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J. Q. ADAMS INAUGURAL ADDRESS
MARCH 4, 1825.
In compliance with a usage coeval with the existence of our federal constitution, and sanctioned by the example of my predecessors in the career upon which I am about to enter, I appear, my fellow-citizens, in your presence, and in that of Heaven, to bind myself, by the solemnities of a religious obligation, to the faithful performance of the duties allotted to me, in the station to which I have been called.
In unfolding to my countrymen the principles by which I shall be governed in the fulfilment of those duties, my first resort will be to that constitution, which I shall swear, to the best of my ability, to preserve, protect, and defend. That revered instrument enumerates the powers and prescribes the duties of the executive magistrate; and, in its first words, declares the purposes to which these, and the whole action of the government, instituted by it, should be invariably and sacredly devotedto form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to the people of this Union, in their successive generations. Since the adoption of this social compact, one of these generations have passed away. It is the work of our forefathers. Administered by some of the most eminent men who contributed to its formation, through a most eventful period in the annals of the world, and through all the vicissitudes of peace and war, incidental to the condition of associated man, it has not disappointed the hopes and aspirations of those illustrious benefactors of their age and nation. It has promoted the lasting welfare of that country, so dear to us all; it has, to an extent far beyond the ordinary lot of humanity, secured the freedom and happiness of this people We now re
ceive it as a precious inheritance from those to whom we are indebted for its establishment, doubly bound by the examples they have left us, and by the blessings which
we have enjoyed, as the fruit of their labors, to transmit the same, unimpaired, to the succeeding generations.
In the compass of thirty-six years, since this great national covenant was instituted, a body of laws enacted under its authority, and in conformity with its provisions, has unfolded its powers, and carried into practical operation its effective energies. Subordinate departments have distributed the executive functions in their various relations tc foreign affairs, to the revenue and expenditures, and to the military force of the Union by land and sea. A co-ordinate department of the judiciary has expounded the constitution and the laws; settling, in harmonious coincidence with the legislative will, numerous weighty questions of construction which the imperfection of human language had rendered unavoidable. The year of jubilee, since the first formation of our Union has just elapsed; that of the declaration of independence is at hand. The consummation of both was effected by this constitution. Since that period, a population of four millions has multiplied to twelve. A territory, bounded by the Mississippi, has been extended from sea to sea. New states have been admitted to the Union, in numbers nearly equal to those of the first confederation. Treaties of peace, amity, and commerce, have been concluded with the principal dominions of the earth. The people of other nations, inhabitants of regions acquired, not by conquest but by compact, have been united with us in the participation of our rights and duties, of our burdens and blessings. The forest has fallen by the axe of our woodsman; the soil has been made to teem by the tillage of our farmers; our commerce has whitened every ocean. The dominion of man over physical nature has been extended by the invention of our artists. Liberty and law have marched hand in hand. All the purposes of human association have been accomplished as effectively as under any other government on the globe; and at a cost, little exceeding, in a whole generation, the expenditures of other nations in a single year.
Such is the unexaggerated picture of our condition under a constitution founded upon the republican principle of equal rights. To admit that this picture has its
shades, is but to say that it is still the condition of men upon earth. From evil, physical, moral and political, it is not our claim to be exempt. We have suffered sometimes by the visitation of Heaven, through disease; often by the wrongs and injustices of other nations, even to the extremities of war; and lastly, by dissensions among ourselves dissensions, perhaps, inseparable from the enjoy-ment of freedom, but which have more than once appeared to threaten the dissolution of the Union, and, with it the overthrow of all the enjoyments of our present lot, and all our earthly hopes of the future. The causes of these dissensions have been various, founded upon differences of speculation in the theory of republican government; upon conflicting views of policy, in our relations with foreign nations; upon jealousies of partial and sectional interests, aggravated by prejudices and prepossessions, which strangers to each other are ever apt to entertain.
It is a source of gratification and of encouragement to me, to observe that the great result of this experiment upon the theory of human rights has, at the close of that generation by which it was formed, been crowned with success equal to the most sanguine expectations of its founders. Union, justice, tranquillity, the common defence, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty, all have been promoted by the government under which we have lived. Standing at this point of time; looking back to that generation which has gone by, and forward to that which is advancing, we may at once indulge in grateful exultation and in cheering hope. From the experience of the past, we derive instructive lessons for the future. Of the two great political parties which have divided the opinions and feelings of our country, the candid and the just will now admit that both have contributed splendid talents, spotless integrity, ardent patriotism and disinterested sacrifices, to the formation and administration of this government; and that both have required a liberal indulgence for a portion of human infirmity and error. revolutionary wars of Europe, commencing precisely at the moment when the government of the United States first went into operation under this constitution, excited a collision of sentiments and of sympathies, which kin
dled all the passions, and embittered the conflict of par ties till the nation was involved in war, and the Union was shaken to its centre. This time of trial embraced a period of five-and-twenty years, during which the policy of the Union, in its relations with Europe, constituted the principal basis of our political divisions, and the most arduous part of the action of our federal government. With the catastrophe in which the wars of the French revolution terminated, and our own subsequent peace with Great Britain, this baneful weed of party strife was uprooted. From that time, no difference of principle, connected either with the theory of government, or with our intercourse with foreign nations has existed, or been called forth in force sufficient to sustain a continued combination of parties, or give more than wholesome animation to public sentiment or legislative debate. Our political creed is, without a dissenting voice that can be heard, that the will of the people is the source, and the happiness of the people the end, of all legitimate government upon earth. That the best security for the beneficence, and the best guaranty against the abuse of power, consists in the freedom, the purity, and the frequency of popular elections. That the general government of the Union, and the separate governments of the states, are all sovereignties of legitimated powers; fellow-servants of the same masters, uncontrolled within their respective spheres, uncontrollable by encroachments upon each other. That the firmest security of peace is the preparation during peace of the defences of war. That a rigorous economy, and accountability of public expenditures, should guard against the aggravation, and alleviate, when possible, the burden of taxation. That the military should be kept in strict subordination to the civil power. That the freedom of the press and of religious opinion should be inviolate. That the, policy of our country is peace, and the ark of our salvation, union, are articles of faith upon which we are all agreed. If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated representative democracy were a government competent to the wise and orderly management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled. If