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Ulysses S. Grant
First Inaugural Address
Thursday, March 4, 1869

Citizens of the United States:

YOUR suffrages having elected me to the office of President of the
United States, I have, in conformity to the Constitution of our country,
taken the oath of office prescribed therein. I have taken this oath
without mental reservation and with the determination to do to the best
of my ability all that is required of me. The responsibilities of the
position I feel, but accept them without fear. The office has come to me
unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious
desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the
satisfaction of the people.

On all leading questions agitating the public mind I will always express
my views to Congress and urge them according to my judgment, and when I
think it advisable will exercise the constitutional privilege of
interposing a veto to defeat measures which I oppose; but all laws will
be faithfully executed, whether they meet my approval or not.

I shall on all subjects have a policy to recommend, but none to enforce
against the will of the people. Laws are to govern all alike--those
opposed as well as those who favor them. I know no method to secure the
repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent
execution.

The country having just emerged from a great rebellion, many questions
will come before it for settlement in the next four years which
preceding Administrations have never had to deal with. In meeting these
it is desirable that they should be approached calmly, without
prejudice, hate, or sectional pride, remembering that the greatest good
to the greatest number is the object to be attained.

This requires security of person, property, and free religious and
political opinion in every part of our common country, without regard to
local prejudice. All laws to secure these ends will receive my best
efforts for their enforcement.

A great debt has been contracted in securing to us and our posterity the
Union. The payment of this, principal and interest, as well as the
return to a specie basis as soon as it can be accomplished without
material detriment to the debtor class or to the country at large, must
be provided for. To protect the national honor, every dollar of
Government indebtedness should be paid in gold, unless otherwise
expressly stipulated in the contract. Let it be understood that no
repudiator of one farthing of our public debt will be trusted in public
place, and it will go far toward strengthening a credit which ought to
be the best in the world, and will ultimately enable us to replace the
debt with bonds bearing less interest than we now pay. To this should be
added a faithful collection of the revenue, a strict accountability to
the Treasury for every dollar collected, and the greatest practicable
retrenchment in expenditure in every department of Government.

When we compare the paying capacity of the country now, with the ten
States in poverty from the effects of war, but soon to emerge, I trust,
into greater prosperity than ever before, with its paying capacity
twenty-five years ago, and calculate what it probably will be
twenty-five years hence, who can doubt the feasibility of paying every
dollar then with more ease than we now pay for useless luxuries? Why, it
looks as though Providence had bestowed upon us a strong box in the
precious metals locked up in the sterile mountains of the far West, and
which we are now forging the key to unlock, to meet the very contingency
that is now upon us.

Ultimately it may be necessary to insure the facilities to reach these
riches and it may be necessary also that the General Government should
give its aid to secure this access; but that should only be when a
dollar of obligation to pay secures precisely the same sort of dollar to
use now, and not before. Whilst the question of specie payments is in
abeyance the prudent business man is careful about contracting debts
payable in the distant future. The nation should follow the same rule. A
prostrate commerce is to be rebuilt and all industries encouraged.

The young men of the country--those who from their age must be its
rulers twenty-five years hence--have a peculiar interest in maintaining
the national honor. A moment's reflection as to what will be our
commanding influence among the nations of the earth in their day, if
they are only true to themselves, should inspire them with national
pride. All divisions--geographical, political, and religious--can join
in this common sentiment. How the public debt is to be paid or specie
payments resumed is not so important as that a plan should be adopted
and acquiesced in. A united determination to do is worth more than
divided counsels upon the method of doing. Legislation upon this subject
may not be necessary now, or even advisable, but it will be when the
civil law is more fully restored in all parts of the country and trade
resumes its wonted channels.

It will be my endeavor to execute all laws in good faith, to collect all
revenues assessed, and to have them properly accounted for and
economically disbursed. I will to the best of my ability appoint to
office those only who will carry out this design.

In regard to foreign policy, I would deal with nations as equitable law
requires individuals to deal with each other, and I would protect the
law-abiding citizen, whether of native or foreign birth, wherever his
rights are jeopardized or the flag of our country floats. I would
respect the rights of all nations, demanding equal respect for our own.
If others depart from this rule in their dealings with us, we may be
compelled to follow their precedent.

The proper treatment of the original occupants of this land--the Indians
one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course toward them
which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship.

The question of suffrage is one which is likely to agitate the public so
long as a portion of the citizens of the nation are excluded from its
privileges in any State. It seems to me very desirable that this
question should be settled now, and I entertain the hope and express the
desire that it may be by the ratification of the fifteenth article of
amendment to the Constitution.

In conclusion I ask patient forbearance one toward another throughout
the land, and a determined effort on the part of every citizen to do his
share toward cementing a happy union; and I ask the prayers of the
nation to Almighty God in behalf of this consummation.


***

Ulysses S. Grant
Second Inaugural Address
Tuesday, March 4, 1873

Fellow-Citizens:

UNDER Providence I have been called a second time to act as Executive
over this great nation. It has been my endeavor in the past to maintain
all the laws, and, so far as lay in my power, to act for the best
interests of the whole people. My best efforts will be given in the same
direction in the future, aided, I trust, by my four years' experience in
the office.

