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their enemies of hope. While they forsaw less promptness of action than in governments differently formed, they overlooked the far more important considerations, that with us war could never be the result of individual or irresponsible will, but must be a measure of redress for injuries sustained, voluntarily resorted to by those who were to bear the necessary sacrifice, who would consequently feel an individual interest in the contest, and whose energy would be commensurate with the difficulties to be encountered. Actual events have proved their error : the last war, far from impairing, gave new confidence to our government; and amid recent apprehensions of a similar conflict, we saw that the energies of our country would not be wanting in ample season to vindicate its rights. We may not possess, as we should not desire to possess, the extended and ever ready military organization of other nations; we may occasionally suffer in the outset for the want of it, but, among ourselves, all doubt upon this great point has ceased, while a salutary experience will prevent a contrary opinion from inviting aggression from abroad.
Certain danger was foretold from the extension of our territory, the multiplication of states, and the increase of population. Our system was supposed to be adapted only to boundaries comparatively narrow. These have been widened beyond conjecture ; the members of our confederacy are already doubled ; and the numbers of our people are incredibly augmented. The alleged causes of danger have long surpassed anticipation, but none of the consequences have followed. The power and influence of the republic have risen to a height obvious to all mankind ; respect for its authority was not more apparent at its ancient than it is at its present limits; new and inex hanstible sources of general prosperity have been opened; the effects of distance have been averted by the inventive genius of our people, developed and fostered by the spirit of our institutions, and the large variety and amount of interests, productions, and pursuits, have strengthened the chain of mutual dependence, and formed a circle of mutual benefits, too apparent ever to be overlooked.
In justly balancing the powers of the federal and state authorities, difficulties nearly insurmountable arose at the outset, and subsequent collisions were deemed inevitable. Amid these, it was scarcely believed possible that a scheme of government so complex in construction, could remain uninjured. From time to time, embarrassments have certainly occurred; but how just is the confidence of future safety imparted by the knowledge that each in succession has been happily removed. Overlooking partial and temporary evils as inseparable from the practical operation of all human institutions, and looking only to the general result, every patriot has reason to be satisfied. While the federal government has successfully performed its appropriate functions in relation to foreign affairs, and concerns evidently national, that of every state has remarkably improved in protecting and developing local interests and individual welfare ; and if the vibrations of authority have occasionally tended too much towards one or other, it is unquestionably certain that the ultimate operation of the entire system has been to strengthen all the existing institutions, and to elevate our whole country in prosperity and renown.fo 1. The last, perhaps the greatest, of the prominent sources of discord and disaster supposed to lurk in our political condition, was the institution of domestic slavery. Our forefathers were deeply impressed with the delicacy of this subject, and they treated it with a forbearance so evidently wise, that, in spite of every sinister foreboding, it never, until the present period, disturbed the tranquillity of our common country. Such a result is sufficient evidence of the justice and the patriotism of their course; it is evident not to be mistaken, that an adherence to it can prevent all embarrassment from this, as well as every other anticipated cause of difficul y or danger. Have not recent events made it obvious to the slightest reflection, that the least deviation from this spirit of forbearance is injurious to every interest, that of humanity included ?
