[FoRK] Fwd: James Knox Polk's Inaugural Address, 1845

Joe Barrera joe at barrera.org
Sat Feb 26 20:51:50 PST 2005

For you TMBG fans out there... and others.

"Mister we could use a man like
James K. Polk again... those were the days"

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	James Knox Polk's Inaugural Address, 1845
Date: 	Sat, 26 Feb 2005 20:49:05 -0800
From: 	Joe Barrera <joe at barrera.org>
To: 	tmbg-list at tmbg.org
References: 	<1d6.377b40ac.2f51d9e0 at aol.com>

BTW notice how Union and Confederacy are used interchangeably....


James Knox Polk

The inaugural ceremonies of former Tennessee Governor and Speaker of the 
House James Knox Polk were conducted before a large crowd that stood in 
the pouring rain. The popular politician had been nominated on the ninth 
ballot as his party's candidate. His name had not been in nomination 
until the third polling of the delegates at the national convention. The 
outgoing President Tyler, who had taken office upon the death of William 
Henry Harrison, rode to the Capitol with Mr. Polk. The oath of office 
was administered on the East Portico by Chief Justice Roger Taney. The 
events of the ceremony were telegraphed to Baltimore by Samuel Morse on 
his year-old invention.



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 life than any of my predecessors, 
I can not 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 ought 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-favored land against the 
mischiefs which without His guidance might arise from an unwise public 
policy. With a firm reliance upon the wisdom of Omnipotence to sustain 
and direct me in the path of duty which I am 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 occasion.

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 terms. The Government of the United States is one 
of delegated and limited powers, arid 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 surest 
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 every 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 Government 
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 minorities and majorities, 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 transfers 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 arid individually to seek their own happiness in 
their own way, and the consequences have been most auspicious. Since the 
Union was formed the number of the States has increased from thirteen to 
twenty-eight; two of these have taken their position 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 aegis, 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 
schemes of ambition, usurpation, or conquest, is devoting itself to 
man's true interests in developing his faculties and powers and the 
capacity of nature to minister to his enjoyments. Genius is free to 
announce its inventions and discoveries, and the hand is free to 
accomplish whatever the head conceives not incompatible with the rights 
of a fellow-being. All distinctions of birth or of rank have been 
abolished. All citizens, whether native or adopted, are placed upon 
terms of precise equality. All are entitled to equal rights and equal 
protection. No union exists between church and state, and perfect 
freedom of opinion is guaranteed to all sects and creeds.

These are some of the blessings secured to our happy land by our Federal 
Union. To perpetuate them it is our sacred duty to preserve it. Who 
shall assign limits to the achievements of free minds and free hands 
under the protection of this glorious Union? No treason to mankind since 
the organization of society would be equal in atrocity to that of him 
who would lift his hand to destroy it. He would overthrow the noblest 
structure of human wisdom, which protects himself and his fellow-man. He 
would stop the progress of free government and involve his country 
either in anarchy or despotism. He would extinguish the fire of liberty, 
which warms and animates the hearts of happy millions and invites all 
the nations of the earth to imitate our example. If he say that error 
and wrong are committed in the administration of the Government, let him 
remember that nothing human can be perfect, and that under no other 
system of government revealed by Heaven or devised by man has reason 
been allowed so free and broad a scope to combat error. Has the sword of 
despots proved to be a safer or surer instrument of reform in government 
than enlightened reason? Does he expect to find among the ruins of this 
Union a happier abode for our swarming millions than they now have under 
it? Every lover of his country must shudder at the thought of the 
possibility of its dissolution, and will be ready to adopt the patriotic 
sentiment, "Our Federal Union--it must be preserved." To preserve it the 
compromises which alone enabled our fathers to form a common 
constitution for the government and protection of so many States and 
distinct communities, of such diversified habits, interests, and 
domestic institutions, must be sacredly and religiously observed. Any 
attempt to disturb or destroy these compromises, being terms of the 
compact of union, can lead to none other than the most ruinous and 
disastrous consequences.

It is a source of deep regret that in some sections of our country 
misguided persons have occasionally indulged in schemes and agitations 
whose object is the destruction of domestic institutions existing in 
other sections--institutions which existed at the adoption of the 
Constitution and were recognized and protected by it. All must see that 
if it were possible for them to be successful in attaining their object 
the dissolution of the Union and the consequent destruction of our happy 
form of government must speedily follow.

