First Inaugural Address of Andrew Jackson
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 1829
About to undertake the arduous duties that I have been appointed to
perform by the choice of a free people, I avail myself of this customary
and solemn occasion to express the gratitude which their confidence inspires
and to acknowledge the accountability which my situation enjoins. While
the magnitude of their interests convinces me that no thanks can be adequate
to the honor they have conferred, it admonishes me that the best return
I can make is the zealous dedication of my humble abilities to their service
and their good.
As the instrument of the Federal Constitution it will devolve on me
for a stated period to execute the laws of the United States, to superintend
their foreign and their confederate relations, to manage their revenue,
to command their forces, and, by communications to the Legislature, to
watch over and to promote their interests generally. And the principles
of action by which I shall endeavor to accomplish this circle of duties
it is now proper for me briefly to explain.
In administering the laws of Congress I shall keep steadily in view
the limitations as well as the extent of the Executive power trusting thereby
to discharge the functions of my office without transcending its authority.
With foreign nations it will be my study to preserve peace and to cultivate
friendship on fair and honorable terms, and in the adjustment of any differences
that may exist or arise to exhibit the forbearance becoming a powerful
nation rather than the sensibility belonging to a gallant people.
In such measures as I may be called on to pursue in regard to the rights
of the separate States I hope to be animated by a proper respect for those
sovereign members of our Union, taking care not to confound the powers
they have reserved to themselves with those they have granted to the Confederacy.
The management of the public revenue--that searching operation in all
governments--is among the most delicate and important trusts in ours, and
it will, of course, demand no inconsiderable share of my official solicitude.
Under every aspect in which it can be considered it would appear that advantage
must result from the observance of a strict and faithful economy. This
I shall aim at the more anxiously both because it will facilitate the extinguishment
of the national debt, the unnecessary duration of which is incompatible
with real independence, and because it will counteract that tendency to
public and private profligacy which a profuse expenditure of money by the
Government is but too apt to engender. Powerful auxiliaries to the attainment
of this desirable end are to be found in the regulations provided by the
wisdom of Congress for the specific appropriation of public money and the
prompt accountability of public officers.
With regard to a proper selection of the subjects of impost with a view
to revenue, it would seem to me that the spirit of equity, caution and
compromise in which the Constitution was formed requires that the great
interests of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures should be equally
favored, and that perhaps the only exception to this rule should consist
in the peculiar encouragement of any products of either of them that may
be found essential to our national independence.
Internal improvement and the diffusion of knowledge, so far as they
can be promoted by the constitutional acts of the Federal Government, are
of high importance.
Considering standing armies as dangerous to free governments in time
of peace, I shall not seek to enlarge our present establishment, nor disregard
that salutary lesson of political experience which teaches that the military
should be held subordinate to the civil power. The gradual increase of
our Navy, whose flag has displayed in distant climes our skill in navigation
and our fame in arms; the preservation of our forts, arsenals, and dockyards,
and the introduction of progressive improvements in the discipline and
science of both branches of our military service are so plainly prescribed
by prudence that I should be excused for omitting their mention sooner
than for enlarging on their importance. But the bulwark of our defense
is the national militia, which in the present state of our intelligence
and population must render us invincible. As long as our Government is
administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will;
as long as it secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty
of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending; and so long
as it is worth defending a patriotic militia will cover it with an impenetrable
aegis. Partial injuries and occasional mortifications we may be subjected
to, but a million of armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can
never be conquered by a foreign foe. To any just system, therefore, calculated
to strengthen this natural safeguard of the country I shall cheerfully
lend all the aid in my power.
It will be my sincere and constant desire to observe toward the Indian
tribes within our limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that humane
and considerate attention to their rights and their wants which is consistent
with the habits of our Government and the feelings of our people.
The recent demonstration of public sentiment inscribes on the list of
Executive duties, in characters too legible to be overlooked, the task
of reform, which will require particularly the correction of those abuses
that have brought the patronage of the Federal Government into conflict
with the freedom of elections, and the counteraction of those causes which
have disturbed the rightful course of appointment and have placed or continued
power in unfaithful or incompetent hands.
In the performance of a task thus generally delineated I shall endeavor
to select men whose diligence and talents will insure in their respective
stations able and faithful cooperation, depending for the advancement of
the public service more on the integrity and zeal of the public officers
than on their numbers.
A diffidence, perhaps too just, in my own qualifications will teach
me to look with reverence to the examples of public virtue left by my illustrious
predecessors, and with veneration to the lights that flow from the mind
that founded and the mind that reformed our system. The same diffidence
induces me to hope for instruction and aid from the coordinate branches
of the Government, and for the indulgence and support of my fellow-citizens
generally. And a firm reliance on the goodness of that Power whose providence
mercifully protected our national infancy, and has since upheld our liberties
in various vicissitudes, encourages me to offer up my ardent supplications
that He will continue to make our beloved country the object of His divine
care and gracious benediction.