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United States Presidents' Inaugural Speeches

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George Washington




The Nation's first chief executive took his oath of office in
April in New York City on the balcony of the Senate Chamber at
Federal Hall on Wall Street. General Washington had been
unanimously elected President by the first electoral college, and
John Adams was elected Vice President because he received the
second greatest number of votes. Under the rules, each elector
cast two votes. The Chancellor of New York and fellow Freemason,
Robert R. Livingston administered the oath of office. The Bible on
which the oath was sworn belonged to New York's St. John's Masonic
Lodge. The new President gave his inaugural address before a joint
session of the two Houses of Congress assembled inside the Senate


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 promoted.

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




President Washington's second oath of office was taken in the
Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia on March 4, the
date fixed by the Continental Congress for inaugurations. Before
an assembly of Congressmen, Cabinet officers, judges of the
federal and district courts, foreign officials, and a small
gathering of Philadelphians, the President offered the shortest
inaugural address ever given. Associate Justice of the Supreme
Court William Cushing administered the oath of office.


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



The first Vice President became the second President of the United
States. His opponent in the election, Thomas Jefferson, had won
the second greatest number of electoral votes and therefore had
been elected Vice President by the electoral college. Chief
Justice Oliver Ellsworth administered the oath of office in the
Hall of the House of Representatives in Federal Hall before a
joint session of Congress.


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 uncertainty.

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 chance.

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 effect.

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




Chief Justice John Marshall administered the first executive oath
of office ever taken in the new federal city in the new Senate
Chamber (now the Old Supreme Court Chamber) of the partially built
Capitol building. The outcome of the election of 1800 had been in
doubt until late February because Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr,
the two leading candidates, each had received 73 electoral votes.
Consequently, the House of Representatives met in a special
session to resolve the impasse, pursuant to the terms spelled out
in the Constitution. After 30 hours of debate and balloting, Mr.
Jefferson emerged as the President and Mr. Burr the Vice
President. President John Adams, who had run unsuccessfully for a
second term, left Washington on the day of the inauguration
without attending the ceremony.


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

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



The second inauguration of Mr. Jefferson followed an election
under which the offices of President and Vice President were to be
separately sought, pursuant to the newly adopted 12th Amendment to
the Constitution. George Clinton of New York was elected Vice
President. Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of
office in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol.


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 expectations.

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 societies.

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

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

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 opinion.

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


James Madison




Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office in the
Hall of the House of Representatives (now National Statuary Hall).
Subsequently the oath by Presidents-elect, with few exceptions,
was taken in the House Chamber or in a place of the Capitol
associated with the Congress as a whole. The Vice Presidential
oath of office for most administrations was taken in the Senate
Chamber. President Jefferson watched the ceremony, but he joined
the crowd of assembled visitors since he no longer was an office-
holder. The mild March weather drew a crowd of about 10,000


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

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

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




Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office in the
Hall of the House of Representatives. The United States was at war
with Great Britain at the time of James Madison's second
inauguration. Most of the battles had occurred at sea, and the
physical reminders of war seemed remote to the group assembled at
the Capitol. In little more than a year, however, both the Capitol
and Executive Mansion would be burned by an invading British
garrison, and the city thrown into a panic.


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

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

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

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

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




Because the Capitol was under reconstruction after the fire,
President-elect Monroe offered to take his oath of office in the
House Chamber of the temporary "Brick Capitol," located on the
site where the Supreme Court building now stands. A controversy
resulted from the inaugural committees proposals concerning the
use of the House Chamber on the second floor of the brick
building. Speaker Henry Clay declined the use of the hall and
suggested that the proceedings be held outside. The President's
speech to the crowd from a platform adjacent to the brick building
was the first outdoor inaugural address. Chief Justice John
Marshall administered the oath of office.


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 against.

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 termination.

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

James Monroe


In 1821, March 4 fell on a Sunday for the first time that
presidential inaugurations had been observed. Although his
previous term had expired on Saturday, the President waited until
the following Monday upon the advice of Chief Justice Marshall,
before going to the newly rebuilt Hall of the House of
Representatives to take the oath of office. Because the weather
was cold and wet, the ceremonies were conducted indoors. The
change in the location caused some confusion and many visitors and
dignitaries were unable to find a place to stand inside the



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
he 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 future.

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 insult.

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 subject.

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

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

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

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

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

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