Amidst the violence of excited passions, this generous and fraternal feeling has been sometimes disregarded ; and standing as I now do before my countrymen, in this high place of honor and trust, I cannot refrain from anxiously invoking my fellow-citizens neve, w be deaf to its dic
tates. Perceiving, before my election, the deep interest this subject was beginning to excite, I believed it a solemn duty fully to make known my sentiments in regard to it; and now, when every motive for misrepresentation has passed away, I trust that they will be candidly weighed and understood. At least they will be my standard of conduct in the path before me. I then declared that, if the desire of those of my countrymen who were favorable to my election was gratified, “ I must go into the presidential chair the inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt, on the part of Congress, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, against the wishes of the slaveholding states; and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the states where it exists.” I submitted also to my fellow-citizens, with fulness and frankness, the reasons which led me to this determination. The result authorizes me to believe that they have been approved, and are confided in by a majority of the people of the United States, including those whom they most immediately affect. It now only remains to add, that no bill conflicting with these views ean ever receive my constitutional sanction. These opinions have been adopted in the firm belief that they are in accordance with the spirit that actuated the venerated fathers of the republic, and that succeeding experience has proved them to be humane, patriotic, expedient, honorable and just. If the agitation of this subject was intended to reach the stability of our institutions, enough has occurred to show that it has signally failed; and that in this, as in every other instance, the apprehensions of the timid and the hopes of the wicked for the destruction of our government, are again destined to be disappointed. Here and there, indeed, scenes of dangerous excitement have occurred; terrifying instances of local violence have been witnessed; and a reckless disregard of the consequences of their conduct has exposed individuals to popular indignation ; but neither masses of the people nor sections of country have swerved from their devotion to the bond of union, and the principles it has made sacred. It will be ever thus. Such attempts at agitation may periodically return, but with each the object will be better understood. That predominating affection for our political system which prevails throughout our territorial limits; that calm and enlightened judg. ment which ultimately governs our people as one vast body, will always be at hand to resist and control every effort
, foreign or domestic, which aims or would lead to overthrow our institutions.
What can be more gratifying than such a retrospect as this? We look back on obstacles avoided and dangers overcome; on expectations more than realized, and prosperity perfectly secured. To the hopes of the hostile, the fears of the timid, and the doubts of the anxious, actual experience has given the conclusive reply. We have seen time gradually dispel every unfavorable foreboding, and our constitution surmount every adverse circumstance, dreaded at the outset as beyond control. Present excitement will, at all times, magnify present dangers; but true philosophy must teach us that none more threatening than the past can remain to be overcome; and we ought, for we have just reason, to entertain an abiding confidence in the stability of our institutions, and an entire conviction that if administered in the true form, character and spirit in which they were established, they are abundantly adequate to preserve to us and our children the rich blessings already derived from them; to make our beloved land, for a thousand generations, that chosen spot where happiness springs from a perfect equality of political rights.
For myself, therefore, I desire to declare, that the principle that will govern me in the high duty to which my country calls me, is a strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the constitution, as it was designed by those who framed it. Looking back to it as a sacred instrument, carefully and not easily framed; remembering that it was throughout a work of concession and compromise, view. ing it as limited to national objects ; regarding it as leav ing to the people and the states all power not explicitly parted with, I shall endeavor to preserve, protect and de fend it, by anxiously referring to its provisions for direc tion in every action. To matters of domestic concern ment which it has entrusted to the federal government
and to such as relate to our intercourse with foreign nations, I shall zealously devote myself; beyond those limits I shall never pass.'
To enter, on this occasion, into a further or more mi. nute exposition of my views on the various questions of domestic policy, would be as obtrusive as it is probably unexpected. Before the suffrages of my countrymen were conferred upon me, I submitted to them, with great precision, my opinions on all the most prominent of these subjects. Those opinions I shall endeavor to carry out with the utmost ability.
Our course of foreign policy has been so uniform and intelligible, as to constitute a rule of executive conduct which leaves little to my discretion, unless, indeed, I were willing to run counter to the lights of experience, and the known opinions of my constituents. We sedulously cultivate the friendship of all nations, as the condition most compatible with our welfare, and the principles of our government. We decline alliances, as adverse to our peace,
We desire commercial relations on equal terms, being ever willing to give a fair equivalent for advantages received. We endeavor to conduct our intercourse with openness and sincerity ; promptly avowing our objects, and seeking to establish that mutual frankness which is as beneficial in the dealings of nations as of men.
We have no disposition, and we disclaim all right to meddle in disputes whether internal or foreign, that may molest other countries ; regarding them in their actual state, as social communities, and preservég a strict neutrality in all their controversies. Well knowing the tried valor of our people, and our exhaustless resources, we neither an. ticipate nor fear any designed aggression ; and in the consciousness of our own just conduct, we feel a security that we shall never be called upon to exert our determination, never to permit an invasion of our rights, without punishment or redress.
In approaching, then, in the presence of my assembled countrymen, to make the solemn promise that yet remains, and to pledge myself that I will faithfully execute the office I am about to fill, I bring with me a settled purpose to inaintain the institutions of my country, which, I trust, will atone for the errors I commit.