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William Henry Harrison
Inaugural Address
Thursday, March 4, 1841

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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