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Contents > Author > Zachary Taylor > Inaugural Address, 1849 1784- 1850
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Zachary Taylor
Inaugural Address, 1849
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Monday, March 5, 1849

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

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