes his election to
office to the suffrage and zealous labors of a political party,
the members of which cherish with ardor and regard as of essential
importance the principles of their party organization; but he should
strive to be always mindful of the fact that he serves his party best
who serves the country best.

In furtherance of the reform we seek, and in other important respects a
change of great importance, I recommend an amendment to the Constitution
prescribing a term of six years for the Presidential office and
forbidding a reelection.

With respect to the financial condition of the country, I shall not
attempt an extended history of the embarrassment and prostration which
we have suffered during the past three years. The depression in all our
varied commercial and manufacturing interests throughout the country,
which began in September, 1873, still continues. It is very gratifying,
however, to be able to say that there are indications all around us of a
coming change to prosperous times.

Upon the currency question, intimately connected, as it is, with this
topic, I may be permitted to repeat here the statement made in my
letter of acceptance, that in my judgment the feeling of uncertainty
inseparable from an irredeemable paper currency, with its fluctuation
of values, is one of the greatest obstacles to a return to prosperous
times. The only safe paper currency is one which rests upon a coin basis
and is at all times and promptly convertible into coin.

I adhere to the views heretofore expressed by me in favor of
Congressional legislation in behalf of an early resumption of specie
payments, and I am satisfied not only that this is wise, but that the
interests, as well as the public sentiment, of the country imperatively
demand it.

Passing from these remarks upon the condition of our own country
to consider our relations with other lands, we are reminded by the
international complications abroad, threatening the peace of Europe,
that our traditional rule of noninterference in the affairs of foreign
nations has proved of great value in past times and ought to be strictly

The policy inaugurated by my honored predecessor, President Grant, of
submitting to arbitration grave questions in dispute between ourselves
and foreign powers points to a new, and incomparably the best,
instrumentality for the preservation of peace, and will, as I believe,
become a beneficent example of the course to be pursued in similar
emergencies by other nations.

If, unhappily, questions of difference should at any time during the
period of my Administration arise between the United States and any
foreign government, it will certainly be my disposition and my hope to
aid in their settlement in the same peaceful and honorable way, thus
securing to our country the great blessings of peace and mutual good
offices with all the nations of the world.

Fellow-citizens, we have reached the close of a political contest marked
by the excitement which usually attends the contests between great
political parties whose members espouse and advocate with earnest faith
their respective creeds. The circumstances were, perhaps, in no respect
extraordinary save in the closeness and the consequent uncertainty of
the result.

For the first time in the history of the country it has been deemed
best, in view of the peculiar circumstances of the case, that the
objections and questions in dispute with reference to the counting of
the electoral votes should be referred to the decision of a tribunal
appointed for this purpose.

That tribunal--established by law for this sole purpose; its members,
all of them, men of long-established reputation for integrity and
intelligence, and, with the exception of those who are also members of
the supreme judiciary, chosen equally from both political parties; its
deliberations enlightened by the research and the arguments of able
counsel--was entitled to the fullest confidence of the American people.
Its decisions have been patiently waited for, and accepted as legally
conclusive by the general judgment of the public. For the present,
opinion will widely vary as to the wisdom of the several conclusions
announced by that tribunal. This is to be anticipated in every instance
where matters of dispute are made the subject of arbitration under the
forms of law. Human judgment is never unerring, and is rarely regarded
as otherwise than wrong by the unsuccessful party in the contest.

The fact that two great political parties have in this way settled a
dispute in regard to which good men differ as to the facts and the
law no less than as to the proper course to be pursued in solving the
question in controversy is an occasion for general rejoicing.

Upon one point there is entire unanimity in public sentiment--that
conflicting claims to the Presidency must be amicably and peaceably
adjusted, and that when so adjusted the general acquiescence of the
nation ought surely to follow.

It has been reserved for a government of the people, where the right of
suffrage is universal, to give to the world the first example in history
of a great nation, in the midst of the struggle of opposing parties for
power, hushing its party tumults to yield the issue of the contest to
adjustment according to the forms of law.

Looking for the guidance of that Divine Hand by which the destinies
of nations and individuals are shaped, I call upon you, Senators,
Representatives, judges, fellow-citizens, here and everywhere, to unite
with me in an earnest effort to secure to our country the blessings, not
only of material prosperity, but of justice, peace, and union--a union
depending not upon the constraint of force, but upon the loving devotion
of a free people; "and that all things may be so ordered and settled
upon the best and surest foundations that peace and happiness, truth
and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all


James A. Garfield Inaugural Address Friday, March 4, 1881


WE stand to-day upon an eminence which overlooks a hundred years of
national life--a century crowded with perils, but crowned with the
triumphs of liberty and law. Before continuing the onward march let us
pause on this height for a moment to strengthen our faith and renew our
hope by a glance at the pathway along which our people have traveled.

It is now three days more than a hundred years since the adoption of
the first written constitution of the United States--the Articles of
Confederation and Perpetual Union. The new Republic was then beset with
danger on every hand. It had not conquered a place in the family
of nations. The decisive battle of the war for independence, whose
centennial anniversary will soon be gratefully celebrated at Yorktown,
had not yet been fought. The colonists were struggling not only against
the armies of a great nation, but against the settled opinions of
mankind; for the world did not then believe that the supreme authority
of government could be safely intrusted to the guardianship of the
people themselves.

We can not overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent
courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the
great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short
trial, that the confederacy of States, was too weak to meet the
necessities of a vigorous and expanding republic, they boldly set it
aside, and in its stead established a National Union, founded
directly upon the will of the people, endowed with full power of
self-preservation and ample authority for the accomplishment of its
great object.

Under this Constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged,
the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the
growth of our people in all the better elements of national life
has indicated the wisdom of the founders and given new hope to their
descendants. Under this Constitution our people long ago made themselves
safe against danger from without and secured for their mariners and flag
equality of rights on all the seas. Under this Constitution twenty-five
States have been added to the Union, with constitutions and laws, framed
and enforced by their own citizens, to secure the manifold blessings of
local self-government.

The jurisdiction of this Constitution now covers an area fifty times
greater than that of the original thirteen States and a population
twenty times greater than that of 1780.

The supreme trial of the Constitution came at last under the tremendous
pressure of civil war. We ourselves are witnesses that the Union emerged
from the blood and fire of that conflict purified and made stronger for
all the beneficent purposes of good government.

And now, at the close of this first century of growth, with the
inspirations of its history in their hearts, our people have lately
reviewed the condition of the nation, passed judgment upon the conduct
and opinions of political parties, and have registered their will
concerning the future administration of the Government. To interpret
and to execute that will in accordance with the Constitution is the
paramount duty of the Executive.

Even from this brief review it is manifest that the nation is resolutely
facing to the front, resolved to employ its best energies in developing
the great possibilities of the future. Sacredly preserving whatever
has been gained to liberty and good government during the century,
our people are determined to leave behind them all those bitter
controversies concerning things which have been irrevocably settled, and
the further discussion of which can only stir up strife and delay the
onward march.

The supremacy of the nation and its laws should be no longer a subject
of debate. That discussion, which for half a century threatened the
existence of the Union, was closed at last in the high court of war by a
decree from which there is no appeal--that the Constitution and the laws
made in pursuance thereof are and shall continue to be the supreme law
of the land, binding alike upon the States and the people. This decree
does not disturb the autonomy of the States nor interfere with any of
their necessary rights of local self-government, but it does fix and
establish the permanent supremacy of the Union.

The will of the nation, speaking with the voice of battle and through
the amended Constitution, has fulfilled the great promise of 1776
by proclaiming "liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants

The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of
citizenship is the most important political change we have known since
the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. NO thoughtful man can fail to
appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people. It
has freed us from the perpetual danger of war and dissolution. It has
added immensely to the moral and industrial forces of our people. It has
liberated the master as well as the slave from a relation which wronged
and enfeebled both. It has surrendered to their own guardianship the
manhood of more than 5,000,000 people, and has opened to each one of
them a career of freedom and usefulness. It has given new inspiration to
the power of self-help in both races by making labor more honorable to
the one and more necessary to the other. The influence of this force
will grow greater and bear richer fruit with the coming years.

No doubt this great change has caused serious disturbance to our
Southern communities. This is to be deplored, though it was perhaps
unavoidable. But those who resisted the change should remember that
under our institutions there was no middle ground for the negro race
between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent
disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield
its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration
places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.

The emancipated race has already made remarkable progress. With
unquestioning devotion to the Union, with a patience and gentleness not
born of fear, they have "followed the light as God gave them to see
the light." They are rapidly laying the material foundations of
self-support, widening their circle of intelligence, and beginning to
enjoy the blessings that gather around the homes of the industrious
poor. They deserve the generous encouragement of all good men. So far
as my authority can lawfully extend they shall enjoy the full and equal
protection of the Constitution and the laws.

The free enjoyment of equal suffrage is still in question, and a frank
statement of the issue may aid its solution. It is alleged that in many
communities negro citizens are practically denied the freedom of the
ballot. In so far as the truth of this allegation is admitted, it is
answered that in many places honest local government is impossible if
the mass of uneducated negroes are allowed to vote. These are grave
allegations. So far as the latter is true, it is the only palliation
that can be offered for opposing the freedom of the ballot. Bad local
government is certainly a great evil, which ought to be prevented; but
to violate the freedom and sanctities of the suffrage is more than an
evil. It is a crime which, if persisted in, will destroy the Government
itself. Suicide is not a remedy. If in other lands it be high treason to
compass the death of the king, it shall be counted no less a crime here
to strangle our sovereign power and stifle its voice.

It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose of
nations. It should be said with the utmost emphasis that this question
of the suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States or to
the nation until each, within its own jurisdiction, makes and keeps the
ballot free and pure by the strong sanctions of the law.

But the danger which arises from ignorance in the voter can not be
denied. It covers a field far wider than that of negro suffrage and the
present condition of the race. It is a danger that lurks and hides in
the sources and fountains of power in every state. We have no standard
by which to measure the disaster that may be brought upon us by
ignorance and vice in the citizens when joined to corruption and fraud
in the suffrage.

The voters of the Union, who make and unmake constitutions, and upon
whose will hang the destinies of our governments, can transmit their
supreme authority to no successors save the coming generation of voters,
who are the sole heirs of sovereign power. If that generation comes to
its inheritance blinded by ignorance and corrupted by vice, the fall of
the Republic will be certain and remediless.

The census has already sounded the alarm in the appalling figures which
mark how dangerously high the tide of illiteracy has risen among our
voters and their children.

To the South this question is of supreme importance. But the
responsibility for the existence of slavery did not rest upon the
South alone. The nation itself is responsible for the extension of
the suffrage, and is under special obligations to aid in removing the
illiteracy which it has added to the voting population. For the North
and South alike there is but one remedy. All the constitutional power of
the nation and of the States and all the volunteer forces of the people
should be surrendered to meet this danger by the savory influence of
universal education.

It is the high privilege and sacred duty of those now living to educate
their successors and fit them, by intelligence and virtue, for the
inheritance which awaits them.

In this beneficent work sections and races should be forgotten and
partisanship should be unknown. Let our people find a new meaning in the
divine oracle which declares that "a little child shall lead them," for
our own little children will soon control the destinies of the Republic.

My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgment concerning the
controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children
will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies. They
will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union
was preserved, that slavery was overthrown, and that both races were
made equal before the law. We may hasten or we may retard, but we can
not prevent, the final reconciliation. Is it not possible for us now
to make a truce with time by anticipating and accepting its inevitable

Enterprises of the highest importance to our moral and material
well-being unite us and offer ample employment of our best powers. Let
all our people, leaving behind them the battlefields of dead issues,
move forward and in their strength of liberty and the restored Union win
the grander victories of peace.

The prosperity which now prevails is without parallel in our history.
Fruitful seasons have done much to secure it, but they have not done
all. The preservation of the public credit and the resumption of
specie payments, so successfully attained by the Administration of my
predecessors, have enabled our people to secure the blessings which the
seasons brought.

By the experience of commercial nations in all ages it has been found
that gold and silver afford the only safe foundation for a monetary
system. Confusion has recently been created by variations in the
relative value of the two metals, but I confidently believe that
arrangements can be made between the leading commercial nations which
will secure the general use of both metals. Congress should provide that
the compulsory coinage of silver now required by law may not disturb our
monetary system by driving either metal out of circulation. If possible,
such an adjustment should be made that the purchasing power of every
coined dollar will be exactly equal to its debt-paying power in all the
markets of the world.

The chief duty of the National Government in connection with the
currency of the country is to coin money and declare its value. Grave
doubts have been entertained whether Congress is authorized by the
Constitution to make any form of paper money legal tender. The present
issue of United States notes has been sustained by the necessities of
war; but such paper should depend for its value and currency upon its
convenience in use and its prompt redemption in coin at the will of the
holder, and not upon its compulsory circulation. These notes are not
money, but promises to pay money. If the holders demand it, the promise
should be kept.

The refunding of the national debt at a lower rate of interest should
be accomplished without compelling the withdrawal of the national-bank
notes, and thus disturbing the business of the country.

I venture to refer to the position I have occupied on financial
questions during a long service in Congress, and to say that time and
experience have strengthened the opinions I have so often expressed on
these subjects.

The finances of the Government shall suffer no detriment which it may be
possible for my Administration to prevent.

The interests of agriculture deserve more attention from the Government
than they have yet received. The farms of the United States afford homes
and employment for more than one-half our people, and furnish much the
largest part of all our exports. As the Government lights our coasts
for the protection of mariners and the benefit of commerce, so it should
give to the tillers of the soil the best lights of practical science and

Our manufacturers are rapidly making us industrially independent,
and are opening to capital and labor new and profitable fields of
employment. Their steady and healthy growth should still be matured.
Our facilities for transportation should be promoted by the continued
improvement of our harbors and great interior waterways and by the
increase of our tonnage on the ocean.

The development of the world's commerce has led to an urgent demand for
shortening the great sea voyage around Cape Horn by constructing ship
canals or railways across the isthmus which unites the continents.
Various plans to this end have been suggested and will need
consideration, but none of them has been sufficiently matured to warrant
the United States in extending pecuniary aid. The subject, however, is
one which will immediately engage the attention of the Government with
a view to a thorough protection to American interests. We will urge
no narrow policy nor seek peculiar or exclusive privileges in any
commercial route; but, in the language of my predecessor, I believe it
to be the right "and duty of the United States to assert and maintain
such supervision and authority over any interoceanic canal across
the isthmus that connects North and South America as will protect our
national interest."

The Constitution guarantees absolute religious freedom. Congress is
prohibited from making any law respecting an establishment of religion
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Territories of the United
States are subject to the direct legislative authority of Congress, and
hence the General Government is responsible for any violation of
the Constitution in any of them. It is therefore a reproach to
the Government that in the most populous of the Territories the
constitutional guaranty is not enjoyed by the people and the authority
of Congress is set at naught. The Mormon Church not only offends
the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the
administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law.

In my judgment it is the duty of Congress, while respecting to the
uttermost the conscientious convictions and religious scruples of every
citizen, to prohibit within its jurisdiction all criminal practices,
especially of that class which destroy the family relations and
endanger social order. Nor can any ecclesiastical organization be safely
permitted to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and powers of
the National Government.

The civil service can never be placed on a satisfactory basis until
it is regulated by law. For the good of the service itself, for the
protection of those who are intrusted with the appointing power against
the waste of time and obstruction to the public business caused by the
inordinate pressure for place, and for the protection of incumbents
against intrigue and wrong, I shall at the proper time ask Congress to
fix the tenure of the minor offices of the several Executive Departments
and prescribe the grounds upon which removals shall be made during the
terms for which incumbents have been appointed.

Finally, acting always within the authority and limitations of the
Constitution, invading neither the rights of the States nor the reserved
rights of the people, it will be the purpose of my Administration
to maintain the authority of the nation in all places within its
jurisdiction; to enforce obedience to all the laws of the Union in the
interests of the people; to demand rigid economy in all the expenditures
of the Government, and to require the honest and faithful service of all
executive officers, remembering that the offices were created, not for
the benefit of incumbents or their supporters, but for the service of
the Government.

And now, fellow-citizens, I am about to assume the great trust which
you have committed to my hands. I appeal to you for that earnest and
thoughtful support which makes this Government in fact, as it is in law,
a government of the people.

I shall greatly rely upon the wisdom and patriotism of Congress and
of those who may share with me the responsibilities and duties of
administration, and, above all, upon our efforts to promote the welfare
of this great people and their Government I reverently invoke the
support and blessings of Almighty God.


Grover Cleveland First Inaugural Address Wednesday, March 4, 1885


IN the presence of this vast assemblage of my countrymen I am about to
supplement and seal by the oath which I shall take the manifestation of
the will of a great and free people. In the exercise of their power
and right of self-government they have committed to one of their
fellow-citizens a supreme and sacred trust, and he here consecrates
himself to their service.

This impressive ceremony adds little to the solemn sense of
responsibility with which I contemplate the duty I owe to all the people
of the land. Nothing can relieve me from anxiety lest by any act of
mine their interests may suffer, and nothing is needed to strengthen my
resolution to engage every faculty and effort in the promotion of their

Amid the din of party strife the people's choice was made, but its
attendant circumstances have demonstrated anew the strength and safety
of a government by the people. In each succeeding year it more clearly
appears that our democratic principle needs no apology, and that in its
fearless and faithful application is to be found the surest guaranty of
good government.

But the best results in the operation of a government wherein every
citizen has a share largely depend upon a proper limitation of purely
partisan zeal and effort and a correct appreciation of the time when the
heat of the partisan should be merged in the patriotism of the citizen.

To-day the executive branch of the Government is transferred to new
keeping. But this is still the Government of all the people, and it
should be none the less an object of their affectionate solicitude.
At this hour the animosities of political strife, the bitterness of
partisan defeat, and the exultation of partisan triumph should be
supplanted by an ungrudging acquiescence in the popular will and a
sober, conscientious concern for the general weal. Moreover, if from
this hour we cheerfully and honestly abandon all sectional prejudice and
distrust, and determine, with manly confidence in one another, to work
out harmoniously the achievements of our national destiny, we shall
deserve to realize all the benefits which our happy form of government
can bestow.

On this auspicious occasion we may well renew the pledge of our devotion
to the Constitution, which, launched by the founders of the Republic and
consecrated by their prayers and patriotic devotion, has for almost a
century borne the hopes and the aspirations of a great people through
prosperity and peace and through the shock of foreign conflicts and the
perils of domestic strife and vicissitudes.

By the Father of his Country our Constitution was commended for adoption
as "the result of a spirit of amity and mutual concession." In that
same spirit it should be administered, in order to promote the lasting
welfare of the country and to secure the full measure of its priceless
benefits to us and to those who will succeed to the blessings of our
national life. The large variety of diverse and competing interests
subject to Federal control, persistently seeking the recognition of
their claims, need give us no fear that "the greatest good to the
greatest number" will fail to be accomplished if in the halls of
national legislation that spirit of amity and mutual concession shall
prevail in which the Constitution had its birth. If this involves the
surrender or postponement of private interests and the abandonment of
local advantages, compensation will be found in the assurance that the
common interest is subserved and the general welfare advanced.

In the discharge of my official duty I shall endeavor to be guided by
a just and unstrained construction of the Constitution, a careful
observance of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal
Government and those reserved to the States or to the people, and by a
cautious appreciation of those functions which by the Constitution
and laws have been especially assigned to the executive branch of the

But he who takes the oath today to preserve, protect, and defend the
Constitution of the United States only assumes the solemn obligation
which every patriotic citizen--on the farm, in the workshop, in the busy
marts of trade, and everywhere--should share with him. The Constitution
which prescribes his oath, my countrymen, is yours; the Government you
have chosen him to administer for a time is yours; the suffrage which
executes the will of freemen is yours; the laws and the entire scheme
of our civil rule, from the town meeting to the State capitals and the
national capital, is yours. Your every voter, as surely as your Chief
Magistrate, under the same high sanction, though in a different sphere,
exercises a public trust. Nor is this all. Every citizen owes to the
country a vigilant watch and close scrutiny of its public servants and
a fair and reasonable estimate of their fidelity and usefulness. Thus
is the people's will impressed upon the whole framework of our civil
polity--municipal, State, and Federal; and this is the price of our
liberty and the inspiration of our faith in the Republic.

It is the duty of those serving the people in public place to closely
limit public expenditures to the actual needs of the Government
economically administered, because this bounds the right of the
Government to exact tribute from the earnings of labor or the property
of the citizen, and because public extravagance begets extravagance
among the people. We should never be ashamed of the simplicity and
prudential economies which are best suited to the operation of a
republican form of government and most compatible with the mission of
the American people. Those who are selected for a limited time to manage
public affairs are still of the people, and may do much by their example
to encourage, consistently with the dignity of their official functions,
that plain way of life which among their fellow-citizens aids integrity
and promotes thrift and prosperity.

The genius of our institutions, the needs of our people in their
home life, and the attention which is demanded for the settlement
and development of the resources of our vast territory dictate the
scrupulous avoidance of any departure from that foreign policy commended
by the history, the traditions, and the prosperity of our Republic. It
is the policy of independence, favored by our position and defended by
our known love of justice and by our power. It is the policy of peace
suitable to our interests. It is the policy of neutrality, rejecting
any share in foreign broils and ambitions upon other continents and
repelling their intrusion here. It is the policy of Monroe and of
Washington and Jefferson-- "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with
all nations; entangling alliance with none."

A due regard for the interests and prosperity of all the people demands
that our finances shall be established upon such a sound and sensible
basis as shall secure the safety and confidence of business interests
and make the wage of labor sure and steady, and that our system of
revenue shall be so adjusted as to relieve the people of unnecessary
taxation, having a due regard to the interests of capital invested
and workingmen employed in American industries, and preventing the
accumulation of a surplus in the Treasury to tempt extravagance and

Care for the property of the nation and for the needs of future settlers
requires that the public domain should be protected from purloining
schemes and unlawful occupation.

The conscience of the people demands that the Indians within our
boundaries shall be fairly and honestly treated as wards of the
Government and their education and civilization promoted with a view
to their ultimate citizenship, and that polygamy in the Territories,
destructive of the family relation and offensive to the moral sense of
the civilized world, shall be repressed.

The laws should be rigidly enforced which prohibit the immigration of
a servile class to compete with American labor, with no intention of
acquiring citizenship, and bringing with them and retaining habits and
customs repugnant to our civilization.

The people demand reform in the administration of the Government and the
application of business principles to public affairs. As a means to this
end, civil-service reform should be in good faith enforced. Our citizens
have the right to protection from the incompetency of public employees
who hold their places solely as the reward of partisan service, and from
the corrupting influence of those who promise and the vicious methods
of those who expect such rewards; and those who worthily seek public
employment have the right to insist that merit and competency shall
be recognized instead of party subserviency or the surrender of honest
political belief.

In the administration of a government pledged to do equal and exact
justice to all men there should be no pretext for anxiety touching the
protection of the freedmen in their rights or their security in the
enjoyment of their privileges under the Constitution and its amendments.
All discussion as to their fitness for the place accorded to them as
American citizens is idle and unprofitable except as it suggests
the necessity for their improvement. The fact that they are citizens
entitles them to all the rights due to that relation and charges them
with all its duties, obligations, and responsibilities.

These topics and the constant and ever-varying wants of an active and
enterprising population may well receive the attention and the patriotic
endeavor of all who make and execute the Federal law. Our duties
are practical and call for industrious application, an intelligent
perception of the claims of public office, and, above all, a firm
determination, by united action, to secure to all the people of the land
the full benefits of the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man.
And let us not trust to human effort alone, but humbly acknowledging
the power and goodness of Almighty God, who presides over the destiny
of nations, and who has at all times been revealed in our country's
history, let us invoke His aid and His blessings upon our labors.


Benjamin Harrison Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1889


THERE is no constitutional or legal requirement that the President shall
take the oath of office in the presence of the people, but there is so
manifest an appropriateness in the public induction to office of the
chief executive officer of the nation that from the beginning of the
Government the people, to whose service the official oath consecrates
the officer, have been called to witness the solemn ceremonial. The
oath taken in the presence of the people becomes a mutual covenant. The
officer covenants to serve the whole body of the people by a faithful
execution of the laws, so that they may be the unfailing defense and
security of those who respect and observe them, and that neither wealth,
station, nor the power of combinations shall be able to evade their just
penalties or to wrest them from a beneficent public purpose to serve the
ends of cruelty or selfishness.

My promise is spoken; yours unspoken, but not the less real and solemn.
The people of every State have here their representatives. Surely I do
not misinterpret the spirit of the occasion when I assume that the
whole body of the people covenant with me and with each other to-day
to support and defend the Constitution and the Union of the States, to
yield willing obedience to all the laws and each to every other citizen
his equal civil and political rights. Entering thus solemnly into
covenant with each other, we may reverently invoke and confidently
expect the favor and help of Almighty God--that He will give to me
wisdom, strength, and fidelity, and to our people a spirit of fraternity
and a love of righteousness and peace.

This occasion derives peculiar interest from the fact that the
Presidential term which begins this day is the twenty-sixth under our
Constitution. The first inauguration of President Washington took place
in New York, where Congress was then sitting, on the 30th day of
April, 1789, having been deferred by reason of delays attending the
organization of the Congress and the canvass of the electoral vote. Our
people have already worthily observed the centennials of the Declaration
of Independence, of the battle of Yorktown, and of the adoption of the
Constitution, and will shortly celebrate in New York the institution of
the second great department of our constitutional scheme of government.
When the centennial of the institution of the judicial department,
by the organization of the Supreme Court, shall have been suitably
observed, as I trust it will be, our nation will have fully entered its
second century.

I will not attempt to note the marvelous and in great part happy
contrasts between our country as it steps over the threshold into its
second century of organized existence under the Constitution and that
weak but wisely ordered young nation that looked undauntedly down the
first century, when all its years stretched out before it.

Our people will not fail at this time to recall the incidents which
accompanied the institution of government under the Constitution, or to
find inspiration and guidance in the teachings and example of Washington
and his great associates, and hope and courage in the contrast which
thirty-eight populous and prosperous States offer to the thirteen
States, weak in everything except courage and the love of liberty, that
then fringed our Atlantic seaboard.

The Territory of Dakota has now a population greater than any of the
original States (except Virginia) and greater than the aggregate of
five of the smaller States in 1790. The center of population when our
national capital was located was east of Baltimore, and it was argued
by many well-informed persons that it would move eastward rather than
westward; yet in 1880 it was found to be near Cincinnati, and the new
census about to be taken will show another stride to the westward. That
which was the body has come to be only the rich fringe of the nation's
robe. But our growth has not been limited to territory, population and
aggregate wealth, marvelous as it has been in each of those directions.
The masses of our people are better fed, clothed, and housed than their
fathers were. The facilities for popular education have been vastly
enlarged and more generally diffused.

The virtues of courage and patriotism have given recent proof of their
continued presence and increasing power in the hearts and over the
lives of our people. The influences of religion have been multiplied and
strengthened. The sweet offices of charity have greatly increased. The
virtue of temperance is held in higher estimation. We have not attained
an ideal condition. Not all of our people are happy and prosperous;
not all of them are virtuous and law-abiding. But on the whole the
opportunities offered to the individual to secure the comforts of life
are better than are found elsewhere and largely better than they were
here one hundred years ago.

The surrender of a large measure of sovereignty to the General
Government, effected by the adoption of the Constitution, was not
accomplished until the suggestions of reason were strongly reenforced
by the more imperative voice of experience. The divergent interests
of peace speedily demanded a "more perfect union." The merchant,
the shipmaster, and the manufacturer discovered and disclosed to our
statesmen and to the people that commercial emancipation must be added
to the political freedom which had been so bravely won. The commercial
policy of the mother country had not relaxed any of its hard and
oppressive features. To hold in check the development of our
commercial marine, to prevent or retard the establishment and growth
of manufactures in the States, and so to secure the American market for
their shops and the carrying trade for their ships, was the policy of
European statesmen, and was pursued with the most selfish vigor.

Petitions poured in upon Congress urging the imposition of
discriminating duties that should encourage the production of needed
things at home. The patriotism of the people, which no longer found
afield of exercise in war, was energetically directed to the duty of
equipping the young Republic for the defense of its independence by
making its people self-dependent. Societies for the promotion of home
manufactures and for encouraging the use of domestics in the dress of
the people were organized in many of the States. The revival at the end
of the century of the same patriotic interest in the preservation and
development of domestic industries and the defense of our working
people against injurious foreign competition is an incident worthy of
attention. It is not a departure but a return that we have witnessed.
The protective policy had then its opponents. The argument was made, as
now, that its benefits inured to particular classes or sections.

If the question became in any sense or at any time sectional, it was
only because slavery existed in some of the States. But for this there
was no reason why the cotton-producing States should not have led or
walked abreast with the New England States in the production of cotton
fabrics. There was this reason only why the States that divide with
Pennsylvania the mineral treasures of the great southeastern and central
mountain ranges should have been so tardy in bringing to the smelting
furnace and to the mill the coal and iron from their near opposing
hillsides. Mill fires were lighted at the funeral pile of slavery. The
emancipation proclamation was heard in the depths of the earth as well
as in the sky; men were made free, and material things became our better

The sectional element has happily been eliminated from the tariff
discussion. We have no longer States that are necessarily only planting
States. None are excluded from achieving that diversification of
pursuits among the people which brings wealth and contentment. The
cotton plantation will not be less valuable when the product is spun in
the country town by operatives whose necessities call for diversified
crops and create a home demand for garden and agricultural products.
Every new mine, furnace, and factory is an extension of the productive
capacity of the State more real and valuable than added territory.

Shall the prejudices and paralysis of slavery continue to hang upon
the skirts of progress? How long will those who rejoice that slavery
no longer exists cherish or tolerate the incapacities it put upon their
communities? I look hopefully to the continuance of our protective
system and to the consequent development of manufacturing and mining
enterprises in the States hitherto wholly given to agriculture as a
potent influence in the perfect unification of our people. The men who
have invested their capital in these enterprises, the farmers who have
felt the benefit of their neighborhood, and the men who work in shop or
field will not fail to find and to defend a community of interest.

Is it not quite possible that the farmers and the promoters of the
great mining and manufacturing enterprises which have recently been
established in the South may yet find that the free ballot of the
workingman, without distinction of race, is needed for their defense as
well as for his own? I do not doubt that if those men in the South who
now accept the tariff views of Clay and the constitutional expositions
of Webster would courageously avow and defend their real convictions
they would not find it difficult, by friendly instruction and
cooperation, to make the black man their efficient and safe ally, not
only in establishing correct principles in our national administration,
but in preserving for their local communities the benefits of social
order and economical and honest government. At least until the good
offices of kindness and education have been fairly tried the contrary
conclusion can not be plausibly urged.

I have altogether rejected the suggestion of a special Executive policy
for any section of our country. It is the duty of the Executive to
administer and enforce in the methods and by the instrumentalities
pointed out and provided by the Constitution all the laws enacted by
Congress. These laws are general and their administration should be
uniform and equal. As a citizen may not elect what laws he will obey,
neither may the Executive eject which he will enforce. The duty to obey
and to execute embraces the Constitution in its entirety and the
whole code of laws enacted under it. The evil example of permitting
individuals, corporations, or communities to nullify the laws because
they cross some selfish or local interest or prejudices is full of
danger, not only to the nation at large, but much more to those who use
this pernicious expedient to escape their just obligations or to obtain
an unjust advantage over others. They will presently themselves be
compelled to appeal to the law for protection, and those who would use
the law as a defense must not deny that use of it to others.

If our great corporations would more scrupulously observe their legal
limitations and duties, they would have less cause to complain of the
unlawful limitations of their rights or of violent interference with
their operations. The community that by concert, open or secret, among
its citizens denies to a portion of its members their plain rights under
the law has severed the only safe bond of social order and prosperity.
The evil works from a bad center both ways. It demoralizes those who
practice it and destroys the faith of those who suffer by it in the
efficiency of the law as a safe protector. The man in whose breast
that faith has been darkened is naturally the subject of dangerous and
uncanny suggestions. Those who use unlawful methods, if moved by no
higher motive than the selfishness that prompted them, may well stop and
inquire what is to be the end of this.

An unlawful expedient can not become a permanent condition of
government. If the educated and influential classes in a community
either practice or connive at the systematic violation of laws that seem
to them to cross their convenience, what can they expect when the lesson
that convenience or a supposed class interest is a sufficient cause for
lawlessness has been well learned by the ignorant classes? A community
where law is the rule of conduct and where courts, not mobs, execute
its penalties is the only attractive field for business investments and
honest labor.

Our naturalization laws should be so amended as to make the inquiry into
the character and good disposition of persons applying for citizenship
more careful and searching. Our existing laws have been in their
administration an unimpressive and often an unintelligible form. We
accept the man as a citizen without any knowledge of his fitness, and he
assumes the duties of citizenship without any knowledge as to what they
are. The privileges of American citizenship are so great and its duties
so grave that we may well insist upon a good knowledge of every
person applying for citizenship and a good knowledge by him of our
institutions. We should not cease to be hospitable to immigration, but
we should cease to be careless as to the character of it. There are men
of all races, even the best, whose coming is necessarily a burden
upon our public revenues or a threat to social order. These should be
identified and excluded.

We have happily maintained a policy of avoiding all interference with
European affairs. We have been only interested spectators of their
contentions in diplomacy and in war, ready to use our friendly offices
to promote peace, but never obtruding our advice and never attempting
unfairly to coin the distresses of other powers into commercial
advantage to ourselves. We have a just right to expect that our European
policy will be the American policy of European courts.

It is so manifestly incompatible with those precautions for our peace
and safety which all the great powers habitually observe and enforce in
matters affecting them that a shorter waterway between our eastern and
western seaboards should be dominated by any European Government that
we may confidently expect that such a purpose will not be entertained by
any friendly power.

We shall in the future, as in the past, use every endeavor to maintain
and enlarge our friendly relations with all the great powers, but they
will not expect us to look kindly upon any project that would leave us
subject to the dangers of a hostile observation or environment. We have
not sought to dominate or to absorb any of our weaker neighbors,
but rather to aid and encourage them to establish free and stable
governments resting upon the consent of their own people. We have a
clear right to expect, therefore, that no European Government will
seek to establish colonial dependencies upon the territory of these
independent American States. That which a sense of justice restrains us
from seeking they may be reasonably expected willingly to forego.

It must not be assumed, however, that our interests are so exclusively
American that our entire inattention to any events that may transpire
elsewhere can be taken for granted. Our citizens domiciled for purposes
of trade in all countries and in many of the islands of the sea demand
and will have our adequate care in their personal and commercial rights.
The necessities of our Navy require convenient coaling stations and dock
and harbor privileges. These and other trading privileges we will
feel free to obtain only by means that do not in any degree partake
of coercion, however feeble the government from which we ask such
concessions. But having fairly obtained them by methods and for purposes
entirely consistent with the most friendly disposition toward all other
powers, our consent will be necessary to any modification or impairment
of the concession.

We shall neither fail to respect the flag of any friendly nation or the
just rights of its citizens, nor to exact the like treatment for our
own. Calmness, justice, and consideration should characterize our
diplomacy. The offices of an intelligent diplomacy or of friendly
arbitration in proper cases should be adequate to the peaceful
adjustment of all international difficulties. By such methods we will
make our contribution to the world's peace, which no nation values more
highly, and avoid the opprobrium which must fall upon the nation that
ruthlessly breaks it.

