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Grover Cleveland
First Inaugural Address
Wednesday, March 4, 1885


IN the presence of this vast assemblage of my countrymen I am about to
supplement and seal by the oath which I shall take the manifestation of
the will of a great and free people. In the exercise of their power and
right of self-government they have committed to one of their
fellow-citizens a supreme and sacred trust, and he here consecrates
himself to their service.

This impressive ceremony adds little to the solemn sense of
responsibility with which I contemplate the duty I owe to all the people
of the land. Nothing can relieve me from anxiety lest by any act of mine
their interests may suffer, and nothing is needed to strengthen my
resolution to engage every faculty and effort in the promotion of their

Amid the din of party strife the people's choice was made, but its
attendant circumstances have demonstrated anew the strength and safety
of a government by the people. In each succeeding year it more clearly
appears that our democratic principle needs no apology, and that in its
fearless and faithful application is to be found the surest guaranty of
good government.

But the best results in the operation of a government wherein every
citizen has a share largely depend upon a proper limitation of purely
partisan zeal and effort and a correct appreciation of the time when the
heat of the partisan should be merged in the patriotism of the citizen.

To-day the executive branch of the Government is transferred to new
keeping. But this is still the Government of all the people, and it
should be none the less an object of their affectionate solicitude. At
this hour the animosities of political strife, the bitterness of
partisan defeat, and the exultation of partisan triumph should be
supplanted by an ungrudging acquiescence in the popular will and a
sober, conscientious concern for the general weal. Moreover, if from
this hour we cheerfully and honestly abandon all sectional prejudice and
distrust, and determine, with manly confidence in one another, to work
out harmoniously the achievements of our national destiny, we shall
deserve to realize all the benefits which our happy form of government
can bestow.

On this auspicious occasion we may well renew the pledge of our devotion
to the Constitution, which, launched by the founders of the Republic and
consecrated by their prayers and patriotic devotion, has for almost a
century borne the hopes and the aspirations of a great people through
prosperity and peace and through the shock of foreign conflicts and the
perils of domestic strife and vicissitudes.

By the Father of his Country our Constitution was commended for adoption
as "the result of a spirit of amity and mutual concession." In that same
spirit it should be administered, in order to promote the lasting
welfare of the country and to secure the full measure of its priceless
benefits to us and to those who will succeed to the blessings of our
national life. The large variety of diverse and competing interests
subject to Federal control, persistently seeking the recognition of
their claims, need give us no fear that "the greatest good to the
greatest number" will fail to be accomplished if in the halls of
national legislation that spirit of amity and mutual concession shall
prevail in which the Constitution had its birth. If this involves the
surrender or postponement of private interests and the abandonment of
local advantages, compensation will be found in the assurance that the
common interest is subserved and the general welfare advanced.

In the discharge of my official duty I shall endeavor to be guided by a
just and unstrained construction of the Constitution, a careful
observance of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal
Government and those reserved to the States or to the people, and by a
cautious appreciation of those functions which by the Constitution and
laws have been especially assigned to the executive branch of the

But he who takes the oath today to preserve, protect, and defend the
Constitution of the United States only assumes the solemn obligation
which every patriotic citizen--on the farm, in the workshop, in the busy
marts of trade, and everywhere--should share with him. The Constitution
which prescribes his oath, my countrymen, is yours; the Government you
have chosen him to administer for a time is yours; the suffrage which
executes the will of freemen is yours; the laws and the entire scheme of
our civil rule, from the town meeting to the State capitals and the
national capital, is yours. Your every voter, as surely as your Chief
Magistrate, under the same high sanction, though in a different sphere,
exercises a public trust. Nor is this all. Every citizen owes to the
country a vigilant watch and close scrutiny of its public servants and a
fair and reasonable estimate of their fidelity and usefulness. Thus is
the people's will impressed upon the whole framework of our civil
polity--municipal, State, and Federal; and this is the price of our
liberty and the inspiration of our faith in the Republic.

It is the duty of those serving the people in public place to closely
limit public expenditures to the actual needs of the Government
economically administered, because this bounds the right of the
Government to exact tribute from the earnings of labor or the property
of the citizen, and because public extravagance begets extravagance
among the people. We should never be ashamed of the simplicity and
prudential economies which are best suited to the operation of a
republican form of government and most compatible with the mission of
the American people. Those who are selected for a limited time to manage
public affairs are still of the people, and may do much by their example
to encourage, consistently with the dignity of their official functions,
that plain way of life which among their fellow-citizens aids integrity
and promotes thrift and prosperity.

The genius of our institutions, the needs of our people in their home
life, and the attention which is demanded for the settlement and
development of the resources of our vast territory dictate the
scrupulous avoidance of any departure from that foreign policy commended
by the history, the traditions, and the prosperity of our Republic. It
is the policy of independence, favored by our position and defended by
our known love of justice and by our power. It is the policy of peace
suitable to our interests. It is the policy of neutrality, rejecting any
share in foreign broils and ambitions upon other continents and
repelling their intrusion here. It is the policy of Monroe and of
Washington and Jefferson-- "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with
all nations; entangling alliance with none."

A due regard for the interests and prosperity of all the people demands
that our finances shall be established upon such a sound and sensible
basis as shall secure the safety and confidence of business interests
and make the wage of labor sure and steady, and that our system of
revenue shall be so adjusted as to relieve the people of unnecessary
taxation, having a due regard to the interests of capital invested and
workingmen employed in American industries, and preventing the
accumulation of a surplus in the Treasury to tempt extravagance and

Care for the property of the nation and for the needs of future settlers
requires that the public domain should be protected from purloining
schemes and unlawful occupation.

The conscience of the people demands that the Indians within our
boundaries shall be fairly and honestly treated as wards of the
Government and their education and civilization promoted with a view to
their ultimate citizenship, and that polygamy in the Territories,
destructive of the family relation and offensive to the moral sense of
the civilized world, shall be repressed.

The laws should be rigidly enforced which prohibit the immigration of a
servile class to compete with American labor, with no intention of
acquiring citizenship, and bringing with them and retaining habits and
customs repugnant to our civilization.

The people demand reform in the administration of the Government and the
application of business principles to public affairs. As a means to this
end, civil-service reform should be in good faith enforced. Our citizens
have the right to protection from the incompetency of public employees
who hold their places solely as the reward of partisan service, and from
the corrupting influence of those who promise and the vicious methods of
those who expect such rewards; and those who worthily seek public
employment have the right to insist that merit and competency shall be
recognized instead of party subserviency or the surrender of honest
political belief.

In the administration of a government pledged to do equal and exact
justice to all men there should be no pretext for anxiety touching the
protection of the freedmen in their rights or their security in the
enjoyment of their privileges under the Constitution and its amendments.
All discussion as to their fitness for the place accorded to them as
American citizens is idle and unprofitable except as it suggests the
necessity for their improvement. The fact that they are citizens
entitles them to all the rights due to that relation and charges them
with all its duties, obligations, and responsibilities.

These topics and the constant and ever-varying wants of an active and
enterprising population may well receive the attention and the patriotic
endeavor of all who make and execute the Federal law. Our duties are
practical and call for industrious application, an intelligent
perception of the claims of public office, and, above all, a firm
determination, by united action, to secure to all the people of the land
the full benefits of the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man.
And let us not trust to human effort alone, but humbly acknowledging the
power and goodness of Almighty God, who presides over the destiny of
nations, and who has at all times been revealed in our country's
history, let us invoke His aid and His blessings upon our labors.


Grover Cleveland
Second Inaugural Address
Saturday, March 4, 1893

My Fellow-Citizens:

IN obedience of the mandate of my countrymen I am about to dedicate
myself to their service under the sanction of a solemn oath. Deeply
moved by the expression of confidence and personal attachment which has
called me to this service, I am sure my gratitude can make no better
return than the pledge I now give before God and these witnesses of
unreserved and complete devotion to the interests and welfare of those
who have honored me.

I deem it fitting on this occasion, while indicating the opinion I hold
concerning public questions of present importance, to also briefly refer
to the existence of certain conditions and tendencies among our people
which seem to menace the integrity and usefulness of their Government.

