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the people will readily unite in suppport of those whose efforts spring from a disinterested desire to promote their happiness; to preserve the Federal and State Governments within their respective orbits; to cultivate peace with all the nations of the earth, on just and honorable grounds; to exact obedience to the laws; to entrench liberty and property in full security, and, consulting the most rigid economy, to abolish all useless expenses.
POLK'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
MARCH 4, 1845.
Fellow CITIZENS: Without solicitation on my part, I have been chosen by the free and voluntary suffrages of my countrymen to the most honorable and most responsible office on earth. I am deeply impressed with gratitude for the confidence reposed in me. Honored with this distinguished consideration at an earlier period of lise than any of my predecessors, I cannot disguise the diffidence with which I am about to enter on the discharge of my official duties.
If the more aged and experienced men who have filled the office of President of the United States, even in the infancy of the republic, distrusted their ability to discharge the duties of that exalted station, what oughi not to be the apprehensions of one so much younger and less endowed, now that our domain extends from ocean to ocean, that our people have so greatly increased in numbers, and at a time when so great diversity of opinion prevails in regard to the principles and policy which should characterize the administration of our government? Well may the boldest fear, and the wisest tremble, when incurring responsibilities on which may depend our country's peace and prosperity, and, in some degree, the hopes and happiness of the whole human family.
In assuming responsibilities so vast, I fervently invoke the aid of that Almighty Ruler of the universe, in whose
hands are the destinies of nations and of men, to guard this heaven-savored land against the mischiefs which, without his guidance, might arise from an unwise public policy. With a firm reliance upon the wisdoin of Omnipotence to sustain and direct me in the path of duty which I ain appointed to pursue, I stand in the presence of this assembled multitude of my countrymen, to take upon myself the solemn obligation, " to the best of my ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States."
A concise enumeration of the principles which will guide me in the administrative policy of the government, is not only in accordance with the examples set me by all my predecessors, but is eminently befitting the oecasion.
The constitution itself, plainly written as it is, the safeguard of our federative compact, the offspring of concession and compromise, binding together in the bonds of peace and union this great and increasing family of free and independent States, will be the chart by which I shall be directed.
It will be my first care to administer the government in the true spirit of that instrument, and to assume no powers not expressly granted, or clearly implied in its
The government of the United States is one of delegated and liınited powers; and it is by a strict adherence to the clearly granted powers, and by abstaining from the exercise of doubtful or unauthorized implied powers, that we have the only sure guaranty against the recurrence of those unfortunate collisions between the Federal and State authorities, which have occasionally so much disturbed the harmony of our system, and even threatened the perpetuity of our glorious Union.
" To the States respectively, or to the people,” have been reserved the powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States." Each State is a complete sovereignty within the sphere of its reserved powers. The government of the Union, acting within the sphere of its delegated authority, is also a complete sovereignty. While the general government should abstain from the exercise of authority not clearly delegated to it, the States should be
equally careful that, in the maintenance of their rights, they do not overstep the limits of powers reserved to them. One of the most distinguished of my predecessors attached deserved importance to “ the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administration for our domestic concerns, and the qurest bulwark against anti-republican tendencies ;” and to the preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet-anchor of our peace at home, and safety abroad."
To the government of the United States has been intrusted the exclusive management of our foreign affairs. Beyond that, it wields a few general enumerated powers. It does not force reform on the States. It leaves individuals, over whom it casts its protecting influence, entirely free to improve their own condition by the legitimate exercise of all their mental and physical powers. It is a common protector of each and all the States ; of every man who lives upon our soil, whether of native or foreign birth ; of every religious sect, in their worship of the Almighty according to the dictates of their own conscience; of
shade of opinion, and the most free inquiry ; of every art, trade, and occupation, consistent with the laws of the States. And we rejoice in the general happiness, prosperity, and advancement of our country, which have been the offspring of freedom, and not of power.
This most admirable and wisest system of well-regulated self government among men, ever devised by human minds, has been tested by its successful operation for more than half a century; and, if preserved from the usurpations of the federal government on the one hand, and the exercise by the States of powers not reserved to them on the other, will, I fervently hope and believe, endure for ages to come, and dispense the blessings of civil and religious liberty to distant generations. To effect objects so dear to every patriot, I shall devote myself with anxious solicitude. It will be my desire to guard against that most fruitful source of danger to the harmonious action of our system, which consists in substituting the mere discretion and caprice of the executive.
or of majorities in the legislative department of the government, for powers which have been withheld from the federal government by the constitution. By the theory of our overnment, majorities rule ; but this right is not an arbitrary or unlimited one. It is a right to be exercised in subordination to the constitution, and in conformity to it. One great object of the constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities, or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the constitution, as a shield against such oppression.
That the blessings of liberty which our constitution secures may be enjoyed alike by mninorities and majori. lies, the executive has been wisely invested with a qualified veto upon the acts of the Legislature. It is a negative power, and is conservative in its character. It arrests for the time, hasty, inconsiderate, or unconstitutional legislation ; invites reconsideration, and tranfers questions at issue between the legislative and executive departments to the tribunal of the people. Like all other powers, it is subject to be abused.
When judiciously and properly exercised, the constitution itself may be saved from infraction, and the rights of all preserved and protected.
The inestimable value of our federal Union is felt and acknowledged by all. By this system of united and confederated States, our people are permitted, collectively and individually, to seek their own happiness in their own way; and the consequences have been most auspicions. Since the Union was formed, the number of the States has increased from thirteen to twenty-eight: two of these have taken their positions as members of the confederacy within the last week. Our population has increased from three to twenty millions. New communities and States are seeking protection under its ægis, and multitudes from the Old World are flocking to our shores to participate in its blessings. Beneath its benign sway, peace and prosperity prevail. Freed from the burdens and miseries of war, our trade and intercourse have extended throughout the world. Mind, no longer tasked in devising means to accomplish or resist