The duty devolved by law upon the President to nominate and, by and with
the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint all public officers
whose appointment is not otherwise provided for in the Constitution or
by act of Congress has become very burdensome and its wise and efficient
discharge full of difficulty. The civil list is so large that a personal
knowledge of any large number of the applicants is impossible. The
President must rely upon the representations of others, and these are
often made inconsiderately and without any just sense of responsibility.
I have a right, I think, to insist that those who volunteer or are
invited to give advice as to appointments shall exercise consideration
and fidelity. A high sense of duty and an ambition to improve the
service should characterize all public officers.

There are many ways in which the convenience and comfort of those who
have business with our public offices may be promoted by a thoughtful
and obliging officer, and I shall expect those whom I may appoint to
justify their selection by a conspicuous efficiency in the discharge of
their duties. Honorable party service will certainly not be esteemed
by me a disqualification for public office, but it will in no case be
allowed to serve as a shield of official negligence, incompetency, or
delinquency. It is entirely creditable to seek public office by proper
methods and with proper motives, and all applicants will be treated with
consideration; but I shall need, and the heads of Departments will need,
time for inquiry and deliberation. Persistent importunity will not,
therefore, be the best support of an application for office. Heads of
Departments, bureaus, and all other public officers having any duty
connected therewith will be expected to enforce the civil-service
law fully and without evasion. Beyond this obvious duty I hope to do
something more to advance the reform of the civil service. The ideal,
or even my own ideal, I shall probably not attain. Retrospect will be a
safer basis of judgment than promises. We shall not, however, I am sure,
be able to put our civil service upon a nonpartisan basis until we
have secured an incumbency that fair-minded men of the opposition will
approve for impartiality and integrity. As the number of such in the
civil list is increased removals from office will diminish.

While a Treasury surplus is not the greatest evil, it is a serious evil.
Our revenue should be ample to meet the ordinary annual demands upon our
Treasury, with a sufficient margin for those extraordinary but scarcely
less imperative demands which arise now and then. Expenditure
should always be made with economy and only upon public necessity.
Wastefulness, profligacy, or favoritism in public expenditures is
criminal. But there is nothing in the condition of our country or of
our people to suggest that anything presently necessary to the public
prosperity, security, or honor should be unduly postponed.

It will be the duty of Congress wisely to forecast and estimate
these extraordinary demands, and, having added them to our ordinary
expenditures, to so adjust our revenue laws that no considerable
annual surplus will remain. We will fortunately be able to apply to
the redemption of the public debt any small and unforeseen excess of
revenue. This is better than to reduce our income below our necessary
expenditures, with the resulting choice between another change of our
revenue laws and an increase of the public debt. It is quite possible,
I am sure, to effect the necessary reduction in our revenues without
breaking down our protective tariff or seriously injuring any domestic

The construction of a sufficient number of modern war ships and of their
necessary armament should progress as rapidly as is consistent with care
and perfection in plans and workmanship. The spirit, courage, and skill
of our naval officers and seamen have many times in our history given
to weak ships and inefficient guns a rating greatly beyond that of the
naval list. That they will again do so upon occasion I do not doubt; but
they ought not, by premeditation or neglect, to be left to the risks and
exigencies of an unequal combat. We should encourage the establishment
of American steamship lines. The exchanges of commerce demand stated,
reliable, and rapid means of communication, and until these are provided
the development of our trade with the States lying south of us is

Our pension laws should give more adequate and discriminating relief
to the Union soldiers and sailors and to their widows and orphans. Such
occasions as this should remind us that we owe everything to their valor
and sacrifice.

It is a subject of congratulation that there is a near prospect of
the admission into the Union of the Dakotas and Montana and Washington
Territories. This act of justice has been unreasonably delayed in the
case of some of them. The people who have settled these Territories are
intelligent, enterprising, and patriotic, and the accession these new
States will add strength to the nation. It is due to the settlers in the
Territories who have availed themselves of the invitations of our land
laws to make homes upon the public domain that their titles should be
speedily adjusted and their honest entries confirmed by patent.

It is very gratifying to observe the general interest now being
manifested in the reform of our election laws. Those who have been for
years calling attention to the pressing necessity of throwing about the
ballot box and about the elector further safeguards, in order that our
elections might not only be free and pure, but might clearly appear to
be so, will welcome the accession of any who did not so soon discover
the need of reform. The National Congress has not as yet taken
control of elections in that case over which the Constitution gives
it jurisdiction, but has accepted and adopted the election laws of the
several States, provided penalties for their violation and a method
of supervision. Only the inefficiency of the State laws or an unfair
partisan administration of them could suggest a departure from this

It was clearly, however, in the contemplation of the framers of the
Constitution that such an exigency might arise, and provision was wisely
made for it. The freedom of the ballot is a condition of our national
life, and no power vested in Congress or in the Executive to secure or
perpetuate it should remain unused upon occasion. The people of all the
Congressional districts have an equal interest that the election in each
shall truly express the views and wishes of a majority of the qualified
electors residing within it. The results of such elections are not
local, and the insistence of electors residing in other districts that
they shall be pure and free does not savor at all of impertinence.

If in any of the States the public security is thought to be threatened
by ignorance among the electors, the obvious remedy is education. The
sympathy and help of our people will not be withheld from any community
struggling with special embarrassments or difficulties connected with
the suffrage if the remedies proposed proceed upon lawful lines and are
promoted by just and honorable methods. How shall those who practice
election frauds recover that respect for the sanctity of the ballot
which is the first condition and obligation of good citizenship? The man
who has come to regard the ballot box as a juggler's hat has renounced
his allegiance.

Let us exalt patriotism and moderate our party contentions. Let those
who would die for the flag on the field of battle give a better proof
of their patriotism and a higher glory to their country by promoting
fraternity and justice. A party success that is achieved by unfair
methods or by practices that partake of revolution is hurtful and
evanescent even from a party standpoint. We should hold our differing
opinions in mutual respect, and, having submitted them to the
arbitrament of the ballot, should accept an adverse judgment with
the same respect that we would have demanded of our opponents if the
decision had been in our favor.

No other people have a government more worthy of their respect and love
or a land so magnificent in extent, so pleasant to look upon, and so
full of generous suggestion to enterprise and labor. God has placed
upon our head a diadem and has laid at our feet power and wealth beyond
definition or calculation. But we must not forget that we take these
gifts upon the condition that justice and mercy shall hold the reins
of power and that the upward avenues of hope shall be free to all the

I do not mistrust the future. Dangers have been in frequent ambush along
our path, but we have uncovered and vanquished them all. Passion has
swept some of our communities, but only to give us a new demonstration
that the great body of our people are stable, patriotic, and
law-abiding. No political party can long pursue advantage at the expense
of public honor or by rude and indecent methods without protest and
fatal disaffection in its own body. The peaceful agencies of commerce
are more fully revealing the necessary unity of all our communities, and
the increasing intercourse of our people is promoting mutual respect.
We shall find unalloyed pleasure in the revelation which our next census
will make of the swift development of the great resources of some of
the States. Each State will bring its generous contribution to the
great aggregate of the nation's increase. And when the harvests from the
fields, the cattle from the hills, and the ores of the earth shall have
been weighed, counted, and valued, we will turn from them all to crown
with the highest honor the State that has most promoted education,
virtue, justice, and patriotism among its people.


Grover Cleveland Second Inaugural Address Saturday, March 4, 1893

My Fellow-Citizens:

IN obedience of the mandate of my countrymen I am about to dedicate
myself to their service under the sanction of a solemn oath. Deeply
moved by the expression of confidence and personal attachment which has
called me to this service, I am sure my gratitude can make no better
return than the pledge I now give before God and these witnesses of
unreserved and complete devotion to the interests and welfare of those
who have honored me.

I deem it fitting on this occasion, while indicating the opinion I hold
concerning public questions of present importance, to also briefly refer
to the existence of certain conditions and tendencies among our people
which seem to menace the integrity and usefulness of their Government.

While every American citizen must contemplate with the utmost pride and
enthusiasm the growth and expansion of our country, the sufficiency of
our institutions to stand against the rudest shocks of violence, the
wonderful thrift and enterprise of our people, and the demonstrated
superiority of our free government, it behooves us to constantly watch
for every symptom of insidious infirmity that threatens our national

The strong man who in the confidence of sturdy health courts the
sternest activities of life and rejoices in the hardihood of constant
labor may still have lurking near his vitals the unheeded disease that
dooms him to sudden collapse.

It can not be doubted that our stupendous achievements as a people and
our country's robust strength have given rise to heedlessness of those
laws governing our national health which we can no more evade than human
life can escape the laws of God and nature.

Manifestly nothing is more vital to our supremacy as a nation and to the
beneficent purposes of our Government than a sound and stable currency.
Its exposure to degradation should at once arouse to activity the
most enlightened statesmanship, and the danger of depreciation in the
purchasing power of the wages paid to toil should furnish the strongest
incentive to prompt and conservative precaution.

In dealing with our present embarrassing situation as related to this
subject we will be wise if we temper our confidence and faith in our
national strength and resources with the frank concession that even
these will not permit us to defy with impunity the inexorable laws
of finance and trade. At the same time, in our efforts to adjust
differences of opinion we should be free from intolerance or passion,
and our judgments should be unmoved by alluring phrases and unvexed by
selfish interests.

I am confident that such an approach to the subject will result in
prudent and effective remedial legislation. In the meantime, so far as
the executive branch of the Government can intervene, none of the powers
with which it is invested will be withheld when their exercise is deemed
necessary to maintain our national credit or avert financial disaster.

Closely related to the exaggerated confidence in our country's greatness
which tends to a disregard of the rules of national safety, another
danger confronts us not less serious. I refer to the prevalence of
a popular disposition to expect from the operation of the Government
especial and direct individual advantages.

The verdict of our voters which condemned the injustice of maintaining
protection for protection's sake enjoins upon the people's servants the
duty of exposing and destroying the brood of kindred evils which are
the unwholesome progeny of paternalism. This is the bane of republican
institutions and the constant peril of our government by the people.
It degrades to the purposes of wily craft the plan of rule our
fathers established and bequeathed to us as an object of our love and
veneration. It perverts the patriotic sentiments of our countrymen and
tempts them to pitiful calculation of the sordid gain to be derived from
their Government's maintenance. It undermines the self-reliance of
our people and substitutes in its place dependence upon governmental
favoritism. It stifles the spirit of true Americanism and stupefies
every ennobling trait of American citizenship.

The lessons of paternalism ought to be unlearned and the better lesson
taught that while the people should patriotically and cheerfully support
their Government its functions do not include the support of the people.

The acceptance of this principle leads to a refusal of bounties and
subsidies, which burden the labor and thrift of a portion of our
citizens to aid ill-advised or languishing enterprises in which they
have no concern. It leads also to a challenge of wild and reckless
pension expenditure, which overleaps the bounds of grateful recognition
of patriotic service and prostitutes to vicious uses the people's prompt
and generous impulse to aid those disabled in their country's defense.

Every thoughtful American must realize the importance of checking at its
beginning any tendency in public or private station to regard frugality
and economy as virtues which we may safely outgrow. The toleration of
this idea results in the waste of the people's money by their chosen
servants and encourages prodigality and extravagance in the home life of
our countrymen.

Under our scheme of government the waste of public money is a crime
against the citizen, and the contempt of our people for economy and
frugality in their personal affairs deplorably saps the strength and
sturdiness of our national character.

It is a plain dictate of honesty and good government that public
expenditures should be limited by public necessity, and that this should
be measured by the rules of strict economy; and it is equally clear
that frugality among the people is the best guaranty of a contented and
strong support of free institutions.

One mode of the misappropriation of public funds is avoided when
appointments to office, instead of being the rewards of partisan
activity, are awarded to those whose efficiency promises a fair return
of work for the compensation paid to them. To secure the fitness and
competency of appointees to office and remove from political action the
demoralizing madness for spoils, civil-service reform has found a place
in our public policy and laws. The benefits already gained through this
instrumentality and the further usefulness it promises entitle it to
the hearty support and encouragement of all who desire to see our
public service well performed or who hope for the elevation of political
sentiment and the purification of political methods.

The existence of immense aggregations of kindred enterprises and
combinations of business interests formed for the purpose of limiting
production and fixing prices is inconsistent with the fair field which
ought to be open to every independent activity. Legitimate strife in
business should not be superseded by an enforced concession to the
demands of combinations that have the power to destroy, nor should the
people to be served lose the benefit of cheapness which usually
results from wholesome competition. These aggregations and combinations
frequently constitute conspiracies against the interests of the people,
and in all their phases they are unnatural and opposed to our American
sense of fairness. To the extent that they can be reached and restrained
by Federal power the General Government should relieve our citizens from
their interference and exactions.

Loyalty to the principles upon which our Government rests positively
demands that the equality before the law which it guarantees to every
citizen should be justly and in good faith conceded in all parts of
the land. The enjoyment of this right follows the badge of citizenship
wherever found, and, unimpaired by race or color, it appeals for
recognition to American manliness and fairness.

Our relations with the Indians located within our border impose upon us
responsibilities we can not escape. Humanity and consistency require us
to treat them with forbearance and in our dealings with them to honestly
and considerately regard their rights and interests. Every effort should
be made to lead them, through the paths of civilization and education,
to self-supporting and independent citizenship. In the meantime, as the
nation's wards, they should be promptly defended against the cupidity
of designing men and shielded from every influence or temptation that
retards their advancement.

The people of the United States have decreed that on this day the
control of their Government in its legislative and executive branches
shall be given to a political party pledged in the most positive terms
to the accomplishment of tariff reform. They have thus determined in
favor of a more just and equitable system of Federal taxation. The
agents they have chosen to carry out their purposes are bound by
their promises not less than by the command of their masters to devote
themselves unremittingly to this service.

While there should be no surrender of principle, our task must be
undertaken wisely and without heedless vindictiveness. Our mission is
not punishment, but the rectification of wrong. If in lifting burdens
from the daily life of our people we reduce inordinate and unequal
advantages too long enjoyed, this is but a necessary incident of
our return to right and justice. If we exact from unwilling minds
acquiescence in the theory of an honest distribution of the fund of
the governmental beneficence treasured up for all, we but insist upon a
principle which underlies our free institutions. When we tear aside the
delusions and misconceptions which have blinded our countrymen to their
condition under vicious tariff laws, we but show them how far they have
been led away from the paths of contentment and prosperity. When we
proclaim that the necessity for revenue to support the Government
furnishes the only justification for taxing the people, we announce
a truth so plain that its denial would seem to indicate the extent to
which judgment may be influenced by familiarity with perversions of
the taxing power. And when we seek to reinstate the self-confidence and
business enterprise of our citizens by discrediting an abject dependence
upon governmental favor, we strive to stimulate those elements of
American character which support the hope of American achievement.

Anxiety for the redemption of the pledges which my party has made and
solicitude for the complete justification of the trust the people have
reposed in us constrain me to remind those with whom I am to cooperate
that we can succeed in doing the work which has been especially set
before us only by the most sincere, harmonious, and disinterested
effort. Even if insuperable obstacles and opposition prevent the
consummation of our task, we shall hardly be excused; and if failure can
be traced to our fault or neglect we may be sure the people will hold us
to a swift and exacting accountability.

The oath I now take to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of
the United States not only impressively defines the great responsibility
I assume, but suggests obedience to constitutional commands as the rule
by which my official conduct must be guided. I shall to the best of
my ability and within my sphere of duty preserve the Constitution
by loyally protecting every grant of Federal power it contains,
by defending all its restraints when attacked by impatience and
restlessness, and by enforcing its limitations and reservations in favor
of the States and the people.

Fully impressed with the gravity of the duties that confront me and
mindful of my weakness, I should be appalled if it were my lot to bear
unaided the responsibilities which await me. I am, however, saved from
discouragement when I remember that I shall have the support and the
counsel and cooperation of wise and patriotic men who will stand at my
side in Cabinet places or will represent the people in their legislative

I find also much comfort in remembering that my countrymen are just and
generous and in the assurance that they will not condemn those who
by sincere devotion to their service deserve their forbearance and

Above all, I know there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men
and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people,
and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek
His powerful aid.


William McKinley First Inaugural Address Thursday, March 4, 1897


IN obedience to the will of the people, and in their presence, by
the authority vested in me by this oath, I assume the arduous and
responsible duties of President of the United States, relying upon the
support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our
faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our
fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every
national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His
commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.

The responsibilities of the high trust to which I have been
called--always of grave importance--are augmented by the prevailing
business conditions entailing idleness upon willing labor and loss
to useful enterprises. The country is suffering from industrial
disturbances from which speedy relief must be had. Our financial system
needs some revision; our money is all good now, but its value must not
further be threatened. It should all be put upon an enduring basis,
not subject to easy attack, nor its stability to doubt or dispute. Our
currency should continue under the supervision of the Government. The
several forms of our paper money offer, in my judgment, a constant
embarrassment to the Government and a safe balance in the Treasury.
Therefore I believe it necessary to devise a system which, without
diminishing the circulating medium or offering a premium for its
contraction, will present a remedy for those arrangements which,
temporary in their nature, might well in the years of our prosperity
have been displaced by wiser provisions. With adequate revenue secured,
but not until then, we can enter upon such changes in our fiscal laws
as will, while insuring safety and volume to our money, no longer
impose upon the Government the necessity of maintaining so large a gold
reserve, with its attendant and inevitable temptations to speculation.
Most of our financial laws are the outgrowth of experience and trial,
and should not be amended without investigation and demonstration of the
wisdom of the proposed changes. We must be both "sure we are right" and
"make haste slowly." If, therefore, Congress, in its wisdom, shall deem
it expedient to create a commission to take under early consideration
the revision of our coinage, banking and currency laws, and give them
that exhaustive, careful and dispassionate examination that their
importance demands, I shall cordially concur in such action. If
such power is vested in the President, it is my purpose to appoint a
commission of prominent, well-informed citizens of different parties,
who will command public confidence, both on account of their ability and
special fitness for the work. Business experience and public training
may thus be combined, and the patriotic zeal of the friends of the
country be so directed that such a report will be made as to receive the
support of all parties, and our finances cease to be the subject of mere
partisan contention. The experiment is, at all events, worth a trial,
and, in my opinion, it can but prove beneficial to the entire country.

The question of international bimetallism will have early and earnest
attention. It will be my constant endeavor to secure it by co-operation
with the other great commercial powers of the world. Until that
condition is realized when the parity between our gold and silver money
springs from and is supported by the relative value of the two metals,
the value of the silver already coined and of that which may hereafter
be coined, must be kept constantly at par with gold by every resource
at our command. The credit of the Government, the integrity of its
currency, and the inviolability of its obligations must be preserved.
This was the commanding verdict of the people, and it will not be

Economy is demanded in every branch of the Government at all times, but
especially in periods, like the present, of depression in business and
distress among the people. The severest economy must be observed in all
public expenditures, and extravagance stopped wherever it is found, and
prevented wherever in the future it may be developed. If the revenues
are to remain as now, the only relief that can come must be from
decreased expenditures. But the present must not become the permanent
condition of the Government. It has been our uniform practice to retire,
not increase our outstanding obligations, and this policy must again
be resumed and vigorously enforced. Our revenues should always be large
enough to meet with ease and promptness not only our current needs and
the principal and interest of the public debt, but to make proper and
liberal provision for that most deserving body of public creditors, the
soldiers and sailors and the widows and orphans who are the pensioners
of the United States.

The Government should not be permitted to run behind or increase its
debt in times like the present. Suitably to provide against this is the
mandate of duty--the certain and easy remedy for most of our financial
difficulties. A deficiency is inevitable so long as the expenditures of
the Government exceed its receipts. It can only be met by loans or an
increased revenue. While a large annual surplus of revenue may invite
waste and extravagance, inadequate revenue creates distrust and
undermines public and private credit. Neither should be encouraged.
Between more loans and more revenue there ought to be but one opinion.
We should have more revenue, and that without delay, hindrance, or
postponement. A surplus in the Treasury created by loans is not a
permanent or safe reliance. It will suffice while it lasts, but it can
not last long while the outlays of the Government are greater than its
receipts, as has been the case during the past two years. Nor must it
be forgotten that however much such loans may temporarily relieve
the situation, the Government is still indebted for the amount of the
surplus thus accrued, which it must ultimately pay, while its ability to
pay is not strengthened, but weakened by a continued deficit. Loans
are imperative in great emergencies to preserve the Government or its
credit, but a failure to supply needed revenue in time of peace for the
maintenance of either has no justification.

The best way for the Government to maintain its credit is to pay as it
goes--not by resorting to loans, but by keeping out of debt--through an
adequate income secured by a system of taxation, external or internal,
or both. It is the settled policy of the Government, pursued from the
beginning and practiced by all parties and Administrations, to raise
the bulk of our revenue from taxes upon foreign productions entering the
United States for sale and consumption, and avoiding, for the most part,
every form of direct taxation, except in time of war. The country is
clearly opposed to any needless additions to the subject of internal
taxation, and is committed by its latest popular utterance to the system
of tariff taxation. There can be no misunderstanding, either, about the
principle upon which this tariff taxation shall be levied. Nothing has
ever been made plainer at a general election than that the controlling
principle in the raising of revenue from duties on imports is zealous
care for American interests and American labor. The people have declared
that such legislation should be had as will give ample protection and
encouragement to the industries and the development of our country. It
is, therefore, earnestly hoped and expected that Congress will, at the
earliest practicable moment, enact revenue legislation that shall be
fair, reasonable, conservative, and just, and which, while supplying
sufficient revenue for public purposes, will still be signally
beneficial and helpful to every section and every enterprise of the
people. To this policy we are all, of whatever party, firmly bound
by the voice of the people--a power vastly more potential than the
expression of any political platform. The paramount duty of Congress is
to stop deficiencies by the restoration of that protective legislation
which has always been the firmest prop of the Treasury. The passage of
such a law or laws would strengthen the credit of the Government both
at home and abroad, and go far toward stopping the drain upon the gold
reserve held for the redemption of our currency, which has been heavy
and well-nigh constant for several years.

In the revision of the tariff especial attention should be given to the
re-enactment and extension of the reciprocity principle of the law of
1890, under which so great a stimulus was given to our foreign trade
in new and advantageous markets for our surplus agricultural and
manufactured products. The brief trial given this legislation amply
justifies a further experiment and additional discretionary power in the
making of commercial treaties, the end in view always to be the
opening up of new markets for the products of our country, by granting
concessions to the products of other lands that we need and cannot
produce ourselves, and which do not involve any loss of labor to our own
people, but tend to increase their employment.

The depression of the past four years has fallen with especial severity
upon the great body of toilers of the country, and upon none more
than the holders of small farms. Agriculture has languished and labor
suffered. The revival of manufacturing will be a relief to both. No
portion of our population is more devoted to the institution of free
government nor more loyal in their support, while none bears more
cheerfully or fully its proper share in the maintenance of the
Government or is better entitled to its wise and liberal care and
protection. Legislation helpful to producers is beneficial to all. The
depressed condition of industry on the farm and in the mine and factory
has lessened the ability of the people to meet the demands upon them,
and they rightfully expect that not only a system of revenue shall be
established that will secure the largest income with the least burden,
but that every means will be taken to decrease, rather than increase,
our public expenditures. Business conditions are not the most promising.
It will take time to restore the prosperity of former years. If we
cannot promptly attain it, we can resolutely turn our faces in
that direction and aid its return by friendly legislation. However
troublesome the situation may appear, Congress will not, I am sure,
be found lacking in disposition or ability to relieve it as far as
legislation can do so. The restoration of confidence and the revival of
business, which men of all parties so much desire, depend more largely
upon the prompt, energetic, and intelligent action of Congress than upon
any other single agency affecting the situation.

It is inspiring, too, to remember that no great emergency in the one
hundred and eight years of our eventful national life has ever arisen
that has not been met with wisdom and courage by the American people,
with fidelity to their best interests and highest destiny, and to the
honor of the American name. These years of glorious history have exalted
mankind and advanced the cause of freedom throughout the world, and
immeasurably strengthened the precious free institutions which we enjoy.
The people love and will sustain these institutions. The great essential
to our happiness and prosperity is that we adhere to the principles
upon which the Government was established and insist upon their faithful
observance. Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and
everywhere respected and obeyed. We may have failed in the discharge of
our full duty as citizens of the great Republic, but it is consoling
and encouraging to realize that free speech, a free press, free thought,
free schools, the free and unmolested right of religious liberty and
worship, and free and fair elections are dearer and more universally
enjoyed to-day than ever before. These guaranties must be sacredly
preserved and wisely strengthened. The constituted authorities must be
cheerfully and vigorously upheld. Lynchings must not be tolerated in a
great and civilized country like the United States; courts, not mobs,
must execute the penalties of the law. The preservation of public
order, the right of discussion, the integrity of courts, and the orderly
administration of justice must continue forever the rock of safety upon
which our Government securely rests.

One of the lessons taught by the late election, which all can rejoice
in, is that the citizens of the United States are both law-respecting
and law-abiding people, not easily swerved from the path of patriotism
and honor. This is in entire accord with the genius of our institutions,
and but emphasizes the advantages of inculcating even a greater love
for law and order in the future. Immunity should be granted to none who
violate the laws, whether individuals, corporations, or communities; and
as the Constitution imposes upon the President the duty of both its own
execution, and of the statutes enacted in pursuance of its provisions,
I shall endeavor carefully to carry them into effect. The declaration of
the party now restored to power has been in the past that of "opposition
to all combinations of capital organized in trusts, or otherwise, to
control arbitrarily the condition of trade among our citizens," and it
has supported "such legislation as will prevent the execution of all
schemes to oppress the people by undue charges on their supplies, or by
unjust rates for the transportation of their products to the market."
This purpose will be steadily pursued, both by the enforcement of the
laws now in existence and the recommendation and support of such new
statutes as may be necessary to carry it into effect.

Our naturalization and immigration laws should be further improved to
the constant promotion of a safer, a better, and a higher citizenship.
A grave peril to the Republic would be a citizenship too ignorant to
understand or too vicious to appreciate the great value and beneficence
of our institutions and laws, and against all who come here to make war
upon them our gates must be promptly and tightly closed. Nor must we be
unmindful of the need of improvement among our own citizens, but with
the zeal of our forefathers encourage the spread of knowledge and free
education. Illiteracy must be banished from the land if we shall attain
that high destiny as the foremost of the enlightened nations of the
world which, under Providence, we ought to achieve.

Reforms in the civil service must go on; but the changes should be real
and genuine, not perfunctory, or prompted by a zeal in behalf of any
party simply because it happens to be in power. As a member of Congress
I voted and spoke in favor of the present law, and I shall attempt its
enforcement in the spirit in which it was enacted. The purpose in view
was to secure the most efficient service of the best men who would
accept appointment under the Government, retaining faithful and devoted
public servants in office, but shielding none, under the authority of
any rule or custom, who are inefficient, incompetent, or unworthy.
The best interests of the country demand this, and the people heartily
approve the law wherever and whenever it has been thus administrated.

Congress should give prompt attention to the restoration of our American
merchant marine, once the pride of the seas in all the great ocean
highways of commerce. To my mind, few more important subjects so
imperatively demand its intelligent consideration. The United States
has progressed with marvelous rapidity in every field of enterprise and
endeavor until we have become foremost in nearly all the great lines
of inland trade, commerce, and industry. Yet, while this is true, our
American merchant marine has been steadily declining until it is now
lower, both in the percentage of tonnage and the number of vessels
employed, than it was prior to the Civil War. Commendable progress has
been made of late years in the upbuilding of the American Navy, but we
must supplement these efforts by providing as a proper consort for it a
merchant marine amply sufficient for our own carrying trade to foreign
countries. The question is one that appeals both to our business
necessities and the patriotic aspirations of a great people.

It has been the policy of the United States since the foundation of
the Government to cultivate relations of peace and amity with all the
nations of the world, and this accords with my conception of our duty
now. We have cherished the policy of non-interference with affairs of
foreign governments wisely inaugurated by Washington, keeping ourselves
free from entanglement, either as allies or foes, content to leave
undisturbed with them the settlement of their own domestic concerns.
It will be our aim to pursue a firm and dignified foreign policy, which
shall be just, impartial, ever watchful of our national honor, and
always insisting upon the enforcement of the lawful rights of American
citizens everywhere. Our diplomacy should seek nothing more and accept
nothing less than is due us. We want no wars of conquest; we must avoid
the temptation of territorial aggression. War should never be entered
upon until every agency of peace has failed; peace is preferable to
war in almost every contingency. Arbitration is the true method of
settlement of international as well as local or individual differences.
It was recognized as the best means of adjustment of differences between
employers and employees by the Forty-ninth Congress, in 1886, and its
application was extended to our diplomatic relations by the unanimous
concurrence of the Senate and House of the Fifty-first Congress in 1890.
The latter resolution was accepted as the basis of negotiations with
us by the British House of Commons in 1893, and upon our invitation a
treaty of arbitration between the United States and Great Britain was
signed at Washington and transmitted to the Senate for its ratification
in January last. Since this treaty is clearly the result of our own
initiative; since it has been recognized as the leading feature of our
foreign policy throughout our entire national history--the adjustment of
difficulties by judicial methods rather than force of arms--and since
it presents to the world the glorious example of reason and peace, not
passion and war, controlling the relations between two of the greatest
nations in the world, an example certain to be followed by others, I
respectfully urge the early action of the Senate thereon, not merely as
a matter of policy, but as a duty to mankind. The importance and
moral influence of the ratification of such a treaty can hardly be
overestimated in the cause of advancing civilization. It may well engage
the best thought of the statesmen and people of every country, and I
cannot but consider it fortunate that it was reserved to the United
States to have the leadership in so grand a work.

It has been the uniform practice of each President to avoid, as far as
possible, the convening of Congress in extraordinary session. It is
an example which, under ordinary circumstances and in the absence of
a public necessity, is to be commended. But a failure to convene the
representatives of the people in Congress in extra session when it
involves neglect of a public duty places the responsibility of such
neglect upon the Executive himself. The condition of the public
Treasury, as has been indicated, demands the immediate consideration of
Congress. It alone has the power to provide revenues for the Government.
Not to convene it under such circumstances I can view in no other sense
than the neglect of a plain duty. I do not sympathize with the sentiment
that Congress in session is dangerous to our general business interests.
Its members are the agents of the people, and their presence at the seat
of Government in the execution of the sovereign will should not operate
as an injury, but a benefit. There could be no better time to put the
Government upon a sound financial and economic basis than now. The
people have only recently voted that this should be done, and nothing
is more binding upon the agents of their will than the obligation of
immediate action. It has always seemed to me that the postponement of
the meeting of Congress until more than a year after it has been chosen
deprived Congress too often of the inspiration of the popular will and
the country of the corresponding benefits. It is evident, therefore,
that to postpone action in the presence of so great a necessity would be
unwise on the part of the Executive because unjust to the interests
of the people. Our action now will be freer from mere partisan
consideration than if the question of tariff revision was postponed
until the regular session of Congress. We are nearly two years from a
Congressional election, and politics cannot so greatly distract us as if
such contest was immediately pending. We can approach the problem calmly
and patriotically, without fearing its effect upon an early election.

Our fellow-citizens who may disagree with us upon the character of this
legislation prefer to have the question settled now, even against their
preconceived views, and perhaps settled so reasonably, as I trust and
believe it will be, as to insure great permanence, than to have further
uncertainty menacing the vast and varied business interests of the
United States. Again, whatever action Congress may take will be given a
fair opportunity for trial before the people are called to pass judgment
upon it, and this I consider a great essential to the rightful and
lasting settlement of the question. In view of these considerations, I
shall deem it my duty as President to convene Congress in extraordinary
session on Monday, the 15th day of March, 1897.

In conclusion, I congratulate the country upon the fraternal spirit of
the people and the manifestations of good will everywhere so apparent.
The recent election not only most fortunately demonstrated the
obliteration of sectional or geographical lines, but to some extent also
the prejudices which for years have distracted our councils and marred
our true greatness as a nation. The triumph of the people, whose verdict
is carried into effect today, is not the triumph of one section, nor
wholly of one party, but of all sections and all the people. The North
and the South no longer divide on the old lines, but upon principles and
policies; and in this fact surely every lover of the country can find
cause for true felicitation.

Let us rejoice in and cultivate this spirit; it is ennobling and will
be both a gain and a blessing to our beloved country. It will be my
constant aim to do nothing, and permit nothing to be done, that will
arrest or disturb this growing sentiment of unity and cooperation, this
revival of esteem and affiliation which now animates so many thousands
in both the old antagonistic sections, but I shall cheerfully do
everything possible to promote and increase it.

Let me again repeat the words of the oath administered by the Chief
Justice which, in their respective spheres, so far as applicable, I
would have all my countrymen observe: "I will faithfully execute the
office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my
ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United
States." This is the obligation I have reverently taken before the Lord
Most High. To keep it will be my single purpose, my constant prayer; and
I shall confidently rely upon the forbearance and assistance of all the
people in the discharge of my solemn responsibilities.


William McKinley Second Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1901

My Fellow-Citizens:

WHEN we assembled here on the 4th of March, 1897, there was great
anxiety with regard to our currency and credit. None exists now. Then
our Treasury receipts were inadequate to meet the current obligations
of the Government. Now they are sufficient for all public needs, and we
have a surplus instead of a deficit. Then I felt constrained to convene
the Congress in extraordinary session to devise revenues to pay the
ordinary expenses of the Government. Now I have the satisfaction to
announce that the Congress just closed has reduced taxation in the
sum of $41,000,000. Then there was deep solicitude because of the long
depression in our manufacturing, mining, agricultural, and mercantile
industries and the consequent distress of our laboring population.
Now every avenue of production is crowded with activity, labor is well
employed, and American products find good markets at home and abroad.

Our diversified productions, however, are increasing in such
unprecedented volume as to admonish us of the necessity of still further
enlarging our foreign markets by broader commercial relations. For
this purpose reciprocal trade arrangements with other nations should in
liberal spirit be carefully cultivated and promoted.

The national verdict of 1896 has for the most part been executed.
Whatever remains unfulfilled is a continuing obligation resting with
undiminished force upon the Executive and the Congress. But fortunate as
our condition is, its permanence can only be assured by sound business
methods and strict economy in national administration and legislation.
We should not permit our great prosperity to lead us to reckless
ventures in business or profligacy in public expenditures. While the
Congress determines the objects and the sum of appropriations, the
officials of the executive departments are responsible for honest and
faithful disbursement, and it should be their constant care to avoid
waste and extravagance.

Honesty, capacity, and industry are nowhere more indispensable than in
public employment. These should be fundamental requisites to original
appointment and the surest guaranties against removal.