While every American citizen must contemplate with the utmost pride and
enthusiasm the growth and expansion of our country, the sufficiency of
our institutions to stand against the rudest shocks of violence, the
wonderful thrift and enterprise of our people, and the demonstrated
superiority of our free government, it behooves us to constantly watch
for every symptom of insidious infirmity that threatens our national

The strong man who in the confidence of sturdy health courts the
sternest activities of life and rejoices in the hardihood of constant
labor may still have lurking near his vitals the unheeded disease that
dooms him to sudden collapse.

It can not be doubted that our stupendous achievements as a people and
our country's robust strength have given rise to heedlessness of those
laws governing our national health which we can no more evade than human
life can escape the laws of God and nature.

Manifestly nothing is more vital to our supremacy as a nation and to the
beneficent purposes of our Government than a sound and stable currency.
Its exposure to degradation should at once arouse to activity the most
enlightened statesmanship, and the danger of depreciation in the
purchasing power of the wages paid to toil should furnish the strongest
incentive to prompt and conservative precaution.

In dealing with our present embarrassing situation as related to this
subject we will be wise if we temper our confidence and faith in our
national strength and resources with the frank concession that even
these will not permit us to defy with impunity the inexorable laws of
finance and trade. At the same time, in our efforts to adjust
differences of opinion we should be free from intolerance or passion,
and our judgments should be unmoved by alluring phrases and unvexed by
selfish interests.

I am confident that such an approach to the subject will result in
prudent and effective remedial legislation. In the meantime, so far as
the executive branch of the Government can intervene, none of the powers
with which it is invested will be withheld when their exercise is deemed
necessary to maintain our national credit or avert financial disaster.

Closely related to the exaggerated confidence in our country's greatness
which tends to a disregard of the rules of national safety, another
danger confronts us not less serious. I refer to the prevalence of a
popular disposition to expect from the operation of the Government
especial and direct individual advantages.

The verdict of our voters which condemned the injustice of maintaining
protection for protection's sake enjoins upon the people's servants the
duty of exposing and destroying the brood of kindred evils which are the
unwholesome progeny of paternalism. This is the bane of republican
institutions and the constant peril of our government by the people. It
degrades to the purposes of wily craft the plan of rule our fathers
established and bequeathed to us as an object of our love and
veneration. It perverts the patriotic sentiments of our countrymen and
tempts them to pitiful calculation of the sordid gain to be derived from
their Government's maintenance. It undermines the self-reliance of our
people and substitutes in its place dependence upon governmental
favoritism. It stifles the spirit of true Americanism and stupefies
every ennobling trait of American citizenship.

The lessons of paternalism ought to be unlearned and the better lesson
taught that while the people should patriotically and cheerfully support
their Government its functions do not include the support of the people.

The acceptance of this principle leads to a refusal of bounties and
subsidies, which burden the labor and thrift of a portion of our
citizens to aid ill-advised or languishing enterprises in which they
have no concern. It leads also to a challenge of wild and reckless
pension expenditure, which overleaps the bounds of grateful recognition
of patriotic service and prostitutes to vicious uses the people's prompt
and generous impulse to aid those disabled in their country's defense.

Every thoughtful American must realize the importance of checking at its
beginning any tendency in public or private station to regard frugality
and economy as virtues which we may safely outgrow. The toleration of
this idea results in the waste of the people's money by their chosen
servants and encourages prodigality and extravagance in the home life of
our countrymen.

Under our scheme of government the waste of public money is a crime
against the citizen, and the contempt of our people for economy and
frugality in their personal affairs deplorably saps the strength and
sturdiness of our national character.

It is a plain dictate of honesty and good government that public
expenditures should be limited by public necessity, and that this should
be measured by the rules of strict economy; and it is equally clear that
frugality among the people is the best guaranty of a contented and
strong support of free institutions.

One mode of the misappropriation of public funds is avoided when
appointments to office, instead of being the rewards of partisan
activity, are awarded to those whose efficiency promises a fair return
of work for the compensation paid to them. To secure the fitness and
competency of appointees to office and remove from political action the
demoralizing madness for spoils, civil-service reform has found a place
in our public policy and laws. The benefits already gained through this
instrumentality and the further usefulness it promises entitle it to the
hearty support and encouragement of all who desire to see our public
service well performed or who hope for the elevation of political
sentiment and the purification of political methods.

The existence of immense aggregations of kindred enterprises and
combinations of business interests formed for the purpose of limiting
production and fixing prices is inconsistent with the fair field which
ought to be open to every independent activity. Legitimate strife in
business should not be superseded by an enforced concession to the
demands of combinations that have the power to destroy, nor should the
people to be served lose the benefit of cheapness which usually results
from wholesome competition. These aggregations and combinations
frequently constitute conspiracies against the interests of the people,
and in all their phases they are unnatural and opposed to our American
sense of fairness. To the extent that they can be reached and restrained
by Federal power the General Government should relieve our citizens from
their interference and exactions.

Loyalty to the principles upon which our Government rests positively
demands that the equality before the law which it guarantees to every
citizen should be justly and in good faith conceded in all parts of the
land. The enjoyment of this right follows the badge of citizenship
wherever found, and, unimpaired by race or color, it appeals for
recognition to American manliness and fairness.

Our relations with the Indians located within our border impose upon us
responsibilities we can not escape. Humanity and consistency require us
to treat them with forbearance and in our dealings with them to honestly
and considerately regard their rights and interests. Every effort should
be made to lead them, through the paths of civilization and education,
to self-supporting and independent citizenship. In the meantime, as the
nation's wards, they should be promptly defended against the cupidity of
designing men and shielded from every influence or temptation that
retards their advancement.

The people of the United States have decreed that on this day the
control of their Government in its legislative and executive branches
shall be given to a political party pledged in the most positive terms
to the accomplishment of tariff reform. They have thus determined in
favor of a more just and equitable system of Federal taxation. The
agents they have chosen to carry out their purposes are bound by their
promises not less than by the command of their masters to devote
themselves unremittingly to this service.

While there should be no surrender of principle, our task must be
undertaken wisely and without heedless vindictiveness. Our mission is
not punishment, but the rectification of wrong. If in lifting burdens
from the daily life of our people we reduce inordinate and unequal
advantages too long enjoyed, this is but a necessary incident of our
return to right and justice. If we exact from unwilling minds
acquiescence in the theory of an honest distribution of the fund of the
governmental beneficence treasured up for all, we but insist upon a
principle which underlies our free institutions. When we tear aside the
delusions and misconceptions which have blinded our countrymen to their
condition under vicious tariff laws, we but show them how far they have
been led away from the paths of contentment and prosperity. When we
proclaim that the necessity for revenue to support the Government
furnishes the only justification for taxing the people, we announce a
truth so plain that its denial would seem to indicate the extent to
which judgment may be influenced by familiarity with perversions of the
taxing power. And when we seek to reinstate the self-confidence and
business enterprise of our citizens by discrediting an abject dependence
upon governmental favor, we strive to stimulate those elements of
American character which support the hope of American achievement.

Anxiety for the redemption of the pledges which my party has made and
solicitude for the complete justification of the trust the people have
reposed in us constrain me to remind those with whom I am to cooperate
that we can succeed in doing the work which has been especially set
before us only by the most sincere, harmonious, and disinterested
effort. Even if insuperable obstacles and opposition prevent the
consummation of our task, we shall hardly be excused; and if failure can
be traced to our fault or neglect we may be sure the people will hold us
to a swift and exacting accountability.

The oath I now take to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of
the United States not only impressively defines the great responsibility
I assume, but suggests obedience to constitutional commands as the rule
by which my official conduct must be guided. I shall to the best of my
ability and within my sphere of duty preserve the Constitution by
loyally protecting every grant of Federal power it contains, by
defending all its restraints when attacked by impatience and
restlessness, and by enforcing its limitations and reservations in favor
of the States and the people.

Fully impressed with the gravity of the duties that confront me and
mindful of my weakness, I should be appalled if it were my lot to bear
unaided the responsibilities which await me. I am, however, saved from
discouragement when I remember that I shall have the support and the
counsel and cooperation of wise and patriotic men who will stand at my
side in Cabinet places or will represent the people in their legislative

I find also much comfort in remembering that my countrymen are just and
generous and in the assurance that they will not condemn those who by
sincere devotion to their service deserve their forbearance and

Above all, I know there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men
and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people,
and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek
His powerful aid.

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