I am happy to believe that at every period of our existence as a nation 
there has existed, and continues to exist, among the great mass of our 
people a devotion to the Union of the States which will shield and 
protect it against the moral treason of any who would seriously 
contemplate its destruction. To secure a continuance of that devotion 
the compromises of the Constitution must not only be preserved, but 
sectional jealousies and heartburnings must be discountenanced, and all 
should remember that they are members of the same political family, 
having a common destiny. To increase the attachment of our people to the 
Union, our laws should be just. Any policy which shall tend to favor 
monopolies or the peculiar interests of sections or classes must operate 
to the prejudice of the interest of their fellow- citizens, and should 
be avoided. If the compromises of the Constitution be preserved, if 
sectional jealousies and heartburnings be discountenanced, if our laws 
be just and the Government be practically administered strictly within 
the limits of power prescribed to it, we may discard all apprehensions 
for the safety of the Union.

With these views of the nature, character, and objects of the Government 
and the value of the Union, I shall steadily oppose the creation of 
those institutions and systems which in their nature tend to pervert it 
from its legitimate purposes and make it the instrument of sections, 
classes, and individuals. We need no national banks or other extraneous 
institutions planted around the Government to control or strengthen it 
in opposition to the will of its authors. Experience has taught us how 
unnecessary they are as auxiliaries of the public authorities--how 
impotent for good and how powerful for mischief.

Ours was intended to be a plain and frugal government, and I shall 
regard it to be my duty to recommend to Congress and, as far as the 
Executive is concerned, to enforce by all the means within my power the 
strictest economy in the expenditure of the public money which may be 
compatible with the public interests.

A national debt has become almost an institution of European monarchies. 
It is viewed in some of them as an essential prop to existing 
governments. Melancholy is the condition of that people whose government 
can be sustained only by a system which periodically transfers large 
amounts from the labor of the many to the coffers of the few. Such a 
system is incompatible with the ends for which our republican Government 
was instituted. Under a wise policy the debts contracted in our 
Revolution and during the War of 1812 have been happily extinguished. By 
a judicious application of the revenues not required for other necessary 
purposes, it is not doubted that the debt which has grown out of the 
circumstances of the last few years may be speedily paid off.

I congratulate my fellow-citizens on the entire restoration of the 
credit of the General Government of the Union and that of many of the 
States. Happy would it be for the indebted States if they were freed 
from their liabilities, many of which were incautiously contracted. 
Although the Government of the Union is neither in a legal nor a moral 
sense bound for the debts of the States, and it would be a violation of 
our compact of union to assume them, yet we can not but feel a deep 
interest in seeing all the States meet their public liabilities and pay 
off their just debts at the earliest practicable period. That they will 
do so as soon as it can be done without imposing too heavy burdens on 
their citizens there is no reason to doubt. The sound moral and 
honorable feeling of the people of the indebted States can not be 
questioned, and we are happy to perceive a settled disposition on their 
part, as their ability returns after a season of unexampled pecuniary 
embarrassment, to pay off all just demands and to acquiesce in any 
reasonable measures to accomplish that object.

One of the difficulties which we have had to encounter in the practical 
administration of the Government consists in the adjustment of our 
revenue laws and the levy of the taxes necessary for the support of 
Government. In the general proposition that no more money shall be 
collected than the necessities of an economical administration shall 
require all parties seem to acquiesce. Nor does there seem to be any 
material difference of opinion as to the absence of right in the 
Government to tax one section of country, or one class of citizens, or 
one occupation, for the mere profit of another. "Justice and sound 
policy forbid the Federal Government to foster one branch of industry to 
the detriment of another, or to cherish the interests of one portion to 
the injury of another portion of our common country." I have heretofore 
declared to my fellow-citizens that "in my judgment it is the duty of 
the Government to extend, as far as it may be practicable to do so, by 
its revenue laws and all other means within its power, fair and just 
protection to all of the great interests of the whole Union, embracing 
agriculture, manufactures, the mechanic arts, commerce, and navigation." 
I have also declared my opinion to be "in favor of a tariff for 
revenue," and that "in adjusting the details of such a tariff I have 
sanctioned such moderate discriminating duties as would produce the 
amount of revenue needed and at the same time afford reasonable 
incidental protection to our home industry," and that I was "opposed to 
a tariff for protection merely, and not for revenue."