Four years ago we stood on the brink of war without the people knowing
it and without any preparation or effort at preparation for the
impending peril. I did all that in honor could be done to avert the war,
but without avail. It became inevitable; and the Congress at its first
regular session, without party division, provided money in anticipation
of the crisis and in preparation to meet it. It came. The result was
signally favorable to American arms and in the highest degree honorable
to the Government. It imposed upon us obligations from which we cannot
escape and from which it would be dishonorable to seek escape. We
are now at peace with the world, and it is my fervent prayer that if
differences arise between us and other powers they may be settled by
peaceful arbitration and that hereafter we may be spared the horrors of

Intrusted by the people for a second time with the office of President,
I enter upon its administration appreciating the great responsibilities
which attach to this renewed honor and commission, promising unreserved
devotion on my part to their faithful discharge and reverently invoking
for my guidance the direction and favor of Almighty God. I should
shrink from the duties this day assumed if I did not feel that in their
performance I should have the co-operation of the wise and patriotic
men of all parties. It encourages me for the great task which I now
undertake to believe that those who voluntarily committed to me the
trust imposed upon the Chief Executive of the Republic will give to me
generous support in my duties to "preserve, protect, and defend,
the Constitution of the United States" and to "care that the laws
be faithfully executed." The national purpose is indicated through a
national election. It is the constitutional method of ascertaining
the public will. When once it is registered it is a law to us all, and
faithful observance should follow its decrees.

Strong hearts and helpful hands are needed, and, fortunately, we have
them in every part of our beloved country. We are reunited. Sectionalism
has disappeared. Division on public questions can no longer be traced
by the war maps of 1861. These old differences less and less disturb
the judgment. Existing problems demand the thought and quicken the
conscience of the country, and the responsibility for their presence, as
well as for their righteous settlement, rests upon us all--no more upon
me than upon you. There are some national questions in the solution
of which patriotism should exclude partisanship. Magnifying their
difficulties will not take them off our hands nor facilitate their
adjustment. Distrust of the capacity, integrity, and high purposes of
the American people will not be an inspiring theme for future political
contests. Dark pictures and gloomy forebodings are worse than useless.
These only becloud, they do not help to point the way of safety and
honor. "Hope maketh not ashamed." The prophets of evil were not the
builders of the Republic, nor in its crises since have they saved or
served it. The faith of the fathers was a mighty force in its creation,
and the faith of their descendants has wrought its progress and
furnished its defenders. They are obstructionists who despair, and who
would destroy confidence in the ability of our people to solve wisely
and for civilization the mighty problems resting upon them. The American
people, intrenched in freedom at home, take their love for it with them
wherever they go, and they reject as mistaken and unworthy the doctrine
that we lose our own liberties by securing the enduring foundations of
liberty to others. Our institutions will not deteriorate by extension,
and our sense of justice will not abate under tropic suns in distant
seas. As heretofore, so hereafter will the nation demonstrate its
fitness to administer any new estate which events devolve upon it, and
in the fear of God will "take occasion by the hand and make the bounds
of freedom wider yet." If there are those among us who would make our
way more difficult, we must not be disheartened, but the more earnestly
dedicate ourselves to the task upon which we have rightly entered. The
path of progress is seldom smooth. New things are often found hard to
do. Our fathers found them so. We find them so. They are inconvenient.
They cost us something. But are we not made better for the effort and
sacrifice, and are not those we serve lifted up and blessed?

We will be consoled, too, with the fact that opposition has confronted
every onward movement of the Republic from its opening hour until now,
but without success. The Republic has marched on and on, and its step
has exalted freedom and humanity. We are undergoing the same ordeal as
did our predecessors nearly a century ago. We are following the course
they blazed. They triumphed. Will their successors falter and plead
organic impotency in the nation? Surely after 125 years of achievement
for mankind we will not now surrender our equality with other powers on
matters fundamental and essential to nationality. With no such purpose
was the nation created. In no such spirit has it developed its full and
independent sovereignty. We adhere to the principle of equality
among ourselves, and by no act of ours will we assign to ourselves a
subordinate rank in the family of nations.

My fellow-citizens, the public events of the past four years have gone
into history. They are too near to justify recital. Some of them
were unforeseen; many of them momentous and far-reaching in their
consequences to ourselves and our relations with the rest of the world.
The part which the United States bore so honorably in the thrilling
scenes in China, while new to American life, has been in harmony with
its true spirit and best traditions, and in dealing with the results its
policy will be that of moderation and fairness.

We face at this moment a most important question that of the future
relations of the United States and Cuba. With our near neighbors we must
remain close friends. The declaration of the purposes of this Government
in the resolution of April 20, 1898, must be made good. Ever since the
evacuation of the island by the army of Spain, the Executive, with all
practicable speed, has been assisting its people in the successive steps
necessary to the establishment of a free and independent government
prepared to assume and perform the obligations of international law
which now rest upon the United States under the treaty of Paris. The
convention elected by the people to frame a constitution is approaching
the completion of its labors. The transfer of American control to the
new government is of such great importance, involving an obligation
resulting from our intervention and the treaty of peace, that I am glad
to be advised by the recent act of Congress of the policy which the
legislative branch of the Government deems essential to the best
interests of Cuba and the United States. The principles which led to
our intervention require that the fundamental law upon which the new
government rests should be adapted to secure a government capable
of performing the duties and discharging the functions of a separate
nation, of observing its international obligations of protecting life
and property, insuring order, safety, and liberty, and conforming to the
established and historical policy of the United States in its relation
to Cuba.

The peace which we are pledged to leave to the Cuban people must
carry with it the guaranties of permanence. We became sponsors for the
pacification of the island, and we remain accountable to the Cubans, no
less than to our own country and people, for the reconstruction of
Cuba as a free commonwealth on abiding foundations of right, justice,
liberty, and assured order. Our enfranchisement of the people will not
be completed until free Cuba shall "be a reality, not a name; a perfect
entity, not a hasty experiment bearing within itself the elements of

While the treaty of peace with Spain was ratified on the 6th of
February, 1899, and ratifications were exchanged nearly two years ago,
the Congress has indicated no form of government for the Philippine
Islands. It has, however, provided an army to enable the Executive to
suppress insurrection, restore peace, give security to the inhabitants,
and establish the authority of the United States throughout the
archipelago. It has authorized the organization of native troops as
auxiliary to the regular force. It has been advised from time to time of
the acts of the military and naval officers in the islands, of my action
in appointing civil commissions, of the instructions with which they
were charged, of their duties and powers, of their recommendations, and
of their several acts under executive commission, together with the very
complete general information they have submitted. These reports fully
set forth the conditions, past and present, in the islands, and the
instructions clearly show the principles which will guide the Executive
until the Congress shall, as it is required to do by the treaty,
determine "the civil rights and political status of the native
inhabitants." The Congress having added the sanction of its authority
to the powers already possessed and exercised by the Executive under the
Constitution, thereby leaving with the Executive the responsibility for
the government of the Philippines, I shall continue the efforts already
begun until order shall be restored throughout the islands, and as fast
as conditions permit will establish local governments, in the formation
of which the full co-operation of the people has been already invited,
and when established will encourage the people to administer them. The
settled purpose, long ago proclaimed, to afford the inhabitants of
the islands self-government as fast as they were ready for it will
be pursued with earnestness and fidelity. Already something has been
accomplished in this direction. The Government's representatives, civil
and military, are doing faithful and noble work in their mission of
emancipation and merit the approval and support of their countrymen.
The most liberal terms of amnesty have already been communicated to the
insurgents, and the way is still open for those who have raised their
arms against the Government for honorable submission to its authority.
Our countrymen should not be deceived. We are not waging war against the
inhabitants of the Philippine Islands. A portion of them are making war
against the United States. By far the greater part of the inhabitants
recognize American sovereignty and welcome it as a guaranty of order and
of security for life, property, liberty, freedom of conscience, and the
pursuit of happiness. To them full protection will be given. They shall
not be abandoned. We will not leave the destiny of the loyal millions
the islands to the disloyal thousands who are in rebellion against the
United States. Order under civil institutions will come as soon as those
who now break the peace shall keep it. Force will not be needed or used
when those who make war against us shall make it no more. May it end
without further bloodshed, and there be ushered in the reign of peace to
be made permanent by a government of liberty under law!


Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Address Saturday, March 4, 1905

MY fellow-citizens, no people on earth have more cause to be thankful
than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness
in our own strength, but with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has
blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us to achieve so large
a measure of well-being and of happiness. To us as a people it has been
granted to lay the foundations of our national life in a new continent.
We are the heirs of the ages, and yet we have had to pay few of the
penalties which in old countries are exacted by the dead hand of a
bygone civilization. We have not been obliged to fight for our existence
against any alien race; and yet our life has called for the vigor and
effort without which the manlier and hardier virtues wither away. Under
such conditions it would be our own fault if we failed; and the success
which we have had in the past, the success which we confidently believe
the future will bring, should cause in us no feeling of vainglory, but
rather a deep and abiding realization of all which life has offered us;
a full acknowledgment of the responsibility which is ours; and a fixed
determination to show that under a free government a mighty people can
thrive best, alike as regards the things of the body and the things of
the soul.

Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We
have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither.
We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into
relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as
beseems a people with such responsibilities. Toward all other nations,
large and small, our attitude must be one of cordial and sincere
friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that
we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward
them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights.
But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most
when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever careful to
refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are
not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice,
the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and
not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly
should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be
able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.

Our relations with the other powers of the world are important; but
still more important are our relations among ourselves. Such growth in
wealth, in population, and in power as this nation has seen during the
century and a quarter of its national life is inevitably accompanied by
a like growth in the problems which are ever before every nation that
rises to greatness. Power invariably means both responsibility and
danger. Our forefathers faced certain perils which we have outgrown.
We now face other perils, the very existence of which it was impossible
that they should foresee. Modern life is both complex and intense,
and the tremendous changes wrought by the extraordinary industrial
development of the last half century are felt in every fiber of our
social and political being. Never before have men tried so vast and
formidable an experiment as that of administering the affairs of a
continent under the forms of a Democratic republic. The conditions which
have told for our marvelous material well-being, which have developed to
a very high degree our energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative,
have also brought the care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation
of great wealth in industrial centers. Upon the success of our
experiment much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but
as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free
self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and
therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it
is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn. There is no good reason
why we should fear the future, but there is every reason why we should
face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the
problems before us nor fearing to approach these problems with the
unbending, unflinching purpose to solve them aright.

Yet, after all, though the problems are new, though the tasks set
before us differ from the tasks set before our fathers who founded
and preserved this Republic, the spirit in which these tasks must be
undertaken and these problems faced, if our duty is to be well
done, remains essentially unchanged. We know that self-government is
difficult. We know that no people needs such high traits of character as
that people which seeks to govern its affairs aright through the freely
expressed will of the freemen who compose it. But we have faith that
we shall not prove false to the memories of the men of the mighty past.
They did their work, they left us the splendid heritage we now enjoy.
We in our turn have an assured confidence that we shall be able to leave
this heritage unwasted and enlarged to our children and our children's
children. To do so we must show, not merely in great crises, but in the
everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence,
of courage, of hardihood, and endurance, and above all the power of
devotion to a lofty ideal, which made great the men who founded this
Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who
preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln.


William Howard Taft Inaugural Address Thursday, March 4, 1909

My Fellow-Citizens:

ANYONE who has taken the oath I have just taken must feel a heavy weight
of responsibility. If not, he has no conception of the powers and duties
of the office upon which he is about to enter, or he is lacking in a
proper sense of the obligation which the oath imposes.

The office of an inaugural address is to give a summary outline of
the main policies of the new administration, so far as they can be
anticipated. I have had the honor to be one of the advisers of my
distinguished predecessor, and, as such, to hold up his hands in the
reforms he has initiated. I should be untrue to myself, to my promises,
and to the declarations of the party platform upon which I was elected
to office, if I did not make the maintenance and enforcement of those
reforms a most important feature of my administration. They were
directed to the suppression of the lawlessness and abuses of power
of the great combinations of capital invested in railroads and in
industrial enterprises carrying on interstate commerce. The steps which
my predecessor took and the legislation passed on his recommendation
have accomplished much, have caused a general halt in the vicious
policies which created popular alarm, and have brought about in the
business affected a much higher regard for existing law.

To render the reforms lasting, however, and to secure at the same time
freedom from alarm on the part of those pursuing proper and progressive
business methods, further legislative and executive action are needed.
Relief of the railroads from certain restrictions of the antitrust law
have been urged by my predecessor and will be urged by me. On the other
hand, the administration is pledged to legislation looking to a proper
federal supervision and restriction to prevent excessive issues of
bonds and stock by companies owning and operating interstate commerce

Then, too, a reorganization of the Department of Justice, of the Bureau
of Corporations in the Department of Commerce and Labor, and of the
Interstate Commerce Commission, looking to effective cooperation of
these agencies, is needed to secure a more rapid and certain enforcement
of the laws affecting interstate railroads and industrial combinations.

I hope to be able to submit at the first regular session of the incoming
Congress, in December next, definite suggestions in respect to the
needed amendments to the antitrust and the interstate commerce law and
the changes required in the executive departments concerned in their

It is believed that with the changes to be recommended American business
can be assured of that measure of stability and certainty in respect
to those things that may be done and those that are prohibited which
is essential to the life and growth of all business. Such a plan must
include the right of the people to avail themselves of those methods
of combining capital and effort deemed necessary to reach the highest
degree of economic efficiency, at the same time differentiating between
combinations based upon legitimate economic reasons and those formed
with the intent of creating monopolies and artificially controlling

The work of formulating into practical shape such changes is creative
word of the highest order, and requires all the deliberation possible in
the interval. I believe that the amendments to be proposed are just as
necessary in the protection of legitimate business as in the clinching
of the reforms which properly bear the name of my predecessor.

A matter of most pressing importance is the revision of the tariff. In
accordance with the promises of the platform upon which I was elected, I
shall call Congress into extra session to meet on the 15th day of March,
in order that consideration may be at once given to a bill revising
the Dingley Act. This should secure an adequate revenue and adjust the
duties in such a manner as to afford to labor and to all industries in
this country, whether of the farm, mine or factory, protection by tariff
equal to the difference between the cost of production abroad and the
cost of production here, and have a provision which shall put into
force, upon executive determination of certain facts, a higher or
maximum tariff against those countries whose trade policy toward us
equitably requires such discrimination. It is thought that there has
been such a change in conditions since the enactment of the Dingley Act,
drafted on a similarly protective principle, that the measure of the
tariff above stated will permit the reduction of rates in certain
schedules and will require the advancement of few, if any.

The proposal to revise the tariff made in such an authoritative way as
to lead the business community to count upon it necessarily halts all
those branches of business directly affected; and as these are most
important, it disturbs the whole business of the country. It is
imperatively necessary, therefore, that a tariff bill be drawn in good
faith in accordance with promises made before the election by the party
in power, and as promptly passed as due consideration will permit. It
is not that the tariff is more important in the long run than the
perfecting of the reforms in respect to antitrust legislation and
interstate commerce regulation, but the need for action when the
revision of the tariff has been determined upon is more immediate to
avoid embarrassment of business. To secure the needed speed in the
passage of the tariff bill, it would seem wise to attempt no other
legislation at the extra session. I venture this as a suggestion only,
for the course to be taken by Congress, upon the call of the Executive,
is wholly within its discretion.

In the mailing of a tariff bill the prime motive is taxation and the
securing thereby of a revenue. Due largely to the business depression
which followed the financial panic of 1907, the revenue from customs and
other sources has decreased to such an extent that the expenditures for
the current fiscal year will exceed the receipts by $100,000,000. It is
imperative that such a deficit shall not continue, and the framers of
the tariff bill must, of course, have in mind the total revenues likely
to be produced by it and so arrange the duties as to secure an adequate
income. Should it be impossible to do so by import duties, new kinds
of taxation must be adopted, and among these I recommend a graduated
inheritance tax as correct in principle and as certain and easy of

The obligation on the part of those responsible for the expenditures
made to carry on the Government, to be as economical as possible, and to
make the burden of taxation as light as possible, is plain, and
should be affirmed in every declaration of government policy. This is
especially true when we are face to face with a heavy deficit. But
when the desire to win the popular approval leads to the cutting off
of expenditures really needed to make the Government effective and to
enable it to accomplish its proper objects, the result is as much to be
condemned as the waste of government funds in unnecessary expenditure.
The scope of a modern government in what it can and ought to accomplish
for its people has been widened far beyond the principles laid down by
the old "laissez faire" school of political writers, and this widening
has met popular approval.

In the Department of Agriculture the use of scientific experiments on
a large scale and the spread of information derived from them for the
improvement of general agriculture must go on.

The importance of supervising business of great railways and industrial
combinations and the necessary investigation and prosecution of unlawful
business methods are another necessary tax upon Government which did not
exist half a century ago.

The putting into force of laws which shall secure the conservation of
our resources, so far as they may be within the jurisdiction of the
Federal Government, including the most important work of saving and
restoring our forests and the great improvement of waterways, are all
proper government functions which must involve large expenditure if
properly performed. While some of them, like the reclamation of arid
lands, are made to pay for themselves, others are of such an indirect
benefit that this cannot be expected of them. A permanent improvement,
like the Panama Canal, should be treated as a distinct enterprise, and
should be paid for by the proceeds of bonds, the issue of which will
distribute its cost between the present and future generations in
accordance with the benefits derived. It may well be submitted to the
serious consideration of Congress whether the deepening and control of
the channel of a great river system, like that of the Ohio or of the
Mississippi, when definite and practical plans for the enterprise have
been approved and determined upon, should not be provided for in the
same way.

Then, too, there are expenditures of Government absolutely necessary
if our country is to maintain its proper place among the nations of the
world, and is to exercise its proper influence in defense of its own
trade interests in the maintenance of traditional American policy
against the colonization of European monarchies in this hemisphere, and
in the promotion of peace and international morality. I refer to
the cost of maintaining a proper army, a proper navy, and suitable
fortifications upon the mainland of the United States and in its

We should have an army so organized and so officered as to be capable
in time of emergency, in cooperation with the national militia and under
the provisions of a proper national volunteer law, rapidly to expand
into a force sufficient to resist all probable invasion from abroad
and to furnish a respectable expeditionary force if necessary in the
maintenance of our traditional American policy which bears the name of
President Monroe.

Our fortifications are yet in a state of only partial completeness, and
the number of men to man them is insufficient. In a few years however,
the usual annual appropriations for our coast defenses, both on the
mainland and in the dependencies, will make them sufficient to resist
all direct attack, and by that time we may hope that the men to man them
will be provided as a necessary adjunct. The distance of our shores from
Europe and Asia of course reduces the necessity for maintaining under
arms a great army, but it does not take away the requirement of
mere prudence--that we should have an army sufficiently large and so
constituted as to form a nucleus out of which a suitable force can
quickly grow.

What has been said of the army may be affirmed in even a more emphatic
way of the navy. A modern navy can not be improvised. It must be built
and in existence when the emergency arises which calls for its use
and operation. My distinguished predecessor has in many speeches and
messages set out with great force and striking language the necessity
for maintaining a strong navy commensurate with the coast line, the
governmental resources, and the foreign trade of our Nation; and I wish
to reiterate all the reasons which he has presented in favor of the
policy of maintaining a strong navy as the best conservator of our
peace with other nations, and the best means of securing respect for the
assertion of our rights, the defense of our interests, and the exercise
of our influence in international matters.

Our international policy is always to promote peace. We shall enter
into any war with a full consciousness of the awful consequences that it
always entails, whether successful or not, and we, of course, shall make
every effort consistent with national honor and the highest national
interest to avoid a resort to arms. We favor every instrumentality, like
that of the Hague Tribunal and arbitration treaties made with a view to
its use in all international controversies, in order to maintain peace
and to avoid war. But we should be blind to existing conditions and
should allow ourselves to become foolish idealists if we did not realize
that, with all the nations of the world armed and prepared for war,
we must be ourselves in a similar condition, in order to prevent other
nations from taking advantage of us and of our inability to defend our
interests and assert our rights with a strong hand.

In the international controversies that are likely to arise in the
Orient growing out of the question of the open door and other issues the
United States can maintain her interests intact and can secure respect
for her just demands. She will not be able to do so, however, if it is
understood that she never intends to back up her assertion of right
and her defense of her interest by anything but mere verbal protest and
diplomatic note. For these reasons the expenses of the army and navy
and of coast defenses should always be considered as something which
the Government must pay for, and they should not be cut off through mere
consideration of economy. Our Government is able to afford a suitable
army and a suitable navy. It may maintain them without the slightest
danger to the Republic or the cause of free institutions, and fear of
additional taxation ought not to change a proper policy in this regard.

The policy of the United States in the Spanish war and since has given
it a position of influence among the nations that it never had before,
and should be constantly exerted to securing to its bona fide citizens,
whether native or naturalized, respect for them as such in foreign
countries. We should make every effort to prevent humiliating and
degrading prohibition against any of our citizens wishing temporarily to
sojourn in foreign countries because of race or religion.

The admission of Asiatic immigrants who cannot be amalgamated with our
population has been made the subject either of prohibitory clauses in
our treaties and statutes or of strict administrative regulation secured
by diplomatic negotiation. I sincerely hope that we may continue
to minimize the evils likely to arise from such immigration without
unnecessary friction and by mutual concessions between self-respecting
governments. Meantime we must take every precaution to prevent, or
failing that, to punish outbursts of race feeling among our people
against foreigners of whatever nationality who have by our grant a
treaty right to pursue lawful business here and to be protected against
lawless assault or injury.

This leads me to point out a serious defect in the present federal
jurisdiction, which ought to be remedied at once. Having assured to
other countries by treaty the protection of our laws for such of their
subjects or citizens as we permit to come within our jurisdiction, we
now leave to a state or a city, not under the control of the Federal
Government, the duty of performing our international obligations in this
respect. By proper legislation we may, and ought to, place in the hands
of the Federal Executive the means of enforcing the treaty rights
of such aliens in the courts of the Federal Government. It puts our
Government in a pusillanimous position to make definite engagements
to protect aliens and then to excuse the failure to perform those
engagements by an explanation that the duty to keep them is in States
or cities, not within our control. If we would promise we must put
ourselves in a position to perform our promise. We cannot permit the
possible failure of justice, due to local prejudice in any State or
municipal government, to expose us to the risk of a war which might be
avoided if federal jurisdiction was asserted by suitable legislation
by Congress and carried out by proper proceedings instituted by the
Executive in the courts of the National Government.

One of the reforms to be carried out during the incoming administration
is a change of our monetary and banking laws, so as to secure greater
elasticity in the forms of currency available for trade and to prevent
the limitations of law from operating to increase the embarrassment of
a financial panic. The monetary commission, lately appointed, is giving
full consideration to existing conditions and to all proposed remedies,
and will doubtless suggest one that will meet the requirements of
business and of public interest.

We may hope that the report will embody neither the narrow dew of those
who believe that the sole purpose of the new system should be to secure
a large return on banking capital or of those who would have greater
expansion of currency with little regard to provisions for its immediate
redemption or ultimate security. There is no subject of economic
discussion so intricate and so likely to evoke differing views and
dogmatic statements as this one. The commission, in studying the general
influence of currency on business and of business on currency, have
wisely extended their investigations in European banking and monetary
methods. The information that they have derived from such experts as
they have found abroad will undoubtedly be found helpful in the solution
of the difficult problem they have in hand.

The incoming Congress should promptly fulfill the promise of the
Republican platform and pass a proper postal savings bank bill. It will
not be unwise or excessive paternalism. The promise to repay by the
Government will furnish an inducement to savings deposits which private
enterprise can not supply and at such a low rate of interest as not to
withdraw custom from existing banks. It will substantially increase the
funds available for investment as capital in useful enterprises. It will
furnish absolute security which makes the proposed scheme of government
guaranty of deposits so alluring, without its pernicious results.

I sincerely hope that the incoming Congress will be alive, as it should
be, to the importance of our foreign trade and of encouraging it in
every way feasible. The possibility of increasing this trade in the
Orient, in the Philippines, and in South America are known to everyone
who has given the matter attention. The direct effect of free trade
between this country and the Philippines will be marked upon our
sales of cottons, agricultural machinery, and other manufactures. The
necessity of the establishment of direct lines of steamers between North
and South America has been brought to the attention of Congress by my
predecessor and by Mr. Root before and after his noteworthy visit to
that continent, and I sincerely hope that Congress may be induced to see
the wisdom of a tentative effort to establish such lines by the use of
mail subsidies.

The importance of the part which the Departments of Agriculture and
of Commerce and Labor may play in ridding the markets of Europe of
prohibitions and discriminations against the importation of our products
is fully understood, and it is hoped that the use of the maximum and
minimum feature of our tariff law to be soon passed will be effective to
remove many of those restrictions.

The Panama Canal will have a most important bearing upon the trade
between the eastern and far western sections of our country, and will
greatly increase the facilities for transportation between the
eastern and the western seaboard, and may possibly revolutionize the
transcontinental rates with respect to bulky merchandise. It will also
have a most beneficial effect to increase the trade between the eastern
seaboard of the United States and the western coast of South America,
and, indeed, with some of the important ports on the east coast of South
America reached by rail from the west coast.

The work on the canal is making most satisfactory progress. The type
of the canal as a lock canal was fixed by Congress after a full
consideration of the conflicting reports of the majority and minority of
the consulting board, and after the recommendation of the War Department
and the Executive upon those reports. Recent suggestion that something
had occurred on the Isthmus to make the lock type of the canal less
feasible than it was supposed to be when the reports were made and
the policy determined on led to a visit to the Isthmus of a board of
competent engineers to examine the Gatun dam and locks, which are
the key of the lock type. The report of that board shows nothing has
occurred in the nature of newly revealed evidence which should change
the views once formed in the original discussion. The construction will
go on under a most effective organization controlled by Colonel Goethals
and his fellow army engineers associated with him, and will certainly be
completed early in the next administration, if not before.

Some type of canal must be constructed. The lock type has been selected.
We are all in favor of having it built as promptly as possible. We must
not now, therefore, keep up a fire in the rear of the agents whom we
have authorized to do our work on the Isthmus. We must hold up their
hands, and speaking for the incoming administration I wish to say that
I propose to devote all the energy possible and under my control to
pushing of this work on the plans which have been adopted, and to stand
behind the men who are doing faithful, hard work to bring about the
early completion of this, the greatest constructive enterprise of modern

The governments of our dependencies in Porto Rico and the Philippines
are progressing as favorably as could be desired. The prosperity
of Porto Rico continues unabated. The business conditions in the
Philippines are not all that we could wish them to be, but with the
passage of the new tariff bill permitting free trade between the United
States and the archipelago, with such limitations on sugar and tobacco
as shall prevent injury to domestic interests in those products, we can
count on an improvement in business conditions in the Philippines and
the development of a mutually profitable trade between this country and
the islands. Meantime our Government in each dependency is upholding the
traditions of civil liberty and increasing popular control which might
be expected under American auspices. The work which we are doing there
redounds to our credit as a nation.

I look forward with hope to increasing the already good feeling between
the South and the other sections of the country. My chief purpose is not
to effect a change in the electoral vote of the Southern States. That is
a secondary consideration. What I look forward to is an increase in the
tolerance of political views of all kinds and their advocacy throughout
the South, and the existence of a respectable political opposition in
every State; even more than this, to an increased feeling on the part
of all the people in the South that this Government is their Government,
and that its officers in their states are their officers.

The consideration of this question can not, however, be complete and
full without reference to the negro race, its progress and its present
condition. The thirteenth amendment secured them freedom; the fourteenth
amendment due process of law, protection of property, and the pursuit
of happiness; and the fifteenth amendment attempted to secure the negro
against any deprivation of the privilege to vote because he was a negro.
The thirteenth and fourteenth amendments have been generally enforced
and have secured the objects for which they are intended. While the
fifteenth amendment has not been generally observed in the past, it
ought to be observed, and the tendency of Southern legislation today is
toward the enactment of electoral qualifications which shall square with
that amendment. Of course, the mere adoption of a constitutional law
is only one step in the right direction. It must be fairly and justly
enforced as well. In time both will come. Hence it is clear to all that
the domination of an ignorant, irresponsible element can be prevented
by constitutional laws which shall exclude from voting both negroes
and whites not having education or other qualifications thought to
be necessary for a proper electorate. The danger of the control of an
ignorant electorate has therefore passed. With this change, the interest
which many of the Southern white citizens take in the welfare of the
negroes has increased. The colored men must base their hope on the
results of their own industry, self-restraint, thrift, and business
success, as well as upon the aid and comfort and sympathy which they may
receive from their white neighbors of the South.

There was a time when Northerners who sympathized with the negro in his
necessary struggle for better conditions sought to give him the suffrage
as a protection to enforce its exercise against the prevailing sentiment
of the South. The movement proved to be a failure. What remains is the
fifteenth amendment to the Constitution and the right to have statutes
of States specifying qualifications for electors subjected to the test
of compliance with that amendment. This is a great protection to the
negro. It never will be repealed, and it never ought to be repealed. If
it had not passed, it might be difficult now to adopt it; but with it
in our fundamental law, the policy of Southern legislation must and will
tend to obey it, and so long as the statutes of the States meet the
test of this amendment and are not otherwise in conflict with the
Constitution and laws of the United States, it is not the disposition
or within the province of the Federal Government to interfere with the
regulation by Southern States of their domestic affairs. There is in the
South a stronger feeling than ever among the intelligent well-to-do, and
influential element in favor of the industrial education of the negro
and the encouragement of the race to make themselves useful members of
the community. The progress which the negro has made in the last fifty
years, from slavery, when its statistics are reviewed, is marvelous, and
it furnishes every reason to hope that in the next twenty-five years
a still greater improvement in his condition as a productive member
of society, on the farm, and in the shop, and in other occupations may

The negroes are now Americans. Their ancestors came here years ago
against their will, and this is their only country and their only flag.
They have shown themselves anxious to live for it and to die for it.
Encountering the race feeling against them, subjected at times to cruel
injustice growing out of it, they may well have our profound sympathy
and aid in the struggle they are making. We are charged with the sacred
duty of making their path as smooth and easy as we can. Any recognition
of their distinguished men, any appointment to office from among their
number, is properly taken as an encouragement and an appreciation of
their progress, and this just policy should be pursued when suitable
occasion offers.

But it may well admit of doubt whether, in the case of any race, an
appointment of one of their number to a local office in a community in
which the race feeling is so widespread and acute as to interfere with
the ease and facility with which the local government business can be
done by the appointee is of sufficient benefit by way of encouragement
to the race to outweigh the recurrence and increase of race feeling
which such an appointment is likely to engender. Therefore the
Executive, in recognizing the negro race by appointments, must exercise
a careful discretion not thereby to do it more harm than good. On the
other hand, we must be careful not to encourage the mere pretense
of race feeling manufactured in the interest of individual political

Personally, I have not the slightest race prejudice or feeling, and
recognition of its existence only awakens in my heart a deeper sympathy
for those who have to bear it or suffer from it, and I question the
wisdom of a policy which is likely to increase it. Meantime, if nothing
is done to prevent it, a better feeling between the negroes and the
whites in the South will continue to grow, and more and more of the
white people will come to realize that the future of the South is to be
much benefited by the industrial and intellectual progress of the negro.
The exercise of political franchises by those of this race who are
intelligent and well to do will be acquiesced in, and the right to vote
will be withheld only from the ignorant and irresponsible of both races.

There is one other matter to which I shall refer. It was made the
subject of great controversy during the election and calls for at least
a passing reference now. My distinguished predecessor has given much
attention to the cause of labor, with whose struggle for better things
he has shown the sincerest sympathy. At his instance Congress has passed
the bill fixing the liability of interstate carriers to their employees
for injury sustained in the course of employment, abolishing the rule
of fellow-servant and the common-law rule as to contributory
negligence, and substituting therefor the so-called rule of "comparative
negligence." It has also passed a law fixing the compensation of
government employees for injuries sustained in the employ of the
Government through the negligence of the superior. It has also passed
a model child-labor law for the District of Columbia. In previous
administrations an arbitration law for interstate commerce railroads and
their employees, and laws for the application of safety devices to
save the lives and limbs of employees of interstate railroads had been
passed. Additional legislation of this kind was passed by the outgoing

I wish to say that insofar as I can I hope to promote the enactment of
further legislation of this character. I am strongly convinced that the
Government should make itself as responsible to employees injured in
its employ as an interstate-railway corporation is made responsible
by federal law to its employees; and I shall be glad, whenever any
additional reasonable safety device can be invented to reduce the loss
of life and limb among railway employees, to urge Congress to require
its adoption by interstate railways.

Another labor question has arisen which has awakened the most excited
discussion. That is in respect to the power of the federal courts to
issue injunctions in industrial disputes. As to that, my convictions are
fixed. Take away from the courts, if it could be taken away, the power
to issue injunctions in labor disputes, and it would create a privileged
class among the laborers and save the lawless among their number from
a most needful remedy available to all men for the protection of their
business against lawless invasion. The proposition that business is
not a property or pecuniary right which can be protected by equitable
injunction is utterly without foundation in precedent or reason. The
proposition is usually linked with one to make the secondary boycott
lawful. Such a proposition is at variance with the American instinct,
and will find no support, in my judgment, when submitted to the American
people. The secondary boycott is an instrument of tyranny, and ought not
to be made legitimate.

The issue of a temporary restraining order without notice has in several
instances been abused by its inconsiderate exercise, and to remedy this
the platform upon which I was elected recommends the formulation in a
statute of the conditions under which such a temporary restraining order
ought to issue. A statute can and ought to be framed to embody the best
modern practice, and can bring the subject so closely to the attention
of the court as to make abuses of the process unlikely in the future.
The American people, if I understand them, insist that the authority
of the courts shall be sustained, and are opposed to any change in
the procedure by which the powers of a court may be weakened and the
fearless and effective administration of justice be interfered with.

Having thus reviewed the questions likely to recur during my
administration, and having expressed in a summary way the position which
I expect to take in recommendations to Congress and in my conduct as
an Executive, I invoke the considerate sympathy and support of my
fellow-citizens and the aid of the Almighty God in the discharge of my
responsible duties.


Woodrow Wilson First Inaugural Address Tuesday, March 4, 1913

THERE has been a change of government. It began two years ago, when the
House of Representatives became Democratic by a decisive majority.
It has now been completed. The Senate about to assemble will also be
Democratic. The offices of President and Vice-President have been put
into the hands of Democrats. What does the change mean? That is the
question that is uppermost in our minds to-day. That is the question
I am going to try to answer, in order, if I may, to interpret the

It means much more than the mere success of a party. The success of
a party means little except when the Nation is using that party for a
large and definite purpose. No one can mistake the purpose for which
the Nation now seeks to use the Democratic Party. It seeks to use it to
interpret a change in its own plans and point of view. Some old things
with which we had grown familiar, and which had begun to creep into the
very habit of our thought and of our lives, have altered their aspect as
we have latterly looked critically upon them, with fresh, awakened eyes;
have dropped their disguises and shown themselves alien and sinister.
Some new things, as we look frankly upon them, willing to comprehend
their real character, have come to assume the aspect of things long
believed in and familiar, stuff of our own convictions. We have been
refreshed by a new insight into our own life.

