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United States Presidents' Inaugural Speeches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the difficulties which we have had to encounter in the
practical administration of the Government consists in the
adjustment of our revenue laws and the levy of the taxes necessary
for the support of Government. In the general proposition that no
more money shall be collected than the necessities of an
economical administration shall require all parties seem to
acquiesce. Nor does there seem to be any material difference of
opinion as to the absence of right in the Government to tax one
section of country, or one class of citizens, or one occupation,
for the mere profit of another. "Justice and sound policy forbid
the Federal Government to foster one branch of industry to the
detriment of another, or to cherish the interests of one portion
to the injury of another portion of our common country." I have
heretofore declared to my fellow-citizens that "in my judgment it
is the duty of the Government to extend, as far as it may be
practicable to do so, by its revenue laws and all other means
within its power, fair and just protection to all of the great
interests of the whole Union, embracing agriculture, manufactures,
the mechanic arts, commerce, and navigation." I have also declared
my opinion to be "in favor of a tariff for revenue," and that "in
adjusting the details of such a tariff I have sanctioned such
moderate discriminating duties as would produce the amount of
revenue needed and at the same time afford reasonable incidental
protection to our home industry," and that I was "opposed to a
tariff for protection merely, and not for revenue."
The power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises"
was an indispensable one to be conferred on the Federal
Government, which without it would possess no means of providing
for its own support. In executing this power by levying a tariff
of duties for the support of Government, the raising of revenue
should be the object and protection the incident. To reverse this
principle and make protection the object and revenue the incident
would be to inflict manifest injustice upon all other than the
protected interests. In levying duties for revenue it is doubtless
proper to make such discriminations within the revenue principle
as will afford incidental protection to our home interests. Within
the revenue limit there is a discretion to discriminate; beyond
that limit the rightful exercise of the power is not conceded. The
incidental protection afforded to our home interests by
discriminations within the revenue range it is believed will be
ample. In making discriminations all our home interests should as
far as practicable be equally protected. The largest portion of
our people are agriculturists. Others are employed in
manufactures, commerce, navigation, and the mechanic arts. They
are all engaged in their respective pursuits and their joint
labors constitute the national or home industry. To tax one branch
of this home industry for the benefit of another would be unjust.
No one of these interests can rightfully claim an advantage over
the others, or to be enriched by impoverishing the others. All are
equally entitled to the fostering care and protection of the
Government. In exercising a sound discretion in levying
discriminating duties within the limit prescribed, care should be
taken that it be done in a manner not to benefit the wealthy few
at the expense of the toiling millions by taxing lowest the
luxuries of life, or articles of superior quality and high price,
which can only be consumed by the wealthy, and highest the
necessaries of life, or articles of coarse quality and low price,
which the poor and great mass of our people must consume. The
burdens of government should as far as practicable be distributed
justly and equally among all classes of our population. These
general views, long entertained on this subject, I have deemed it
proper to reiterate. It is a subject upon which conflicting
interests of sections and occupations are supposed to exist, and a
spirit of mutual concession and compromise in adjusting its
details should be cherished by every part of our widespread
country as the only means of preserving harmony and a cheerful
acquiescence of all in the operation of our revenue laws. Our
patriotic citizens in every part of the Union will readily submit
to the payment of such taxes as shall be needed for the support of
their Government, whether in peace or in war, if they are so
levied as to distribute the burdens as equally as possible among

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

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

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

In the earlier stages of our national existence the opinion
prevailed with some that our system of confederated States could
not operate successfully over an extended territory, and serious
objections have at different times been made to the enlargement of
our boundaries. These objections were earnestly urged when we
acquired Louisiana. Experience has shown that they were not well
founded. The title of numerous Indian tribes to vast tracts of
country has been extinguished; new States have been admitted into
the Union; new Territories have been created and our jurisdiction
and laws extended over them. As our population has expanded, the
Union has been cemented and strengthened. AS our boundaries have
been enlarged and our agricultural population has been spread over
a large surface, our federative system has acquired additional
strength and security. It may well be doubted whether it would not
be in greater danger of overthrow if our present population were
confined to the comparatively narrow limits of the original
thirteen States than it is now that they are sparsely settled over
a more expanded territory. It is confidently believed that our
system may be safely extended to the utmost bounds of our
territorial limits, and that as it shall be extended the bonds of
our Union, so far from being weakened, will become stronger.
None can fail to see the danger to our safety and future peace if
Texas remains an independent state or becomes an ally or
dependency of some foreign nation more powerful than herself. Is
there one among our citizens who would not prefer perpetual peace
with Texas to occasional wars, which so often occur between
bordering independent nations? Is there one who would not prefer
free intercourse with her to high duties on all our products and
manufactures which enter her ports or cross her frontiers? Is
there one who would not prefer an unrestricted communication with
her citizens to the frontier obstructions which must occur if she
remains out of the Union? Whatever is good or evil in the local
institutions of Texas will remain her own whether annexed to the
United States or not. None of the present States will be
responsible for them any more than they are for the local
institutions of each other. They have confederated together for
certain specified objects. Upon the same principle that they would
refuse to form a perpetual union with Texas because of her local
institutions our forefathers would have been prevented from
forming our present Union. Perceiving no valid objection to the
measure and many reasons for its adoption vitally affecting the
peace, the safety, and the prosperity of both countries, I shall
on the broad principle which formed the basis and produced the
adoption of our Constitution, and not in any narrow spirit of
sectional policy, endeavor by all constitutional, honorable, and
appropriate means to consummate the expressed will of the people
and Government of the United States by the reannexation of Texas
to our Union at the earliest practicable period.

