Second Inaugural Address of Ulysses S. Grant
TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 1873
Under Providence I have been called a second time to act as Executive
over this great nation. It has been my endeavor in the past to maintain
all the laws, and, so far as lay in my power, to act for the best interests
of the whole people. My best efforts will be given in the same direction
in the future, aided, I trust, by my four years' experience in the office.
When my first term of the office of Chief Executive began, the country
had not recovered from the effects of a great internal revolution, and
three of the former States of the Union had not been restored to their
It seemed to me wise that no new questions should be raised so long
as that condition of affairs existed. Therefore the past four years, so
far as I could control events, have been consumed in the effort to restore
harmony, public credit, commerce, and all the arts of peace and progress.
It is my firm conviction that the civilized world is tending toward republicanism,
or government by the people through their chosen representatives, and that
our own great Republic is destined to be the guiding star to all others.
Under our Republic we support an army less than that of any European
power of any standing and a navy less than that of either of at least five
of them. There could be no extension of territory on the continent which
would call for an increase of this force, but rather might such extension
enable us to diminish it.
The theory of government changes with general progress. Now that the
telegraph is made available for communicating thought, together with rapid
transit by steam, all parts of a continent are made contiguous for all
purposes of government, and communication between the extreme limits of
the country made easier than it was throughout the old thirteen States
at the beginning of our national existence.
The effects of the late civil strife have been to free the slave and
make him a citizen. Yet he is not possessed of the civil rights which citizenship
should carry with it. This is wrong, and should be corrected. To this correction
I stand committed, so far as Executive influence can avail.
Social equality is not a subject to be legislated upon, nor shall I
ask that anything be done to advance the social status of the colored man,
except to give him a fair chance to develop what there is good in him,
give him access to the schools, and when he travels let him feel assured
that his conduct will regulate the treatment and fare he will receive.
The States lately at war with the General Government are now happily
rehabilitated, and no Executive control is exercised in any one of them
that would not be exercised in any other State under like circumstances.
In the first year of the past Administration the proposition came up
for the admission of Santo Domingo as a Territory of the Union. It was
not a question of my seeking, but was a proposition from the people of
Santo Domingo, and which I entertained. I believe now, as I did then, that
it was for the best interest of this country, for the people of Santo Domingo,
and all concerned that the proposition should be received favorably. It
was, however, rejected constitutionally, and therefore the subject was
never brought up again by me.
In future, while I hold my present office, the subject of acquisition
of territory must have the support of the people before I will recommend
any proposition looking to such acquisition. I say here, however, that
I do not share in the apprehension held by many as to the danger of governments
becoming weakened and destroyed by reason of their extension of territory.
Commerce, education, and rapid transit of thought and matter by telegraph
and steam have changed all this. Rather do I believe that our Great Maker
is preparing the world, in His own good time, to become one nation, speaking
one language, and when armies and navies will be no longer required.
My efforts in the future will be directed to the restoration of good
feeling between the different sections of our common country; to the restoration
of our currency to a fixed value as compared with the world's standard
of values--gold--and, if possible, to a par with it; to the construction
of cheap routes of transit throughout the land, to the end that the products
of all may find a market and leave a living remuneration to the producer;
to the maintenance of friendly relations with all our neighbors and with
distant nations; to the reestablishment of our commerce and share in the
carrying trade upon the ocean; to the encouragement of such manufacturing
industries as can be economically pursued in this country, to the end that
the exports of home products and industries may pay for our imports--the
only sure method of returning to and permanently maintaining a specie basis;
to the elevation of labor; and, by a humane course, to bring the aborigines
of the country under the benign influences of education and civilization.
It is either this or war of extermination: Wars of extermination, engaged
in by people pursuing commerce and all industrial pursuits, are expensive
even against the weakest people, and are demoralizing and wicked. Our superiority
of strength and advantages of civilization should make us lenient toward
the Indian. The wrong inflicted upon him should be taken into account and
the balance placed to his credit. The moral view of the question should
be considered and the question asked, Can not the Indian be made a useful
and productive member of society by proper teaching and treatment? If the
effort is made in good faith, we will stand better before the civilized
nations of the earth and in our own consciences for having made it.
All these things are not to be accomplished by one individual, but they
will receive my support and such recommendations to Congress as will in
my judgment best serve to carry them into effect. I beg your support and
It has been, and is, my earnest desire to correct abuses that have grown
up in the civil service of the country. To secure this reformation rules
regulating methods of appointment and promotions were established and have
been tried. My efforts for such reformation shall be continued to the best
of my judgment. The spirit of the rules adopted will be maintained.
I acknowledge before this assemblage, representing, as it does, every
section of our country, the obligation I am under to my countrymen for
great honor they have conferred on me by returning me to the highest office
within their gift, and the further obligation resting on me to render to
them the best services within my power. This I promise, looking forward
with the greatest anxiety to the day when I shall be released from responsibilities
that at times are almost overwhelming, and from which I have scarcely had
a respite since the eventful firing upon Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, to
the present day. My services were then tendered and accepted under the
first call for troops growing out of that event.
I did not ask for place or position, and was entirely without influence
or the acquaintance of persons of influence, but was resolved to perform
my part in a struggle threatening the very existence of the nation. I performed
a conscientious duty, without asking promotion or command, and without
a revengeful feeling toward any section or individual.
Notwithstanding this, throughout the war, and from my candidacy for
my present office in 1868 to the close of the last Presidential campaign,
I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political
history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in view of
your verdict, which I gratefully accept as my vindication.