We see that in many things that life is very great. It is incomparably
great in its material aspects, in its body of wealth, in the diversity
and sweep of its energy, in the industries which have been conceived and
built up by the genius of individual men and the limitless enterprise
of groups of men. It is great, also, very great, in its moral force.
Nowhere else in the world have noble men and women exhibited in more
striking forms the beauty and the energy of sympathy and helpfulness and
counsel in their efforts to rectify wrong, alleviate suffering, and set
the weak in the way of strength and hope. We have built up, moreover,
a great system of government, which has stood through a long age as in
many respects a model for those who seek to set liberty upon foundations
that will endure against fortuitous change, against storm and accident.
Our life contains every great thing, and contains it in rich abundance.

But the evil has come with the good, and much fine gold has been
corroded. With riches has come inexcusable waste. We have squandered a
great part of what we might have used, and have not stopped to conserve
the exceeding bounty of nature, without which our genius for enterprise
would have been worthless and impotent, scorning to be careful,
shamefully prodigal as well as admirably efficient. We have been
proud of our industrial achievements, but we have not hitherto stopped
thoughtfully enough to count the human cost, the cost of lives snuffed
out, of energies overtaxed and broken, the fearful physical and
spiritual cost to the men and women and children upon whom the dead
weight and burden of it all has fallen pitilessly the years through.
The groans and agony of it all had not yet reached our ears, the solemn,
moving undertone of our life, coming up out of the mines and factories,
and out of every home where the struggle had its intimate and familiar
seat. With the great Government went many deep secret things which we
too long delayed to look into and scrutinize with candid, fearless eyes.
The great Government we loved has too often been made use of for private
and selfish purposes, and those who used it had forgotten the people.

At last a vision has been vouchsafed us of our life as a whole. We
see the bad with the good, the debased and decadent with the sound and
vital. With this vision we approach new affairs. Our duty is to cleanse,
to reconsider, to restore, to correct the evil without impairing the
good, to purify and humanize every process of our common life without
weakening or sentimentalizing it. There has been something crude and
heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great. Our
thought has been "Let every man look out for himself, let every
generation look out for itself," while we reared giant machinery which
made it impossible that any but those who stood at the levers of control
should have a chance to look out for themselves. We had not forgotten
our morals. We remembered well enough that we had set up a policy which
was meant to serve the humblest as well as the most powerful, with an
eye single to the standards of justice and fair play, and remembered it
with pride. But we were very heedless and in a hurry to be great.

We have come now to the sober second thought. The scales of heedlessness
have fallen from our eyes. We have made up our minds to square every
process of our national life again with the standards we so proudly set
up at the beginning and have always carried at our hearts. Our work is a
work of restoration.

We have itemized with some degree of particularity the things that ought
to be altered and here are some of the chief items: A tariff which cuts
us off from our proper part in the commerce of the world, violates
the just principles of taxation, and makes the Government a facile
instrument in the hand of private interests; a banking and currency
system based upon the necessity of the Government to sell its bonds
fifty years ago and perfectly adapted to concentrating cash and
restricting credits; an industrial system which, take it on all its
sides, financial as well as administrative, holds capital in leading
strings, restricts the liberties and limits the opportunities of labor,
and exploits without renewing or conserving the natural resources of
the country; a body of agricultural activities never yet given the
efficiency of great business undertakings or served as it should be
through the instrumentality of science taken directly to the farm, or
afforded the facilities of credit best suited to its practical needs;
watercourses undeveloped, waste places unreclaimed, forests untended,
fast disappearing without plan or prospect of renewal, unregarded waste
heaps at every mine. We have studied as perhaps no other nation has
the most effective means of production, but we have not studied cost or
economy as we should either as organizers of industry, as statesmen, or
as individuals.

Nor have we studied and perfected the means by which government may
be put at the service of humanity, in safeguarding the health of the
Nation, the health of its men and its women and its children, as well as
their rights in the struggle for existence. This is no sentimental duty.
The firm basis of government is justice, not pity. These are matters of
justice. There can be no equality or opportunity, the first essential
of justice in the body politic, if men and women and children be not
shielded in their lives, their very vitality, from the consequences of
great industrial and social processes which they can not alter, control,
or singly cope with. Society must see to it that it does not itself
crush or weaken or damage its own constituent parts. The first duty of
law is to keep sound the society it serves. Sanitary laws, pure food
laws, and laws determining conditions of labor which individuals are
powerless to determine for themselves are intimate parts of the very
business of justice and legal efficiency.

These are some of the things we ought to do, and not leave the
others undone, the old-fashioned, never-to-be-neglected, fundamental
safeguarding of property and of individual right. This is the high
enterprise of the new day: To lift everything that concerns our life
as a Nation to the light that shines from the hearthfire of every man's
conscience and vision of the right. It is inconceivable that we should
do this as partisans; it is inconceivable we should do it in ignorance
of the facts as they are or in blind haste. We shall restore, not
destroy. We shall deal with our economic system as it is and as it may
be modified, not as it might be if we had a clean sheet of paper to
write upon; and step by step we shall make it what it should be, in
the spirit of those who question their own wisdom and seek counsel and
knowledge, not shallow self-satisfaction or the excitement of excursions
whither they can not tell. Justice, and only justice, shall always be
our motto.

And yet it will be no cool process of mere science. The Nation has been
deeply stirred, stirred by a solemn passion, stirred by the knowledge
of wrong, of ideals lost, of government too often debauched and made
an instrument of evil. The feelings with which we face this new age of
right and opportunity sweep across our heartstrings like some air out of
God's own presence, where justice and mercy are reconciled and the judge
and the brother are one. We know our task to be no mere task of politics
but a task which shall search us through and through, whether we be able
to understand our time and the need of our people, whether we be indeed
their spokesmen and interpreters, whether we have the pure heart to
comprehend and the rectified will to choose our high course of action.

This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication. Here muster,
not the forces of party, but the forces of humanity. Men's hearts wait
upon us; men's lives hang in the balance; men's hopes call upon us to
say what we will do. Who shall live up to the great trust? Who dares
fail to try? I summon all honest men, all patriotic, all forward-looking
men, to my side. God helping me, I will not fail them, if they will but
counsel and sustain me!


Woodrow Wilson Second Inaugural Address Monday, March 5, 1917

My Fellow Citizens:

THE four years which have elapsed since last I stood in this place have
been crowded with counsel and action of the most vital interest and
consequence. Perhaps no equal period in our history has been so fruitful
of important reforms in our economic and industrial life or so full of
significant changes in the spirit and purpose of our political action.
We have sought very thoughtfully to set our house in order, correct the
grosser errors and abuses of our industrial life, liberate and quicken
the processes of our national genius and energy, and lift our politics
to a broader view of the people's essential interests.

It is a record of singular variety and singular distinction. But I shall
not attempt to review it. It speaks for itself and will be of increasing
influence as the years go by. This is not the time for retrospect. It
is time rather to speak our thoughts and purposes concerning the present
and the immediate future.

Although we have centered counsel and action with such unusual
concentration and success upon the great problems of domestic
legislation to which we addressed ourselves four years ago, other
matters have more and more forced themselves upon our attention--matters
lying outside our own life as a nation and over which we had no control,
but which, despite our wish to keep free of them, have drawn us more and
more irresistibly into their own current and influence.

It has been impossible to avoid them. They have affected the life of
the whole world. They have shaken men everywhere with a passion and an
apprehension they never knew before. It has been hard to preserve calm
counsel while the thought of our own people swayed this way and that
under their influence. We are a composite and cosmopolitan people. We
are of the blood of all the nations that are at war. The currents of our
thoughts as well as the currents of our trade run quick at all seasons
back and forth between us and them. The war inevitably set its mark
from the first alike upon our minds, our industries, our commerce, our
politics and our social action. To be indifferent to it, or independent
of it, was out of the question.

And yet all the while we have been conscious that we were not part of
it. In that consciousness, despite many divisions, we have drawn closer
together. We have been deeply wronged upon the seas, but we have not
wished to wrong or injure in return; have retained throughout the
consciousness of standing in some sort apart, intent upon an interest
that transcended the immediate issues of the war itself.

As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still
been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready
to demand for all mankind--fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live
and to be at ease against organized wrong.

It is in this spirit and with this thought that we have grown more and
more aware, more and more certain that the part we wished to play was
the part of those who mean to vindicate and fortify peace. We have been
obliged to arm ourselves to make good our claim to a certain minimum of
right and of freedom of action. We stand firm in armed neutrality since
it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist
upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not
by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights
as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle
itself. But nothing will alter our thought or our purpose. They are too
clear to be obscured. They are too deeply rooted in the principles
of our national life to be altered. We desire neither conquest nor
advantage. We wish nothing that can be had only at the cost of
another people. We always professed unselfish purpose and we covet the
opportunity to prove our professions are sincere.

There are many things still to be done at home, to clarify our own
politics and add new vitality to the industrial processes of our own
life, and we shall do them as time and opportunity serve, but we realize
that the greatest things that remain to be done must be done with the
whole world for stage and in cooperation with the wide and universal
forces of mankind, and we are making our spirits ready for those things.

We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of
vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens
of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation
are involved whether we would have it so or not.

And yet we are not the less Americans on that account. We shall be the
more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have
been bred. They are not the principles of a province or of a single
continent. We have known and boasted all along that they were the
principles of a liberated mankind. These, therefore, are the things we
shall stand for, whether in war or in peace:

That all nations are equally interested in the peace of the world and
in the political stability of free peoples, and equally responsible for
their maintenance; that the essential principle of peace is the actual
equality of nations in all matters of right or privilege; that peace
cannot securely or justly rest upon an armed balance of power; that
governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the
governed and that no other powers should be supported by the common
thought, purpose or power of the family of nations; that the seas should
be equally free and safe for the use of all peoples, under rules set up
by common agreement and consent, and that, so far as practicable, they
should be accessible to all upon equal terms; that national armaments
shall be limited to the necessities of national order and domestic
safety; that the community of interest and of power upon which peace
must henceforth depend imposes upon each nation the duty of seeing to it
that all influences proceeding from its own citizens meant to encourage
or assist revolution in other states should be sternly and effectually
suppressed and prevented.

I need not argue these principles to you, my fellow countrymen; they are
your own part and parcel of your own thinking and your own motives in
affairs. They spring up native amongst us. Upon this as a platform of
purpose and of action we can stand together. And it is imperative that
we should stand together. We are being forged into a new unity amidst
the fires that now blaze throughout the world. In their ardent heat
we shall, in God's Providence, let us hope, be purged of faction
and division, purified of the errant humors of party and of private
interest, and shall stand forth in the days to come with a new dignity
of national pride and spirit. Let each man see to it that the dedication
is in his own heart, the high purpose of the nation in his own mind,
ruler of his own will and desire.

I stand here and have taken the high and solemn oath to which you have
been audience because the people of the United States have chosen me
for this august delegation of power and have by their gracious judgment
named me their leader in affairs.

I know now what the task means. I realize to the full the responsibility
which it involves. I pray God I may be given the wisdom and the prudence
to do my duty in the true spirit of this great people. I am their
servant and can succeed only as they sustain and guide me by their
confidence and their counsel. The thing I shall count upon, the thing
without which neither counsel nor action will avail, is the unity of
America--an America united in feeling, in purpose and in its vision of
duty, of opportunity and of service.

We are to beware of all men who would turn the tasks and the necessities
of the nation to their own private profit or use them for the building
up of private power.

United alike in the conception of our duty and in the high resolve to
perform it in the face of all men, let us dedicate ourselves to the
great task to which we must now set our hand. For myself I beg your
tolerance, your countenance and your united aid.

The shadows that now lie dark upon our path will soon be dispelled,
and we shall walk with the light all about us if we be but true to
ourselves--to ourselves as we have wished to be known in the counsels of
the world and in the thought of all those who love liberty and justice
and the right exalted.


Warren G. Harding Inaugural Address Friday, March 4, 1921

My Countrymen:

WHEN one surveys the world about him after the great storm, noting the
marks of destruction and yet rejoicing in the ruggedness of the things
which withstood it, if he is an American he breathes the clarified
atmosphere with a strange mingling of regret and new hope. We have
seen a world passion spend its fury, but we contemplate our Republic
unshaken, and hold our civilization secure. Liberty--liberty within the
law--and civilization are inseparable, and though both were threatened
we find them now secure; and there comes to Americans the profound
assurance that our representative government is the highest expression
and surest guaranty of both.

Standing in this presence, mindful of the solemnity of this occasion,
feeling the emotions which no one may know until he senses the great
weight of responsibility for himself, I must utter my belief in the
divine inspiration of the founding fathers. Surely there must have
been God's intent in the making of this new-world Republic. Ours is an
organic law which had but one ambiguity, and we saw that effaced in
a baptism of sacrifice and blood, with union maintained, the Nation
supreme, and its concord inspiring. We have seen the world rivet its
hopeful gaze on the great truths on which the founders wrought. We have
seen civil, human, and religious liberty verified and glorified. In the
beginning the Old World scoffed at our experiment; today our foundations
of political and social belief stand unshaken, a precious inheritance
to ourselves, an inspiring example of freedom and civilization to all
mankind. Let us express renewed and strengthened devotion, in grateful
reverence for the immortal beginning, and utter our confidence in the
supreme fulfillment.

The recorded progress of our Republic, materially and spiritually, in
itself proves the wisdom of the inherited policy of noninvolvement in
Old World affairs. Confident of our ability to work out our own destiny,
and jealously guarding our right to do so, we seek no part in directing
the destinies of the Old World. We do not mean to be entangled. We will
accept no responsibility except as our own conscience and judgment, in
each instance, may determine.

Our eyes never will be blind to a developing menace, our ears never deaf
to the call of civilization. We recognize the new order in the world,
with the closer contacts which progress has wrought. We sense the call
of the human heart for fellowship, fraternity, and cooperation. We crave
friendship and harbor no hate. But America, our America, the America
builded on the foundation laid by the inspired fathers, can be a party
to no permanent military alliance. It can enter into no political
commitments, nor assume any economic obligations which will subject our
decisions to any other than our own authority.

I am sure our own people will not misunderstand, nor will the
world misconstrue. We have no thought to impede the paths to closer
relationship. We wish to promote understanding. We want to do our part
in making offensive warfare so hateful that Governments and peoples who
resort to it must prove the righteousness of their cause or stand as
outlaws before the bar of civilization.

We are ready to associate ourselves with the nations of the world, great
and small, for conference, for counsel; to seek the expressed views of
world opinion; to recommend a way to approximate disarmament and relieve
the crushing burdens of military and naval establishments. We elect
to participate in suggesting plans for mediation, conciliation, and
arbitration, and would gladly join in that expressed conscience of
progress, which seeks to clarify and write the laws of international
relationship, and establish a world court for the disposition of such
justiciable questions as nations are agreed to submit thereto. In
expressing aspirations, in seeking practical plans, in translating
humanity's new concept of righteousness and justice and its hatred of
war into recommended action we are ready most heartily to unite,
but every commitment must be made in the exercise of our national
sovereignty. Since freedom impelled, and independence inspired, and
nationality exalted, a world supergovernment is contrary to everything
we cherish and can have no sanction by our Republic. This is not
selfishness, it is sanctity. It is not aloofness, it is security. It is
not suspicion of others, it is patriotic adherence to the things which
made us what we are.

Today, better than ever before, we know the aspirations of humankind,
and share them. We have come to a new realization of our place in the
world and a new appraisal of our Nation by the world. The unselfishness
of these United States is a thing proven; our devotion to peace for
ourselves and for the world is well established; our concern for
preserved civilization has had its impassioned and heroic expression.
There was no American failure to resist the attempted reversion of
civilization; there will be no failure today or tomorrow.

The success of our popular government rests wholly upon the correct
interpretation of the deliberate, intelligent, dependable popular
will of America. In a deliberate questioning of a suggested change of
national policy, where internationality was to supersede nationality,
we turned to a referendum, to the American people. There was ample
discussion, and there is a public mandate in manifest understanding.

America is ready to encourage, eager to initiate, anxious to participate
in any seemly program likely to lessen the probability of war, and
promote that brotherhood of mankind which must be God's highest
conception of human relationship. Because we cherish ideals of justice
and peace, because we appraise international comity and helpful
relationship no less highly than any people of the world, we aspire to
a high place in the moral leadership of civilization, and we hold
a maintained America, the proven Republic, the unshaken temple of
representative democracy, to be not only an inspiration and example, but
the highest agency of strengthening good will and promoting accord on
both continents.

Mankind needs a world-wide benediction of understanding. It is needed
among individuals, among peoples, among governments, and it will
inaugurate an era of good feeling to make the birth of a new order.
In such understanding men will strive confidently for the promotion
of their better relationships and nations will promote the comities so
essential to peace.

We must understand that ties of trade bind nations in closest intimacy,
and none may receive except as he gives. We have not strengthened ours
in accordance with our resources or our genius, notably on our own
continent, where a galaxy of Republics reflects the glory of new-world
democracy, but in the new order of finance and trade we mean to promote
enlarged activities and seek expanded confidence.

Perhaps we can make no more helpful contribution by example than prove
a Republic's capacity to emerge from the wreckage of war. While the
world's embittered travail did not leave us devastated lands nor
desolated cities, left no gaping wounds, no breast with hate, it did
involve us in the delirium of expenditure, in expanded currency and
credits, in unbalanced industry, in unspeakable waste, and disturbed
relationships. While it uncovered our portion of hateful selfishness at
home, it also revealed the heart of America as sound and fearless, and
beating in confidence unfailing.

Amid it all we have riveted the gaze of all civilization to the
unselfishness and the righteousness of representative democracy,
where our freedom never has made offensive warfare, never has sought
territorial aggrandizement through force, never has turned to
the arbitrament of arms until reason has been exhausted. When the
Governments of the earth shall have established a freedom like our own
and shall have sanctioned the pursuit of peace as we have practiced
it, I believe the last sorrow and the final sacrifice of international
warfare will have been written.

Let me speak to the maimed and wounded soldiers who are present today,
and through them convey to their comrades the gratitude of the Republic
for their sacrifices in its defense. A generous country will never
forget the services you rendered, and you may hope for a policy under
Government that will relieve any maimed successors from taking your
places on another such occasion as this.

Our supreme task is the resumption of our onward, normal way.
Reconstruction, readjustment, restoration all these must follow. I
would like to hasten them. If it will lighten the spirit and add to the
resolution with which we take up the task, let me repeat for our Nation,
we shall give no people just cause to make war upon us; we hold no
national prejudices; we entertain no spirit of revenge; we do not hate;
we do not covet; we dream of no conquest, nor boast of armed prowess.

If, despite this attitude, war is again forced upon us, I earnestly
hope a way may be found which will unify our individual and collective
strength and consecrate all America, materially and spiritually, body
and soul, to national defense. I can vision the ideal republic, where
every man and woman is called under the flag for assignment to duty
for whatever service, military or civic, the individual is best fitted;
where we may call to universal service every plant, agency, or facility,
all in the sublime sacrifice for country, and not one penny of war
profit shall inure to the benefit of private individual, corporation, or
combination, but all above the normal shall flow into the defense chest
of the Nation. There is something inherently wrong, something out of
accord with the ideals of representative democracy, when one portion of
our citizenship turns its activities to private gain amid defensive
war while another is fighting, sacrificing, or dying for national

Out of such universal service will come a new unity of spirit and
purpose, a new confidence and consecration, which would make our defense
impregnable, our triumph assured. Then we should have little or no
disorganization of our economic, industrial, and commercial systems
at home, no staggering war debts, no swollen fortunes to flout the
sacrifices of our soldiers, no excuse for sedition, no pitiable
slackerism, no outrage of treason. Envy and jealousy would have no soil
for their menacing development, and revolution would be without the
passion which engenders it.

A regret for the mistakes of yesterday must not, however, blind us to
the tasks of today. War never left such an aftermath. There has been
staggering loss of life and measureless wastage of materials. Nations
are still groping for return to stable ways. Discouraging indebtedness
confronts us like all the war-torn nations, and these obligations must
be provided for. No civilization can survive repudiation.

We can reduce the abnormal expenditures, and we will. We can strike at
war taxation, and we must. We must face the grim necessity, with full
knowledge that the task is to be solved, and we must proceed with a full
realization that no statute enacted by man can repeal the inexorable
laws of nature. Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of
government, and at the same time do for it too little. We contemplate
the immediate task of putting our public household in order. We need a
rigid and yet sane economy, combined with fiscal justice, and it must
be attended by individual prudence and thrift, which are so essential to
this trying hour and reassuring for the future.

The business world reflects the disturbance of war's reaction. Herein
flows the lifeblood of material existence. The economic mechanism is
intricate and its parts interdependent, and has suffered the shocks
and jars incident to abnormal demands, credit inflations, and price
upheavals. The normal balances have been impaired, the channels of
distribution have been clogged, the relations of labor and management
have been strained. We must seek the readjustment with care and courage.
Our people must give and take. Prices must reflect the receding fever
of war activities. Perhaps we never shall know the old levels of
wages again, because war invariably readjusts compensations, and the
necessaries of life will show their inseparable relationship, but we
must strive for normalcy to reach stability. All the penalties will not
be light, nor evenly distributed. There is no way of making them
so. There is no instant step from disorder to order. We must face a
condition of grim reality, charge off our losses and start afresh. It is
the oldest lesson of civilization. I would like government to do all it
can to mitigate; then, in understanding, in mutuality of interest, in
concern for the common good, our tasks will be solved. No altered system
will work a miracle. Any wild experiment will only add to the confusion.
Our best assurance lies in efficient administration of our proven

The forward course of the business cycle is unmistakable. Peoples are
turning from destruction to production. Industry has sensed the changed
order and our own people are turning to resume their normal, onward way.
The call is for productive America to go on. I know that Congress and
the Administration will favor every wise Government policy to aid the
resumption and encourage continued progress.

I speak for administrative efficiency, for lightened tax burdens,
for sound commercial practices, for adequate credit facilities, for
sympathetic concern for all agricultural problems, for the omission
of unnecessary interference of Government with business, for an end to
Government's experiment in business, and for more efficient business in
Government administration. With all of this must attend a mindfulness
of the human side of all activities, so that social, industrial, and
economic justice will be squared with the purposes of a righteous

With the nation-wide induction of womanhood into our political life, we
may count upon her intuitions, her refinements, her intelligence, and
her influence to exalt the social order. We count upon her exercise of
the full privileges and the performance of the duties of citizenship to
speed the attainment of the highest state.

I wish for an America no less alert in guarding against dangers from
within than it is watchful against enemies from without. Our fundamental
law recognizes no class, no group, no section; there must be none in
legislation or administration. The supreme inspiration is the common
weal. Humanity hungers for international peace, and we crave it with all
mankind. My most reverent prayer for America is for industrial
peace, with its rewards, widely and generally distributed, amid the
inspirations of equal opportunity. No one justly may deny the
equality of opportunity which made us what we are. We have mistaken
unpreparedness to embrace it to be a challenge of the reality, and due
concern for making all citizens fit for participation will give added
strength of citizenship and magnify our achievement.

If revolution insists upon overturning established order, let other
peoples make the tragic experiment. There is no place for it in America.
When World War threatened civilization we pledged our resources and our
lives to its preservation, and when revolution threatens we unfurl
the flag of law and order and renew our consecration. Ours is a
constitutional freedom where the popular will is the law supreme and
minorities are sacredly protected. Our revisions, reformations, and
evolutions reflect a deliberate judgment and an orderly progress, and we
mean to cure our ills, but never destroy or permit destruction by force.

I had rather submit our industrial controversies to the conference table
in advance than to a settlement table after conflict and suffering.
The earth is thirsting for the cup of good will, understanding is its
fountain source. I would like to acclaim an era of good feeling amid
dependable prosperity and all the blessings which attend.

It has been proved again and again that we cannot, while throwing our
markets open to the world, maintain American standards of living
and opportunity, and hold our industrial eminence in such unequal
competition. There is a luring fallacy in the theory of banished
barriers of trade, but preserved American standards require our higher
production costs to be reflected in our tariffs on imports. Today, as
never before, when peoples are seeking trade restoration and expansion,
we must adjust our tariffs to the new order. We seek participation in
the world's exchanges, because therein lies our way to widened influence
and the triumphs of peace. We know full well we cannot sell where we
do not buy, and we cannot sell successfully where we do not carry.
Opportunity is calling not alone for the restoration, but for a new
era in production, transportation and trade. We shall answer it best
by meeting the demand of a surpassing home market, by promoting
self-reliance in production, and by bidding enterprise, genius, and
efficiency to carry our cargoes in American bottoms to the marts of the

We would not have an America living within and for herself alone, but we
would have her self-reliant, independent, and ever nobler, stronger, and
richer. Believing in our higher standards, reared through constitutional
liberty and maintained opportunity, we invite the world to the same
heights. But pride in things wrought is no reflex of a completed task.
Common welfare is the goal of our national endeavor. Wealth is not
inimical to welfare; it ought to be its friendliest agency. There never
can be equality of rewards or possessions so long as the human plan
contains varied talents and differing degrees of industry and thrift,
but ours ought to be a country free from the great blotches of
distressed poverty. We ought to find a way to guard against the perils
and penalties of unemployment. We want an America of homes, illumined
with hope and happiness, where mothers, freed from the necessity for
long hours of toil beyond their own doors, may preside as befits the
hearthstone of American citizenship. We want the cradle of American
childhood rocked under conditions so wholesome and so hopeful that no
blight may touch it in its development, and we want to provide that no
selfish interest, no material necessity, no lack of opportunity shall
prevent the gaining of that education so essential to best citizenship.

There is no short cut to the making of these ideals into glad realities.
The world has witnessed again and again the futility and the mischief
of ill-considered remedies for social and economic disorders. But we are
mindful today as never before of the friction of modern industrialism,
and we must learn its causes and reduce its evil consequences by sober
and tested methods. Where genius has made for great possibilities,
justice and happiness must be reflected in a greater common welfare.

Service is the supreme commitment of life. I would rejoice to acclaim
the era of the Golden Rule and crown it with the autocracy of service.
I pledge an administration wherein all the agencies of Government are
called to serve, and ever promote an understanding of Government purely
as an expression of the popular will.

One cannot stand in this presence and be unmindful of the tremendous
responsibility. The world upheaval has added heavily to our tasks.
But with the realization comes the surge of high resolve, and there is
reassurance in belief in the God-given destiny of our Republic. If I
felt that there is to be sole responsibility in the Executive for the
America of tomorrow I should shrink from the burden. But here are
a hundred millions, with common concern and shared responsibility,
answerable to God and country. The Republic summons them to their duty,
and I invite co-operation.

I accept my part with single-mindedness of purpose and humility of
spirit, and implore the favor and guidance of God in His Heaven. With
these I am unafraid, and confidently face the future.

I have taken the solemn oath of office on that passage of Holy Writ
wherein it is asked: "What doth the Lord require of thee but to do
justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" This I
plight to God and country.


Calvin Coolidge Inaugural Address Wednesday, March 4, 1925

My Countrymen:

NO one can contemplate current conditions without finding much that
is satisfying and still more that is encouraging. Our own country is
leading the world in the general readjustment to the results of the
great conflict. Many of its burdens will bear heavily upon us for years,
and the secondary and indirect effects we must expect to experience
for some time. But we are beginning to comprehend more definitely
what course should be pursued, what remedies ought to be applied, what
actions should be taken for our deliverance, and are clearly manifesting
a determined will faithfully and conscientiously to adopt these methods
of relief. Already we have sufficiently rearranged our domestic affairs
so that confidence has returned, business has revived, and we appear to
be entering an era of prosperity which is gradually reaching into every
part of the Nation. Realizing that we can not live unto ourselves alone,
we have contributed of our resources and our counsel to the relief of
the suffering and the settlement of the disputes among the European
nations. Because of what America is and what America has done, a firmer
courage, a higher hope, inspires the heart of all humanity.

These results have not occurred by mere chance. They have been secured
by a constant and enlightened effort marked by many sacrifices and
extending over many generations. We can not continue these brilliant
successes in the future, unless we continue to learn from the past. It
is necessary to keep the former experiences of our country both at
home and abroad continually before us, if we are to have any science of
government. If we wish to erect new structures, we must have a definite
knowledge of the old foundations. We must realize that human nature is
about the most constant thing in the universe and that the essentials of
human relationship do not change. We must frequently take our bearings
from these fixed stars of our political firmament if we expect to hold a
true course. If we examine carefully what we have done, we can determine
the more accurately what we can do.

We stand at the opening of the one hundred and fiftieth year since our
national consciousness first asserted itself by unmistakable action with
an array of force. The old sentiment of detached and dependent colonies
disappeared in the new sentiment of a united and independent Nation. Men
began to discard the narrow confines of a local charter for the broader
opportunities of a national constitution. Under the eternal urge of
freedom we became an independent Nation. A little less than 50 years
later that freedom and independence were reasserted in the face of all
the world, and guarded, supported, and secured by the Monroe doctrine.
The narrow fringe of States along the Atlantic seaboard advanced its
frontiers across the hills and plains of an intervening continent
until it passed down the golden slope to the Pacific. We made freedom
a birthright. We extended our domain over distant islands in order to
safeguard our own interests and accepted the consequent obligation to
bestow justice and liberty upon less favored peoples. In the defense of
our own ideals and in the general cause of liberty we entered the Great
War. When victory had been fully secured, we withdrew to our own shores
unrecompensed save in the consciousness of duty done.

Throughout all these experiences we have enlarged our freedom, we have
strengthened our independence. We have been, and propose to be, more
and more American. We believe that we can best serve our own country and
most successfully discharge our obligations to humanity by continuing
to be openly and candidly, in tensely and scrupulously, American. If
we have any heritage, it has been that. If we have any destiny, we have
found it in that direction.

But if we wish to continue to be distinctively American, we must
continue to make that term comprehensive enough to embrace the
legitimate desires of a civilized and enlightened people determined in
all their relations to pursue a conscientious and religious life. We can
not permit ourselves to be narrowed and dwarfed by slogans and
phrases. It is not the adjective, but the substantive, which is of real
importance. It is not the name of the action, but the result of the
action, which is the chief concern. It will be well not to be too
much disturbed by the thought of either isolation or entanglement of
pacifists and militarists. The physical configuration of the earth has
separated us from all of the Old World, but the common brotherhood of
man, the highest law of all our being, has united us by inseparable
bonds with all humanity. Our country represents nothing but peaceful
intentions toward all the earth, but it ought not to fail to maintain
such a military force as comports with the dignity and security of a
great people. It ought to be a balanced force, intensely modern, capable
of defense by sea and land, beneath the surface and in the air. But it
should be so conducted that all the world may see in it, not a menace,
but an instrument of security and peace.

This Nation believes thoroughly in an honorable peace under which the
rights of its citizens are to be everywhere protected. It has never
found that the necessary enjoyment of such a peace could be maintained
only by a great and threatening array of arms. In common with other
nations, it is now more determined than ever to promote peace through
friendliness and good will, through mutual understandings and mutual
forbearance. We have never practiced the policy of competitive
armaments. We have recently committed ourselves by covenants with the
other great nations to a limitation of our sea power. As one result of
this, our Navy ranks larger, in comparison, than it ever did before.
Removing the burden of expense and jealousy, which must always accrue
from a keen rivalry, is one of the most effective methods of diminishing
that unreasonable hysteria and misunderstanding which are the most
potent means of fomenting war. This policy represents a new departure in
the world. It is a thought, an ideal, which has led to an entirely new
line of action. It will not be easy to maintain. Some never moved from
their old positions, some are constantly slipping back to the old ways
of thought and the old action of seizing a musket and relying on force.
America has taken the lead in this new direction, and that lead America
must continue to hold. If we expect others to rely on our fairness and
justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.

If we are to judge by past experience, there is much to be hoped for in
international relations from frequent conferences and consultations. We
have before us the beneficial results of the Washington conference and
the various consultations recently held upon European affairs, some of
which were in response to our suggestions and in some of which we were
active participants. Even the failures can not but be accounted useful
and an immeasurable advance over threatened or actual warfare. I am
strongly in favor of continuation of this policy, whenever conditions
are such that there is even a promise that practical and favorable
results might be secured.

In conformity with the principle that a display of reason rather than
a threat of force should be the determining factor in the intercourse
among nations, we have long advocated the peaceful settlement of
disputes by methods of arbitration and have negotiated many treaties to
secure that result. The same considerations should lead to our adherence
to the Permanent Court of International Justice. Where great principles
are involved, where great movements are under way which promise much
for the welfare of humanity by reason of the very fact that many other
nations have given such movements their actual support, we ought not
to withhold our own sanction because of any small and inessential
difference, but only upon the ground of the most important and
compelling fundamental reasons. We can not barter away our independence
or our sovereignty, but we ought to engage in no refinements of logic,
no sophistries, and no subterfuges, to argue away the undoubted duty
of this country by reason of the might of its numbers, the power of its
resources, and its position of leadership in the world, actively and
comprehensively to signify its approval and to bear its full share
of the responsibility of a candid and disinterested attempt at the
establishment of a tribunal for the administration of even-handed
justice between nation and nation. The weight of our enormous influence
must be cast upon the side of a reign not of force but of law and trial,
not by battle but by reason.

We have never any wish to interfere in the political conditions of any
other countries. Especially are we determined not to become implicated
in the political controversies of the Old World. With a great deal of
hesitation, we have responded to appeals for help to maintain order,
protect life and property, and establish responsible government in some
of the small countries of the Western Hemisphere. Our private citizens
have advanced large sums of money to assist in the necessary financing
and relief of the Old World. We have not failed, nor shall we fail to
respond, whenever necessary to mitigate human suffering and assist in
the rehabilitation of distressed nations. These, too, are requirements
which must be met by reason of our vast powers and the place we hold in
the world.

Some of the best thought of mankind has long been seeking for a formula
for permanent peace. Undoubtedly the clarification of the principles
of international law would be helpful, and the efforts of scholars to
prepare such a work for adoption by the various nations should have our
sympathy and support. Much may be hoped for from the earnest studies of
those who advocate the outlawing of aggressive war. But all these plans
and preparations, these treaties and covenants, will not of themselves
be adequate. One of the greatest dangers to peace lies in the economic
pressure to which people find themselves subjected. One of the most
practical things to be done in the world is to seek arrangements under
which such pressure may be removed, so that opportunity may be renewed
and hope may be revived. There must be some assurance that effort and
endeavor will be followed by success and prosperity. In the making and
financing of such adjustments there is not only an opportunity, but a
real duty, for America to respond with her counsel and her resources.
Conditions must be provided under which people can make a living and
work out of their difficulties. But there is another element, more
important than all, without which there can not be the slightest hope
of a permanent peace. That element lies in the heart of humanity. Unless
the desire for peace be cherished there, unless this fundamental and
only natural source of brotherly love be cultivated to its highest
degree, all artificial efforts will be in vain. Peace will come
when there is realization that only under a reign of law, based
on righteousness and supported by the religious conviction of the
brotherhood of man, can there be any hope of a complete and satisfying
life. Parchment will fail, the sword will fail, it is only the spiritual
nature of man that can be triumphant.

It seems altogether probable that we can contribute most to these
important objects by maintaining our position of political detachment
and independence. We are not identified with any Old World interests.
This position should be made more and more clear in our relations with
all foreign countries. We are at peace with all of them. Our program
is never to oppress, but always to assist. But while we do justice to
others, we must require that justice be done to us. With us a treaty of
peace means peace, and a treaty of amity means amity. We have made
great contributions to the settlement of contentious differences in both
Europe and Asia. But there is a very definite point beyond which we can
not go. We can only help those who help themselves. Mindful of these
limitations, the one great duty that stands out requires us to use our
enormous powers to trim the balance of the world.

