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James Monroe
First Inaugural Address
Tuesday, March 4, 1817


I should be destitute of feeling if I was not deeply affected by the
strong proof which my fellow-citizens have given me of their confidence
in calling me to the high office whose functions I am about to assume.
As the expression of their good opinion of my conduct in the public
service, I derive from it a gratification which those who are conscious
of having done all that they could to merit it can alone feel. My
sensibility is increased by a just estimate of the importance of the
trust and of the nature and extent of its duties, with the proper
discharge of which the highest interests of a great and free people are
intimately connected. Conscious of my own deficiency, I cannot enter on
these duties without great anxiety for the result. From a just
responsibility I will never shrink, calculating with confidence that in
my best efforts to promote the public welfare my motives will always be
duly appreciated and my conduct be viewed with that candor and
indulgence which I have experienced in other stations.

In commencing the duties of the chief executive office it has been the
practice of the distinguished men who have gone before me to explain the
principles which would govern them in their respective Administrations.
In following their venerated example my attention is naturally drawn to
the great causes which have contributed in a principal degree to produce
the present happy condition of the United States. They will best explain
the nature of our duties and shed much light on the policy which ought
to be pursued in future.

From the commencement of our Revolution to the present day almost forty
years have elapsed, and from the establishment of this Constitution
twenty-eight. Through this whole term the Government has been what may
emphatically be called self-government. And what has been the effect? To
whatever object we turn our attention, whether it relates to our foreign
or domestic concerns, we find abundant cause to felicitate ourselves in
the excellence of our institutions. During a period fraught with
difficulties and marked by very extraordinary events the United States
have flourished beyond example. Their citizens individually have been
happy and the nation prosperous.

Under this Constitution our commerce has been wisely regulated with
foreign nations and between the States; new States have been admitted
into our Union; our territory has been enlarged by fair and honorable
treaty, and with great advantage to the original States; the States,
respectively protected by the National Government under a mild, parental
system against foreign dangers, and enjoying within their separate
spheres, by a wise partition of power, a just proportion of the
sovereignty, have improved their police, extended their settlements, and
attained a strength and maturity which are the best proofs of wholesome
laws well administered. And if we look to the condition of individuals
what a proud spectacle does it exhibit! On whom has oppression fallen in
any quarter of our Union? Who has been deprived of any right of person
or property? Who restrained from offering his vows in the mode which he
prefers to the Divine Author of his being? It is well known that all
these blessings have been enjoyed in their fullest extent; and I add
with peculiar satisfaction that there has been no example of a capital
punishment being inflicted on anyone for the crime of high treason.

Some who might admit the competency of our Government to these
beneficent duties might doubt it in trials which put to the test its
strength and efficiency as a member of the great community of nations.
Here too experience has afforded us the most satisfactory proof in its
favor. Just as this Constitution was put into action several of the
principal States of Europe had become much agitated and some of them
seriously convulsed. Destructive wars ensued, which have of late only
been terminated. In the course of these conflicts the United States
received great injury from several of the parties. It was their interest
to stand aloof from the contest, to demand justice from the party
committing the injury, and to cultivate by a fair and honorable conduct
the friendship of all. War became at length inevitable, and the result
has shown that our Government is equal to that, the greatest of trials,
under the most unfavorable circumstances. Of the virtue of the people
and of the heroic exploits of the Army, the Navy, and the militia I need
not speak.

Such, then, is the happy Government under which we live--a Government
adequate to every purpose for which the social compact is formed; a
Government elective in all its branches, under which every citizen may
by his merit obtain the highest trust recognized by the Constitution;
which contains within it no cause of discord, none to put at variance
one portion of the community with another; a Government which protects
every citizen in the full enjoyment of his rights, and is able to
protect the nation against injustice from foreign powers.

