Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

rticipation of our rights and duties, of our burden; and po The forest has fallen by the axe of our woods. men; 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 ho 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 enjoyment 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. The 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 kindled all the passions, and embittered the conflict of parties, 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

opular elections. That the general government of the to. 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 ossible, the burden of taxation. That the military should É. 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 there have been projects of partial confederacies to be erected upon the ruins of the Union, they have been scattered to the winds. If there have been dangerous attachments to one foreign nation, and antipathies against another, they have been extinguished. Ten years of peace, at home and abroad, have assuaged the animosities of political contention, and blended into harmony the most discordant elements of public opinion. There still remains one effort of magnanimity, one sacrifice of prejudice and passion, to be made by the individuals, throughout the nation, who have heretofore followed the standard of political party. It is that of discarding every remnant of rancor against each other; of embracing as countrymen and friends; and of yielding to talents and virtue alone that confidence which, in times of contention for principle, was bestowed only upon those who bole the badge of party communion. The collisions of party spirit, which originate in speculative opinions, or in #. views of admiristrative policy, are in their nature transitory. Those which are }. on geographical divisions, adverse interests of soil, climate, and modes of domestic life, are more permanent, and therefore perhaps more dangerous. It is this which gives .. value to the character of our government, at once federal and national. It holds out to us a perpetual admonition to preserve alike, and with equal anxiety, the rights of each individual state in its own government, and the rights of the whole nation in that of the Union. Whatever is of domestic concernment, unconnected with the other members of the Union, or with foreign lands, belongs exclusively to the administration of the state governments. Whatsoever directly involves the rights and interests of the federative fraternity, or of foreign powers, is of the resort of this general government. The duties of both are obvious in the general principle though sometimes perplexed with difficulties in the detail. To respect the rights of the stategovernments is the inviolable duty of that of the Union; the government of every state will feel its own obligation to respect and preserve the rights of the whole. The prejudices everywhere too commonly entertained against distant strangers are worn away, and the jealousies of jarring interests are allayed by the composition and functions of the great national councils annually assembled from all quarters of the Union at this place. Here the distinguished men from every section of our country, while meeting to deliberate upon the great interests of those by whom they are deputed,” learn to estimate the talents and do justice to the virtues of each other. The harmony of the nation is promoted, and the whole Union is knit together by the sentiments of mutual respect, the habits of social intercourse, and the ties of personal friendship, formed between the representatives of its several parts, in the performance of their service at this metropolis. Passing from this general review of the purposes and injunctions of the federal constitution, and their results, as indicating the first traces of the path of duty in the discharge of my public trust, I turn to the administration of my immediate predecessor, as the second. It has passed away in a period of profound peace: how much to the satisfaction of our country, and to the honor of our country's name, is known to you all. The great features of its policy, in general concurrence with the will of the legislature, have been—to cherish peace while preparing for defensive war; to yield exact justice to other nations, and maintain the rights of our own; to cherish the principles of freedom and of equal rights, wherever they were proclaimed; to discharge with all possible promptitude the national debt; to reduce within the narrowest limits of efficiency the military force; to improve the organiza tion and discipline of the army; to provide and sustain a school of military science; to extend equal protection to all the great interests of the nation; to promote the civil 1zation of the Indian tribes; and to proceed in the great system of internal improvements within the limits of the constitutional power of the Union. Under the pledge of these promises, made by that eminent citizen, at the time of his first induction to this office, in his career of eight }. the internal taxes have been repealed; sixty milions of the public debt have been discharged; provision has been made for the comfort and relief of the aged and indigent among the surviving warriors of the revolution; the regular armed force has been reduced, and its constitution revised and perfected; the accountability for the expenditures of public moneys has been made more effective ; the Floridas have been peaceably acquired, and our boundary has been extended to the Pacific Ocean; the independence of the southern nations of this hemisphere has been recognised, and recommended by example and by counsel to the potentates of Europe; progress has been made in the defence of the country by fortifications, and the increase of the navy—towards the effectual suppression of the African traffic in slaves—in alluring the aboriginal hunters of our land to the cultivation of the soil and of the mind—in exploring the interior regions of the Union, and in preparing, by scientific researches and surveys, for the further application of our national resources to the internas improvement of our country. In this brief outline of the promise and performance of my immediate predecessor, the line of duty for his successor is clearly delineated. To pursue to their consummation those purposes of improvement in our common condition, instituted or recommended by him, will embrace the whole sphere of my obligations. To the topic of internal improvement, emphatically urged by him at his inauguration, I recur with peculiar satisfaction. It is that from which I am convinced that the unborn millions of our posterity, who are in future ages to people this contiment, will derive their most fervent gratitude to the foun

« ПредишнаНапред »