While we can look with a great deal of pleasure upon what we have done
abroad, we must remember that our continued success in that direction
depends upon what we do at home. Since its very outset, it has been
found necessary to conduct our Government by means of political parties.
That system would not have survived from generation to generation if it
had not been fundamentally sound and provided the best instrumentalities
for the most complete expression of the popular will. It is not
necessary to claim that it has always worked perfectly. It is enough to
know that nothing better has been devised. No one would deny that there
should be full and free expression and an opportunity for independence
of action within the party. There is no salvation in a narrow
and bigoted partisanship. But if there is to be responsible party
government, the party label must be something more than a mere device
for securing office. Unless those who are elected under the same party
designation are willing to assume sufficient responsibility and exhibit
sufficient loyalty and coherence, so that they can cooperate with each
other in the support of the broad general principles, of the party
platform, the election is merely a mockery, no decision is made at
the polls, and there is no representation of the popular will. Common
honesty and good faith with the people who support a party at the polls
require that party, when it enters office, to assume the control of that
portion of the Government to which it has been elected. Any other course
is bad faith and a violation of the party pledges.

When the country has bestowed its confidence upon a party by making it a
majority in the Congress, it has a right to expect such unity of action
as will make the party majority an effective instrument of government.
This Administration has come into power with a very clear and definite
mandate from the people. The expression of the popular will in favor of
maintaining our constitutional guarantees was overwhelming and decisive.
There was a manifestation of such faith in the integrity of the
courts that we can consider that issue rejected for some time to come.
Likewise, the policy of public ownership of railroads and certain
electric utilities met with unmistakable defeat. The people declared
that they wanted their rights to have not a political but a judicial
determination, and their independence and freedom continued and
supported by having the ownership and control of their property, not in
the Government, but in their own hands. As they always do when they
have a fair chance, the people demonstrated that they are sound and are
determined to have a sound government.

When we turn from what was rejected to inquire what was accepted, the
policy that stands out with the greatest clearness is that of economy in
public expenditure with reduction and reform of taxation. The principle
involved in this effort is that of conservation. The resources of this
country are almost beyond computation. No mind can comprehend them.
But the cost of our combined governments is likewise almost beyond
definition. Not only those who are now making their tax returns, but
those who meet the enhanced cost of existence in their monthly bills,
know by hard experience what this great burden is and what it does. No
matter what others may want, these people want a drastic economy. They
are opposed to waste. They know that extravagance lengthens the hours
and diminishes the rewards of their labor. I favor the policy of
economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save
people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear
the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means
that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we
prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant.
Economy is idealism in its most practical form.

If extravagance were not reflected in taxation, and through taxation
both directly and indirectly injuriously affecting the people, it would
not be of so much consequence. The wisest and soundest method of solving
our tax problem is through economy. Fortunately, of all the great
nations this country is best in a position to adopt that simple remedy.
We do not any longer need wartime revenues. The collection of any taxes
which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable
doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized
larceny. Under this republic the rewards of industry belong to those
who earn them. The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to
public necessity. The property of the country belongs to the people of
the country. Their title is absolute. They do not support any privileged
class; they do not need to maintain great military forces; they ought
not to be burdened with a great array of public employees. They are not
required to make any contribution to Government expenditures except
that which they voluntarily assess upon themselves through the action of
their own representatives. Whenever taxes become burdensome a remedy can
be applied by the people; but if they do not act for themselves, no one
can be very successful in acting for them.

The time is arriving when we can have further tax reduction, when,
unless we wish to hamper the people in their right to earn a living, we
must have tax reform. The method of raising revenue ought not to impede
the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to
extremely high rates, because they produce little or no revenue, because
they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong.
We can not finance the country, we can not improve social conditions,
through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it upon
the rich. Those who suffer the most harm will be the poor. This country
believes in prosperity. It is absurd to suppose that it is envious of
those who are already prosperous. The wise and correct course to follow
in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those
who have already secured success but to create conditions under which
every one will have a better chance to be successful. The verdict of the
country has been given on this question. That verdict stands. We shall
do well to heed it.

These questions involve moral issues. We need not concern ourselves much
about the rights of property if we will faithfully observe the rights
of persons. Under our institutions their rights are supreme. It is not
property but the right to hold property, both great and small, which
our Constitution guarantees. All owners of property are charged with
a service. These rights and duties have been revealed, through the
conscience of society, to have a divine sanction. The very stability of
our society rests upon production and conservation. For individuals or
for governments to waste and squander their resources is to deny
these rights and disregard these obligations. The result of economic
dissipation to a nation is always moral decay.

These policies of better international understandings, greater economy,
and lower taxes have contributed largely to peaceful and prosperous
industrial relations. Under the helpful influences of restrictive
immigration and a protective tariff, employment is plentiful, the rate
of pay is high, and wage earners are in a state of contentment seldom
before seen. Our transportation systems have been gradually recovering
and have been able to meet all the requirements of the service.
Agriculture has been very slow in reviving, but the price of cereals at
last indicates that the day of its deliverance is at hand.

We are not without our problems, but our most important problem is not
to secure new advantages but to maintain those which we already possess.
Our system of government made up of three separate and independent
departments, our divided sovereignty composed of Nation and State, the
matchless wisdom that is enshrined in our Constitution, all these need
constant effort and tireless vigilance for their protection and support.

In a republic the first rule for the guidance of the citizen is
obedience to law. Under a despotism the law may be imposed upon
the subject. He has no voice in its making, no influence in its
administration, it does not represent him. Under a free government the
citizen makes his own laws, chooses his own administrators, which
do represent him. Those who want their rights respected under the
Constitution and the law ought to set the example themselves of
observing the Constitution and the law. While there may be those of
high intelligence who violate the law at times, the barbarian and the
defective always violate it. Those who disregard the rules of society
are not exhibiting a superior intelligence, are not promoting freedom
and independence, are not following the path of civilization, but are
displaying the traits of ignorance, of servitude, of savagery, and
treading the way that leads back to the jungle.

The essence of a republic is representative government. Our Congress
represents the people and the States. In all legislative affairs it
is the natural collaborator with the President. In spite of all the
criticism which often falls to its lot, I do not hesitate to say that
there is no more independent and effective legislative body in the
world. It is, and should be, jealous of its prerogative. I welcome its
cooperation, and expect to share with it not only the responsibility,
but the credit, for our common effort to secure beneficial legislation.

These are some of the principles which America represents. We have
not by any means put them fully into practice, but we have strongly
signified our belief in them. The encouraging feature of our country is
not that it has reached its destination, but that it has overwhelmingly
expressed its determination to proceed in the right direction. It is
true that we could, with profit, be less sectional and more national in
our thought. It would be well if we could replace much that is only a
false and ignorant prejudice with a true and enlightened pride of race.
But the last election showed that appeals to class and nationality had
little effect. We were all found loyal to a common citizenship. The
fundamental precept of liberty is toleration. We can not permit any
inquisition either within or without the law or apply any religious test
to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free.

It is in such contemplations, my fellow countrymen, which are not
exhaustive but only representative, that I find ample warrant for
satisfaction and encouragement. We should not let the much that is to
do obscure the much which has been done. The past and present show
faith and hope and courage fully justified. Here stands our country, an
example of tranquillity at home, a patron of tranquillity abroad.
Here stands its Government, aware of its might but obedient to
its conscience. Here it will continue to stand, seeking peace and
prosperity, solicitous for the welfare of the wage earner, promoting
enterprise, developing waterways and natural resources, attentive to
the intuitive counsel of womanhood, encouraging education, desiring the
advancement of religion, supporting the cause of justice and honor among
the nations. America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force.
No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions.
The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but
with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of
all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no
purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.


Herbert Hoover Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1929

My Countrymen:

THIS occasion is not alone the administration of the most sacred oath
which can be assumed by an American citizen. It is a dedication and
consecration under God to the highest office in service of our people.
I assume this trust in the humility of knowledge that only through
the guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge its
ever-increasing burdens.

It is in keeping with tradition throughout our history that I should
express simply and directly the opinions which I hold concerning some of
the matters of present importance.


If we survey the situation of our Nation both at home and abroad,
we find many satisfactions; we find some causes for concern. We
have emerged from the losses of the Great War and the reconstruction
following it with increased virility and strength. From this strength we
have contributed to the recovery and progress of the world. What America
has done has given renewed hope and courage to all who have faith in
government by the people. In the large view, we have reached a higher
degree of comfort and security than ever existed before in the history
of the world. Through liberation from widespread poverty we have reached
a higher degree of individual freedom than ever before. The devotion to
and concern for our institutions are deep and sincere. We are steadily
building a new race--a new civilization great in its own attainments.
The influence and high purposes of our Nation are respected among the
peoples of the world. We aspire to distinction in the world, but to a
distinction based upon confidence in our sense of justice as well as our
accomplishments within our own borders and in our own lives. For wise
guidance in this great period of recovery the Nation is deeply indebted
to Calvin Coolidge.

But all this majestic advance should not obscure the constant dangers
from which self-government must be safeguarded. The strong man must at
all times be alert to the attack of insidious disease.


The most malign of all these dangers today is disregard and disobedience
of law. Crime is increasing. Confidence in rigid and speedy justice is
decreasing. I am not prepared to believe that this indicates any decay
in the moral fiber of the American people. I am not prepared to believe
that it indicates an impotence of the Federal Government to enforce its

It is only in part due to the additional burdens imposed upon our
judicial system by the eighteenth amendment. The problem is much wider
than that. Many influences had increasingly complicated and weakened our
law enforcement organization long before the adoption of the eighteenth

To reestablish the vigor and effectiveness of law enforcement we
must critically consider the entire Federal machinery of justice, the
redistribution of its functions, the simplification of its procedure,
the provision of additional special tribunals, the better selection
of juries, and the more effective organization of our agencies of
investigation and prosecution that justice may be sure and that it may
be swift. While the authority of the Federal Government extends to but
part of our vast system of national, State, and local justice, yet
the standards which the Federal Government establishes have the most
profound influence upon the whole structure.

We are fortunate in the ability and integrity of our Federal judges
and attorneys. But the system which these officers are called upon to
administer is in many respects ill adapted to present-day conditions.
Its intricate and involved rules of procedure have become the refuge of
both big and little criminals. There is a belief abroad that by invoking
technicalities, subterfuge, and delay, the ends of justice may be
thwarted by those who can pay the cost.

Reform, reorganization and strengthening of our whole judicial and
enforcement system, both in civil and criminal sides, have been
advocated for years by statesmen, judges, and bar associations.
First steps toward that end should not longer be delayed. Rigid and
expeditious justice is the first safeguard of freedom, the basis of all
ordered liberty, the vital force of progress. It must not come to be in
our Republic that it can be defeated by the indifference of the citizen,
by exploitation of the delays and entanglements of the law, or by
combinations of criminals. Justice must not fail because the agencies
of enforcement are either delinquent or inefficiently organized. To
consider these evils, to find their remedy, is the most sore necessity
of our times.


Of the undoubted abuses which have grown up under the eighteenth
amendment, part are due to the causes I have just mentioned; but
part are due to the failure of some States to accept their share of
responsibility for concurrent enforcement and to the failure of many
State and local officials to accept the obligation under their oath of
office zealously to enforce the laws. With the failures from these many
causes has come a dangerous expansion in the criminal elements who have
found enlarged opportunities in dealing in illegal liquor.

But a large responsibility rests directly upon our citizens. There would
be little traffic in illegal liquor if only criminals patronized it.
We must awake to the fact that this patronage from large numbers of
law-abiding citizens is supplying the rewards and stimulating crime.

I have been selected by you to execute and enforce the laws of the
country. I propose to do so to the extent of my own abilities, but the
measure of success that the Government shall attain will depend upon the
moral support which you, as citizens, extend. The duty of citizens
to support the laws of the land is coequal with the duty of their
Government to enforce the laws which exist. No greater national service
can be given by men and women of good will--who, I know, are not
unmindful of the responsibilities of citizenship--than that they should,
by their example, assist in stamping out crime and outlawry by refusing
participation in and condemning all transactions with illegal liquor.
Our whole system of self-government will crumble either if officials
elect what laws they will enforce or citizens elect what laws they will
support. The worst evil of disregard for some law is that it destroys
respect for all law. For our citizens to patronize the violation of a
particular law on the ground that they are opposed to it is destructive
of the very basis of all that protection of life, of homes and property
which they rightly claim under other laws. If citizens do not like a
law, their duty as honest men and women is to discourage its violation;
their right is openly to work for its repeal.

To those of criminal mind there can be no appeal but vigorous
enforcement of the law. Fortunately they are but a small percentage of
our people. Their activities must be stopped.


I propose to appoint a national commission for a searching investigation
of the whole structure of our Federal system of jurisprudence, to
include the method of enforcement of the eighteenth amendment and
the causes of abuse under it. Its purpose will be to make such
recommendations for reorganization of the administration of Federal laws
and court procedure as may be found desirable. In the meantime it is
essential that a large part of the enforcement activities be transferred
from the Treasury Department to the Department of Justice as a beginning
of more effective organization.


The election has again confirmed the determination of the American
people that regulation of private enterprise and not Government
ownership or operation is the course rightly to be pursued in
our relation to business. In recent years we have established a
differentiation in the whole method of business regulation between the
industries which produce and distribute commodities on the one hand
and public utilities on the other. In the former, our laws insist upon
effective competition; in the latter, because we substantially confer
a monopoly by limiting competition, we must regulate their services and
rates. The rigid enforcement of the laws applicable to both groups is
the very base of equal opportunity and freedom from domination for all
our people, and it is just as essential for the stability and prosperity
of business itself as for the protection of the public at large. Such
regulation should be extended by the Federal Government within the
limitations of the Constitution and only when the individual States are
without power to protect their citizens through their own authority. On
the other hand, we should be fearless when the authority rests only in
the Federal Government.


The larger purpose of our economic thought should be to establish more
firmly stability and security of business and employment and thereby
remove poverty still further from our borders. Our people have in recent
years developed a new-found capacity for cooperation among themselves
to effect high purposes in public welfare. It is an advance toward the
highest conception of self-government. Self-government does not and
should not imply the use of political agencies alone. Progress is born
of cooperation in the community--not from governmental restraints. The
Government should assist and encourage these movements of collective
self-help by itself cooperating with them. Business has by cooperation
made great progress in the advancement of service, in stability, in
regularity of employment and in the correction of its own abuses. Such
progress, however, can continue only so long as business manifests its
respect for law.

There is an equally important field of cooperation by the Federal
Government with the multitude of agencies, State, municipal and private,
in the systematic development of those processes which directly affect
public health, recreation, education, and the home. We have need
further to perfect the means by which Government can be adapted to human


Although education is primarily a responsibility of the States and
local communities, and rightly so, yet the Nation as a whole is vitally
concerned in its development everywhere to the highest standards and
to complete universality. Self-government can succeed only through
an instructed electorate. Our objective is not simply to overcome
illiteracy. The Nation has marched far beyond that. The more complex the
problems of the Nation become, the greater is the need for more and more
advanced instruction. Moreover, as our numbers increase and as our
life expands with science and invention, we must discover more and more
leaders for every walk of life. We can not hope to succeed in directing
this increasingly complex civilization unless we can draw all the talent
of leadership from the whole people. One civilization after another has
been wrecked upon the attempt to secure sufficient leadership from
a single group or class. If we would prevent the growth of class
distinctions and would constantly refresh our leadership with the ideals
of our people, we must draw constantly from the general mass. The
full opportunity for every boy and girl to rise through the selective
processes of education can alone secure to us this leadership.


In public health the discoveries of science have opened a new era. Many
sections of our country and many groups of our citizens suffer from
diseases the eradication of which are mere matters of administration and
moderate expenditure. Public health service should be as fully organized
and as universally incorporated into our governmental system as is
public education. The returns are a thousand fold in economic benefits,
and infinitely more in reduction of suffering and promotion of human


The United States fully accepts the profound truth that our own
progress, prosperity, and peace are interlocked with the progress,
prosperity, and peace of all humanity. The whole world is at peace. The
dangers to a continuation of this peace to-day are largely the fear
and suspicion which still haunt the world. No suspicion or fear can be
rightly directed toward our country.

Those who have a true understanding of America know that we have no
desire for territorial expansion, for economic or other domination
of other peoples. Such purposes are repugnant to our ideals of human
freedom. Our form of government is ill adapted to the responsibilities
which inevitably follow permanent limitation of the independence of
other peoples. Superficial observers seem to find no destiny for our
abounding increase in population, in wealth and power except that of
imperialism. They fail to see that the American people are engrossed
in the building for themselves of a new economic system, a new social
system, a new political system all of which are characterized by
aspirations of freedom of opportunity and thereby are the negation
of imperialism. They fail to realize that because of our abounding
prosperity our youth are pressing more and more into our institutions
of learning; that our people are seeking a larger vision through art,
literature, science, and travel; that they are moving toward stronger
moral and spiritual life--that from these things our sympathies are
broadening beyond the bounds of our Nation and race toward their true
expression in a real brotherhood of man. They fail to see that the
idealism of America will lead it to no narrow or selfish channel, but
inspire it to do its full share as a nation toward the advancement of
civilization. It will do that not by mere declaration but by taking a
practical part in supporting all useful international undertakings.
We not only desire peace with the world, but to see peace maintained
throughout the world. We wish to advance the reign of justice and reason
toward the extinction of force.

The recent treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of
national policy sets an advanced standard in our conception of the
relations of nations. Its acceptance should pave the way to greater
limitation of armament, the offer of which we sincerely extend to the
world. But its full realization also implies a greater and greater
perfection in the instrumentalities for pacific settlement of
controversies between nations. In the creation and use of these
instrumentalities we should support every sound method of conciliation,
arbitration, and judicial settlement. American statesmen were among
the first to propose and they have constantly urged upon the world, the
establishment of a tribunal for the settlement of controversies of a
justiciable character. The Permanent Court of International Justice in
its major purpose is thus peculiarly identified with American ideals
and with American statesmanship. No more potent instrumentality for
this purpose has ever been conceived and no other is practicable of
establishment. The reservations placed upon our adherence should not be
misinterpreted. The United States seeks by these reservations no special
privilege or advantage but only to clarify our relation to advisory
opinions and other matters which are subsidiary to the major purpose of
the court. The way should, and I believe will, be found by which we may
take our proper place in a movement so fundamental to the progress of

Our people have determined that we should make no political engagements
such as membership in the League of Nations, which may commit us
in advance as a nation to become involved in the settlements of
controversies between other countries. They adhere to the belief that
the independence of America from such obligations increases its ability
and availability for service in all fields of human progress.

I have lately returned from a journey among our sister Republics of the
Western Hemisphere. I have received unbounded hospitality and courtesy
as their expression of friendliness to our country. We are held by
particular bonds of sympathy and common interest with them. They are
each of them building a racial character and a culture which is
an impressive contribution to human progress. We wish only for the
maintenance of their independence, the growth of their stability, and
their prosperity. While we have had wars in the Western Hemisphere, yet
on the whole the record is in encouraging contrast with that of other
parts of the world. Fortunately the New World is largely free from the
inheritances of fear and distrust which have so troubled the Old World.
We should keep it so.

It is impossible, my countrymen, to speak of peace without profound
emotion. In thousands of homes in America, in millions of homes around
the world, there are vacant chairs. It would be a shameful confession
of our unworthiness if it should develop that we have abandoned the hope
for which all these men died. Surely civilization is old enough, surely
mankind is mature enough so that we ought in our own lifetime to find a
way to permanent peace. Abroad, to west and east, are nations whose sons
mingled their blood with the blood of our sons on the battlefields.
Most of these nations have contributed to our race, to our culture,
our knowledge, and our progress. From one of them we derive our very
language and from many of them much of the genius of our institutions.
Their desire for peace is as deep and sincere as our own.

Peace can be contributed to by respect for our ability in defense. Peace
can be promoted by the limitation of arms and by the creation of the
instrumentalities for peaceful settlement of controversies. But it
will become a reality only through self-restraint and active effort in
friendliness and helpfulness. I covet for this administration a record
of having further contributed to advance the cause of peace.


In our form of democracy the expression of the popular will can be
effected only through the instrumentality of political parties. We
maintain party government not to promote intolerant partisanship but
because opportunity must be given for expression of the popular will,
and organization provided for the execution of its mandates and
for accountability of government to the people. It follows that the
government both in the executive and the legislative branches must carry
out in good faith the platforms upon which the party was entrusted with
power. But the government is that of the whole people; the party is the
instrument through which policies are determined and men chosen to bring
them into being. The animosities of elections should have no place in
our Government, for government must concern itself alone with the common


Action upon some of the proposals upon which the Republican Party was
returned to power, particularly further agricultural relief and limited
changes in the tariff, cannot in justice to our farmers, our labor,
and our manufacturers be postponed. I shall therefore request a special
session of Congress for the consideration of these two questions. I
shall deal with each of them upon the assembly of the Congress.


It appears to me that the more important further mandates from
the recent election were the maintenance of the integrity of the
Constitution; the vigorous enforcement of the laws; the continuance of
economy in public expenditure; the continued regulation of business
to prevent domination in the community; the denial of ownership
or operation of business by the Government in competition with its
citizens; the avoidance of policies which would involve us in the
controversies of foreign nations; the more effective reorganization
of the departments of the Federal Government; the expansion of public
works; and the promotion of welfare activities affecting education and
the home.

These were the more tangible determinations of the election, but beyond
them was the confidence and belief of the people that we would not
neglect the support of the embedded ideals and aspirations of America.
These ideals and aspirations are the touchstones upon which the
day-to-day administration and legislative acts of government must be
tested. More than this, the Government must, so far as lies within its
proper powers, give leadership to the realization of these ideals and
to the fruition of these aspirations. No one can adequately reduce these
things of the spirit to phrases or to a catalogue of definitions. We do
know what the attainments of these ideals should be: The preservation
of self-government and its full foundations in local government; the
perfection of justice whether in economic or in social fields; the
maintenance of ordered liberty; the denial of domination by any group or
class; the building up and preservation of equality of opportunity;
the stimulation of initiative and individuality; absolute integrity
in public affairs; the choice of officials for fitness to office;
the direction of economic progress toward prosperity for the further
lessening of poverty; the freedom of public opinion; the sustaining of
education and of the advancement of knowledge; the growth of religious
spirit and the tolerance of all faiths; the strengthening of the home;
the advancement of peace.

There is no short road to the realization of these aspirations. Ours
is a progressive people, but with a determination that progress must be
based upon the foundation of experience. Ill-considered remedies for our
faults bring only penalties after them. But if we hold the faith of the
men in our mighty past who created these ideals, we shall leave them
heightened and strengthened for our children.


This is not the time and place for extended discussion. The questions
before our country are problems of progress to higher standards; they
are not the problems of degeneration. They demand thought and they serve
to quicken the conscience and enlist our sense of responsibility for
their settlement. And that responsibility rests upon you, my countrymen,
as much as upon those of us who have been selected for office.

Ours is a land rich in resources; stimulating in its glorious
beauty; filled with millions of happy homes; blessed with comfort
and opportunity. In no nation are the institutions of progress more
advanced. In no nation are the fruits of accomplishment more secure. In
no nation is the government more worthy of respect. No country is
more loved by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity,
integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our
country. It is bright with hope.

In the presence of my countrymen, mindful of the solemnity of this
occasion, knowing what the task means and the responsibility which it
involves, I beg your tolerance, your aid, and your cooperation. I ask
the help of Almighty God in this service to my country to which you have
called me.


Franklin D. Roosevelt First Inaugural Address Saturday, March 4, 1933

I AM certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into
the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which
the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the
time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need
we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This
great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will
prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only
thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified
terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness
and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people
themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will
again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common
difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have
shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay
has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of
income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the
withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find
no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of
families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of
existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a
foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken
by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers
conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much
to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts
have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it
languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because
the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through
their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their
failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers
stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts
and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of
an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only
the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to
induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted
to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know
only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and
when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our
civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The
measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social
values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy
of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral
stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of
evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if
they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to
minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success
goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that
public office and high political position are to be valued only by the
standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an
end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given
to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small
wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on
honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on
unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation
asks for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no
unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be
accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself,
treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at
the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed
projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.

Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of
population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national
scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land
for those best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite
efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this
the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped
by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through
foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by
insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith
on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped
by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered,
uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for
and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and
other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many
ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by
talking about it. We must act and act quickly.

Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two
safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be
a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there
must be an end to speculation with other people's money, and there must
be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

There are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new
Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and
I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.

Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our
own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our
international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of
time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national
economy. I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things
first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international
economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that

The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery
is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first
consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in all
parts of the United States--a recognition of the old and permanently
important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the
way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance
that the recovery will endure.

In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy
of the good neighbor--the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and,
because he does so, respects the rights of others--the neighbor who
respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in
and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have
never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not
merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we
must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good
of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is
made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing
to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes
possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to
offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a
sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of
armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this
great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our
common problems.

Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of
government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution
is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet
extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss
of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved
itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world
has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of
foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.

It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative
authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before
us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed
action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of
public procedure.

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures
that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.
These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out
of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional
authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two
courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical,
I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me.
I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the
crisis--broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as
great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded
by a foreign foe.

For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion
that befit the time. I can do no less.

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of the
national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious
moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern
performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a
rounded and permanent national life.

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of
the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered
a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for
discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present
instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.

In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He
protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.


Franklin D. Roosevelt Second Inaugural Address Wednesday, January 20,

WHEN four years ago we met to inaugurate a President, the Republic,
single-minded in anxiety, stood in spirit here. We dedicated ourselves
to the fulfillment of a vision--to speed the time when there would be
for all the people that security and peace essential to the pursuit of
happiness. We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the
temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it; to end by action,
tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day. We did
those first things first.

Our covenant with ourselves did not stop there. Instinctively we
recognized a deeper need--the need to find through government the
instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the
ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at
their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and
bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those
moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make
science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do
this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic
forces and blindly selfish men.

We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has
innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered
inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not
admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as,
after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master
epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common
welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of

In this we Americans were discovering no wholly new truth; we were
writing a new chapter in our book of self-government.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the
Constitutional Convention which made us a nation. At that Convention
our forefathers found the way out of the chaos which followed the
Revolutionary War; they created a strong government with powers of
united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond
individual or local solution. A century and a half ago they established
the Federal Government in order to promote the general welfare and
secure the blessings of liberty to the American people.

Today we invoke those same powers of government to achieve the same

Four years of new experience have not belied our historic instinct. They
hold out the clear hope that government within communities, government
within the separate States, and government of the United States can do
the things the times require, without yielding its democracy. Our tasks
in the last four years did not force democracy to take a holiday.

Nearly all of us recognize that as intricacies of human relationships
increase, so power to govern them also must increase--power to stop
evil; power to do good. The essential democracy of our Nation and the
safety of our people depend not upon the absence of power, but upon
lodging it with those whom the people can change or continue at
stated intervals through an honest and free system of elections. The
Constitution of 1787 did not make our democracy impotent.

In fact, in these last four years, we have made the exercise of all
power more democratic; for we have begun to bring private autocratic
powers into their proper subordination to the public's government. The
legend that they were invincible--above and beyond the processes of a
democracy--has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten.

Our progress out of the depression is obvious. But that is not all that
you and I mean by the new order of things. Our pledge was not merely to
do a patchwork job with secondhand materials. By using the new materials
of social justice we have undertaken to erect on the old foundations a
more enduring structure for the better use of future generations.

In that purpose we have been helped by achievements of mind and spirit.
Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have
always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now
that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose
builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the
long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the
line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are
fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a
morally better world.

This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success
as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power
by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.

In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily
condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We
are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can
be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.

For these reasons I am justified in believing that the greatest change
we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America.

Among men of good will, science and democracy together offer an
ever-richer life and ever-larger satisfaction to the individual. With
this change in our moral climate and our rediscovered ability to improve
our economic order, we have set our feet upon the road of enduring

Shall we pause now and turn our back upon the road that lies ahead?
Shall we call this the promised land? Or, shall we continue on our way?
For "each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth."

Many voices are heard as we face a great decision. Comfort says, "Tarry
a while." Opportunism says, "This is a good spot." Timidity asks, "How
difficult is the road ahead?"

True, we have come far from the days of stagnation and despair. Vitality
has been preserved. Courage and confidence have been restored. Mental
and moral horizons have been extended.

But our present gains were won under the pressure of more than ordinary
circumstances. Advance became imperative under the goad of fear and
suffering. The times were on the side of progress.

To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled
conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already
reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!
Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose.

Let us ask again: Have we reached the goal of our vision of that fourth
day of March 1933? Have we found our happy valley?

I see a great nation, upon a great continent, blessed with a great
wealth of natural resources. Its hundred and thirty million people are
at peace among themselves; they are making their country a good neighbor
among the nations. I see a United States which can demonstrate
that, under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be
translated into a spreading volume of human comforts hitherto unknown,
and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of
mere subsistence.

But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens
of millions of its citizens--a substantial part of its whole
population--who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what
the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the
pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under
conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to
better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory
and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you
in hope--because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in
it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American
citizen the subject of his country's interest and concern; and we
will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as
superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the
abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for
those who have too little.

If I know aught of the spirit and purpose of our Nation, we will not
listen to Comfort, Opportunism, and Timidity. We will carry on.

Overwhelmingly, we of the Republic are men and women of good will; men
and women who have more than warm hearts of dedication; men and women
who have cool heads and willing hands of practical purpose as well.
They will insist that every agency of popular government use effective
instruments to carry out their will.

Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the
whole people. It can make constant progress when it keeps abreast of all
the facts. It can obtain justified support and legitimate criticism when
the people receive true information of all that government does.

If I know aught of the will of our people, they will demand that these
conditions of effective government shall be created and maintained. They
will demand a nation uncorrupted by cancers of injustice and, therefore,
strong among the nations in its example of the will to peace.

Today we reconsecrate our country to long-cherished ideals in a suddenly
changed civilization. In every land there are always at work forces
that drive men apart and forces that draw men together. In our personal
ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and
political progress as a nation, we all go up, or else we all go down, as
one people.

To maintain a democracy of effort requires a vast amount of patience in
dealing with differing methods, a vast amount of humility. But out of
the confusion of many voices rises an understanding of dominant public
need. Then political leadership can voice common ideals, and aid in
their realization.

In taking again the oath of office as President of the United States,
I assume the solemn obligation of leading the American people forward
along the road over which they have chosen to advance.

While this duty rests upon me I shall do my utmost to speak their
purpose and to do their will, seeking Divine guidance to help us each
and every one to give light to them that sit in darkness and to guide
our feet into the way of peace.


Franklin D. Roosevelt Third Inaugural Address Monday, January 20, 1941

ON each national day of inauguration since 1789, the people have renewed
their sense of dedication to the United States.

In Washington's day the task of the people was to create and weld
together a nation.

In Lincoln's day the task of the people was to preserve that Nation from
disruption from within.

In this day the task of the people is to save that Nation and its
institutions from disruption from without.

To us there has come a time, in the midst of swift happenings, to pause
for a moment and take stock--to recall what our place in history has
been, and to rediscover what we are and what we may be. If we do not, we
risk the real peril of inaction.

Lives of nations are determined not by the count of years, but by the
lifetime of the human spirit. The life of a man is three-score years and
ten: a little more, a little less. The life of a nation is the fullness
of the measure of its will to live.

There are men who doubt this. There are men who believe that democracy,
as a form of Government and a frame of life, is limited or measured by a
kind of mystical and artificial fate that, for some unexplained reason,
tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future--and that
freedom is an ebbing tide.

But we Americans know that this is not true.

Eight years ago, when the life of this Republic seemed frozen by a
fatalistic terror, we proved that this is not true. We were in the midst
of shock--but we acted. We acted quickly, boldly, decisively.

These later years have been living years--fruitful years for the people
of this democracy. For they have brought to us greater security and, I
hope, a better understanding that life's ideals are to be measured in
other than material things. Most vital to our present and our future
is this experience of a democracy which successfully survived crisis at
home; put away many evil things; built new structures on enduring lines;
and, through it all, maintained the fact of its democracy.

For action has been taken within the three-way framework of the
Constitution of the United States. The coordinate branches of the
Government continue freely to function. The Bill of Rights remains
inviolate. The freedom of elections is wholly maintained. Prophets of
the downfall of American democracy have seen their dire predictions come
to naught.

Democracy is not dying.

We know it because we have seen it revive--and grow.

We know it cannot die--because it is built on the unhampered initiative
of individual men and women joined together in a common enterprise--an
enterprise undertaken and carried through by the free expression of a
free majority.

We know it because democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists
the full force of men's enlightened will.

We know it because democracy alone has constructed an unlimited
civilization capable of infinite progress in the improvement of human

We know it because, if we look below the surface, we sense it still
spreading on every continent--for it is the most humane, the most
advanced, and in the end the most unconquerable of all forms of human

A nation, like a person, has a body--a body that must be fed and clothed
and housed, invigorated and rested, in a manner that measures up to the
objectives of our time.

A nation, like a person, has a mind--a mind that must be kept informed
and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and the
needs of its neighbors--all the other nations that live within the
narrowing circle of the world.

And a nation, like a person, has something deeper, something more
permanent, something larger than the sum of all its parts. It is that
something which matters most to its future--which calls forth the most
sacred guarding of its present.

It is a thing for which we find it difficult--even impossible--to hit
upon a single, simple word.

And yet we all understand what it is--the spirit--the faith of America.
It is the product of centuries. It was born in the multitudes of those
who came from many lands--some of high degree, but mostly plain people,
who sought here, early and late, to find freedom more freely.

The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history. It
is human history. It permeated the ancient life of early peoples. It
blazed anew in the middle ages. It was written in Magna Charta.

In the Americas its impact has been irresistible. America has been the
New World in all tongues, to all peoples, not because this continent
was a new-found land, but because all those who came here believed they
could create upon this continent a new life--a life that should be new
in freedom.

Its vitality was written into our own Mayflower Compact, into the
Declaration of Independence, into the Constitution of the United States,
into the Gettysburg Address.

Those who first came here to carry out the longings of their spirit, and
the millions who followed, and the stock that sprang from them--all
have moved forward constantly and consistently toward an ideal which in
itself has gained stature and clarity with each generation.

The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved
poverty or self-serving wealth.

We know that we still have far to go; that we must more greatly build
the security and the opportunity and the knowledge of every citizen, in
the measure justified by the resources and the capacity of the land.

But it is not enough to achieve these purposes alone. It is not enough
to clothe and feed the body of this Nation, and instruct and inform its
mind. For there is also the spirit. And of the three, the greatest is
the spirit.

Without the body and the mind, as all men know, the Nation could not

But if the spirit of America were killed, even though the Nation's body
and mind, constricted in an alien world, lived on, the America we know
would have perished.