Other considerations of the highest importance admonish us to cherish
our Union and to cling to the Government which supports it. Fortunate as
we are in our political institutions, we have not been less so in other
circumstances on which our prosperity and happiness essentially depend.
Situated within the temperate zone, and extending through many degrees
of latitude along the Atlantic, the United States enjoy all the
varieties of climate, and every production incident to that portion of
the globe. Penetrating internally to the Great Lakes and beyond the
sources of the great rivers which communicate through our whole
interior, no country was ever happier with respect to its domain.
Blessed, too, with a fertile soil, our produce has always been very
abundant, leaving, even in years the least favorable, a surplus for the
wants of our fellow-men in other countries. Such is our peculiar
felicity that there is not a part of our Union that is not particularly
interested in preserving it. The great agricultural interest of the
nation prospers under its protection. Local interests are not less
fostered by it. Our fellow-citizens of the North engaged in navigation
find great encouragement in being made the favored carriers of the vast
productions of the other portions of the United States, while the
inhabitants of these are amply recompensed, in their turn, by the
nursery for seamen and naval force thus formed and reared up for the
support of our common rights. Our manufactures find a generous
encouragement by the policy which patronizes domestic industry, and the
surplus of our produce a steady and profitable market by local wants in
less-favored parts at home.

Such, then, being the highly favored condition of our country, it is the
interest of every citizen to maintain it. What are the dangers which
menace us? If any exist they ought to be ascertained and guarded
against.

In explaining my sentiments on this subject it may be asked, What raised
us to the present happy state? How did we accomplish the Revolution? How
remedy the defects of the first instrument of our Union, by infusing
into the National Government sufficient power for national purposes,
without impairing the just rights of the States or affecting those of
individuals? How sustain and pass with glory through the late war? The
Government has been in the hands of the people. To the people,
therefore, and to the faithful and able depositaries of their trust is
the credit due. Had the people of the United States been educated in
different principles, had they been less intelligent, less independent,
or less virtuous, can it be believed that we should have maintained the
same steady and consistent career or been blessed with the same success?
While, then, the constituent body retains its present sound and
healthful state everything will be safe. They will choose competent and
faithful representatives for every department. It is only when the
people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a
populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty.
Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The
people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement
and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to
preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional
measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of
preserving our liberties.

Dangers from abroad are not less deserving of attention. Experiencing
the fortune of other nations, the United States may be again involved in
war, and it may in that event be the object of the adverse party to
overset our Government, to break our Union, and demolish us as a nation.
Our distance from Europe and the just, moderate, and pacific policy of
our Government may form some security against these dangers, but they
ought to be anticipated and guarded against. Many of our citizens are
engaged in commerce and navigation, and all of them are in a certain
degree dependent on their prosperous state. Many are engaged in the
fisheries. These interests are exposed to invasion in the wars between
other powers, and we should disregard the faithful admonition of
experience if we did not expect it. We must support our rights or lose
our character, and with it, perhaps, our liberties. A people who fail to
do it can scarcely be said to hold a place among independent nations.
National honor is national property of the highest value. The sentiment
in the mind of every citizen is national strength. It ought therefore to
be cherished.

To secure us against these dangers our coast and inland frontiers should
be fortified, our Army and Navy, regulated upon just principles as to
the force of each, be kept in perfect order, and our militia be placed
on the best practicable footing. To put our extensive coast in such a
state of defense as to secure our cities and interior from invasion will
be attended with expense, but the work when finished will be permanent,
and it is fair to presume that a single campaign of invasion by a naval
force superior to our own, aided by a few thousand land troops, would
expose us to greater expense, without taking into the estimate the loss
of property and distress of our citizens, than would be sufficient for
this great work. Our land and naval forces should be moderate, but
adequate to the necessary purposes--the former to garrison and preserve
our fortifications and to meet the first invasions of a foreign foe,
and, while constituting the elements of a greater force, to preserve the
science as well as all the necessary implements of war in a state to be
brought into activity in the event of war; the latter, retained within
the limits proper in a state of peace, might aid in maintaining the
neutrality of the United States with dignity in the wars of other powers
and in saving the property of their citizens from spoliation. In time of
war, with the enlargement of which the great naval resources of the
country render it susceptible, and which should be duly fostered in time
of peace, it would contribute essentially, both as an auxiliary of
defense and as a powerful engine of annoyance, to diminish the
calamities of war and to bring the war to a speedy and honorable
termination.

