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William Henry Harrison
Inaugural Address, 1841
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Thursday, March 4, 1841

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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