That spirit--that faith--speaks to us in our daily lives in ways often
unnoticed, because they seem so obvious. It speaks to us here in
the Capital of the Nation. It speaks to us through the processes of
governing in the sovereignties of 48 States. It speaks to us in our
counties, in our cities, in our towns, and in our villages. It speaks to
us from the other nations of the hemisphere, and from those across the
seas--the enslaved, as well as the free. Sometimes we fail to hear or
heed these voices of freedom because to us the privilege of our freedom
is such an old, old story.

The destiny of America was proclaimed in words of prophecy spoken by our
first President in his first inaugural in 1789--words almost directed,
it would seem, to this year of 1941: "The preservation of the sacred
fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government
are justly considered... deeply,... finally, staked on the experiment
intrusted to the hands of the American people."

If we lose that sacred fire--if we let it be smothered with doubt
and fear--then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so
valiantly and so triumphantly to establish. The preservation of the
spirit and faith of the Nation does, and will, furnish the highest
justification for every sacrifice that we may make in the cause of
national defense.

In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose
is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy.

For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America.

We do not retreat. We are not content to stand still. As Americans, we
go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God.


Franklin D. Roosevelt Fourth Inaugural Address Saturday, January 20,

MR. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, my friends, you will understand
and, I believe, agree with my wish that the form of this inauguration be
simple and its words brief.

We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a
period of supreme test. It is a test of our courage--of our resolve--of
our wisdom--our essential democracy.

If we meet that test--successfully and honorably--we shall perform a
service of historic importance which men and women and children will
honor throughout all time.

As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the
presence of my fellow countrymen--in the presence of our God--I know
that it is America's purpose that we shall not fail.

In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just
and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for
total victory in war.

We can and we will achieve such a peace.

We shall strive for perfection. We shall not achieve it immediately--but
we still shall strive. We may make mistakes--but they must never be
mistakes which result from faintness of heart or abandonment of moral

I remember that my old schoolmaster, Dr. Peabody, said, in days that
seemed to us then to be secure and untroubled: "Things in life will
not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the
heights--then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The
great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is
forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and
the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend."

Our Constitution of 1787 was not a perfect instrument; it is not perfect
yet. But it provided a firm base upon which all manner of men, of
all races and colors and creeds, could build our solid structure of

And so today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons--at a
fearful cost--and we shall profit by them.

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own
well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We
have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in
the manger.

We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human

We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that "The only way to
have a friend is to be one."

We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and
mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the
understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from

The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our
people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows
for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has
become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world.

So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly--to see the
way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow
men--to the achievement of His will to peace on earth.


Harry S. Truman Inaugural Address Thursday, January 20, 1949

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice, and fellow citizens, I accept
with humility the honor which the American people have conferred upon
me. I accept it with a deep resolve to do all that I can for the welfare
of this Nation and for the peace of the world.

In performing the duties of my office, I need the help and prayers of
every one of you. I ask for your encouragement and your support. The
tasks we face are difficult, and we can accomplish them only if we work

Each period of our national history has had its special challenges.
Those that confront us now are as momentous as any in the past. Today
marks the beginning not only of a new administration, but of a period
that will be eventful, perhaps decisive, for us and for the world.

It may be our lot to experience, and in large measure to bring about,
a major turning point in the long history of the human race. The first
half of this century has been marked by unprecedented and brutal attacks
on the rights of man, and by the two most frightful wars in history. The
supreme need of our time is for men to learn to live together in peace
and harmony.

The peoples of the earth face the future with grave uncertainty,
composed almost equally of great hopes and great fears. In this time
of doubt, they look to the United States as never before for good will,
strength, and wise leadership.

It is fitting, therefore, that we take this occasion to proclaim to the
world the essential principles of the faith by which we live, and to
declare our aims to all peoples.

The American people stand firm in the faith which has inspired this
Nation from the beginning. We believe that all men have a right to equal
justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good.
We believe that all men have the right to freedom of thought and
expression. We believe that all men are created equal because they are
created in the image of God.

From this faith we will not be moved.

The American people desire, and are determined to work for, a world in
which all nations and all peoples are free to govern themselves as they
see fit, and to achieve a decent and satisfying life. Above all else,
our people desire, and are determined to work for, peace on earth--a
just and lasting peace--based on genuine agreement freely arrived at by

In the pursuit of these aims, the United States and other like-minded
nations find themselves directly opposed by a regime with contrary aims
and a totally different concept of life.

That regime adheres to a false philosophy which purports to offer
freedom, security, and greater opportunity to mankind. Misled by this
philosophy, many peoples have sacrificed their liberties only to learn
to their sorrow that deceit and mockery, poverty and tyranny, are their

That false philosophy is communism.

Communism is based on the belief that man is so weak and inadequate
that he is unable to govern himself, and therefore requires the rule of
strong masters.

Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and
intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern
himself with reason and justice.

Communism subjects the individual to arrest without lawful cause,
punishment without trial, and forced labor as the chattel of the state.
It decrees what information he shall receive, what art he shall produce,
what leaders he shall follow, and what thoughts he shall think.

Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit of
the individual, and is charged with the responsibility of protecting
the rights of the individual and his freedom in the exercise of his

Communism maintains that social wrongs can be corrected only by

Democracy has proved that social justice can be achieved through
peaceful change.

Communism holds that the world is so deeply divided into opposing
classes that war is inevitable.

Democracy holds that free nations can settle differences justly and
maintain lasting peace.

These differences between communism and democracy do not concern the
United States alone. People everywhere are coming to realize that what
is involved is material well-being, human dignity, and the right to
believe in and worship God.

I state these differences, not to draw issues of belief as such, but
because the actions resulting from the Communist philosophy are a threat
to the efforts of free nations to bring about world recovery and lasting

Since the end of hostilities, the United States has invested its
substance and its energy in a great constructive effort to restore
peace, stability, and freedom to the world.

We have sought no territory and we have imposed our will on none. We
have asked for no privileges we would not extend to others.

We have constantly and vigorously supported the United Nations and
related agencies as a means of applying democratic principles to
international relations. We have consistently advocated and relied upon
peaceful settlement of disputes among nations.

We have made every effort to secure agreement on effective international
control of our most powerful weapon, and we have worked steadily for the
limitation and control of all armaments.

We have encouraged, by precept and example, the expansion of world trade
on a sound and fair basis.

Almost a year ago, in company with 16 free nations of Europe, we
launched the greatest cooperative economic program in history. The
purpose of that unprecedented effort is to invigorate and strengthen
democracy in Europe, so that the free people of that continent can
resume their rightful place in the forefront of civilization and can
contribute once more to the security and welfare of the world.

Our efforts have brought new hope to all mankind. We have beaten back
despair and defeatism. We have saved a number of countries from losing
their liberty. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world now
agree with us, that we need not have war--that we can have peace.

The initiative is ours.

We are moving on with other nations to build an even stronger structure
of international order and justice. We shall have as our partners
countries which, no longer solely concerned with the problem of national
survival, are now working to improve the standards of living of all
their people. We are ready to undertake new projects to strengthen the
free world.

In the coming years, our program for peace and freedom will emphasize
four major courses of action.

First, we will continue to give unfaltering support to the United
Nations and related agencies, and we will continue to search for ways to
strengthen their authority and increase their effectiveness. We believe
that the United Nations will be strengthened by the new nations which
are being formed in lands now advancing toward self-government under
democratic principles.

Second, we will continue our programs for world economic recovery.

This means, first of all, that we must keep our full weight behind the
European recovery program. We are confident of the success of this major
venture in world recovery. We believe that our partners in this effort
will achieve the status of self-supporting nations once again.

In addition, we must carry out our plans for reducing the barriers
to world trade and increasing its volume. Economic recovery and peace
itself depend on increased world trade.

Third, we will strengthen freedom-loving nations against the dangers of

We are now working out with a number of countries a joint agreement
designed to strengthen the security of the North Atlantic area. Such an
agreement would take the form of a collective defense arrangement within
the terms of the United Nations Charter.

We have already established such a defense pact for the Western
Hemisphere by the treaty of Rio de Janeiro.

The primary purpose of these agreements is to provide unmistakable proof
of the joint determination of the free countries to resist armed attack
from any quarter. Each country participating in these arrangements must
contribute all it can to the common defense.

If we can make it sufficiently clear, in advance, that any armed attack
affecting our national security would be met with overwhelming force,
the armed attack might never occur.

I hope soon to send to the Senate a treaty respecting the North Atlantic
security plan.

In addition, we will provide military advice and equipment to free
nations which will cooperate with us in the maintenance of peace and

Fourth, we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits
of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the
improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.

More than half the people of the world are living in conditions
approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of
disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is
a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas.

For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and the
skill to relieve the suffering of these people.

The United States is pre-eminent among nations in the development of
industrial and scientific techniques. The material resources which we
can afford to use for the assistance of other peoples are limited. But
our imponderable resources in technical knowledge are constantly growing
and are inexhaustible.

I believe that we should make available to peace-loving peoples the
benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them
realize their aspirations for a better life. And, in cooperation with
other nations, we should foster capital investment in areas needing

Our aim should be to help the free peoples of the world, through their
own efforts, to produce more food, more clothing, more materials for
housing, and more mechanical power to lighten their burdens.

We invite other countries to pool their technological resources in this
undertaking. Their contributions will be warmly welcomed. This should be
a cooperative enterprise in which all nations work together through the
United Nations and its specialized agencies wherever practicable. It
must be a worldwide effort for the achievement of peace, plenty, and

With the cooperation of business, private capital, agriculture, and
labor in this country, this program can greatly increase the industrial
activity in other nations and can raise substantially their standards of

Such new economic developments must be devised and controlled to benefit
the peoples of the areas in which they are established. Guarantees
to the investor must be balanced by guarantees in the interest of the
people whose resources and whose labor go into these developments.

The old imperialism--exploitation for foreign profit--has no place in
our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the
concepts of democratic fair-dealing.

All countries, including our own, will greatly benefit from a
constructive program for the better use of the world's human and natural
resources. Experience shows that our commerce with other countries
expands as they progress industrially and economically.

Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to
greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern
scientific and technical knowledge.

Only by helping the least fortunate of its members to help themselves
can the human family achieve the decent, satisfying life that is the
right of all people.

Democracy alone can supply the vitalizing force to stir the peoples
of the world into triumphant action, not only against their human
oppressors, but also against their ancient enemies--hunger, misery, and

On the basis of these four major courses of action we hope to help
create the conditions that will lead eventually to personal freedom and
happiness for all mankind.

If we are to be successful in carrying out these policies, it is clear
that we must have continued prosperity in this country and we must keep
ourselves strong.

Slowly but surely we are weaving a world fabric of international
security and growing prosperity.

We are aided by all who wish to live in freedom from fear--even by those
who live today in fear under their own governments.

We are aided by all who want relief from the lies of propaganda--who
desire truth and sincerity.

We are aided by all who desire self-government and a voice in deciding
their own affairs.

We are aided by all who long for economic security--for the security and
abundance that men in free societies can enjoy.

We are aided by all who desire freedom of speech, freedom of religion,
and freedom to live their own lives for useful ends.

Our allies are the millions who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

In due time, as our stability becomes manifest, as more and more nations
come to know the benefits of democracy and to participate in growing
abundance, I believe that those countries which now oppose us will
abandon their delusions and join with the free nations of the world in a
just settlement of international differences.

Events have brought our American democracy to new influence and new
responsibilities. They will test our courage, our devotion to duty, and
our concept of liberty.

But I say to all men, what we have achieved in liberty, we will surpass
in greater liberty.

Steadfast in our faith in the Almighty, we will advance toward a world
where man's freedom is secure.

To that end we will devote our strength, our resources, and our firmness
of resolve. With God's help, the future of mankind will be assured in a
world of justice, harmony, and peace.


Dwight D. Eisenhower First Inaugural Address Tuesday, January 20, 1953

MY friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I
deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of
uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your

Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in
the executive branch of government join me in beseeching that Thou will
make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in
this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.

Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and
allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws
of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the
people regardless of station, race, or calling.

May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under
the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths;
so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory.

My fellow citizens:

The world and we have passed the midway point of a century of continuing
challenge. We sense with all our faculties that forces of good and evil
are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history.

This fact defines the meaning of this day. We are summoned by this
honored and historic ceremony to witness more than the act of one
citizen swearing his oath of service, in the presence of God. We are
called as a people to give testimony in the sight of the world to our
faith that the future shall belong to the free.

Since this century's beginning, a time of tempest has seemed to come
upon the continents of the earth. Masses of Asia have awakened to strike
off shackles of the past. Great nations of Europe have fought their
bloodiest wars. Thrones have toppled and their vast empires have
disappeared. New nations have been born.

For our own country, it has been a time of recurring trial. We have
grown in power and in responsibility. We have passed through the
anxieties of depression and of war to a summit unmatched in man's
history. Seeking to secure peace in the world, we have had to fight
through the forests of the Argonne, to the shores of Iwo Jima, and to
the cold mountains of Korea.

In the swift rush of great events, we find ourselves groping to know the
full sense and meaning of these times in which we live. In our quest of
understanding, we beseech God's guidance. We summon all our knowledge of
the past and we scan all signs of the future. We bring all our wit and
all our will to meet the question:

How far have we come in man's long pilgrimage from darkness toward
light? Are we nearing the light--a day of freedom and of peace for all
mankind? Or are the shadows of another night closing in upon us?

Great as are the preoccupations absorbing us at home, concerned as we
are with matters that deeply affect our livelihood today and our vision
of the future, each of these domestic problems is dwarfed by, and often
even created by, this question that involves all humankind.

This trial comes at a moment when man's power to achieve good or to
inflict evil surpasses the brightest hopes and the sharpest fears of
all ages. We can turn rivers in their courses, level mountains to the
plains. Oceans and land and sky are avenues for our colossal commerce.
Disease diminishes and life lengthens.

Yet the promise of this life is imperiled by the very genius that has
made it possible. Nations amass wealth. Labor sweats to create--and
turns out devices to level not only mountains but also cities. Science
seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase
human life from this planet.

At such a time in history, we who are free must proclaim anew our faith.
This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers. It is our faith in the
deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral and natural laws.

This faith defines our full view of life. It establishes, beyond debate,
those gifts of the Creator that are man's inalienable rights, and that
make all men equal in His sight.

In the light of this equality, we know that the virtues most cherished
by free people--love of truth, pride of work, devotion to country--all
are treasures equally precious in the lives of the most humble and of
the most exalted. The men who mine coal and fire furnaces and balance
ledgers and turn lathes and pick cotton and heal the sick and plant
corn--all serve as proudly, and as profitably, for America as the
statesmen who draft treaties and the legislators who enact laws.

This faith rules our whole way of life. It decrees that we, the people,
elect leaders not to rule but to serve. It asserts that we have the
right to choice of our own work and to the reward of our own toil. It
inspires the initiative that makes our productivity the wonder of the
world. And it warns that any man who seeks to deny equality among all
his brothers betrays the spirit of the free and invites the mockery of
the tyrant.

It is because we, all of us, hold to these principles that the political
changes accomplished this day do not imply turbulence, upheaval or
disorder. Rather this change expresses a purpose of strengthening our
dedication and devotion to the precepts of our founding documents, a
conscious renewal of faith in our country and in the watchfulness of a
Divine Providence.

The enemies of this faith know no god but force, no devotion but its
use. They tutor men in treason. They feed upon the hunger of others.
Whatever defies them, they torture, especially the truth.

Here, then, is joined no argument between slightly differing
philosophies. This conflict strikes directly at the faith of our fathers
and the lives of our sons. No principle or treasure that we hold, from
the spiritual knowledge of our free schools and churches to the creative
magic of free labor and capital, nothing lies safely beyond the reach of
this struggle.

Freedom is pitted against slavery; lightness against the dark.

The faith we hold belongs not to us alone but to the free of all the
world. This common bond binds the grower of rice in Burma and the
planter of wheat in Iowa, the shepherd in southern Italy and the
mountaineer in the Andes. It confers a common dignity upon the French
soldier who dies in Indo-China, the British soldier killed in Malaya,
the American life given in Korea.

We know, beyond this, that we are linked to all free peoples not merely
by a noble idea but by a simple need. No free people can for long cling
to any privilege or enjoy any safety in economic solitude. For all our
own material might, even we need markets in the world for the surpluses
of our farms and our factories. Equally, we need for these same farms
and factories vital materials and products of distant lands. This basic
law of interdependence, so manifest in the commerce of peace, applies
with thousand-fold intensity in the event of war.

So we are persuaded by necessity and by belief that the strength of all
free peoples lies in unity; their danger, in discord.

To produce this unity, to meet the challenge of our time, destiny has
laid upon our country the responsibility of the free world's leadership.

So it is proper that we assure our friends once again that, in the
discharge of this responsibility, we Americans know and we observe the
difference between world leadership and imperialism; between firmness
and truculence; between a thoughtfully calculated goal and spasmodic
reaction to the stimulus of emergencies.

We wish our friends the world over to know this above all: we face
the threat--not with dread and confusion--but with confidence and

We feel this moral strength because we know that we are not helpless
prisoners of history. We are free men. We shall remain free, never to
be proven guilty of the one capital offense against freedom, a lack of
stanch faith.

In pleading our just cause before the bar of history and in pressing our
labor for world peace, we shall be guided by certain fixed principles.

These principles are:

(1) Abhorring war as a chosen way to balk the purposes of those who
threaten us, we hold it to be the first task of statesmanship to develop
the strength that will deter the forces of aggression and promote the
conditions of peace. For, as it must be the supreme purpose of all free
men, so it must be the dedication of their leaders, to save humanity
from preying upon itself.

In the light of this principle, we stand ready to engage with any and
all others in joint effort to remove the causes of mutual fear and
distrust among nations, so as to make possible drastic reduction of
armaments. The sole requisites for undertaking such effort are that--in
their purpose--they be aimed logically and honestly toward secure peace
for all; and that--in their result--they provide methods by which every
participating nation will prove good faith in carrying out its pledge.

(2) Realizing that common sense and common decency alike dictate the
futility of appeasement, we shall never try to placate an aggressor by
the false and wicked bargain of trading honor for security. Americans,
indeed all free men, remember that in the final choice a soldier's pack
is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains.

(3) Knowing that only a United States that is strong and immensely
productive can help defend freedom in our world, we view our Nation's
strength and security as a trust upon which rests the hope of free men
everywhere. It is the firm duty of each of our free citizens and of
every free citizen everywhere to place the cause of his country before
the comfort, the convenience of himself.

(4) Honoring the identity and the special heritage of each nation in the
world, we shall never use our strength to try to impress upon another
people our own cherished political and economic institutions.

(5) Assessing realistically the needs and capacities of proven friends
of freedom, we shall strive to help them to achieve their own security
and well-being. Likewise, we shall count upon them to assume, within
the limits of their resources, their full and just burdens in the common
defense of freedom.

(6) Recognizing economic health as an indispensable basis of military
strength and the free world's peace, we shall strive to foster
everywhere, and to practice ourselves, policies that encourage
productivity and profitable trade. For the impoverishment of any single
people in the world means danger to the well-being of all other peoples.

(7) Appreciating that economic need, military security and political
wisdom combine to suggest regional groupings of free peoples, we hope,
within the framework of the United Nations, to help strengthen such
special bonds the world over. The nature of these ties must vary with
the different problems of different areas.

In the Western Hemisphere, we enthusiastically join with all our
neighbors in the work of perfecting a community of fraternal trust and
common purpose.

In Europe, we ask that enlightened and inspired leaders of the Western
nations strive with renewed vigor to make the unity of their peoples
a reality. Only as free Europe unitedly marshals its strength can it
effectively safeguard, even with our help, its spiritual and cultural

(8) Conceiving the defense of freedom, like freedom itself, to be one
and indivisible, we hold all continents and peoples in equal regard and
honor. We reject any insinuation that one race or another, one people or
another, is in any sense inferior or expendable.

(9) Respecting the United Nations as the living sign of all people's
hope for peace, we shall strive to make it not merely an eloquent symbol
but an effective force. And in our quest for an honorable peace, we
shall neither compromise, nor tire, nor ever cease.

By these rules of conduct, we hope to be known to all peoples.

By their observance, an earth of peace may become not a vision but a

This hope--this supreme aspiration--must rule the way we live.

We must be ready to dare all for our country. For history does not long
entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. We must acquire
proficiency in defense and display stamina in purpose.

We must be willing, individually and as a Nation, to accept whatever
sacrifices may be required of us. A people that values its privileges
above its principles soon loses both.

These basic precepts are not lofty abstractions, far removed from
matters of daily living. They are laws of spiritual strength that
generate and define our material strength. Patriotism means equipped
forces and a prepared citizenry. Moral stamina means more energy and
more productivity, on the farm and in the factory. Love of liberty means
the guarding of every resource that makes freedom possible--from the
sanctity of our families and the wealth of our soil to the genius of our

And so each citizen plays an indispensable role. The productivity of our
heads, our hands, and our hearts is the source of all the strength we
can command, for both the enrichment of our lives and the winning of the

No person, no home, no community can be beyond the reach of this
call. We are summoned to act in wisdom and in conscience, to work with
industry, to teach with persuasion, to preach with conviction, to weigh
our every deed with care and with compassion. For this truth must be
clear before us: whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world
must first come to pass in the heart of America.

The peace we seek, then, is nothing less than the practice and
fulfillment of our whole faith among ourselves and in our dealings with
others. This signifies more than the stilling of guns, easing the sorrow
of war. More than escape from death, it is a way of life. More than a
haven for the weary, it is a hope for the brave.

This is the hope that beckons us onward in this century of trial. This
is the work that awaits us all, to be done with bravery, with charity,
and with prayer to Almighty God.


Dwight D. Eisenhower Second Inaugural Address Monday, January 21, 1957


Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Speaker,
members of my family and friends, my countrymen, and the friends of my
country, wherever they may be, we meet again, as upon a like moment four
years ago, and again you have witnessed my solemn oath of service to

I, too, am a witness, today testifying in your name to the principles
and purposes to which we, as a people, are pledged.

Before all else, we seek, upon our common labor as a nation, the
blessings of Almighty God. And the hopes in our hearts fashion the
deepest prayers of our whole people.

May we pursue the right--without self-righteousness.

May we know unity--without conformity.

May we grow in strength--without pride in self.

May we, in our dealings with all peoples of the earth, ever speak truth
and serve justice.

And so shall America--in the sight of all men of good will--prove true
to the honorable purposes that bind and rule us as a people in all this
time of trial through which we pass.

We live in a land of plenty, but rarely has this earth known such peril
as today.

In our nation work and wealth abound. Our population grows. Commerce
crowds our rivers and rails, our skies, harbors, and highways. Our soil
is fertile, our agriculture productive. The air rings with the song
of our industry--rolling mills and blast furnaces, dynamos, dams, and
assembly lines--the chorus of America the bountiful.

This is our home--yet this is not the whole of our world. For our
world is where our full destiny lies--with men, of all people, and all
nations, who are or would be free. And for them--and so for us--this is
no time of ease or of rest.

In too much of the earth there is want, discord, danger. New forces and
new nations stir and strive across the earth, with power to bring, by
their fate, great good or great evil to the free world's future. From
the deserts of North Africa to the islands of the South Pacific one
third of all mankind has entered upon an historic struggle for a new
freedom; freedom from grinding poverty. Across all continents, nearly a
billion people seek, sometimes almost in desperation, for the skills
and knowledge and assistance by which they may satisfy from their own
resources, the material wants common to all mankind.

No nation, however old or great, escapes this tempest of change and
turmoil. Some, impoverished by the recent World War, seek to restore
their means of livelihood. In the heart of Europe, Germany still stands
tragically divided. So is the whole continent divided. And so, too, is
all the world.

The divisive force is International Communism and the power that it

The designs of that power, dark in purpose, are clear in practice. It
strives to seal forever the fate of those it has enslaved. It strives
to break the ties that unite the free. And it strives to capture--to
exploit for its own greater power--all forces of change in the world,
especially the needs of the hungry and the hopes of the oppressed.

Yet the world of International Communism has itself been shaken by a
fierce and mighty force: the readiness of men who love freedom to
pledge their lives to that love. Through the night of their bondage, the
unconquerable will of heroes has struck with the swift, sharp thrust of
lightning. Budapest is no longer merely the name of a city; henceforth
it is a new and shining symbol of man's yearning to be free.

Thus across all the globe there harshly blow the winds of change. And,
we--though fortunate be our lot--know that we can never turn our backs
to them.

We look upon this shaken earth, and we declare our firm and fixed
purpose--the building of a peace with justice in a world where moral law

The building of such a peace is a bold and solemn purpose. To proclaim
it is easy. To serve it will be hard. And to attain it, we must be aware
of its full meaning--and ready to pay its full price.

We know clearly what we seek, and why.

We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom. And now, as
in no other age, we seek it because we have been warned, by the power
of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible for human
life itself.

Yet this peace we seek cannot be born of fear alone: it must be rooted
in the lives of nations. There must be justice, sensed and shared by
all peoples, for, without justice the world can know only a tense and
unstable truce. There must be law, steadily invoked and respected by all
nations, for without law, the world promises only such meager justice
as the pity of the strong upon the weak. But the law of which we
speak, comprehending the values of freedom, affirms the equality of all
nations, great and small.

Splendid as can be the blessings of such a peace, high will be its
cost: in toil patiently sustained, in help honorably given, in sacrifice
calmly borne.

We are called to meet the price of this peace.

To counter the threat of those who seek to rule by force, we must pay
the costs of our own needed military strength, and help to build the
security of others.

We must use our skills and knowledge and, at times, our substance, to
help others rise from misery, however far the scene of suffering may
be from our shores. For wherever in the world a people knows desperate
want, there must appear at least the spark of hope, the hope of
progress--or there will surely rise at last the flames of conflict.

We recognize and accept our own deep involvement in the destiny of
men everywhere. We are accordingly pledged to honor, and to strive to
fortify, the authority of the United Nations. For in that body rests the
best hope of our age for the assertion of that law by which all nations
may live in dignity.

And, beyond this general resolve, we are called to act a responsible
role in the world's great concerns or conflicts--whether they touch upon
the affairs of a vast region, the fate of an island in the Pacific, or
the use of a canal in the Middle East. Only in respecting the hopes and
cultures of others will we practice the equality of all nations. Only
as we show willingness and wisdom in giving counsel--in receiving
counsel--and in sharing burdens, will we wisely perform the work of

For one truth must rule all we think and all we do. No people can live
to itself alone. The unity of all who dwell in freedom is their
only sure defense. The economic need of all nations--in mutual
dependence--makes isolation an impossibility; not even America's
prosperity could long survive if other nations did not also prosper.
No nation can longer be a fortress, lone and strong and safe. And any
people, seeking such shelter for themselves, can now build only their
own prison.

Our pledge to these principles is constant, because we believe in their

We do not fear this world of change. America is no stranger to much of
its spirit. Everywhere we see the seeds of the same growth that America
itself has known. The American experiment has, for generations, fired
the passion and the courage of millions elsewhere seeking freedom,
equality, and opportunity. And the American story of material progress
has helped excite the longing of all needy peoples for some satisfaction
of their human wants. These hopes that we have helped to inspire, we can
help to fulfill.

In this confidence, we speak plainly to all peoples.

We cherish our friendship with all nations that are or would be free.
We respect, no less, their independence. And when, in time of want or
peril, they ask our help, they may honorably receive it; for we no more
seek to buy their sovereignty than we would sell our own. Sovereignty is
never bartered among freemen.

We honor the aspirations of those nations which, now captive, long for
freedom. We seek neither their military alliance nor any artificial
imitation of our society. And they can know the warmth of the welcome
that awaits them when, as must be, they join again the ranks of freedom.

We honor, no less in this divided world than in a less tormented time,
the people of Russia. We do not dread, rather do we welcome, their
progress in education and industry. We wish them success in their
demands for more intellectual freedom, greater security before their
own laws, fuller enjoyment of the rewards of their own toil. For as such
things come to pass, the more certain will be the coming of that day
when our peoples may freely meet in friendship.

So we voice our hope and our belief that we can help to heal this
divided world. Thus may the nations cease to live in trembling before
the menace of force. Thus may the weight of fear and the weight of arms
be taken from the burdened shoulders of mankind.

This, nothing less, is the labor to which we are called and our strength

And so the prayer of our people carries far beyond our own frontiers, to
the wide world of our duty and our destiny.

May the light of freedom, coming to all darkened lands, flame
brightly--until at last the darkness is no more.

May the turbulence of our age yield to a true time of peace, when men
and nations shall share a life that honors the dignity of each, the
brotherhood of all.


John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address Friday, January 20, 1961

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President
Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy,
fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but
a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end, as well as a
beginning--signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn
before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears
prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the
power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.
And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought
are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man
come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike,
that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in
this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace,
proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the
slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been
committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall
pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of

This much we pledge--and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share,
we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we
cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little
we can do--for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge
our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away
merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always
expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to
find them strongly supporting their own freedom--and to remember that,
in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the
tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to
break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help
them help themselves, for whatever period is required--not because the
Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because
it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it
cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special
pledge--to convert our good words into good deeds--in a new alliance
for progress--to assist free men and free governments in casting off the
chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become
the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall
join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the
Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to
remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last
best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the
instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support--to prevent it from
becoming merely a forum for invective--to strengthen its shield of the
new and the weak--and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we
offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest
for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science
engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are
sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will
never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort
from our present course--both sides overburdened by the cost of modern
weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom,
yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the
hand of mankind's final war.

So let us begin anew--remembering on both sides that civility is not a
sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never
negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring
those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise
proposals for the inspection and control of arms--and bring the absolute
power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its
terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts,
eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of
Isaiah--to "undo the heavy burdens...and to let the oppressed go free."

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion,
let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of
power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak
secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it
be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this
Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let
us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the
final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded,
each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its
national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to
service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though
arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--but a
call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year
out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the
common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North
and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all
mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been
granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I
do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe
that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other
generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this
endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from
that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for
you--ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you,
but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world,
ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask
of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the
final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love,
asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's
work must truly be our own.


Lyndon Baines Johnson Inaugural Address Wednesday, January 20, 1965

My fellow countrymen, on this occasion, the oath I have taken before you
and before God is not mine alone, but ours together. We are one nation
and one people. Our fate as a nation and our future as a people rest not
upon one citizen, but upon all citizens.

This is the majesty and the meaning of this moment.

For every generation, there is a destiny. For some, history decides. For
this generation, the choice must be our own.

Even now, a rocket moves toward Mars. It reminds us that the world will
not be the same for our children, or even for ourselves in a short span
of years. The next man to stand here will look out on a scene different
from our own, because ours is a time of change--rapid and fantastic
change bearing the secrets of nature, multiplying the nations, placing
in uncertain hands new weapons for mastery and destruction, shaking old
values, and uprooting old ways.

Our destiny in the midst of change will rest on the unchanged character
of our people, and on their faith.


They came here--the exile and the stranger, brave but frightened--to
find a place where a man could be his own man. They made a covenant with
this land. Conceived in justice, written in liberty, bound in union, it
was meant one day to inspire the hopes of all mankind; and it binds us
still. If we keep its terms, we shall flourish.


First, justice was the promise that all who made the journey would share
in the fruits of the land.

In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty.
In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry. In a land
of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended. In a
great land of learning and scholars, young people must be taught to read
and write.

For the more than 30 years that I have served this Nation, I have
believed that this injustice to our people, this waste of our resources,
was our real enemy. For 30 years or more, with the resources I have had,
I have vigilantly fought against it. I have learned, and I know, that it
will not surrender easily.

But change has given us new weapons. Before this generation of Americans
is finished, this enemy will not only retreat--it will be conquered.

Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his
fellow, saying, "His color is not mine," or "His beliefs are strange
and different," in that moment he betrays America, though his forebears
created this Nation.


Liberty was the second article of our covenant. It was self-government.
It was our Bill of Rights. But it was more. America would be a place
where each man could be proud to be himself: stretching his talents,
rejoicing in his work, important in the life of his neighbors and his

This has become more difficult in a world where change and growth seem
to tower beyond the control and even the judgment of men. We must work
to provide the knowledge and the surroundings which can enlarge the
possibilities of every citizen.

The American covenant called on us to help show the way for the
liberation of man. And that is today our goal. Thus, if as a nation
there is much outside our control, as a people no stranger is outside
our hope.

Change has brought new meaning to that old mission. We can never again
stand aside, prideful in isolation. Terrific dangers and troubles that
we once called "foreign" now constantly live among us. If American lives
must end, and American treasure be spilled, in countries we barely know,
that is the price that change has demanded of conviction and of our
enduring covenant.

Think of our world as it looks from the rocket that is heading toward
Mars. It is like a child's globe, hanging in space, the continents stuck
to its side like colored maps. We are all fellow passengers on a dot
of earth. And each of us, in the span of time, has really only a moment
among our companions.

How incredible it is that in this fragile existence, we should hate and
destroy one another. There are possibilities enough for all who will
abandon mastery over others to pursue mastery over nature. There is
world enough for all to seek their happiness in their own way.

Our Nation's course is abundantly clear. We aspire to nothing that
belongs to others. We seek no dominion over our fellow man, but man's
dominion over tyranny and misery.

But more is required. Men want to be a part of a common enterprise--a
cause greater than themselves. Each of us must find a way to advance the
purpose of the Nation, thus finding new purpose for ourselves. Without
this, we shall become a nation of strangers.


The third article was union. To those who were small and few against the
wilderness, the success of liberty demanded the strength of union. Two
centuries of change have made this true again.

No longer need capitalist and worker, farmer and clerk, city and
countryside, struggle to divide our bounty. By working shoulder to
shoulder, together we can increase the bounty of all. We have discovered
that every child who learns, every man who finds work, every sick body
that is made whole--like a candle added to an altar--brightens the hope
of all the faithful.

So let us reject any among us who seek to reopen old wounds and to
rekindle old hatreds. They stand in the way of a seeking nation.

Let us now join reason to faith and action to experience, to transform
our unity of interest into a unity of purpose. For the hour and the day
and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve
change without hatred--not without difference of opinion, but without
the deep and abiding divisions which scar the union for generations.


Under this covenant of justice, liberty, and union we have become a
nation--prosperous, great, and mighty. And we have kept our freedom. But
we have no promise from God that our greatness will endure. We have been
allowed by Him to seek greatness with the sweat of our hands and the
strength of our spirit.

I do not believe that the Great Society is the ordered, changeless, and
sterile battalion of the ants. It is the excitement of becoming--always
becoming, trying, probing, falling, resting, and trying again--but
always trying and always gaining.

In each generation, with toil and tears, we have had to earn our
heritage again.

If we fail now, we shall have forgotten in abundance what we learned in
hardship: that democracy rests on faith, that freedom asks more than it
gives, and that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most

If we succeed, it will not be because of what we have, but it will be
because of what we are; not because of what we own, but, rather because
of what we believe.

For we are a nation of believers. Underneath the clamor of building and
the rush of our day's pursuits, we are believers in justice and liberty
and union, and in our own Union. We believe that every man must someday
be free. And we believe in ourselves.

Our enemies have always made the same mistake. In my lifetime--in
depression and in war--they have awaited our defeat. Each time, from the
secret places of the American heart, came forth the faith they could not
see or that they could not even imagine. It brought us victory. And it
will again.

For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and
the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest
sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say "Farewell."
Is a new world coming? We welcome it--and we will bend it to the hopes
of man.

To these trusted public servants and to my family and those close
friends of mine who have followed me down a long, winding road, and to
all the people of this Union and the world, I will repeat today what I
said on that sorrowful day in November 1963: "I will lead and I will do
the best I can."

But you must look within your own hearts to the old promises and to the
old dream. They will lead you best of all.

For myself, I ask only, in the words of an ancient leader: "Give me now
wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people:
for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?"


Richard Milhous Nixon First Inaugural Address Monday, January 20, 1969

Senator Dirksen, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, President
Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, my fellow Americans--and my fellow
citizens of the world community:

I ask you to share with me today the majesty of this moment. In the
orderly transfer of power, we celebrate the unity that keeps us free.

Each moment in history is a fleeting time, precious and unique. But some
stand out as moments of beginning, in which courses are set that shape
decades or centuries.

This can be such a moment.

Forces now are converging that make possible, for the first time, the
hope that many of man's deepest aspirations can at last be realized.
The spiraling pace of change allows us to contemplate, within our own
lifetime, advances that once would have taken centuries.

In throwing wide the horizons of space, we have discovered new horizons
on earth.

For the first time, because the people of the world want peace, and the
leaders of the world are afraid of war, the times are on the side of

Eight years from now America will celebrate its 200th anniversary as
a nation. Within the lifetime of most people now living, mankind will
celebrate that great new year which comes only once in a thousand
years--the beginning of the third millennium.

What kind of nation we will be, what kind of world we will live in,
whether we shape the future in the image of our hopes, is ours to
determine by our actions and our choices.

The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This
honor now beckons America--the chance to help lead the world at last out
of the valley of turmoil, and onto that high ground of peace that man
has dreamed of since the dawn of civilization.

If we succeed, generations to come will say of us now living that we
mastered our moment, that we helped make the world safe for mankind.

This is our summons to greatness.

I believe the American people are ready to answer this call.

The second third of this century has been a time of proud achievement.
We have made enormous strides in science and industry and agriculture.
We have shared our wealth more broadly than ever. We have learned at
last to manage a modern economy to assure its continued growth.

We have given freedom new reach, and we have begun to make its promise
real for black as well as for white.

We see the hope of tomorrow in the youth of today. I know America's
youth. I believe in them. We can be proud that they are better educated,
more committed, more passionately driven by conscience than any
generation in our history.

No people has ever been so close to the achievement of a just and
abundant society, or so possessed of the will to achieve it. Because our
strengths are so great, we can afford to appraise our weaknesses with
candor and to approach them with hope.

Standing in this same place a third of a century ago, Franklin Delano
Roosevelt addressed a Nation ravaged by depression and gripped in fear.
He could say in surveying the Nation's troubles: "They concern, thank
God, only material things."

Our crisis today is the reverse.

We have found ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit; reaching
with magnificent precision for the moon, but falling into raucous
discord on earth.

We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting
unity. We see around us empty lives, wanting fulfillment. We see tasks
that need doing, waiting for hands to do them.

To a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit.

To find that answer, we need only look within ourselves.

When we listen to "the better angels of our nature," we find that
they celebrate the simple things, the basic things--such as goodness,
decency, love, kindness.

Greatness comes in simple trappings.

The simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to surmount
what divides us, and cement what unites us.

To lower our voices would be a simple thing.

In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words;
from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from
angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic
rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.

We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one
another--until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as
well as our voices.

For its part, government will listen. We will strive to listen in new
ways--to the voices of quiet anguish, the voices that speak without
words, the voices of the heart--to the injured voices, the anxious
voices, the voices that have despaired of being heard.

Those who have been left out, we will try to bring in.

Those left behind, we will help to catch up.

For all of our people, we will set as our goal the decent order that
makes progress possible and our lives secure.

As we reach toward our hopes, our task is to build on what has gone
before--not turning away from the old, but turning toward the new.

In this past third of a century, government has passed more laws, spent
more money, initiated more programs, than in all our previous history.

In pursuing our goals of full employment, better housing, excellence in
education; in rebuilding our cities and improving our rural areas; in
protecting our environment and enhancing the quality of life--in all
these and more, we will and must press urgently forward.

We shall plan now for the day when our wealth can be transferred from
the destruction of war abroad to the urgent needs of our people at home.

The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep.

But we are approaching the limits of what government alone can do.

Our greatest need now is to reach beyond government, and to enlist the
legions of the concerned and the committed.

What has to be done, has to be done by government and people together or
it will not be done at all. The lesson of past agony is that without the
people we can do nothing; with the people we can do everything.

To match the magnitude of our tasks, we need the energies of our
people--enlisted not only in grand enterprises, but more importantly in
those small, splendid efforts that make headlines in the neighborhood
newspaper instead of the national journal.

With these, we can build a great cathedral of the spirit--each of us
raising it one stone at a time, as he reaches out to his neighbor,
helping, caring, doing.

I do not offer a life of uninspiring ease. I do not call for a life of
grim sacrifice. I ask you to join in a high adventure--one as rich as
humanity itself, and as exciting as the times we live in.

The essence of freedom is that each of us shares in the shaping of his
own destiny.

Until he has been part of a cause larger than himself, no man is truly

The way to fulfillment is in the use of our talents; we achieve nobility
in the spirit that inspires that use.

As we measure what can be done, we shall promise only what we know we
can produce, but as we chart our goals we shall be lifted by our dreams.

No man can be fully free while his neighbor is not. To go forward at all
is to go forward together.

This means black and white together, as one nation, not two. The laws
have caught up with our conscience. What remains is to give life to what
is in the law: to ensure at last that as all are born equal in dignity
before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.

As we learn to go forward together at home, let us also seek to go
forward together with all mankind.

Let us take as our goal: where peace is unknown, make it welcome; where
peace is fragile, make it strong; where peace is temporary, make it

After a period of confrontation, we are entering an era of negotiation.

Let all nations know that during this administration our lines of
communication will be open.

We seek an open world--open to ideas, open to the exchange of goods and
people--a world in which no people, great or small, will live in angry

We cannot expect to make everyone our friend, but we can try to make no
one our enemy.

Those who would be our adversaries, we invite to a peaceful
competition--not in conquering territory or extending dominion, but in
enriching the life of man.

As we explore the reaches of space, let us go to the new worlds
together--not as new worlds to be conquered, but as a new adventure to
be shared.

With those who are willing to join, let us cooperate to reduce the
burden of arms, to strengthen the structure of peace, to lift up the
poor and the hungry.

But to all those who would be tempted by weakness, let us leave no doubt
that we will be as strong as we need to be for as long as we need to be.

Over the past twenty years, since I first came to this Capital as a
freshman Congressman, I have visited most of the nations of the world.

I have come to know the leaders of the world, and the great forces, the
hatreds, the fears that divide the world.

I know that peace does not come through wishing for it--that there is no
substitute for days and even years of patient and prolonged diplomacy.

I also know the people of the world.

I have seen the hunger of a homeless child, the pain of a man wounded in
battle, the grief of a mother who has lost her son. I know these have no
ideology, no race.

I know America. I know the heart of America is good.

I speak from my own heart, and the heart of my country, the deep concern
we have for those who suffer, and those who sorrow.

I have taken an oath today in the presence of God and my countrymen to
uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. To that oath
I now add this sacred commitment: I shall consecrate my office, my
energies, and all the wisdom I can summon, to the cause of peace among

Let this message be heard by strong and weak alike:

The peace we seek to win is not victory over any other people, but the
peace that comes "with healing in its wings"; with compassion for those
who have suffered; with understanding for those who have opposed us;
with the opportunity for all the peoples of this earth to choose their
own destiny.

Only a few short weeks ago, we shared the glory of man's first sight
of the world as God sees it, as a single sphere reflecting light in the

As the Apollo astronauts flew over the moon's gray surface on Christmas
Eve, they spoke to us of the beauty of earth--and in that voice so clear
across the lunar distance, we heard them invoke God's blessing on its

In that moment, their view from the moon moved poet Archibald MacLeish
to write:

"To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that
eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on
the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal
cold--brothers who know now they are truly brothers."

In that moment of surpassing technological triumph, men turned their
thoughts toward home and humanity--seeing in that far perspective that
man's destiny on earth is not divisible; telling us that however far we
reach into the cosmos, our destiny lies not in the stars but on Earth
itself, in our own hands, in our own hearts.

We have endured a long night of the American spirit. But as our eyes
catch the dimness of the first rays of dawn, let us not curse the
remaining dark. Let us gather the light.

Our destiny offers, not the cup of despair, but the chalice of
opportunity. So let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness--and,
"riders on the earth together," let us go forward, firm in our faith,
steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers; but sustained by our
confidence in the will of God and the promise of man.


Richard Milhous Nixon Second Inaugural Address Saturday, January 20,

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, Senator Cook, Mrs.
Eisenhower, and my fellow citizens of this great and good country we
share together:

When we met here four years ago, America was bleak in spirit, depressed
by the prospect of seemingly endless war abroad and of destructive
conflict at home.

As we meet here today, we stand on the threshold of a new era of peace
in the world.

The central question before us is: How shall we use that peace? Let
us resolve that this era we are about to enter will not be what other
postwar periods have so often been: a time of retreat and isolation that
leads to stagnation at home and invites new danger abroad.

Let us resolve that this will be what it can become: a time of great
responsibilities greatly borne, in which we renew the spirit and the
promise of America as we enter our third century as a nation.

This past year saw far-reaching results from our new policies for peace.
By continuing to revitalize our traditional friendships, and by our
missions to Peking and to Moscow, we were able to establish the base for
a new and more durable pattern of relationships among the nations of
the world. Because of America's bold initiatives, 1972 will be long
remembered as the year of the greatest progress since the end of World
War II toward a lasting peace in the world.

The peace we seek in the world is not the flimsy peace which is merely
an interlude between wars, but a peace which can endure for generations
to come.

It is important that we understand both the necessity and the
limitations of America's role in maintaining that peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve the peace, there will be no peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve freedom, there will be no freedom.

But let us clearly understand the new nature of America's role, as a
result of the new policies we have adopted over these past four years.

We shall respect our treaty commitments.

We shall support vigorously the principle that no country has the right
to impose its will or rule on another by force.

We shall continue, in this era of negotiation, to work for the
limitation of nuclear arms, and to reduce the danger of confrontation
between the great powers.

We shall do our share in defending peace and freedom in the world. But
we shall expect others to do their share.

The time has passed when America will make every other nation's conflict
our own, or make every other nation's future our responsibility, or
presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own

Just as we respect the right of each nation to determine its own future,
we also recognize the responsibility of each nation to secure its own

Just as America's role is indispensable in preserving the world's peace,
so is each nation's role indispensable in preserving its own peace.

Together with the rest of the world, let us resolve to move forward from
the beginnings we have made. Let us continue to bring down the walls
of hostility which have divided the world for too long, and to build
in their place bridges of understanding--so that despite profound
differences between systems of government, the people of the world can
be friends.

Let us build a structure of peace in the world in which the weak are
as safe as the strong--in which each respects the right of the other to
live by a different system--in which those who would influence others
will do so by the strength of their ideas, and not by the force of their

Let us accept that high responsibility not as a burden, but
gladly--gladly because the chance to build such a peace is the noblest
endeavor in which a nation can engage; gladly, also, because only if
we act greatly in meeting our responsibilities abroad will we remain a
great Nation, and only if we remain a great Nation will we act greatly
in meeting our challenges at home.

We have the chance today to do more than ever before in our history to
make life better in America--to ensure better education, better health,
better housing, better transportation, a cleaner environment--to restore
respect for law, to make our communities more livable--and to insure the
God-given right of every American to full and equal opportunity.

Because the range of our needs is so great--because the reach of our
opportunities is so great--let us be bold in our determination to meet
those needs in new ways.

Just as building a structure of peace abroad has required turning away
from old policies that failed, so building a new era of progress at home
requires turning away from old policies that have failed.

Abroad, the shift from old policies to new has not been a retreat from
our responsibilities, but a better way to peace.

And at home, the shift from old policies to new will not be a retreat
from our responsibilities, but a better way to progress.

Abroad and at home, the key to those new responsibilities lies in the
placing and the division of responsibility. We have lived too long with
the consequences of attempting to gather all power and responsibility in

Abroad and at home, the time has come to turn away from the
condescending policies of paternalism--of "Washington knows best."

A person can be expected to act responsibly only if he has
responsibility. This is human nature. So let us encourage individuals
at home and nations abroad to do more for themselves, to decide more for
themselves. Let us locate responsibility in more places. Let us measure
what we will do for others by what they will do for themselves.

That is why today I offer no promise of a purely governmental solution
for every problem. We have lived too long with that false promise. In
trusting too much in government, we have asked of it more than it can
deliver. This leads only to inflated expectations, to reduced individual
effort, and to a disappointment and frustration that erode confidence
both in what government can do and in what people can do.

Government must learn to take less from people so that people can do
more for themselves.

Let us remember that America was built not by government, but by
people--not by welfare, but by work--not by shirking responsibility, but
by seeking responsibility.

In our own lives, let each of us ask--not just what will government do
for me, but what can I do for myself?

In the challenges we face together, let each of us ask--not just how can
government help, but how can I help?

Your National Government has a great and vital role to play. And I
pledge to you that where this Government should act, we will act boldly
and we will lead boldly. But just as important is the role that each and
every one of us must play, as an individual and as a member of his own

From this day forward, let each of us make a solemn commitment in his
own heart: to bear his responsibility, to do his part, to live his
ideals--so that together, we can see the dawn of a new age of progress
for America, and together, as we celebrate our 200th anniversary as
a nation, we can do so proud in the fulfillment of our promise to
ourselves and to the world.

As America's longest and most difficult war comes to an end, let us
again learn to debate our differences with civility and decency. And
let each of us reach out for that one precious quality government cannot
provide--a new level of respect for the rights and feelings of one
another, a new level of respect for the individual human dignity which
is the cherished birthright of every American.

Above all else, the time has come for us to renew our faith in ourselves
and in America.

In recent years, that faith has been challenged.

Our children have been taught to be ashamed of their country, ashamed
of their parents, ashamed of America's record at home and of its role in
the world.

At every turn, we have been beset by those who find everything wrong
with America and little that is right. But I am confident that this will
not be the judgment of history on these remarkable times in which we are
privileged to live.

America's record in this century has been unparalleled in the world's
history for its responsibility, for its generosity, for its creativity
and for its progress.

Let us be proud that our system has produced and provided more freedom
and more abundance, more widely shared, than any other system in the
history of the world.

Let us be proud that in each of the four wars in which we have been
engaged in this century, including the one we are now bringing to an
end, we have fought not for our selfish advantage, but to help others
resist aggression.

Let us be proud that by our bold, new initiatives, and by our
steadfastness for peace with honor, we have made a break-through toward
creating in the world what the world has not known before--a structure
of peace that can last, not merely for our time, but for generations to

We are embarking here today on an era that presents challenges great as
those any nation, or any generation, has ever faced.

We shall answer to God, to history, and to our conscience for the way in
which we use these years.

As I stand in this place, so hallowed by history, I think of others who
have stood here before me. I think of the dreams they had for America,
and I think of how each recognized that he needed help far beyond
himself in order to make those dreams come true.

Today, I ask your prayers that in the years ahead I may have God's help
in making decisions that are right for America, and I pray for your help
so that together we may be worthy of our challenge.

Let us pledge together to make these next four years the best four years
in America's history, so that on its 200th birthday America will be as
young and as vital as when it began, and as bright a beacon of hope for
all the world.

Let us go forward from here confident in hope, strong in our faith in
one another, sustained by our faith in God who created us, and striving
always to serve His purpose.


Jimmy Carter Inaugural Address Thursday, January 20, 1977

FOR myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he
has done to heal our land.

In this outward and physical ceremony we attest once again to the inner
and spiritual strength of our Nation. As my high school teacher, Miss
Julia Coleman, used to say: "We must adjust to changing times and still
hold to unchanging principles."

Here before me is the Bible used in the inauguration of our first
President, in 1789, and I have just taken the oath of office on the
Bible my mother gave me a few years ago, opened to a timeless admonition
from the ancient prophet Micah:

"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord
require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with thy God." (Micah 6:8)

This inauguration ceremony marks a new beginning, a new dedication
within our Government, and a new spirit among us all. A President may
sense and proclaim that new spirit, but only a people can provide it.

Two centuries ago our Nation's birth was a milestone in the long quest
for freedom, but the bold and brilliant dream which excited the founders
of this Nation still awaits its consummation. I have no new dream to set
forth today, but rather urge a fresh faith in the old dream.

Ours was the first society openly to define itself in terms of both
spirituality and of human liberty. It is that unique self-definition
which has given us an exceptional appeal, but it also imposes on us a
special obligation, to take on those moral duties which, when assumed,
seem invariably to be in our own best interests.

You have given me a great responsibility--to stay close to you, to be
worthy of you, and to exemplify what you are. Let us create together a
new national spirit of unity and trust. Your strength can compensate for
my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.

Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray
together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the

The American dream endures. We must once again have full faith in our
country--and in one another. I believe America can be better. We can be
even stronger than before.

Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic
principles of our Nation, for we know that if we despise our own
government we have no future. We recall in special times when we have
stood briefly, but magnificently, united. In those times no prize was
beyond our grasp.

But we cannot dwell upon remembered glory. We cannot afford to drift. We
reject the prospect of failure or mediocrity or an inferior quality
of life for any person. Our Government must at the same time be both
competent and compassionate.

We have already found a high degree of personal liberty, and we are now
struggling to enhance equality of opportunity. Our commitment to human
rights must be absolute, our laws fair, our natural beauty preserved;
the powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be

We have learned that "more" is not necessarily "better," that even our
great Nation has its recognized limits, and that we can neither answer
all questions nor solve all problems. We cannot afford to do everything,
nor can we afford to lack boldness as we meet the future. So, together,
in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply
do our best.

Our Nation can be strong abroad only if it is strong at home. And
we know that the best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to
demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.

To be true to ourselves, we must be true to others. We will not behave
in foreign places so as to violate our rules and standards here at home,
for we know that the trust which our Nation earns is essential to our

The world itself is now dominated by a new spirit. Peoples more numerous
and more politically aware are craving and now demanding their place in
the sun--not just for the benefit of their own physical condition, but
for basic human rights.

The passion for freedom is on the rise. Tapping this new spirit, there
can be no nobler nor more ambitious task for America to undertake on
this day of a new beginning than to help shape a just and peaceful world
that is truly humane.

We are a strong nation, and we will maintain strength so sufficient that
it need not be proven in combat--a quiet strength based not merely on
the size of an arsenal, but on the nobility of ideas.

We will be ever vigilant and never vulnerable, and we will fight our
wars against poverty, ignorance, and injustice--for those are the
enemies against which our forces can be honorably marshaled.

We are a purely idealistic Nation, but let no one confuse our idealism
with weakness.

Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom
elsewhere. Our moral sense dictates a clearcut preference for these
societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human
rights. We do not seek to intimidate, but it is clear that a world which
others can dominate with impunity would be inhospitable to decency and a
threat to the well-being of all people.

The world is still engaged in a massive armaments race designed to
ensure continuing equivalent strength among potential adversaries.
We pledge perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world's
armaments to those necessary for each nation's own domestic safety. And
we will move this year a step toward ultimate goal--the elimination of
all nuclear weapons from this Earth. We urge all other people to join
us, for success can mean life instead of death.

Within us, the people of the United States, there is evident a serious
and purposeful rekindling of confidence. And I join in the hope that
when my time as your President has ended, people might say this about
our Nation:

--that we had remembered the words of Micah and renewed our search for
humility, mercy, and justice;

--that we had torn down the barriers that separated those of different
race and region and religion, and where there had been mistrust, built
unity, with a respect for diversity;

--that we had found productive work for those able to perform it;

--that we had strengthened the American family, which is the basis of
our society;

--that we had ensured respect for the law, and equal treatment under the
law, for the weak and the powerful, for the rich and the poor;

--and that we had enabled our people to be proud of their own Government
once again.

I would hope that the nations of the world might say that we had built a
lasting peace, built not on weapons of war but on international policies
which reflect our own most precious values.

These are not just my goals, and they will not be my accomplishments,
but the affirmation of our Nation's continuing moral strength and our
belief in an undiminished, ever-expanding American dream.


Ronald Reagan First Inaugural Address Tuesday, January 20, 1981

Senator Hatfield, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Bush,
Vice President Mondale, Senator Baker, Speaker O'Neill, Reverend Moomaw,
and my fellow citizens: To a few of us here today, this is a solemn and
most momentous occasion; and yet, in the history of our Nation, it is a
commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called
for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two
centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In
the eyes of many in the world, this every-4-year ceremony we accept as
normal is nothing less than a miracle.

Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to
carry on this tradition. By your gracious cooperation in the transition
process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people
pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual
liberty to a greater degree than any other, and I thank you and your
people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the
bulwark of our Republic.

The business of our nation goes forward. These United States are
confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer
from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our
national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift,
and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It
threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.

Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human
misery and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair
return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful
achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.

But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public
spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging
our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of
the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous
social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.

You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means,
but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that
collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?

We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no
misunderstanding--we are going to begin to act, beginning today.

The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They
will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They
will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have
had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last
and greatest bastion of freedom.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem.

From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has
become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an
elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if
no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has
the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out
of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be
equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.

We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a
special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no
sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses
political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our
food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our
children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick--professionals,
industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truckdrivers. They
are, in short, "We the people," this breed called Americans.

Well, this administration's objective will be a healthy, vigorous,
growing economy that provides equal opportunity for all Americans, with
no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination. Putting America back to
work means putting all Americans back to work. Ending inflation means
freeing all Americans from the terror of runaway living costs. All must
share in the productive work of this "new beginning" and all must share
in the bounty of a revived economy. With the idealism and fair play
which are the core of our system and our strength, we can have a strong
and prosperous America at peace with itself and the world.

So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a
government--not the other way around. And this makes us special among
the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that
granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of
government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the

It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal
establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between
the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the
States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal
Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal

Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do
away with government. It is, rather, to make it work--work with us, not
over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can
and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not
stifle it.

If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so
much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in
this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a
greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity
of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any
other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high,
but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.

It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are
proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result
from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us
to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to
small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an
inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no
matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do
nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin
an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage,
and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.

We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we are in
a time when there are no heroes just don't know where to look. You
can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a
handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the
world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter--and they are on both
sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves
and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity.
They are individuals and families whose taxes support the Government
and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and
education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our
national life.

I have used the words "they" and "their" in speaking of these heroes. I
could say "you" and "your" because I am addressing the heroes of whom I
speak--you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes,
your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this
administration, so help me God.

We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup.
How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving
them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and
provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal
in fact and not just in theory?

Can we solve the problems confronting us? Well, the answer is an
unequivocal and emphatic "yes." To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did
not take the oath I have just taken with the intention of presiding over
the dissolution of the world's strongest economy.

In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have
slowed our economy and reduced productivity. Steps will be taken aimed
at restoring the balance between the various levels of government.
Progress may be slow--measured in inches and feet, not miles--but we
will progress. Is it time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get
government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax
burden. And these will be our first priorities, and on these principles,
there will be no compromise.

On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been
one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren,
President of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans,
"Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of.... On you depend
the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon
which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act
worthy of yourselves."

Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of
ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty
for ourselves, our children and our children's children.

And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as
having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the
exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have

To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen
our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We
will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually
beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their
sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.

As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they
will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American
people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not
surrender for it--now or ever.

Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for
conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action
is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will
maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we
do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals
of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men
and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.
It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by
those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.

I am told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on
this day, and for that I am deeply grateful. We are a nation under God,
and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and
good, I think, if on each Inauguration Day in future years it should be
declared a day of prayer.

This is the first time in history that this ceremony has been held, as
you have been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here,
one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city's special beauty
and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the
giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man: George
Washington, Father of our country. A man of humility who came to
greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory
into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas
Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence.

And then beyond the Reflecting Pool the dignified columns of the Lincoln
Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America
will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far
shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery with its row on
row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They
add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our

Each one of those markers is a monument to the kinds of hero I spoke of
earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne,
Omaha Beach, Salerno and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal,
Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice
paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.

Under one such marker lies a young man--Martin Treptow--who left his
job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed
Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to
carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.

We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the
heading, "My Pledge," he had written these words: "America must win
this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will
endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the
whole struggle depended on me alone."

The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of
sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were
called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our
willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to
perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God's help, we can
and will resolve the problems which now confront us.

And, after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans. God
bless you, and thank you.


Ronald Reagan Second Inaugural Address Monday, January 21, 1985

Senator Mathias, Chief Justice Burger, Vice President Bush, Speaker
O'Neill, Senator Dole, Reverend Clergy, members of my family and
friends, and my fellow citizens:

This day has been made brighter with the presence here of one who, for a
time, has been absent--Senator John Stennis.

God bless you and welcome back.

There is, however, one who is not with us today: Representative Gillis
Long of Louisiana left us last night. I wonder if we could all join in a
moment of silent prayer. (Moment of silent prayer.) Amen.

There are no words adequate to express my thanks for the great honor
that you have bestowed on me. I will do my utmost to be deserving of
your trust.

This is, as Senator Mathias told us, the 50th time that we the people
have celebrated this historic occasion. When the first President, George
Washington, placed his hand upon the Bible, he stood less than a single
day's journey by horseback from raw, untamed wilderness. There were 4
million Americans in a union of 13 States. Today we are 60 times as many
in a union of 50 States. We have lighted the world with our inventions,
gone to the aid of mankind wherever in the world there was a cry for
help, journeyed to the Moon and safely returned. So much has changed.
And yet we stand together as we did two centuries ago.

When I took this oath four years ago, I did so in a time of economic
stress. Voices were raised saying we had to look to our past for the
greatness and glory. But we, the present-day Americans, are not given
to looking backward. In this blessed land, there is always a better

Four years ago, I spoke to you of a new beginning and we have
accomplished that. But in another sense, our new beginning is a
continuation of that beginning created two centuries ago when, for the
first time in history, government, the people said, was not our master,
it is our servant; its only power that which we the people allow it to

That system has never failed us, but, for a time, we failed the system.
We asked things of government that government was not equipped to give.
We yielded authority to the National Government that properly belonged
to States or to local governments or to the people themselves. We
allowed taxes and inflation to rob us of our earnings and savings
and watched the great industrial machine that had made us the most
productive people on Earth slow down and the number of unemployed

By 1980, we knew it was time to renew our faith, to strive with all our
strength toward the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with an
orderly society.

We believed then and now there are no limits to growth and human
progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.

And we were right to believe that. Tax rates have been reduced,
inflation cut dramatically, and more people are employed than ever
before in our history.

We are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust, and alive. But
there are many mountains yet to climb. We will not rest until every
American enjoys the fullness of freedom, dignity, and opportunity as our
birthright. It is our birthright as citizens of this great Republic, and
we'll meet this challenge.

These will be years when Americans have restored their confidence and
tradition of progress; when our values of faith, family, work, and
neighborhood were restated for a modern age; when our economy was
finally freed from government's grip; when we made sincere efforts at
meaningful arms reduction, rebuilding our defenses, our economy, and
developing new technologies, and helped preserve peace in a troubled
world; when Americans courageously supported the struggle for liberty,
self-government, and free enterprise throughout the world, and turned
the tide of history away from totalitarian darkness and into the warm
sunlight of human freedom.

My fellow citizens, our Nation is poised for greatness. We must do what
we know is right and do it with all our might. Let history say of us,
"These were golden years--when the American Revolution was reborn, when
freedom gained new life, when America reached for her best."

Our two-party system has served us well over the years, but never better
than in those times of great challenge when we came together not as
Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans united in a common cause.

Two of our Founding Fathers, a Boston lawyer named Adams and a Virginia
planter named Jefferson, members of that remarkable group who met in
Independence Hall and dared to think they could start the world over
again, left us an important lesson. They had become political rivals
in the Presidential election of 1800. Then years later, when both were
retired, and age had softened their anger, they began to speak to each
other again through letters. A bond was reestablished between those two
who had helped create this government of ours.

In 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, they
both died. They died on the same day, within a few hours of each other,
and that day was the Fourth of July.

In one of those letters exchanged in the sunset of their lives,
Jefferson wrote: "It carries me back to the times when, beset with
difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same
cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to
self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever
ahead threatening to overwhelm us, and yet passing harmless...we rode
through the storm with heart and hand."

Well, with heart and hand, let us stand as one today: One people under
God determined that our future shall be worthy of our past. As we do, we
must not repeat the well-intentioned errors of our past. We must
never again abuse the trust of working men and women, by sending their
earnings on a futile chase after the spiraling demands of a bloated
Federal Establishment. You elected us in 1980 to end this prescription
for disaster, and I don't believe you reelected us in 1984 to reverse

At the heart of our efforts is one idea vindicated by 25 straight
months of economic growth: Freedom and incentives unleash the drive
and entrepreneurial genius that are the core of human progress. We have
begun to increase the rewards for work, savings, and investment; reduce
the increase in the cost and size of government and its interference in
people's lives.

We must simplify our tax system, make it more fair, and bring the rates
down for all who work and earn. We must think anew and move with a new
boldness, so every American who seeks work can find work; so the least
among us shall have an equal chance to achieve the greatest things--to
be heroes who heal our sick, feed the hungry, protect peace among
nations, and leave this world a better place.

The time has come for a new American emancipation--a great national
drive to tear down economic barriers and liberate the spirit of
enterprise in the most distressed areas of our country. My friends,
together we can do this, and do it we must, so help me God.

From new freedom will spring new opportunities for growth, a more
productive, fulfilled and united people, and a stronger America--an
America that will lead the technological revolution, and also open
its mind and heart and soul to the treasures of literature, music, and
poetry, and the values of faith, courage, and love.

A dynamic economy, with more citizens working and paying taxes, will be
our strongest tool to bring down budget deficits. But an almost unbroken
50 years of deficit spending has finally brought us to a time of
reckoning. We have come to a turning point, a moment for hard decisions.
I have asked the Cabinet and my staff a question, and now I put the same
question to all of you: If not us, who? And if not now, when? It must
be done by all of us going forward with a program aimed at reaching a
balanced budget. We can then begin reducing the national debt.

I will shortly submit a budget to the Congress aimed at freezing
government program spending for the next year. Beyond that, we must
take further steps to permanently control Government's power to tax and
spend. We must act now to protect future generations from Government's
desire to spend its citizens' money and tax them into servitude when
the bills come due. Let us make it unconstitutional for the Federal
Government to spend more than the Federal Government takes in.

We have already started returning to the people and to State and local
governments responsibilities better handled by them. Now, there is a
place for the Federal Government in matters of social compassion. But
our fundamental goals must be to reduce dependency and upgrade the
dignity of those who are infirm or disadvantaged. And here a growing
economy and support from family and community offer our best chance for
a society where compassion is a way of life, where the old and infirm
are cared for, the young and, yes, the unborn protected, and the
unfortunate looked after and made self-sufficient.

And there is another area where the Federal Government can play a part.
As an older American, I remember a time when people of different race,
creed, or ethnic origin in our land found hatred and prejudice installed
in social custom and, yes, in law. There is no story more heartening in
our history than the progress that we have made toward the "brotherhood
of man" that God intended for us. Let us resolve there will be no
turning back or hesitation on the road to an America rich in dignity and
abundant with opportunity for all our citizens.

Let us resolve that we the people will build an American opportunity
society in which all of us--white and black, rich and poor, young and
old--will go forward together arm in arm. Again, let us remember that
though our heritage is one of blood lines from every corner of the
Earth, we are all Americans pledged to carry on this last, best hope of
man on Earth.

I have spoken of our domestic goals and the limitations which we should
put on our National Government. Now let me turn to a task which is the
primary responsibility of National Government--the safety and security
of our people.

Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for
peace on Earth. Yet history has shown that peace will not come, nor will
our freedom be preserved, by good will alone. There are those in the
world who scorn our vision of human dignity and freedom. One nation, the
Soviet Union, has conducted the greatest military buildup in the history
of man, building arsenals of awesome offensive weapons.

We have made progress in restoring our defense capability. But much
remains to be done. There must be no wavering by us, nor any doubts
by others, that America will meet her responsibilities to remain free,
secure, and at peace.

There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of
national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we
are trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We are not just
discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons. We seek,
instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day
of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of
mutual assured destruction; if either resorted to the use of nuclear
weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started
it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side
threatens to kill tens of millions of our people, our only recourse is
to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?

I have approved a research program to find, if we can, a security shield
that would destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their target. It
wouldn't kill people, it would destroy weapons. It wouldn't militarize
space, it would help demilitarize the arsenals of Earth. It would render
nuclear weapons obsolete. We will meet with the Soviets, hoping that
we can agree on a way to rid the world of the threat of nuclear

We strive for peace and security, heartened by the changes all around
us. Since the turn of the century, the number of democracies in the
world has grown fourfold. Human freedom is on the march, and nowhere
more so than our own hemisphere. Freedom is one of the deepest and
noblest aspirations of the human spirit. People, worldwide, hunger for
the right of self-determination, for those inalienable rights that make
for human dignity and progress.

America must remain freedom's staunchest friend, for freedom is our best

And it is the world's only hope, to conquer poverty and preserve peace.
Every blow we inflict against poverty will be a blow against its dark
allies of oppression and war. Every victory for human freedom will be a
victory for world peace.

So we go forward today, a nation still mighty in its youth and powerful
in its purpose. With our alliances strengthened, with our economy
leading the world to a new age of economic expansion, we look forward to
a world rich in possibilities. And all this because we have worked and
acted together, not as members of political parties, but as Americans.

My friends, we live in a world that is lit by lightning. So much is
changing and will change, but so much endures, and transcends time.

History is a ribbon, always unfurling; history is a journey. And as we
continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us. We stand
together again at the steps of this symbol of our democracy--or we would
have been standing at the steps if it hadn't gotten so cold. Now we
are standing inside this symbol of our democracy. Now we hear again the
echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard snow of
Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls, and ponders
his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out
encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song, and
the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air.

It is the American sound. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic,
daring, decent, and fair. That's our heritage; that is our song. We sing
it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together as of
old, as we raise our voices to the God who is the Author of this most
tender music. And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world
with our sound--sound in unity, affection, and love--one people under
God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human
heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful

God bless you and may God bless America.


George Bush Inaugural Address Friday, January 20, 1989

Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Quayle, Senator
Mitchell, Speaker Wright, Senator Dole, Congressman Michel, and fellow
citizens, neighbors, and friends:

There is a man here who has earned a lasting place in our hearts and in
our history. President Reagan, on behalf of our Nation, I thank you for
the wonderful things that you have done for America.