But it ought always to be held prominently in view that the safety of
these States and of everything dear to a free people must depend in an
eminent degree on the militia. Invasions may be made too formidable to
be resisted by any land and naval force which it would comport either
with the principles of our Government or the circumstances of the United
States to maintain. In such cases recourse must be had to the great body
of the people, and in a manner to produce the best effect. It is of the
highest importance, therefore, that they be so organized and trained as
to be prepared for any emergency. The arrangement should be such as to
put at the command of the Government the ardent patriotism and youthful
vigor of the country. If formed on equal and just principles, it can not
be oppressive. It is the crisis which makes the pressure, and not the
laws which provide a remedy for it. This arrangement should be formed,
too, in time of peace, to be the better prepared for war. With such an
organization of such a people the United States have nothing to dread
from foreign invasion. At its approach an overwhelming force of gallant
men might always be put in motion.

Other interests of high importance will claim attention, among which the
improvement of our country by roads and canals, proceeding always with a
constitutional sanction, holds a distinguished place. By thus
facilitating the intercourse between the States we shall add much to the
convenience and comfort of our fellow-citizens, much to the ornament of
the country, and, what is of greater importance, we shall shorten
distances, and, by making each part more accessible to and dependent on
the other, we shall bind the Union more closely together. Nature has
done so much for us by intersecting the country with so many great
rivers, bays, and lakes, approaching from distant points so near to each
other, that the inducement to complete the work seems to be peculiarly
strong. A more interesting spectacle was perhaps never seen than is
exhibited within the limits of the United States--a territory so vast
and advantageously situated, containing objects so grand, so useful, so
happily connected in all their parts!

Our manufacturers will likewise require the systematic and fostering
care of the Government. Possessing as we do all the raw materials, the
fruit of our own soil and industry, we ought not to depend in the degree
we have done on supplies from other countries. While we are thus
dependent the sudden event of war, unsought and unexpected, can not fail
to plunge us into the most serious difficulties. It is important, too,
that the capital which nourishes our manufacturers should be domestic,
as its influence in that case instead of exhausting, as it may do in
foreign hands, would be felt advantageously on agriculture and every
other branch of industry. Equally important is it to provide at home a
market for our raw materials, as by extending the competition it will
enhance the price and protect the cultivator against the casualties
incident to foreign markets.

With the Indian tribes it is our duty to cultivate friendly relations
and to act with kindness and liberality in all our transactions. Equally
proper is it to persevere in our efforts to extend to them the
advantages of civilization.

The great amount of our revenue and the flourishing state of the
Treasury are a full proof of the competency of the national resources
for any emergency, as they are of the willingness of our fellow-citizens
to bear the burdens which the public necessities require. The vast
amount of vacant lands, the value of which daily augments, forms an
additional resource of great extent and duration. These resources,
besides accomplishing every other necessary purpose, put it completely
in the power of the United States to discharge the national debt at an
early period. Peace is the best time for improvement and preparation of
every kind; it is in peace that our commerce flourishes most, that taxes
are most easily paid, and that the revenue is most productive.

The Executive is charged officially in the Departments under it with the
disbursement of the public money, and is responsible for the faithful
application of it to the purposes for which it is raised. The
Legislature is the watchful guardian over the public purse. It is its
duty to see that the disbursement has been honestly made. To meet the
requisite responsibility every facility should be afforded to the
Executive to enable it to bring the public agents intrusted with the
public money strictly and promptly to account. Nothing should be
presumed against them; but if, with the requisite facilities, the public
money is suffered to lie long and uselessly in their hands, they will
not be the only defaulters, nor will the demoralizing effect be confined
to them. It will evince a relaxation and want of tone in the
Administration which will be felt by the whole community. I shall do all
I can to secure economy and fidelity in this important branch of the
Administration, and I doubt not that the Legislature will perform its
duty with equal zeal. A thorough examination should be regularly made,
and I will promote it.

It is particularly gratifying to me to enter on the discharge of these
duties at a time when the United States are blessed with peace. It is a
state most consistent with their prosperity and happiness. It will be my
sincere desire to preserve it, so far as depends on the Executive, on
just principles with all nations, claiming nothing unreasonable of any
and rendering to each what is its due.

Equally gratifying is it to witness the increased harmony of opinion
which pervades our Union. Discord does not belong to our system. Union
is recommended as well by the free and benign principles of our
Government, extending its blessings to every individual, as by the other
eminent advantages attending it. The American people have encountered
together great dangers and sustained severe trials with success. They
constitute one great family with a common interest. Experience has
enlightened us on some questions of essential importance to the country.
The progress has been slow, dictated by a just reflection and a faithful
regard to every interest connected with it. To promote this harmony in
accord with the principles of our republican Government and in a manner
to give them the most complete effect, and to advance in all other
respects the best interests of our Union, will be the object of my
constant and zealous exertions.

