me, and by whose dispensation I am called to the high office of President of this confederacy, that I may be enabled understandingly to carry out the principles of that constitution which I have sworn to “protect, preserve, and defend.”

The usual opportunity which is afforded a chief magistrate, upon his induction to office, of presenting to his countrymen an exposition of the policy which would guide his administration, in the form of an inaugural address, not having, under the peculiar circumstances which have brought me to the discharge of the high duties of President of the United States, been offered to me, a brief exposition of the principles which will govern me in the general course of my administration of public affairs, would seem due as well to myself as to you. In regard to foreign nations, the groundwork of my policy will be justice on our part to all, submitting to injustice from none. While I shall sedulously cultivate the relation of peace and amity with one and all, it will be my most imperative duty to see that the honor of the country shall sustain no blemish. With a view to this, the condition of our military defences 'will become a matter of anxious solicitude. The army, which has in other days covered itself with renown, and the navy, not inappropriately termed the right hand of the public defence, which has spread a light of glory over the American standard in all the waters of the earth, should be rendered replete with efficiency.

In view of the fact, well avouched by history, that the tendency of all human institutions is to concentrate power in the hands of a single man, and that their ultimate downfall has proceeded from this cause, I deem it of the most essential importance that a complete separation should take place between the sword and the purse. No matter where or how the public moneys shall be deposited, so long as the President can exert the power of appointing and removing, at his pleasure, the agents selected for their custody, the commander-in-chief of the


is in fact the treasurer. A permanent and radical change should therefore be decreed. The patronage incident to the presidential office, already great, is constantly increasing. Such increase is destined to keep pace with the

and navy

growth of our population, until, without a figure of speech, an army of office-holders may be spread over the land. The unrestrained power exerted by a selfishly ambitious man, in order either to perpetuate his authority or to hand it over to some favorite as his successor, may lead to the employment of all the means within his control to accomplish his object.

The right to remove from office, while subjected to no restraint, is inevitably destined to produce a spirit of crouching servility with the official corps, which, in order to uphold the hand which feeds them, would lead to direct and active interference in the elections, both state and federal, thereby subjecting the course of state legislation to the dictation of the chief executive officer; and making the will of that officer absolute and supreme. I will, at a proper time, invoke the action of Congress upon this subject, and shall readily acquiesce in the adoption of all proper measures which are calculated to arrest these evils, so full of danger in their tendency.

I will remove no incumbent from office who has faithfully and honestly acquitted himself of the duties of his office, except in cases where such officer has been guilty of an active partisanship, or by secret means the less manly, and therefore the more objectionable — has given his official influence to the purposes of party, thereby bringing the patronage of the government in conflict with the freedom of elections. Numerous removals may become necessary under this rule. These will be made by me through no acerbity of feeling. I have had no cause to cherish or indulge unkind feelings towards any,


my conduct will be regulated by a profound sense of what is due to the country and its institutions ; nor shall I neglect to apply the same unbending rule to those of my appointment. Freedom of opinion will be tolerated, the right of suffrage will be maintained as the birthright of every American citizen, but I say emphatically to the official corps, “ Thus far, and no farther."

I have dwelt the longer upon this subject, because removals from office are likely often to arise, and I would have my countrymen to understand the principle of executive action.

In all public expenditures the most rigid economy should be resorted to, and as one of its results, a public debt in time of peace be sedulously avoided. A wise and patriotic constituency will never object to the imposition of necessary burdens for useful ends, and true wisdom dictates the resort to such means, in order to supply deficiencies in the revenue, rather than to those doubtful expedients, which, ultimating in a public debt, serve to embarrass the resources of the country, and to lessen its ability to meet any great emergency which may arise. All sinecures should be abolished. The appropriations should be direct and explicit, so as to leave as limited a share of discretion to the disbursing agents as may be found compatible with the public service. A strict responsibility on the part of all agents of the government should be maintained, and peculation and defalcation visited with immediate expulsion from office and the most condign punishment.