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

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

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

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

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


Zachary Taylor




For the second time in the history of the Republic, March 4 fell
on a Sunday. The inaugural ceremony was postponed until the
following Monday, raising the question as to whether the Nation
was without a President for a day. General Taylor, popularly known
as "Old Rough and Ready," was famous for his exploits in the
Mexican War. He never had voted in a national election until his
own contest for the Presidency. Outgoing President Polk
accompanied the general to the ceremony at the Capitol. The oath
of office was administered by Chief Justice Roger Taney on the
East Portico. After the ceremony, the new President attended
several inaugural celebrations, including a ball that evening in a
specially built pavilion on Judiciary Square.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Franklin Pierce




On religious grounds, former Senator and Congressman Franklin
Pierce chose "to affirm" rather than "to swear" the executive oath
of office. He was the only President to use the choice offered by
the Constitution. Famed as an officer of a volunteer brigade in
the Mexican War, he was nominated as the Democratic candidate in
the national convention on the 49th ballot. His name had not been
placed in nomination until the 35th polling of the delegates.
Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the oath of office on the
East Portico of the Capitol. Several weeks before arriving in
Washington, the Pierces' only surviving child had been killed in a
train accident.


My Countrymen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


James Buchanan




The Democratic Party chose another candidate instead of their
incumbent President when they nominated James Buchanan at the
national convention. Since the Jackson Administration, he had a
distinguished career as a Senator, Congressman, Cabinet officer,
and ambassador. The oath of office was administered by Chief
Justice Roger Taney on the East Portico of the Capitol. A parade
had preceded the ceremony at the Capitol, and an inaugural ball
was held that evening for 6,000 celebrants in a specially built
hall on Judiciary Square.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Abraham Lincoln




The national upheaval of secession was a grim reality at Abraham
Lincoln's inauguration. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as
the President of the Confederacy two weeks earlier. The former
Illinois Congressman had arrived in Washington by a secret route
to avoid danger, and his movements were guarded by General
Winfield Scott's soldiers. Ignoring advice to the contrary, the
President-elect rode with President Buchanan in an open carriage
to the Capitol, where he took the oath of office on the East
Portico. Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the executive oath
for the seventh time. The Capitol itself was sheathed in
scaffolding because the copper and wood "Bulfinch" dome was being
replaced with a cast iron dome designed by Thomas U. Walter.


Fellow-Citizens of the United States:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by
those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive
slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members
of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution--to this
provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that
slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause "shall be
delivered up" their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make
the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal
unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that
unanimous oath?
There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be
enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that
difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be
surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to
others by which authority it is done. And should anyone in any
case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely
unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all
parts of the Union. So far as possible the people everywhere shall
have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to
calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be
followed unless current events and experience shall show a
modification or change to be proper, and in every case and
exigency my best discretion will be exercised, according to
circumstances actually existing and with a view and a hope of a
peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of
fraternal sympathies and affections.
That there are persons in one section or another who seek to
destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do
it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need
address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the
Union may I not speak?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Abraham Lincoln




Weeks of wet weather preceding Lincoln's second inauguration had
caused Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing
water. Thousands of spectators stood in thick mud at the Capitol
grounds to hear the President. As he stood on the East Portico to
take the executive oath, the completed Capitol dome over the
President's head was a physical reminder of the resolve of his
Administration throughout the years of civil war. Chief Justice
Salmon Chase administered the oath of office. In little more than
a month, the President would be assassinated.



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

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

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


Ulysses S. Grant




General Grant was the first of many Civil War officers to become
President of the United States. He refused to ride in the carriage
to the Capitol with President Johnson, who then decided not to
attend the ceremony. The oath of office was administered by Chief
Justice Salmon Chase on the East Portico. The inaugural parade
boasted eight full divisions of the Army--the largest contingent
yet to march on such an occasion. That evening, a ball was held in
the Treasury Building.


Citizens of the United States:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ulysses S. Grant




Frigid temperatures caused many of the events planned for the
second inauguration to be abandoned. The thermometer did not rise
much above zero all day, persuading many to avoid the ceremony on
the East Portico of the Capitol. The oath of office was
administered by Chief Justice Salmon Chase. A parade and a display
of fireworks were featured later that day, as well as a ball in a
temporary wooden structure on Judiciary Square. The wind blew
continuously through the ballroom and many of the guests at the
ball never removed their coats.



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

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

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

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

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

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

Social equality is not a subject to be legislated upon, nor shall
I ask that anything be done to advance the social status of the
colored man, except to give him a fair chance to develop what
there is good in him, give him access to the schools, and when he
travels let him feel assured that his conduct will regulate the
treatment and fare he will receive.
The States lately at war with the General Government are now
happily rehabilitated, and no Executive control is exercised in
any one of them that would not be exercised in any other State
under like circumstances.

In the first year of the past Administration the proposition came
up for the admission of Santo Domingo as a Territory of the Union.

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