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when once made known, must, sooner or later, be obeyed. And while the people remain, as I trust they ever will, uncorrupted and incorruptible, and continue watchful and jealous of their rights, the government is safe, and the cause of freedom will continue to triumph over all its enemies. But it will require steady and persevering exertions on your part to rid yourselves of the iniquities and mischiefs of the paper system, and to check the spirit of monopoly and other abuses which have sprung up with it, and of which it is the main support. So many interests are united to resist all reform on this subject, that you must not hope the conflict will be a short one, nor success easy. My humble efforts have not been spared, during my administration of the government, to restore the constitutional currency of gold and silver; and something, I trust, has been done towards the accomplishment of this most desirable object. But enough yet remains to require all your energy and perseverance. The power, however, is in your hands, and the remedy must and will be applied if you determine upon it. While I am thus endeavoring to press upon your attention the principles which I deem of vital importance to the domestic concerns of the country, I ought not to pass over without notice the important considerations which should govern your policy towards foreign powers. It is unquestionably our true interest to cultivate the most friendly understanding with every nation, and to avoid, by every honorable means, the calamities of war; and we shall best attain that object by frankness and sincerity in our foreign intercourse, by the prompt and faithful execution of treaties, and by justice and impartiality in our conduct to all. But no nation, however desirous of peace, can hope to escape collisions with other powers; and the soundest dictates of policy require that we should place ourselves in a condition to assert our rights, if a resort to force should ever become necessary. Our local situation, our long line of sea-coast, indented by numerous bays, with deep rivers opening into the interior, as well as her extended and still increasing commerce, point to the navy as our natural means of defence. It will, in the end, be found to be the cheapest and most effectual; and now is the time, in a season of peace, and with an overflowing revenue, that we can, year after year, add to its strength, without increasing the burdens of the people. It is your true policy. For your navy will not only protect your rich and flourishing commerce in distant seas, but enable you to reach and annoy the enemy, and will give to defence its greatest efficiency, by meeting danger at a distance from home. It is impossible, by any line of fortifications, to guard every point from attack against a hostile force advancing from the ocean, and selecting its object; but they are indispensable to prevent cities from bombardment; dock-yards and navy arsenals from destruction; to give shelter to merchant vessels in time of war, and to single ships of weaker squadrons when pressed by superior force. Fortifications of this description cannot be too soon completed and armed, and placed in a condition of the most perfect preparation. The abundant means we now possess cannot be applied in any manner more useful to the country; and when this is done, and our naval force sufficiently strengthened, and our military armed, we need not fear that any nation will wantonly insult us, or needlessly provoke hostilities. We shall more certainly preserve peace, when it is well understood that we are prepared for war. In presenting to you, my fellow-citizens, these parting counsels, I have brought before you the leading principles upon which I endeavored to administer the government in the high office with which you twice honored me. Knowing that the path of freedom is continually beset by enemies, who often assume the disguise of friends, I have devoted the last hours of my public life to warn you of the dangers. The progress of the United States, under our free and happy institutions, has surpassed the most sanguine hopes of the founders of the republic. Our growth has been rapid beyond all former example, in numbers, in wealth, in knowledge, and all the useful arts which contribute to the comforts and convenience of man; and from the earliest ages of history to the present day, there never have been thirteen millions of people associated together in one political body, who enjoyed so much free
dom and happiness as the people of these United States. You have no longer any cause to fear danger from abroad; your strength and power are well known throughout the civilized world, as well as the high and gallant bearing of your sons. It is from within, among yourselves, from cupidity, from corruption, from disappointed ambition, and inordinate thirst for power, that factions will be formed and liberty endangered. . It is against such designs, whatever disguise the actors may assume, that you have especially to guard yourselves. You have the highest of human trusts committed to your care. Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without number, and has chosen you, as the guardians of freedom, to preserve it for the benefit of the human race. May He, who holds in his hands the destinies of nations, make you worthy of the favors he has bestowed, and enable you, with pure hearts, and pure hands, and sleepless vigilance, to guard and defend to the end of time the great charge he has committed to your keeping.
My own race is nearly run; advanced age and failing health warn me that before long I must pass beyond the reach of human events, and cease to feel the vicissitudes of human affairs. I thank God that my life has been spent in a land of liberty, and that he has given me a heart to love my country with the affection of a son. And filled with gratitude for your constant and unwavering kindness, I bid you a last and affectionate farewell.
WAN BUREN’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
MARCH 4, 1837. Fellow-Citizens :
The practice of all my predecessors imposes on me an obligation I cheerfully fulfil, to accompany the first and solemn act of my public trust with an avowal of the principles that will guide me in performing it, and an expression of my feelings on assuming a charge so responsible and vast. In imitating their example, I tread in the footsteps of illustrious men, whose superiors it is our happiness to believe are not found on the executive calendar of any country. Among them we recognize the earliest and firmest pillars of the republic; those by whom our national independence was first declared; him who, above all others, contributed to establish it on the field of battle; and those whose expanded intellect and patriotism constructed, improved, and perfected the inestimable institutions under which we live. If such men, in the position I now occupy, felt themselves overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for this, the highest of all marks of their country's confidence, and by a consciousness of their inability adequately to discharge the duties of an office so difficult and exalted, how much more must these considerations. affect one who can rely on no such claim for favor or forbearancel Unlike all who have preceded me, the revolution that gave us existence as one people, was achieved at the period of my birth; and whilst I contemplate, with grateful reverence, that memorable event, I feel that I belong to a later age, and that I may not expect my countrymen to weigh my actions with the same kind and partial hand. So sensibly, fellow-citizens, do these circumstances press themselves upon me, that I should not dare to enter upon my path of duty, did I not look for the generous aid of those who will be associated with me in the various and coördinate branches of the government; did I not repose with unwavering reliance on the patriotism, the intelligence, and the kindness of a people who never yet deserted a public servant honestly laboring in their cause; and, above all, did I not permit myself humbly to hope for the sustaining support of an ever-watchful and beneficent Providence. To the confidence and consolation derived from these sources, it would be ungrateful not to add those which spring from our present fortunate condition. Though not altogether exempt from embarrassments that disturb our tranquillity at home and threaten it abroad, yet in all the attributes of a great, happy, and flourishing people, we stand without a parallel in the world. Abroad, we enjoy the respect, and, with scarcely an exception, the friendship of every nation; at home, while our government quietly, but efficiently, performs the sole legitimate end of political institutions, in doing the greatest good to the greatest number, we present an aggregate of human prosperity surely not elsewhere to be found. How imperious, then, is the obligation imposed upon every citizen, in his own sphere of action, whether limited or extended, to exert himself in perpetuating a condition of things so singularly happy! All the lessons of history and experience must be lost upon us, if we are content to trust alone to the peculiar advantages we happen to possess. Position and climate, and the bounteous resources that nature has scattered with so liberal a hand, - even the diffused intelligence and elevated character of our people, – will avail us nothing, if we fail sacredly to uphold those political institutions that were wisely and deliberately formed, with reference to every circumstance that could preserve or might endanger the blessings we enjoy. The thoughtful framers of our constitution legislated for our country as they found it. Looking upon it with the eyes of statesmen and of patriots, they saw all the sources of rapid and wonderful prosperity; but they saw, also, that various habits, opinions, and institutions, peculiar to the various portions of so vast a region, were deeply fixed. Distinct sovereignties were in actual existence, whose cordial union was essential to the welfare and happiness of all. Between many of them there was, at least to some extent, a real diversity of interests, liable to be exaggerated through sinister designs; they differed in size, in population, in wealth, and in actual and prospective resources and power; they varied in the character of their industry and staple productions; and in some existed domestic institutions, which, unwisely disturbed, might endanger the harmony of the whole. Most carefully were all these circumstances weighed, and the foundation of the government laid upon principles of mutual concession and equitable compromise. The jealousies which the smaller states might entertain of the power of the rest, were allayed by a rule of representation, confessedly unequal at the time, and designed forever to remain so. A