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James Madison
First Inaugural Address
Saturday, March 4, 1809

Unwilling to depart from examples of the most revered authority, I avail
myself of the occasion now presented to express the profound impression
made on me by the call of my country to the station to the duties of
which I am about to pledge myself by the most solemn of sanctions. So
distinguished a mark of confidence, proceeding from the deliberate and
tranquil suffrage of a free and virtuous nation, would under any
circumstances have commanded my gratitude and devotion, as well as
filled me with an awful sense of the trust to be assumed. Under the
various circumstances which give peculiar solemnity to the existing
period, I feel that both the honor and the responsibility allotted to me
are inexpressibly enhanced.

The present situation of the world is indeed without a parallel and that
of our own country full of difficulties. The pressure of these, too, is
the more severely felt because they have fallen upon us at a moment when
the national prosperity being at a height not before attained, the
contrast resulting from the change has been rendered the more striking.
Under the benign influence of our republican institutions, and the
maintenance of peace with all nations whilst so many of them were
engaged in bloody and wasteful wars, the fruits of a just policy were
enjoyed in an unrivaled growth of our faculties and resources. Proofs of
this were seen in the improvements of agriculture, in the successful
enterprises of commerce, in the progress of manufacturers and useful
arts, in the increase of the public revenue and the use made of it in
reducing the public debt, and in the valuable works and establishments
everywhere multiplying over the face of our land.

It is a precious reflection that the transition from this prosperous
condition of our country to the scene which has for some time been
distressing us is not chargeable on any unwarrantable views, nor, as I
trust, on any involuntary errors in the public councils. Indulging no
passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it
has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by
observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the
nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most
scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth of
these assertions will not be questioned; posterity at least will do
justice to them.

This unexceptionable course could not avail against the injustice and
violence of the belligerent powers. In their rage against each other, or
impelled by more direct motives, principles of retaliation have been
introduced equally contrary to universal reason and acknowledged law.
How long their arbitrary edicts will be continued in spite of the
demonstrations that not even a pretext for them has been given by the
United States, and of the fair and liberal attempt to induce a
revocation of them, can not be anticipated. Assuring myself that under
every vicissitude the determined spirit and united councils of the
nation will be safeguards to its honor and its essential interests, I
repair to the post assigned me with no other discouragement than what
springs from my own inadequacy to its high duties. If I do not sink
under the weight of this deep conviction it is because I find some
support in a consciousness of the purposes and a confidence in the
principles which I bring with me into this arduous service.

To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having
correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality toward
belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and
reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an
appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities,
so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a
spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too
proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices
ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold
the union of the States as the basis of their peace and happiness; to
support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well in
its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and
authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally
incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system; to
avoid the slightest interference with the right of conscience or the
functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to
preserve in their full energy the other salutary provisions in behalf of
private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press; to observe
economy in public expenditures; to liberate the public resources by an
honorable discharge of the public debts; to keep within the requisite
limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and
trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics--that without
standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large
ones safe; to promote by authorized means improvements friendly to
agriculture, to manufactures, and to external as well as internal
commerce; to favor in like manner the advancement of science and the
diffusion of information as the best aliment to true liberty; to carry
on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the
conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and
wretchedness of savage life to a participation of the improvements of
which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized
state--as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the
fulfillment of my duty, they will be a resource which can not fail me.

It is my good fortune, moreover, to have the path in which I am to tread
lighted by examples of illustrious services successfully rendered in the
most trying difficulties by those who have marched before me. Of those
of my immediate predecessor it might least become me here to speak. I
may, however, be pardoned for not suppressing the sympathy with which my
heart is full in the rich reward he enjoys in the benedictions of a
beloved country, gratefully bestowed or exalted talents zealously
devoted through a long career to the advancement of its highest interest
and happiness.

But the source to which I look or the aids which alone can supply my
deficiencies is in the well-tried intelligence and virtue of my
fellow-citizens, and in the counsels of those representing them in the
other departments associated in the care of the national interests. In
these my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed, next to
that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and
guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of
nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this
rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout
gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best
hopes for the future.


James Madison
Second Inaugural Address
Thursday, March 4, 1813

About to add the solemnity of an oath to the obligations imposed by a
second call to the station in which my country heretofore placed me, I
find in the presence of this respectable assembly an opportunity of
publicly repeating my profound sense of so distinguished a confidence
and of the responsibility united with it. The impressions on me are
strengthened by such an evidence that my faithful endeavors to discharge
my arduous duties have been favorably estimated, and by a consideration
of the momentous period at which the trust has been renewed. From the
weight and magnitude now belonging to it I should be compelled to shrink
if I had less reliance on the support of an enlightened and generous
people, and felt less deeply a conviction that the war with a powerful
nation, which forms so prominent a feature in our situation, is stamped
with that justice which invites the smiles of Heaven on the means of
conducting it to a successful termination.

May we not cherish this sentiment without presumption when we reflect on
the characters by which this war is distinguished?

It was not declared on the part of the United States until it had been
long made on them, in reality though not in name; until arguments and
postulations had been exhausted; until a positive declaration had been
received that the wrongs provoking it would not be discontinued; nor
until this last appeal could no longer be delayed without breaking down
the spirit of the nation, destroying all confidence in itself and in its
political institutions, and either perpetuating a state of disgraceful
suffering or regaining by more costly sacrifices and more severe
struggles our lost rank and respect among independent powers.

On the issue of the war are staked our national sovereignty on the high
seas and the security of an important class of citizens whose
occupations give the proper value to those of every other class. Not to
contend for such a stake is to surrender our equality with other powers
on the element common to all and to violate the sacred title which every
member of the society has to its protection. I need not call into view
the unlawfulness of the practice by which our mariners are forced at the
will of every cruising officer from their own vessels into foreign ones,
nor paint the outrages inseparable from it. The proofs are in the
records of each successive Administration of our Government, and the
cruel sufferings of that portion of the American people have found their
way to every bosom not dead to the sympathies of human nature.

As the war was just in its origin and necessary and noble in its
objects, we can reflect with a proud satisfaction that in carrying it on
no principle of justice or honor, no usage of civilized nations, no
precept of courtesy or humanity, have been infringed. The war has been
waged on our part with scrupulous regard to all these obligations, and
in a spirit of liberality which was never surpassed.

How little has been the effect of this example on the conduct of the

They have retained as prisoners of war citizens of the United States not
liable to be so considered under the usages of war.

They have refused to consider as prisoners of war, and threatened to
punish as traitors and deserters, persons emigrating without restraint
to the United States, incorporated by naturalization into our political
family, and fighting under the authority of their adopted country in
open and honorable war for the maintenance of its rights and safety.
Such is the avowed purpose of a Government which is in the practice of
naturalizing by thousands citizens of other countries, and not only of
permitting but compelling them to fight its battles against their native

They have not, it is true, taken into their own hands the hatchet and
the knife, devoted to indiscriminate massacre, but they have let loose
the savages armed with these cruel instruments; have allured them into
their service, and carried them to battle by their sides, eager to glut
their savage thirst with the blood of the vanquished and to finish the
work of torture and death on maimed and defenseless captives. And, what
was never before seen, British commanders have extorted victory over the
unconquerable valor of our troops by presenting to the sympathy of their
chief captives awaiting massacre from their savage associates. And now
we find them, in further contempt of the modes of honorable warfare,
supplying the place of a conquering force by attempts to disorganize our
political society, to dismember our confederated Republic. Happily, like
others, these will recoil on the authors; but they mark the degenerate
counsels from which they emanate, and if they did not belong to a sense
of unexampled inconsistencies might excite the greater wonder as
proceeding from a Government which founded the very war in which it has
been so long engaged on a charge against the disorganizing and
insurrectional policy of its adversary.

To render the justice of the war on our part the more conspicuous, the
reluctance to commence it was followed by the earliest and strongest
manifestations of a disposition to arrest its progress. The sword was
scarcely out of the scabbard before the enemy was apprised of the
reasonable terms on which it would be resheathed. Still more precise
advances were repeated, and have been received in a spirit forbidding
every reliance not placed on the military resources of the nation.

These resources are amply sufficient to bring the war to an honorable
issue. Our nation is in number more than half that of the British Isles.
It is composed of a brave, a free, a virtuous, and an intelligent
people. Our country abounds in the necessaries, the arts, and the
comforts of life. A general prosperity is visible in the public
countenance. The means employed by the British cabinet to undermine it
have recoiled on themselves; have given to our national faculties a more
rapid development, and, draining or diverting the precious metals from
British circulation and British vaults, have poured them into those of
the United States. It is a propitious consideration that an unavoidable
war should have found this seasonable facility for the contributions
required to support it. When the public voice called for war, all knew,
and still know, that without them it could not be carried on through the
period which it might last, and the patriotism, the good sense, and the
manly spirit of our fellow-citizens are pledges for the cheerfulness
with which they will bear each his share of the common burden. To render
the war short and its success sure, animated and systematic exertions
alone are necessary, and the success of our arms now may long preserve
our country from the necessity of another resort to them. Already have
the gallant exploits of our naval heroes proved to the world our
inherent capacity to maintain our rights on one element. If the
reputation of our arms has been thrown under clouds on the other,
presaging flashes of heroic enterprise assure us that nothing is wanting
to correspondent triumphs there also but the discipline and habits which
are in daily progress.

proved to the world our inherent capacity to maintain our rights on one 
element. If the reputation of our arms has been thrown under clouds on 
the other, presaging flashes of heroic enterprise assure us that 
nothing is wanting to correspondent triumphs there also but the 
discipline and habits which are in daily progress.

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