The public interest demands that, if any war has existed between the government and the currency, it shall cease. Measures of a financial character, now having the sanction of legal enactment, shall be faithfully enforced until repealed by the legislative authority. But I owe it to myself to say, that I regard existing enactments as unwise and impolitic, and in a high degree oppressive.

I shall promptly give sanction to any constitutional measure which, originating in Congress, shall have for its object the restoration of a sound circulating medium, so essentially necessary to give confidence in all the transactions of life, to secure to industry its just and adequate rewards, and to reëstablish the public prosperity. In deciding upon the adaptation of any such measure to the end proposed, as well as its conformity to the constitution, I shall resort to the fathers of the great republican school, for advice and instruction, to be drawn from their sage views of our system of government, and the light of their ever-glorious example.

The institutions under which we live, my countrymen, secure each person in the perfect enjoyment of all his rights. The spectacle is exhibited to the world of a government deriving its power from the consent of the governed, and having imparted to it only so much power as is

necessary for its successful operation. Those who are charged with its administration should carefully abstain from all attempts to enlarge the range of powers thus granted to the several departments of the government, other than by an appeal to the people for additional grants, lest by so doing they disturb that balance which the patriots and statesmen who framed the constitution designed to establish between the federal government and the states composing the Union.

The observance of these rules is enjoined upon us by that feeling of reverence and affection which finds a place in the heart of every patriot for the preservation of union and the blessings of union - for the good of our children and our children's children, through countless generations. An opposite course could not fail to generate factions, intent upon the gratification of their selfish ends; to give birth to local and sectional jealousies, and to ultimate either in breaking asunder the bonds of union, or in building up a central system which would inevitably end in a bloody sceptre and an iron crown.

In conclusion, I beg you to be assured that I shall exert myself to carry the foregoing principles into practice during my administraton of the government, and, confiding in the protecting care of an ever-watchful and overruling Providence, it shall be my first and highest duty to preserve unimpaired the free institutions under which we live, and transmit them to those who shall succeed me in their full force and vigor.


June 1, 1841. To the Senate and

House of Representatives of the United States : Fellow-CitizeNS: You have been assembled in your respective halls of legislation under a proclamation bearing the signature of the illustrious citizen who was so lately called by the direct suffrages of the people to the

discharge of the important functions of their chief executive office. Upon the expiration of a single month from the day of his installation, he has paid the great debt of nature, leaving behind him a name associated with the recollection of numerous benefits conferred upon the country during a long life of patriotic devotion. With this public bereavement are connected other considerations, which will not escape the attention of Congress. The preparations necessary for his removal to the seat of government, in view of a residence of four years, must have devolved upon the late President heavy expenditures, which, if permitted to burden the limited resources of his private fortune, may tend to the serious embarrassment of his surviving family; and it is therefore respectfully submitted to Congress whether the ordinary principles of justice would not dictate the propriety of its legislative interposition. By the provisions of the fundamental law, the powers and duties of the high station to which he was elected have devolved upon me, and in the dispositions of the representatives of the states and of the people will be found to a great extent a solution of the problem to which our institutions are for the first time subjected.

In entering upon the duties of this office, I did not feel that it would be becoming in me to disturb what had been ordered by my lamented predecessor. Whatever, therefore, may have been my opinion, originally, as to the propriety of convening Congress at so early a day from that of its late adjournment, I found a new and a controlling inducement not to interfere with the patriotic desires of the late President, in the novelty of the situation in which I was so unexpectedly placed. My first wish under such circumstances would necessarily have been to have called to my aid, in the administration of public affairs, the combined wisdom of the two Houses of Congress, in order to take their counsel and advice as to the best mode of extricating the government and the country from the embarrassments weighing heavily on both. I am then most happy in finding myself, so soon after my accession to the Presidency, surrounded by the immediate representatives of the states and people.

No important changes having taken place in our for

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »