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William McKinley
Second Inaugural Address, 1901
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Monday, March 4, 1901

My Fellow-Citizens:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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