I have just repeated word for word the oath taken by George Washington
200 years ago, and the Bible on which I placed my hand is the Bible on
which he placed his. It is right that the memory of Washington be with
us today, not only because this is our Bicentennial Inauguration, but
because Washington remains the Father of our Country. And he would, I
think, be gladdened by this day; for today is the concrete expression
of a stunning fact: our continuity these 200 years since our government

We meet on democracy's front porch, a good place to talk as neighbors
and as friends. For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when
our differences, for a moment, are suspended.

And my first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads:

Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept
our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that
makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to
heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: "Use power
to help people." For we are given power not to advance our own purposes,
nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just
use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord.

I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with
promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it
better. For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom
seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the
dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas
blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. A new breeze
is blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on.
There is new ground to be broken, and new action to be taken. There are
times when the future seems thick as a fog; you sit and wait, hoping the
mists will lift and reveal the right path. But this is a time when
the future seems a door you can walk right through into a room called

Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy through the door
to freedom. Men and women of the world move toward free markets through
the door to prosperity. The people of the world agitate for free
expression and free thought through the door to the moral and
intellectual satisfactions that only liberty allows.

We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is
right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man
on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the
exercise of free will unhampered by the state.

For the first time in this century, for the first time in perhaps all
history, man does not have to invent a system by which to live. We
don't have to talk late into the night about which form of government is
better. We don't have to wrest justice from the kings. We only have to
summon it from within ourselves. We must act on what we know. I take
as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important
things, diversity; in all things, generosity.

America today is a proud, free nation, decent and civil, a place we
cannot help but love. We know in our hearts, not loudly and proudly, but
as a simple fact, that this country has meaning beyond what we see, and
that our strength is a force for good. But have we changed as a
nation even in our time? Are we enthralled with material things, less
appreciative of the nobility of work and sacrifice?

My friends, we are not the sum of our possessions. They are not the
measure of our lives. In our hearts we know what matters. We cannot hope
only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We
must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a
loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town
better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work
with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to
succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick
child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of

No President, no government, can teach us to remember what is best in
what we are. But if the man you have chosen to lead this government
can help make a difference; if he can celebrate the quieter, deeper
successes that are made not of gold and silk, but of better hearts and
finer souls; if he can do these things, then he must.

America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral
principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make
kinder the face of the Nation and gentler the face of the world. My
friends, we have work to do. There are the homeless, lost and roaming.
There are the children who have nothing, no love, no normalcy. There
are those who cannot free themselves of enslavement to whatever
addiction--drugs, welfare, the demoralization that rules the slums.
There is crime to be conquered, the rough crime of the streets. There
are young women to be helped who are about to become mothers of
children they can't care for and might not love. They need our care, our
guidance, and our education, though we bless them for choosing life.

The old solution, the old way, was to think that public money alone
could end these problems. But we have learned that is not so. And in any
case, our funds are low. We have a deficit to bring down. We have
more will than wallet; but will is what we need. We will make the hard
choices, looking at what we have and perhaps allocating it differently,
making our decisions based on honest need and prudent safety. And then
we will do the wisest thing of all: We will turn to the only resource we
have that in times of need always grows--the goodness and the courage of
the American people.

I am speaking of a new engagement in the lives of others, a new
activism, hands-on and involved, that gets the job done. We must bring
in the generations, harnessing the unused talent of the elderly and the
unfocused energy of the young. For not only leadership is passed from
generation to generation, but so is stewardship. And the generation born
after the Second World War has come of age.

I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community
organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing
good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading,
sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House,
in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that
are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my
government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because
they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a
patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.

We need a new engagement, too, between the Executive and the Congress.
The challenges before us will be thrashed out with the House and the
Senate. We must bring the Federal budget into balance. And we must
ensure that America stands before the world united, strong, at peace,
and fiscally sound. But, of course, things may be difficult. We need
compromise; we have had dissension. We need harmony; we have had a
chorus of discordant voices.

For Congress, too, has changed in our time. There has grown a certain
divisiveness. We have seen the hard looks and heard the statements in
which not each other's ideas are challenged, but each other's motives.
And our great parties have too often been far apart and untrusting of
each other. It has been this way since Vietnam. That war cleaves us
still. But, friends, that war began in earnest a quarter of a century
ago; and surely the statute of limitations has been reached. This is
a fact: The final lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long
afford to be sundered by a memory. A new breeze is blowing, and the old
bipartisanship must be made new again.

To my friends--and yes, I do mean friends--in the loyal opposition--and
yes, I mean loyal: I put out my hand. I am putting out my hand to you,
Mr. Speaker. I am putting out my hand to you Mr. Majority Leader. For
this is the thing: This is the age of the offered hand. We can't turn
back clocks, and I don't want to. But when our fathers were young, Mr.
Speaker, our differences ended at the water's edge. And we don't wish
to turn back time, but when our mothers were young, Mr. Majority Leader,
the Congress and the Executive were capable of working together to
produce a budget on which this nation could live. Let us negotiate soon
and hard. But in the end, let us produce. The American people await
action. They didn't send us here to bicker. They ask us to rise above
the merely partisan. "In crucial things, unity"--and this, my friends,
is crucial.

To the world, too, we offer new engagement and a renewed vow: We will
stay strong to protect the peace. The "offered hand" is a reluctant
fist; but once made, strong, and can be used with great effect. There
are today Americans who are held against their will in foreign lands,
and Americans who are unaccounted for. Assistance can be shown here, and
will be long remembered. Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a
spiral that endlessly moves on.

Great nations like great men must keep their word. When America says
something, America means it, whether a treaty or an agreement or a vow
made on marble steps. We will always try to speak clearly, for candor
is a compliment, but subtlety, too, is good and has its place. While
keeping our alliances and friendships around the world strong, ever
strong, we will continue the new closeness with the Soviet Union,
consistent both with our security and with progress. One might say that
our new relationship in part reflects the triumph of hope and strength
over experience. But hope is good, and so are strength and vigilance.

Here today are tens of thousands of our citizens who feel the
understandable satisfaction of those who have taken part in democracy
and seen their hopes fulfilled. But my thoughts have been turning the
past few days to those who would be watching at home, to an older fellow
who will throw a salute by himself when the flag goes by, and the women
who will tell her sons the words of the battle hymns. I don't mean this
to be sentimental. I mean that on days like this, we remember that we
are all part of a continuum, inescapably connected by the ties that

Our children are watching in schools throughout our great land. And to
them I say, thank you for watching democracy's big day. For democracy
belongs to us all, and freedom is like a beautiful kite that can go
higher and higher with the breeze. And to all I say: No matter what your
circumstances or where you are, you are part of this day, you are part
of the life of our great nation.

A President is neither prince nor pope, and I don't seek a window on
men's souls. In fact, I yearn for a greater tolerance, an easy-goingness
about each other's attitudes and way of life.

There are few clear areas in which we as a society must rise up united
and express our intolerance. The most obvious now is drugs. And when
that first cocaine was smuggled in on a ship, it may as well have been a
deadly bacteria, so much has it hurt the body, the soul of our country.
And there is much to be done and to be said, but take my word for it:
This scourge will stop.

And so, there is much to do; and tomorrow the work begins. I do not
mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are
large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will
is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God's love is truly boundless.

Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling,
and sometimes it is that. But I see history as a book with many pages,
and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning.
The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so today
a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and
generosity--shared, and written, together.

Thank you. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.


Bill Clinton First Inaugural Address Wednesday, January 21, 1993

My fellow citizens:

Today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal.

This ceremony is held in the depth of winter, but by the words we speak
and the faces we show the world, we force the spring. A spring reborn in
the world's oldest democracy, that brings forth the vision and courage
to reinvent America. When our founders boldly declared America's
independence to the world, and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew
that America, to endure, would have to change. Not change for change
sake, but change to preserve America's ideals: life, liberty, the
pursuit of happiness.

Though we march to the music of our time, our mission is timeless. Each
generation of American's must define what it means to be an American. On
behalf of our nation, I salute my predecessor, President Bush, for his
half-century of service to America...and I thank the millions of men
and women whose steadfastness and sacrifice triumphed over depression,
fascism and communism.

Today, a generation raised in the shadows of the Cold War assumes new
responsibilities in a world warmed by the sunshine of freedom,
but threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues. Raised in
unrivalled prosperity, we inherit an economy that is still the world's
strongest, but is weakened by business failures, stagnant wages,
increasing inequality, and deep divisions among *our own* people.

When George Washington first took the oath I have just sworn to uphold,
news travelled slowly across the land by horseback, and across the
ocean by boat. Now the sights and sounds of this ceremony are broadcast
instantaneously to billions around the world. Communications and
commerce are global. Investment is mobile. Technology is almost magical,
and ambition for a better life is now universal.

We earn our livelihood in America today in peaceful competition with
people all across the Earth. Profound and powerful forces are shaking
and remaking our world, and the *urgent* question of our time is whether
we can make change our friend and not our enemy. This new world has
already enriched the lives of *millions* of Americans who are able to
compete and win in it. But when most people are working harder for less,
when others cannot work at all, when the cost of health care devastates
families and threatens to bankrupt our enterprises, great and small;
when the fear of crime robs law abiding citizens of their freedom; and
when millions of poor children cannot even imagine the lives we are
calling them to lead, we have not made change our friend.

We know we have to face hard truths and take strong steps, but we have
not done so. Instead we have drifted, and that drifting has eroded our
resources, fractured our economy, and shaken our confidence. Though our
challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. Americans have ever been
a restless, questing, hopeful people, and we must bring to our task
today the vision and will of those who came before us. From our
Revolution to the Civil War, to the Great Depression, to the Civil
Rights movement, our people have always mustered the determination to
construct from these crises the pillars of our history. Thomas Jefferson
believed that to preserve the very foundations of our nation we would
need dramatic change from time to time. Well, my fellow Americans, this
is OUR time. Let us embrace it.

Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of
our *own* renewal. There is nothing *wrong* with America that cannot be
cured by what is *right* with America.

And so today we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift, and a
new season of American renewal has begun.

To renew America we must be bold. We must do what no generation has had
to do before. We must invest more in our own people, in their jobs, and
in their future, and at the same time cut our massive debt...and we must
do so in a world in which we must compete for every opportunity. It will
not be easy. It will require sacrifice, but it can be done, and done
fairly. Not choosing sacrifice for its own sake, but for *our* own
sake. We must provide for our nation the way a family provides for its
children. Our founders saw themselves in the light of posterity. We can
do no less. Anyone who has ever watched a child's eyes wander into sleep
knows what posterity is. Posterity is the world to come, the world for
whom we hold our ideals, from whom we have borrowed our planet, and to
whom we bear sacred responsibilities. We must do what America does best,
offer more opportunity TO all and demand more responsibility *from* all.

It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing:
from our government, or from each other. Let us all take more
responsibility, not only for ourselves and our families, but for our
communities and our country. To renew America we must revitalize our
democracy. This beautiful capitol, like every capitol since the dawn
of civilization, is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful
people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is *in* and
who is *out*, who is *up* and who is *down*, forgetting those people
whose toil and sweat sends us here and paves our way.

Americans deserve better, and in this city today there are people who
want to do better, and so I say to all of you here, let us resolve to
reform our politics, so that power and privilege no longer shout down
the voice of the people. Let us put aside personal advantage, so that we
can feel the pain and see the promise of America. Let us resolve to
make our government a place for what Franklin Roosevelt called "bold,
persistent experimentation, a government for our tomorrows, not our
yesterdays." Let us give this capitol back to the people to whom it

To renew America we must meet challenges abroad, as well as at home.
There is no longer a clear division between what is foreign and what
is domestic. The world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS
crisis, the world arms race: they affect us all. Today as an old
order passes, the new world is more free, but less stable. Communism's
collapse has called forth old animosities, and new dangers. Clearly,
America must continue to lead the world we did so much to make. While
America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges nor
fail to seize the opportunities of this new world. Together with our
friends and allies, we will work together to shape change, lest it
engulf us. When our vital interests are challenged, or the will and
conscience of the international community is defied, we will act; with
peaceful diplomacy whenever possible, with force when necessary.
The brave Americans serving our nation today in the Persian Gulf, in
Somalia, and wherever else they stand, are testament to our resolve, but
our greatest strength is the power of our ideas, which are still new in
many lands. Across the world, we see them embraced and we rejoice. Our
hopes, our hearts, our hands, are with those on every continent, who
are building democracy and freedom. Their cause is America's cause. The
American people have summoned the change we celebrate today. You have
raised your voices in an unmistakable chorus, you have cast your
votes in historic numbers, you have changed the face of congress, the
presidency, and the political process itself. Yes, *you*, my fellow
Americans, have forced the spring. Now *we* must do the work the season
demands. To that work I now turn with *all* the authority of my office.
I ask the congress to join with me; but no president, no congress, no
government can undertake *this* mission alone.

My fellow Americans, you, too, must play your part in our renewal. I
challenge a new generation of *young* Americans to a season of service,
to act on your idealism, by helping troubled children, keeping company
with those in need, reconnecting our torn communities. There is so much
to be done. Enough, indeed, for millions of others who are still
young in spirit, to give of themselves in service, too. In serving we
recognize a simple, but powerful, truth: we need each other, and we
must care for one another. Today we do more than celebrate America,
we rededicate ourselves to the very idea of America, an idea born in
revolution, and renewed through two centuries of challenge, an idea
tempered by the knowledge that but for fate, we, the fortunate and the
unfortunate, might have been each other; an idea ennobled by the faith
that our nation can summon from its myriad diversity, the deepest
measure of unity; an idea infused with the conviction that America's
journey long, heroic journey must go forever upward.

And so, my fellow Americans, as we stand at the edge of the 21st
Century, let us begin anew, with energy and hope, with faith and
discipline, and let us work until our work is done. The Scripture says:
"And let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap,
if we faint not." From this joyful mountaintop of celebration we hear
a call to service in the valley. We have heard the trumpets, we have
changed the guard, and now each in our own way, and with God's help, we
must answer the call.

Thank you and God bless you all.


Bill Clinton Second Inaugural Address January 20, 1997

My fellow citizens:

At this last presidential inauguration of the 20th century, let us lift
our eyes toward the challenges that await us in the next century. It is
our great good fortune that time and chance have put us not only at the
edge of a new century, in a new millennium, but on the edge of a bright
new prospect in human affairs--a moment that will define our course,
and our character, for decades to come. We must keep our old democracy
forever young. Guided by the ancient vision of a promised land, let us
set our sights upon a land of new promise.

The promise of America was born in the 18th century out of the bold
conviction that we are all created equal. It was extended and preserved
in the 19th century, when our nation spread across the continent, saved
the union, and abolished the awful scourge of slavery.

Then, in turmoil and triumph, that promise exploded onto the world stage
to make this the American Century.

And what a century it has been. America became the world's mightiest
industrial power; saved the world from tyranny in two world wars and
a long cold war; and time and again, reached out across the globe to
millions who, like us, longed for the blessings of liberty.

Along the way, Americans produced a great middle class and security in
old age; built unrivaled centers of learning and opened public schools
to all; split the atom and explored the heavens; invented the computer
and the microchip; and deepened the wellspring of justice by making a
revolution in civil rights for African Americans and all minorities, and
extending the circle of citizenship, opportunity and dignity to women.

Now, for the third time, a new century is upon us, and another time to
choose. We began the 19th century with a choice, to spread our nation
from coast to coast. We began the 20th century with a choice, to
harness the Industrial Revolution to our values of free enterprise,
conservation, and human decency. Those choices made all the difference.
At the dawn of the 21st century a free people must now choose to shape
the forces of the Information Age and the global society, to unleash the
limitless potential of all our people, and, yes, to form a more perfect

When last we gathered, our march to this new future seemed less certain
than it does today. We vowed then to set a clear course to renew our

In these four years, we have been touched by tragedy, exhilarated by
challenge, strengthened by achievement. America stands alone as the
world's indispensable nation. Once again, our economy is the strongest
on Earth. Once again, we are building stronger families, thriving
communities, better educational opportunities, a cleaner environment.
Problems that once seemed destined to deepen now bend to our efforts:
our streets are safer and record numbers of our fellow citizens have
moved from welfare to work.

And once again, we have resolved for our time a great debate over the
role of government. Today we can declare: Government is not the problem,
and government is not the solution. We--the American people--we are
the solution. Our founders understood that well and gave us a democracy
strong enough to endure for centuries, flexible enough to face our
common challenges and advance our common dreams in each new day.

As times change, so government must change. We need a new government for
a new century--humble enough not to try to solve all our problems for
us, but strong enough to give us the tools to solve our problems for
ourselves; a government that is smaller, lives within its means, and
does more with less. Yet where it can stand up for our values and
interests in the world, and where it can give Americans the power to
make a real difference in their everyday lives, government should do
more, not less. The preeminent mission of our new government is to
give all Americans an opportunity--not a guarantee, but a real
opportunity--to build better lives.

Beyond that, my fellow citizens, the future is up to us. Our founders
taught us that the preservation of our liberty and our union depends
upon responsible citizenship. And we need a new sense of responsibility
for a new century. There is work to do, work that government alone
cannot do: teaching children to read; hiring people off welfare rolls;
coming out from behind locked doors and shuttered windows to help
reclaim our streets from drugs and gangs and crime; taking time out of
our own lives to serve others.

Each and every one of us, in our own way, must assume personal
responsibility--not only for ourselves and our families, but for our
neighbors and our nation. Our greatest responsibility is to embrace a
new spirit of community for a new century. For any one of us to succeed,
we must succeed as one America.

The challenge of our past remains the challenge of our future--will we
be one nation, one people, with one common destiny, or not? Will we all
come together, or come apart?

The divide of race has been America's constant curse. And each new
wave of immigrants gives new targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and
contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction
are no different. These forces have nearly destroyed our nation in the
past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. And they
torment the lives of millions in fractured nations all around the world.

These obsessions cripple both those who hate and, of course, those who
are hated, robbing both of what they might become. We cannot, we will
not, succumb to the dark impulses that lurk in the far regions of the
soul everywhere. We shall overcome them. And we shall replace them with
the generous spirit of a people who feel at home with one another.

Our rich texture of racial, religious and political diversity will be
a Godsend in the 21st century. Great rewards will come to those who can
live together, learn together, work together, forge new ties that bind

As this new era approaches we can already see its broad outlines. Ten
years ago, the Internet was the mystical province of physicists;
today, it is a commonplace encyclopedia for millions of schoolchildren.
Scientists now are decoding the blueprint of human life. Cures for our
most feared illnesses seem close at hand.

The world is no longer divided into two hostile camps. Instead, now we
are building bonds with nations that once were our adversaries. Growing
connections of commerce and culture give us a chance to lift the
fortunes and spirits of people the world over. And for the very first
time in all of history, more people on this planet live under democracy
than dictatorship.

My fellow Americans, as we look back at this remarkable century, we
may ask, can we hope not just to follow, but even to surpass the
achievements of the 20th century in America and to avoid the awful
bloodshed that stained its legacy? To that question, every American here
and every American in our land today must answer a resounding "Yes."

This is the heart of our task. With a new vision of government, a new
sense of responsibility, a new spirit of community, we will sustain
America's journey. The promise we sought in a new land we will find
again in a land of new promise.

In this new land, education will be every citizen's most prized
possession. Our schools will have the highest standards in the world,
igniting the spark of possibility in the eyes of every girl and
every boy. And the doors of higher education will be open to all. The
knowledge and power of the Information Age will be within reach not just
of the few, but of every classroom, every library, every child. Parents
and children will have time not only to work, but to read and play
together. And the plans they make at their kitchen table will be those
of a better home, a better job, the certain chance to go to college.

Our streets will echo again with the laughter of our children, because
no one will try to shoot them or sell them drugs anymore. Everyone
who can work, will work, with today's permanent under class part of
tomorrow's growing middle class. New miracles of medicine at last
will reach not only those who can claim care now, but the children and
hardworking families too long denied.

We will stand mighty for peace and freedom, and maintain a strong
defense against terror and destruction. Our children will sleep free
from the threat of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Ports and
airports, farms and factories will thrive with trade and innovation and
ideas. And the world's greatest democracy will lead a whole world of

Our land of new promise will be a nation that meets its obligations--a
nation that balances its budget, but never loses the balance of its
values. A nation where our grandparents have secure retirement and
health care, and their grandchildren know we have made the reforms
necessary to sustain those benefits for their time. A nation that
fortifies the world's most productive economy even as it protects the
great natural bounty of our water, air, and majestic land.

And in this land of new promise, we will have reformed our politics so
that the voice of the people will always speak louder than the din of
narrow interests--regaining the participation and deserving the trust of
all Americans.

Fellow citizens, let us build that America, a nation ever moving forward
toward realizing the full potential of all its citizens. Prosperity and
power--yes, they are important, and we must maintain them. But let
us never forget: The greatest progress we have made, and the greatest
progress we have yet to make, is in the human heart. In the end, all the
world's wealth and a thousand armies are no match for the strength and
decency of the human spirit.

Thirty-four years ago, the man whose life we celebrate today spoke to
us down there, at the other end of this Mall, in words that moved the
conscience of a nation. Like a prophet of old, he told of his dream
that one day America would rise up and treat all its citizens as equals
before the law and in the heart. Martin Luther King's dream was the
American Dream. His quest is our quest: the ceaseless striving to
live out our true creed. Our history has been built on such dreams
and labors. And by our dreams and labors we will redeem the promise of
America in the 21st century.

To that effort I pledge all my strength and every power of my office.
I ask the members of Congress here to join in that pledge. The American
people returned to office a President of one party and a Congress of
another. Surely, they did not do this to advance the politics of petty
bickering and extreme partisanship they plainly deplore. No, they
call on us instead to be repairers of the breach, and to move on with
America's mission.

America demands and deserves big things from us--and nothing big ever
came from being small. Let us remember the timeless wisdom of Cardinal
Bernardin, when facing the end of his own life. He said:

"It is wrong to waste the precious gift of time, on acrimony and

Fellow citizens, we must not waste the precious gift of this time. For
all of us are on that same journey of our lives, and our journey, too,
will come to an end. But the journey of our America must go on.

And so, my fellow Americans, we must be strong, for there is much to
dare. The demands of our time are great and they are different. Let us
meet them with faith and courage, with patience and a grateful and happy
heart. Let us shape the hope of this day into the noblest chapter in our
history. Yes, let us build our bridge. A bridge wide enough and strong
enough for every American to cross over to a blessed land of new

May those generations whose faces we cannot yet see, whose names we
may never know, say of us here that we led our beloved land into a new
century with the American Dream alive for all her children; with the
American promise of a more perfect union a reality for all her people;
with America's bright flame of freedom spreading throughout all the

From the height of this place and the summit of this century, let us go
forth. May God strengthen our hands for the good work ahead--and always,
always bless our America.


George W. Bush First Inaugural Address Saturday, January 20, 2001

President Clinton, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens, the
peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our
country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new

As I begin, I thank President Clinton for his service to our nation.

And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and
ended with grace.

I am honored and humbled to stand here, where so many of America's
leaders have come before me, and so many will follow.

We have a place, all of us, in a long story--a story we continue, but
whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a
friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society that
became a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into the
world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.

It is the American story--a story of flawed and fallible people, united
across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.

The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise that
everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant
person was ever born.

Americans are called to enact this promise in our lives and in our laws.
And though our nation has sometimes halted, and sometimes delayed, we
must follow no other course.

Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom and
democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind,
taking root in many nations.

Our democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is the
inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust
we bear and pass along. And even after nearly 225 years, we have a long
way yet to travel.

While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the
justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited
by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their
birth. And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a
continent, but not a country.

We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union,
is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And
this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of
justice and opportunity.

I know this is in our reach because we are guided by a power larger than
ourselves who creates us equal in His image.

And we are confident in principles that unite and lead us onward.

America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by
ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests
and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught
these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant,
by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.

Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation's promise
through civility, courage, compassion and character.

America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern
for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and
respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.

Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because,
in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small.

But the stakes for America are never small. If our country does not lead
the cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turn the hearts
of children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts and
undermine their idealism. If we permit our economy to drift and decline,
the vulnerable will suffer most.

We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not a tactic or
a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of
community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to
shared accomplishment.

America, at its best, is also courageous.

Our national courage has been clear in times of depression and war, when
defending common dangers defined our common good. Now we must choose if
the example of our fathers and mothers will inspire us or condemn us. We
must show courage in a time of blessing by confronting problems instead
of passing them on to future generations.

Together, we will reclaim America's schools, before ignorance and apathy
claim more young lives.

We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from
struggles we have the power to prevent. And we will reduce taxes, to
recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise
of working Americans.

We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite

We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is
spared new horrors.

The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America
remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a
balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and
our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet
aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations,
we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.

America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of American
conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our
nation's promise.

And whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk
are not at fault. Abandonment and abuse are not acts of God, they are
failures of love.

And the proliferation of prisons, however necessary, is no substitute
for hope and order in our souls.

Where there is suffering, there is duty. Americans in need are not
strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities. And all of
us are diminished when any are hopeless.

Government has great responsibilities for public safety and public
health, for civil rights and common schools. Yet compassion is the work
of a nation, not just a government.

And some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to a
mentor's touch or a pastor's prayer. Church and charity, synagogue
and mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an
honored place in our plans and in our laws.

Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen
to those who do.

And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler
on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.

America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued
and expected.

Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it is a call
to conscience. And though it requires sacrifice, it brings a deeper
fulfillment. We find the fullness of life not only in options, but in
commitments. And we find that children and community are the commitments
that set us free.

Our public interest depends on private character, on civic duty and
family bonds and basic fairness, on uncounted, unhonored acts of decency
which give direction to our freedom.

Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as a saint of
our times has said, every day we are called to do small things with
great love. The most important tasks of a democracy are done by

I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions
with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for
greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to
live it as well.

In all these ways, I will bring the values of our history to the care of
our times.

What you do is as important as anything government does. I ask you to
seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms against
easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor. I ask
you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects;
responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of

Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because we believe
in ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves. When this
spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program can replace it.
When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand against it.

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman
John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: "We know the race is not to the
swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in
the whirlwind and directs this storm?"

Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The
years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know:
our nation's grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity.

We are not this story's author, who fills time and eternity with his
purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is
fulfilled in service to one another.

Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose
today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity
of our lives and every life.

This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the
whirlwind and directs this storm.

God bless you all, and God bless America.


George W. Bush Second Inaugural Address Thursday, January 20, 2005

Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President
Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow

On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the
durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that
unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of
the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the
oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.

At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use,
but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America
defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the
shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose,
years of sabbatical--and then there came a day of fire.

We have seen our vulnerability--and we have seen its deepest source.
For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment
and tyranny--prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse
murder--violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and
cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There
is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and
resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes
of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival
of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty
in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of
freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the
day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this
earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear
the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we
have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is
fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these
ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable
achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our
nation's security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth
of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture,
with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves
and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature,
must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule
of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation
finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and
traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own
style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others
find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of
generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it.
America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed,
America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in
freedom's cause.

My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people against
further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test
America's resolve, and have found it firm.

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every
nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and
freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed
dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and
servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that
success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own
people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet
rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are
secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the
long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human
rights without human liberty.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty--though this
time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom
ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should
never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call
of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the
existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility
of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States
will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you
stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know:
America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham
Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for
themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To
serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of
progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.

And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your
friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help.
Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies. The
concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to
our enemies' defeat.

Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:

From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing
America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has
accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be
dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great
liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved
their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By
our efforts, we have lit a fire as well--a fire in the minds of men. It
warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress,
and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners
of our world.

A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause--in
the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy...the idealistic work of
helping raise up free governments...the dangerous and necessary work of
fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to our country in
deaths that honored their whole lives--and we will always honor their
names and their sacrifice.

All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time.
I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You
have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers.
You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage
triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants,
larger than yourself--and in your days you will add not just to the
wealth of our country, but to its character.

America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential
work at home--the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving
toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of
economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence.
This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead
Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we
will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the
needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and
future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our
schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of
homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance--preparing
our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every
citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow
Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more
prosperous and just and equal.

In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private
character--on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of
conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the
governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families,
supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national
life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the
Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in
every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came
before--ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday,
today, and forever.

In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by
service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not
mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women
who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at
our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember
that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the
habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the
baggage of bigotry at the same time.

From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication,
the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint
of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did
our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring
credit to that cause?

These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every
party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one
another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must
be healed to move forward in great purposes--and I will strive in good
faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt
the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack,
and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can
feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the
victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice,
and the captives are set free.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of
freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it
is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves
a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence
because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark
places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order
of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based
on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner
"Freedom Now"--they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be
fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has
a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the
Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if
it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in
this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to
all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength--tested, but not
weary--we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of

May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America.


Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as
prepared for delivery and released by the Presidential Inaugural

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust
you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I
thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the
generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words
have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters
of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds
and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply
because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we
the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and
true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is
at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our
economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility
on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard
choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs
shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools
fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use
energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics.
Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across
our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and
that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are
serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short
span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of
purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and
false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too
long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has
come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our
enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that
precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation:
the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a
chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness
is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of
shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the
faint-hearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only
the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers,
the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated but more often men
and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long,
rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across
oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash
of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg;
Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked
till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw
America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than
all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous,
powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when
this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and
services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last
year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat,
of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions --
that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up,
dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the
economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to
create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build
the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed
our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its
rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's
quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and
the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform
our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new
age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who
suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their
memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has
already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is
joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted
beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us
for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether
our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether
it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a
retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move
forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who
manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely,
reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because
only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or
ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but
this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can
spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it
favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always
depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the
reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every
willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route
to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our
safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can
scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the
rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those
ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for
expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are
watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my
father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every
man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that
we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not
just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring
convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor
does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power
grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness
of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of
humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more,
we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even
greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to
responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in
Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly
to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming
planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in
its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing
terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is
stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.
We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and
non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from
every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of
civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger
and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall
someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the
world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that
America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest
and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow
conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West -- know that your
people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To
those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing
of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we
will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make
your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies
and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy
relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to
suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources
without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change
with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble
gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off
deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today,
just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the
ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty,
but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find
meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment --
a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit
that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith
and determination of the American people upon which this nation
relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break,
the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a
friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the
firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a
parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may
be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and
honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and
patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have
been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is
demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is
a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every
American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world,
duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in
the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so
defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on
us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women
and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration
across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty
years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand
before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we
have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months,
a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an
icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow
was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution
was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read
to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter,
when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the
country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our
hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue,
let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may
come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested
we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we
falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we
carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to
future generations.


Text of President Barack Obama's second inaugural address

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 21, 2013 

Inaugural Address by President Barack Obama

United States Capitol
11:55 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice,
members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow 
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the 
enduring strength of our Constitution.  We affirm the promise of our 
democracy.  We recall that what binds this nation together is not the 
colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our 
names.  What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our 
allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two 
centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created 
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 
rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those 
words with the realities of our time.  For history tells us that while 
these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; 
that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people 
here on Earth.  (Applause.)  The patriots of 1776 did not fight to 
replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule 
of a mob.  They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for 
the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.  
And for more than two hundred years, we have.  
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that 
no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could 
survive half-slave and half-free.  We made ourselves anew, and vowed to 
move forward together.  
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and 
highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train 
our workers. 
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are 
rules to ensure competition and fair play.  
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, 
and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune. 
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central 
authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills 
can be cured through government alone.  Our celebration of initiative 
and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, 
these are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that 
fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new 
challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires 
collective action.  For the American people can no more meet the 
demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could 
have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.  
No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need 
to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks 
and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  
Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation 
and one people.  (Applause.) 
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our 
resolve and proved our resilience.  A decade of war is now ending.  
(Applause.)  An economic recovery has begun.  (Applause.)  America’s 
possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this 
world without boundaries demands:  youth and drive; diversity and 
openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.  My 
fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it -- 
so long as we seize it together.  (Applause.)  
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a 
shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.  
(Applause.)  We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the 
broad shoulders of a rising middle class.  We know that America thrives 
when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when 
the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.  
We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest 
poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, 
because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in 
the eyes of God but also in our own.  (Applause.)   
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our 
time.  So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our 
government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our 
citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach 
higher.  But while the means will change, our purpose endures:  a 
nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single 
American.  That is what this moment requires.  That is what will give 
real meaning to our creed.   
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic 
measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to 
reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we 
reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the 
generation that built this country and investing in the generation that 
will build its future.  (Applause.)  For we remember the lessons of our 
past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child 
with a disability had nowhere to turn. 
We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the 
lucky, or happiness for the few.  We recognize that no matter how 
responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job 
loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.  
The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and 
Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they 
strengthen us.  (Applause.)  They do not make us a nation of takers; 
they free us to take the risks that make this country great.  
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not 
just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat 
of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our 
children and future generations.  (Applause.)  Some may still deny the 
overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating 
impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.  
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes 
difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  
We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs 
and new industries, we must claim its promise.  That’s how we will 
maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests 
and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks.  That is how we 
will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what 
will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace 
do not require perpetual war.  (Applause.)  Our brave men and women in 
uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and 
courage.  (Applause.)  Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we 
have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty.  The 
knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against 
those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the 
peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of 
friends -- and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of 
arms and rule of law.  We will show the courage to try and resolve our 
differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are naïve 
about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift 
suspicion and fear.  (Applause.)
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of 
the globe.  And we will renew those institutions that extend our 
capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a 
peaceful world than its most powerful nation.  We will support 
democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, 
because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of 
those who long for freedom.  And we must be a source of hope to the 
poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out 
of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant 
advance of those principles that our common creed describes:  tolerance 
and opportunity, human dignity and justice.  
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that 
all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just 
as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and 
Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, 
who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that 
we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual 
freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.  
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  
For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and 
daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  (Applause.)  Our 
journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated 
like anyone else under the law  –- (applause) -- for if we are truly 
created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be 
equal as well.  (Applause.)  Our journey is not complete until no 
citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  
(Applause.)  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to 
welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a 
land of opportunity -- (applause) -- until bright young students and 
engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our 
country.  (Applause.)   Our journey is not complete until all our 
children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to 
the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished 
and always safe from harm.  
That is our generation’s task -- to make these words, these rights, 
these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for 
every American.  Being true to our founding documents does not require 
us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define 
liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to 
happiness.  Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long 
debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require 
us to act in our time.  (Applause.)  
For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay.  We cannot 
mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, 
or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.  (Applause.)  We must act, 
knowing that our work will be imperfect.  We must act, knowing that 
today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those 
who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to 
advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare 
Philadelphia hall. 
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the 
one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and 
country, not party or faction.  And we must faithfully execute that 
pledge during the duration of our service.  But the words I spoke today 
are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier 
signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream.  My oath is not 
so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above 
and that fills our hearts with pride.  
They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope.  
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.  
You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our 
time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in 
defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.  (Applause.)  
Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what 
is our lasting birthright.  With common effort and common purpose, with 
passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry 
into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.  
Thank you.  God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States 
of America.  (Applause.)  
12:10 P.M. EST


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