When my first term of the office of Chief Executive began, the country
had not recovered from the effects of a great internal revolution, and
three of the former States of the Union had not been restored to their
Federal relations.

It seemed to me wise that no new questions should be raised so long as
that condition of affairs existed. Therefore the past four years, so far
as I could control events, have been consumed in the effort to restore
harmony, public credit, commerce, and all the arts of peace and
progress. It is my firm conviction that the civilized world is tending
toward republicanism, or government by the people through their chosen
representatives, and that our own great Republic is destined to be the
guiding star to all others.

Under our Republic we support an army less than that of any European
power of any standing and a navy less than that of either of at least
five of them. There could be no extension of territory on the continent
which would call for an increase of this force, but rather might such
extension enable us to diminish it.

The theory of government changes with general progress. Now that the
telegraph is made available for communicating thought, together with
rapid transit by steam, all parts of a continent are made contiguous for
all purposes of government, and communication between the extreme limits
of the country made easier than it was throughout the old thirteen
States at the beginning of our national existence.

The effects of the late civil strife have been to free the slave and
make him a citizen. Yet he is not possessed of the civil rights which
citizenship should carry with it. This is wrong, and should be
corrected. To this correction I stand committed, so far as Executive
influence can avail.

Social equality is not a subject to be legislated upon, nor shall I ask
that anything be done to advance the social status of the colored man,
except to give him a fair chance to develop what there is good in him,
give him access to the schools, and when he travels let him feel assured
that his conduct will regulate the treatment and fare he will receive.

The States lately at war with the General Government are now happily
rehabilitated, and no Executive control is exercised in any one of them
that would not be exercised in any other State under like circumstances.

In the first year of the past Administration the proposition came up for
the admission of Santo Domingo as a Territory of the Union. It was not a
question of my seeking, but was a proposition from the people of Santo
Domingo, and which I entertained. I believe now, as I did then, that it
was for the best interest of this country, for the people of Santo
Domingo, and all concerned that the proposition should be received
favorably. It was, however, rejected constitutionally, and therefore the
subject was never brought up again by me.

In future, while I hold my present office, the subject of acquisition of
territory must have the support of the people before I will recommend
any proposition looking to such acquisition. I say here, however, that I
do not share in the apprehension held by many as to the danger of
governments becoming weakened and destroyed by reason of their extension
of territory. Commerce, education, and rapid transit of thought and
matter by telegraph and steam have changed all this. Rather do I believe
that our Great Maker is preparing the world, in His own good time, to
become one nation, speaking one language, and when armies and navies
will be no longer required.

My efforts in the future will be directed to the restoration of good
feeling between the different sections of our common country; to the
restoration of our currency to a fixed value as compared with the
world's standard of values--gold--and, if possible, to a par with it; to
the construction of cheap routes of transit throughout the land, to the
end that the products of all may find a market and leave a living
remuneration to the producer; to the maintenance of friendly relations
with all our neighbors and with distant nations; to the reestablishment
of our commerce and share in the carrying trade upon the ocean; to the
encouragement of such manufacturing industries as can be economically
pursued in this country, to the end that the exports of home products
and industries may pay for our imports--the only sure method of
returning to and permanently maintaining a specie basis; to the
elevation of labor; and, by a humane course, to bring the aborigines of
the country under the benign influences of education and civilization.
It is either this or war of extermination: Wars of extermination,
engaged in by people pursuing commerce and all industrial pursuits, are
expensive even against the weakest people, and are demoralizing and
wicked. Our superiority of strength and advantages of civilization
should make us lenient toward the Indian. The wrong inflicted upon him
should be taken into account and the balance placed to his credit. The
moral view of the question should be considered and the question asked,
Can not the Indian be made a useful and productive member of society by
proper teaching and treatment? If the effort is made in good faith, we
will stand better before the civilized nations of the earth and in our
own consciences for having made it.

All these things are not to be accomplished by one individual, but they
will receive my support and such recommendations to Congress as will in
my judgment best serve to carry them into effect. I beg your support and
encouragement.

It has been, and is, my earnest desire to correct abuses that have grown
up in the civil service of the country. To secure this reformation rules
regulating methods of appointment and promotions were established and
have been tried. My efforts for such reformation shall be continued to
the best of my judgment. The spirit of the rules adopted will be
maintained.

I acknowledge before this assemblage, representing, as it does, every
section of our country, the obligation I am under to my countrymen for
the great honor they have conferred on me by returning me to the highest
office within their gift, and the further obligation resting on me to
render to them the best services within my power. This I promise,
looking forward with the greatest anxiety to the day when I shall be
released from responsibilities that at times are almost overwhelming,
and from which I have scarcely had a respite since the eventful firing
upon Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, to the present day. My services were
then tendered and accepted under the first call for troops growing out
of that event.

I did not ask for place or position, and was entirely without influence
or the acquaintance of persons of influence, but was resolved to perform
my part in a struggle threatening the very existence of the nation. I
performed a conscientious duty, without asking promotion or command, and
without a revengeful feeling toward any section or individual.

Notwithstanding this, throughout the war, and from my candidacy for my
present office in 1868 to the close of the last Presidential campaign, I
have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in
political history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in
view of your verdict, which I gratefully accept as my vindication.



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