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BUCHANAN'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
MARCH 4, 1857. Fellow-Citizens :
I appear before you this day to take the solemn oath, “that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." In entering upon this great office, I most humbly invoke the God of our fathers for wisdom and firmness to execute its high and responsible duties in such a manner as to restore harmony and ancient friendship among the people of the several States, and to preserve our free institutions throughout many generations. Convinced that I owe my election to the inherent love for the Constitution and the Union which still animates the hearts of the American people, let me earnestly ask their powerful support in sustaining all just measures calculated to perpetuate these, the richest political blessings which Heaven has ever bestowed upon any nation. Having determined not to become a candidate for re-election, I shall have no motive to influence my conduct in administering the government, except the desire ably and faithfully to serve my country and to live in the grateful memory of my countrymen. We have recently passed through a Presidential contest in which the passions of our fellow-citizens were excited to the highest degree by questions of deep and vital importance. But, when the people proclaimed their will, the tempest at once subsided, and all was calm. The voice of the majority, speaking in the manner prescribed by the Constitution, was heard, and instant submission followed. Our own country could alone have exbibited so grand and striking a spectacle of the capacity of man for self-government. What a happy conception, then, was it for Congress to apply this simple rule that the will of the majority shall govern”-to the settlement of the question of domestic slavery in the territories ! Congress is neither “to legislate slavery into any territory por to exclude it therefrom," but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. As a natural consequence, Congress has also prescribed that, when the Territory of Kansas shall be admitted as a State, it shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, as their own Constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission. A different opinion has arisen in regard to the point of time when the people of a territory shall decide the question for themselves. This is happily a matter of but little practical importance; besides, it is a judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the Supreme Court of the United States, before whom it is now pending, and will, it is understood, be speedily and finally settled. To their decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit, whatever that may be; though it has ever been my individual opinion that, under the NebraskaKansas act, the appropriate period will be when the number of actual residents in the territory shall justify the formation of a constitution, with a view to its admission ás a State into the Union. But, be this as it may, it is the imperative and indispensable duty of the government of the United States to secure to every resident inhabitant the free and independent expression of his opinion by his vote. This sacred right of each individual must be preserved. This being accomplished, nothing can be fairer than to leave the people of a territory free from all foreign interference, to decide their own destiny for themselves, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. The whole territorial question being thus settled upon the principle of popular sovereignty-a principle as ancient as free government itself-every thing of a practical nature has been decided. No other question remains for adjustment, because all agree that, under the Constitution, slavery in the States is beyond the reach of
human power except that of the respective States themselves wherein it exists. May we not, then, hope that the long agitation on this subject is approaching its end, and that the geographical parties to which it has given birth-S0 much dreaded by the Father of his Country—will speedily become extinct? Most happy will it be for the country