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.
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
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.
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 t o 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.
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.
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 les son 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 imp rovements 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 per son 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.
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.
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.
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.