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of upwards 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 develope 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 inotive 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 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 Ishall 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, fron 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 80 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 tne power claimed by other sovereigntiee, 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 tre 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 did 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 could console himself under the 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
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 har mony with their ideas of a simple representative of 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 in 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 love 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 entrusted the management of her foreign relations, the execution of her laws, and the command of ber 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 cannot conceive that by a fair Bonstruction, any or either of its provisions would be