Never did a government commence under auspices so favorable, nor ever
was success so complete. If we look to the history of other nations,
ancient or modern, we find no example of a growth so rapid, so gigantic,
of a people so prosperous and happy. In contemplating what we have still
to perform, the heart of every citizen must expand with joy when he
reflects how near our Government has approached to perfection; that in
respect to it we have no essential improvement to make; that the great
object is to preserve it in the essential principles and features which
characterize it, and that is to be done by preserving the virtue and
enlightening the minds of the people; and as a security against foreign
dangers to adopt such arrangements as are indispensable to the support
of our independence, our rights and liberties. If we persevere in the
career in which we have advanced so far and in the path already traced,
we can not fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence, to attain the
high destiny which seems to await us.

In the Administrations of the illustrious men who have preceded me in
this high station, with some of whom I have been connected by the
closest ties from early life, examples are presented which will always
be found highly instructive and useful to their successors. From these I
shall endeavor to derive all the advantages which they may afford. Of my
immediate predecessor, under whom so important a portion of this great
and successful experiment has been made, I shall be pardoned for
expressing my earnest wishes that he may long enjoy in his retirement
the affections of a grateful country, the best reward of exalted talents
and the most faithful and meritorious service. Relying on the aid to be
derived from the other departments of the Government, I enter on the
trust to which I have been called by the suffrages of my fellow-citizens
with my fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously
pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so
conspicuously displayed in our favor.


***

James Monroe
Second Inaugural Address
Monday, March 5, 1821


Fellow-Citizens:

I shall not attempt to describe the grateful emotions which the new and
very distinguished proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens,
evinced by my reelection to this high trust, has excited in my bosom.
The approbation which it announces of my conduct in the preceding term
affords me a consolation which I shall profoundly feel through life. The
general accord with which it has been expressed adds to the great and
never-ceasing obligations which it imposes. To merit the continuance of
this good opinion, and to carry it with me into my retirement as the
solace of advancing years, will be the object of my most zealous and
unceasing efforts.

Having no pretensions to the high and commanding claims of my
predecessors, whose names are so much more conspicuously identified with
our Revolution, and who contributed so preeminently to promote its
success, I consider myself rather as the instrument than the cause of
the union which has prevailed in the late election. In surmounting, in
favor of my humble pretensions, the difficulties which so often produce
division in like occurrences, it is obvious that other powerful causes,
indicating the great strength and stability of our Union, have
essentially contributed to draw you together. That these powerful causes
exist, and that they are permanent, is my fixed opinion; that they may
produce a like accord in all questions touching, however remotely, the
liberty, prosperity, and happiness of our country will always be the
object of my most fervent prayers to the Supreme Author of All Good.

In a government which is founded by the people, who possess exclusively
the sovereignty, it seems proper that the person who may be placed by
their suffrages in this high trust should declare on commencing its
duties the principles on which he intends to conduct the Administration.
If the person thus elected has served the preceding term, an opportunity
is afforded him to review its principal occurrences and to give such
further explanation respecting them as in his judgment may be useful to
his constituents. The events of one year have influence on those of
another, and, in like manner, of a preceding on the succeeding
Administration. The movements of a great nation are connected in all
their parts. If errors have been committed they ought to be corrected;
if the policy is sound it ought to be supported. It is by a thorough
knowledge of the whole subject that our fellow-citizens are enabled to
judge correctly of the past and to give a proper direction to the
future.

Just before the commencement of the last term the United States had
concluded a war with a very powerful nation on conditions equal and
honorable to both parties. The events of that war are too recent and too
deeply impressed on the memory of all to require a development from me.
Our commerce had been in a great measure driven from the sea, our
Atlantic and inland frontiers were invaded in almost every part; the
waste of life along our coast and on some parts of our inland frontiers,
to the defense of which our gallant and patriotic citizens were called,
was immense, in addition to which not less than $120,000,000 were added
at its end to the public debt.

As soon as the war had terminated, the nation, admonished by its events,
resolved to place itself in a situation which should be better
calculated to prevent the recurrence of a like evil, and, in case it
should recur, to mitigate its calamities. With this view, after reducing
our land force to the basis of a peace establishment, which has been
further modified since, provision was made for the construction of
fortifications at proper points through the whole extent of our coast
and such an augmentation of our naval force as should be well adapted to
both purposes. The laws making this provision were passed in 1815 and
1816, and it has been since the constant effort of the Executive to
carry them into effect.

The advantage of these fortifications and of an augmented naval force in
the extent contemplated, in a point of economy, has been fully
illustrated by a report of the Board of Engineers and Naval
Commissioners lately communicated to Congress, by which it appears that
in an invasion by 20,000 men, with a correspondent naval force, in a
campaign of six months only, the whole expense of the construction of
the works would be defrayed by the difference in the sum necessary to
maintain the force which would be adequate to our defense with the aid
of those works and that which would be incurred without them. The reason
of this difference is obvious. If fortifications are judiciously placed
on our great inlets, as distant from our cities as circumstances will
permit, they will form the only points of attack, and the enemy will be
detained there by a small regular force a sufficient time to enable our
militia to collect and repair to that on which the attack is made. A
force adequate to the enemy, collected at that single point, with
suitable preparation for such others as might be menaced, is all that
would be requisite. But if there were no fortifications, then the enemy
might go where he pleased, and, changing his position and sailing from
place to place, our force must be called out and spread in vast numbers
along the whole coast and on both sides of every bay and river as high
up in each as it might be navigable for ships of war. By these
fortifications, supported by our Navy, to which they would afford like
support, we should present to other powers an armed front from St. Croix
to the Sabine, which would protect in the event of war our whole coast
and interior from invasion; and even in the wars of other powers, in
which we were neutral, they would be found eminently useful, as, by
keeping their public ships at a distance from our cities, peace and
order in them would be preserved and the Government be protected from
insult.

It need scarcely be remarked that these measures have not been resorted
to in a spirit of hostility to other powers. Such a disposition does not
exist toward any power. Peace and good will have been, and will
hereafter be, cultivated with all, and by the most faithful regard to
justice. They have been dictated by a love of peace, of economy, and an
earnest desire to save the lives of our fellow-citizens from that
destruction and our country from that devastation which are inseparable
from war when it finds us unprepared for it. It is believed, and
experience has shown, that such a preparation is the best expedient that
can be resorted to prevent war. I add with much pleasure that
considerable progress has already been made in these measures of
defense, and that they will be completed in a few years, considering the
great extent and importance of the object, if the plan be zealously and
steadily persevered in.

The conduct of the Government in what relates to foreign powers is
always an object of the highest importance to the nation. Its
agriculture, commerce, manufactures, fisheries, revenue, in short, its
peace, may all be affected by it. Attention is therefore due to this
subject.

At the period adverted to the powers of Europe, after having been
engaged in long and destructive wars with each other, had concluded a
peace, which happily still exists. Our peace with the power with whom we
had been engaged had also been concluded. The war between Spain and the
colonies in South America, which had commenced many years before, was
then the only conflict that remained unsettled. This being a contest
between different parts of the same community, in which other powers had
not interfered, was not affected by their accommodations.

This contest was considered at an early stage by my predecessor a civil
war in which the parties were entitled to equal rights in our ports.
This decision, the first made by any power, being formed on great
consideration of the comparative strength and resources of the parties,
the length of time, and successful opposition made by the colonies, and
of all other circumstances on which it ought to depend, was in strict
accord with the law of nations. Congress has invariably acted on this
principle, having made no change in our relations with either party. Our
attitude has therefore been that of neutrality between them, which has
been maintained by the Government with the strictest impartiality. No
aid has been afforded to either, nor has any privilege been enjoyed by
the one which has not been equally open to the other party, and every
exertion has been made in its power to enforce the execution of the laws
prohibiting illegal equipments with equal rigor against both.

By this equality between the parties their public vessels have been
received in our ports on the same footing; they have enjoyed an equal
right to purchase and export arms, munitions of war, and every other
supply, the exportation of all articles whatever being permitted under
laws which were passed long before the commencement of the contest; our
citizens have traded equally with both, and their commerce with each has
been alike protected by the Government.

Respecting the attitude which it may be proper for the United States to
maintain hereafter between the parties, I have no hesitation in stating
it as my opinion that the neutrality heretofore observed should still be
adhered to. From the change in the Government of Spain and the
negotiation now depending, invited by the Cortes and accepted by the
colonies, it may be presumed, that their differences will be settled on
the terms proposed by the colonies. Should the war be continued, the
United States, regarding its occurrences, will always have it in their
power to adopt such measures respecting it as their honor and interest
may require.

Shortly after the general peace a band of adventurers took advantage of
this conflict and of the facility which it afforded to establish a
system of buccaneering in the neighboring seas, to the great annoyance
of the commerce of the United States, and, as was represented, of that
of other powers. Of this spirit and of its injurious bearing on the
United States strong proofs were afforded by the establishment at Amelia
Island, and the purposes to which it was made instrumental by this band
in 1817, and by the occurrences which took place in other parts of
Florida in 1818, the details of which in both instances are too well
known to require to be now recited. I am satisfied had a less decisive
course been adopted that the worst consequences would have resulted from
it. We have seen that these checks, decisive as they were, were not
sufficient to crush that piratical spirit. Many culprits brought within
our limits have been condemned to suffer death, the punishment due to
that atrocious crime. The decisions of upright and enlightened tribunals
fall equally on all whose crimes subject them, by a fair interpretation
of the law, to its censure. It belongs to the Executive not to suffer
the executions under these decisions to transcend the great purpose for
which punishment is necessary. The full benefit of example being
secured, policy as well as humanity equally forbids that they should be
carried further. I have acted on this principle, pardoning those who
appear to have been led astray by ignorance of the criminality of the
acts they had committed, and suffering the law to take effect on those
only in whose favor no extenuating circumstances could be urged.

Great confidence is entertained that the late treaty with Spain, which
has been ratified by both the parties, and the ratifications whereof
have been exchanged, has placed the relations of the two countries on a
basis of permanent friendship. The provision made by it for such of our
citizens as have claims on Spain of the character described will, it is
presumed, be very satisfactory to them, and the boundary which is
established between the territories of the parties westward of the
Mississippi, heretofore in dispute, has, it is thought, been settled on
conditions just and advantageous to both. But to the acquisition of
Florida too much importance can not be attached. It secures to the
United States a territory important in itself, and whose importance is
much increased by its bearing on many of the highest interests of the
Union. It opens to several of the neighboring States a free passage to
the ocean, through the Province ceded, by several rivers, having their
sources high up within their limits. It secures us against all future
annoyance from powerful Indian tribes. It gives us several excellent
harbors in the Gulf of Mexico for ships of war of the largest size. It
covers by its position in the Gulf the Mississippi and other great
waters within our extended limits, and thereby enables the United States
to afford complete protection to the vast and very valuable productions
of our whole Western country, which find a market through those streams.

By a treaty with the British Government, bearing date on the 20th of
October, 1818, the convention regulating the commerce between the United
States and Great Britain, concluded on the 3d of July, 1815, which was
about expiring, was revived and continued for the term of ten years from
the time of its expiration. By that treaty, also, the differences which
had arisen under the treaty of Ghent respecting the right claimed by the
United States for their citizens to take and cure fish on the coast of
His Britannic Majesty's dominions in America, with other differences on
important interests, were adjusted to the satisfaction of both parties.
No agreement has yet been entered into respecting the commerce between
the United States and the British dominions in the West Indies and on
this continent. The restraints imposed on that commerce by Great
Britain, and reciprocated by the United States on a principle of
defense, continue still in force.

The negotiation with France for the regulation of the commercial
relations between the two countries, which in the course of the last
summer had been commenced at Paris, has since been transferred to this
city, and will be pursued on the part of the United States in the spirit
of conciliation, and with an earnest desire that it may terminate in an
arrangement satisfactory to both parties.

Our relations with the Barbary Powers are preserved in the same state
and by the same means that were employed when I came into this office.
As early as 1801 it was found necessary to send a squadron into the
Mediterranean for the protection of our commerce, and no period has
intervened, a short term excepted, when it was thought advisable to
withdraw it. The great interests which the United States have in the
Pacific, in commerce and in the fisheries, have also made it necessary
to maintain a naval force there. In disposing of this force in both
instances the most effectual measures in our power have been taken,
without interfering with its other duties, for the suppression of the
slave trade and of piracy in the neighboring seas.

The situation of the United States in regard to their resources, the
extent of their revenue, and the facility with which it is raised
affords a most gratifying spectacle. The payment of nearly $67,000,000
of the public debt, with the great progress made in measures of defense
and in other improvements of various kinds since the late war, are
conclusive proofs of this extraordinary prosperity, especially when it
is recollected that these expenditures have been defrayed without a
burthen on the people, the direct tax and excise having been repealed
soon after the conclusion of the late war, and the revenue applied to
these great objects having been raised in a manner not to be felt. Our
great resources therefore remain untouched for any purpose which may
affect the vital interests of the nation. For all such purposes they are
inexhaustible. They are more especially to be found in the virtue,
patriotism, and intelligence of our fellow-citizens, and in the devotion
with which they would yield up by any just measure of taxation all their
property in support of the rights and honor of their country.

Under the present depression of prices, affecting all the productions of
the country and every branch of industry, proceeding from causes
explained on a former occasion, the revenue has considerably diminished,
the effect of which has been to compel Congress either to abandon these
great measures of defense or to resort to loans or internal taxes to
supply the deficiency. On the presumption that this depression and the
deficiency in the revenue arising from it would be temporary, loans were
authorized for the demands of the last and present year. Anxious to
relieve my fellow-citizens in 1817 from every burthen which could be
dispensed with, and the state of the Treasury permitting it, I
recommended the repeal of the internal taxes, knowing that such relief
was then peculiarly necessary in consequence of the great exertions made
in the late war. I made that recommendation under a pledge that should
the public exigencies require a recurrence to them at any time while I
remained in this trust, I would with equal promptitude perform the duty
which would then be alike incumbent on me. By the experiment now making
it will be seen by the next session of Congress whether the revenue
shall have been so augmented as to be adequate to all these necessary
purposes. Should the deficiency still continue, and especially should it
be probable that it would be permanent, the course to be pursued appears
to me to be obvious. I am satisfied that under certain circumstances
loans may be resorted to with great advantage. I am equally well
satisfied, as a general rule, that the demands of the current year,
especially in time of peace, should be provided for by the revenue of
that year.

I have never dreaded, nor have I ever shunned, in any situation in which
I have been placed making appeals to the virtue and patriotism of my
fellow-citizens, well knowing that they could never be made in vain,
especially in times of great emergency or for purposes of high national
importance. Independently of the exigency of the case, many
considerations of great weight urge a policy having in view a provision
of revenue to meet to a certain extent the demands of the nation,
without relying altogether on the precarious resource of foreign
commerce. I am satisfied that internal duties and excises, with
corresponding imposts on foreign articles of the same kind, would,
without imposing any serious burdens on the people, enhance the price of
produce, promote our manufactures, and augment the revenue, at the same
time that they made it more secure and permanent.

The care of the Indian tribes within our limits has long been an
essential part of our system, but, unfortunately, it has not been
executed in a manner to accomplish all the objects intended by it. We
have treated them as independent nations, without their having any
substantial pretensions to that rank. The distinction has flattered
their pride, retarded their improvement, and in many instances paved the
way to their destruction. The progress of our settlements westward,
supported as they are by a dense population, has constantly driven them
back, with almost the total sacrifice of the lands which they have been
compelled to abandon. They have claims on the magnanimity and, I may
add, on the justice of this nation which we must all feel. We should
become their real benefactors; we should perform the office of their
Great Father, the endearing title which they emphatically give to the
Chief Magistrate of our Union. Their sovereignty over vast territories
should cease, in lieu of which the right of soil should be secured to
each individual and his posterity in competent portions; and for the
territory thus ceded by each tribe some reasonable equivalent should be
granted, to be vested in permanent funds for the support of civil
government over them and for the education of their children, for their
instruction in the arts of husbandry, and to provide sustenance for them
until they could provide it for themselves. My earnest hope is that
Congress will digest some plan, founded on these principles, with such
improvements as their wisdom may suggest, and carry it into effect as
soon as it may be practicable.

Europe is again unsettled and the prospect of war increasing. Should the
flame light up in any quarter, how far it may extend it is impossible to
foresee. It is our peculiar felicity to be altogether unconnected with
the causes which produce this menacing aspect elsewhere. With every
power we are in perfect amity, and it is our interest to remain so if it
be practicable on just conditions. I see no reasonable cause to
apprehend variance with any power, unless it proceed from a violation of
our maritime rights. In these contests, should they occur, and to
whatever extent they may be carried, we shall be neutral; but as a
neutral power we have rights which it is our duty to maintain. For like
injuries it will be incumbent on us to seek redress in a spirit of
amity, in full confidence that, injuring none, none would knowingly
injure us. For more imminent dangers we should be prepared, and it
should always be recollected that such preparation adapted to the
circumstances and sanctioned by the judgment and wishes of our
constituents can not fail to have a good effect in averting dangers of
every kind. We should recollect also that the season of peace is best
adapted to these preparations.

If we turn our attention, fellow-citizens, more immediately to the
internal concerns of our country, and more especially to those on which
its future welfare depends, we have every reason to anticipate the
happiest results. It is now rather more than forty-four years since we
declared our independence, and thirty-seven since it was acknowledged.
The talents and virtues which were displayed in that great struggle were
a sure presage of all that has since followed. A people who were able to
surmount in their infant state such great perils would be more competent
as they rose into manhood to repel any which they might meet in their
progress. Their physical strength would be more adequate to foreign
danger, and the practice of self-government, aided by the light of
experience, could not fail to produce an effect equally salutary on all
those questions connected with the internal organization. These
favorable anticipations have been realized.

In our whole system, national and State, we have shunned all the defects
which unceasingly preyed on the vitals and destroyed the ancient
Republics. In them there were distinct orders, a nobility and a people,
or the people governed in one assembly. Thus, in the one instance there
was a perpetual conflict between the orders in society for the
ascendency, in which the victory of either terminated in the overthrow
of the government and the ruin of the state; in the other, in which the
people governed in a body, and whose dominions seldom exceeded the
dimensions of a county in one of our States, a tumultuous and disorderly
movement permitted only a transitory existence. In this great nation
there is but one order, that of the people, whose power, by a peculiarly
happy improvement of the representative principle, is transferred from
them, without impairing in the slightest degree their sovereignty, to
bodies of their own creation, and to persons elected by themselves, in
the full extent necessary for all the purposes of free, enlightened and
efficient government. The whole system is elective, the complete
sovereignty being in the people, and every officer in every department
deriving his authority from and being responsible to them for his
conduct.

Our career has corresponded with this great outline. Perfection in our
organization could not have been expected in the outset either in the
National or State Governments or in tracing the line between their
respective powers. But no serious conflict has arisen, nor any contest
but such as are managed by argument and by a fair appeal to the good
sense of the people, and many of the defects which experience had
clearly demonstrated in both Governments have been remedied. By steadily
pursuing this course in this spirit there is every reason to believe
that our system will soon attain the highest degree of perfection of
which human institutions are capable, and that the movement in all its
branches will exhibit such a degree of order and harmony as to command
the admiration and respect of the civilized world.

Our physical attainments have not been less eminent. Twenty-five years
ago the river Mississippi was shut up and our Western brethren had no
outlet for their commerce. What has been the progress since that time?
The river has not only become the property of the United States from its
source to the ocean, with all its tributary streams (with the exception
of the upper part of the Red River only), but Louisiana, with a fair and
liberal boundary on the western side and the Floridas on the eastern,
have been ceded to us. The United States now enjoy the complete and
uninterrupted sovereignty over the whole territory from St. Croix to the
Sabine. New States, settled from among ourselves in this and in other
parts, have been admitted into our Union in equal participation in the
national sovereignty with the original States. Our population has
augmented in an astonishing degree and extended in every direction. We
now, fellow-citizens, comprise within our limits the dimensions and
faculties of a great power under a Government possessing all the
energies of any government ever known to the Old World, with an utter
incapacity to oppress the people.

Entering with these views the office which I have just solemnly sworn to
execute with fidelity and to the utmost of my ability, I derive great
satisfaction from a knowledge that I shall be assisted in the several
Departments by the very enlightened and upright citizens from whom I
have received so much aid in the preceding term. With full confidence in
the continuance of that candor and generous indulgence from my
fellow-citizens at large which I have heretofore experienced, and with
a firm reliance on the protection of Almighty God, I shall forthwith
commence the duties of the high trust to which you have called me.


forthwith commence the duties of the high trust to which you have 
called me.


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