The power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises" was 
an indispensable one to be conferred on the Federal Government, which 
without it would possess no means of providing for its own support. In 
executing this power by levying a tariff of duties for the support of 
Government, the raising of revenue should be the object and protection 
the incident. To reverse this principle and make protection the object 
and revenue the incident would be to inflict manifest injustice upon all 
other than the protected interests. In levying duties for revenue it is 
doubtless proper to make such discriminations within the revenue 
principle as will afford incidental protection to our home interests. 
Within the revenue limit there is a discretion to discriminate; beyond 
that limit the rightful exercise of the power is not conceded. The 
incidental protection afforded to our home interests by discriminations 
within the revenue range it is believed will be ample. In making 
discriminations all our home interests should as far as practicable be 
equally protected. The largest portion of our people are agriculturists. 
Others are employed in manufactures, commerce, navigation, and the 
mechanic arts. They are all engaged in their respective pursuits and 
their joint labors constitute the national or home industry. To tax one 
branch of this home industry for the benefit of another would be unjust. 
No one of these interests can rightfully claim an advantage over the 
others, or to be enriched by impoverishing the others. All are equally 
entitled to the fostering care and protection of the Government. In 
exercising a sound discretion in levying discriminating duties within 
the limit prescribed, care should be taken that it be done in a manner 
not to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the toiling millions by 
taxing lowest the luxuries of life, or articles of superior quality and 
high price, which can only be consumed by the wealthy, and highest the 
necessaries of life, or articles of coarse quality and low price, which 
the poor and great mass of our people must consume. The burdens of 
government should as far as practicable be distributed justly and 
equally among all classes of our population. These general views, long 
entertained on this subject, I have deemed it proper to reiterate. It is 
a subject upon which conflicting interests of sections and occupations 
are supposed to exist, and a spirit of mutual concession and compromise 
in adjusting its details should be cherished by every part of our 
widespread country as the only means of preserving harmony and a 
cheerful acquiescence of all in the operation of our revenue laws. Our 
patriotic citizens in every part of the Union will readily submit to the 
payment of such taxes as shall be needed for the support of their 
Government, whether in peace or in war, if they are so levied as to 
distribute the burdens as equally as possible among them.

The Republic of Texas has made known her desire to come into our Union, 
to form a part of our Confederacy and enjoy with us the blessings of 
liberty secured and guaranteed by our Constitution. Texas was once a 
part of our country--was unwisely ceded away to a foreign power--is now 
independent, and possesses an undoubted right to dispose of a part or 
the whole of her territory and to merge her sovereignty as a separate 
and independent state in ours. I congratulate my country that by an act 
of the late Congress of the United States the assent of this Government 
has been given to the reunion, and it only remains for the two countries 
to agree upon the terms to consummate an object so important to both.

I regard the question of annexation as belonging exclusively to the 
United States and Texas. They are independent powers competent to 
contract, and foreign nations have no right to interfere with them or to 
take exceptions to their reunion. Foreign powers do not seem to 
appreciate the true character of our Government. Our Union is a 
confederation of independent States, whose policy is peace with each 
other and all the world. To enlarge its limits is to extend the 
dominions of peace over additional territories and increasing millions. 
The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government. 
While the Chief Magistrate and the popular branch of Congress are 
elected for short terms by the suffrages of those millions who must in 
their own persons bear all the burdens and miseries of war, our 
Government can not be otherwise than pacific. Foreign powers should 
therefore look on the annexation of Texas to the United States not as 
the conquest of a nation seeking to extend her dominions by arms and 
violence, but as the peaceful acquisition of a territory once her own, 
by adding another member to our confederation, with the consent of that 
member, thereby diminishing the chances of war and opening to them new 
and ever-increasing markets for their products.

To Texas the reunion is important, because the strong protecting arm of 
our Government would be extended over her, and the vast resources of her 
fertile soil and genial climate would be speedily developed, while the 
safety of New Orleans and of our whole southwestern frontier against 
hostile aggression, as well as the interests of the whole Union, would 
be promoted by it.

In the earlier stages of our national existence the opinion prevailed 
with some that our system of confederated States could not operate 
successfully over an extended territory, and serious objections have at 
different times been made to the enlargement of our boundaries. These 
objections were earnestly urged when we acquired Louisiana. Experience 
has shown that they were not well founded. The title of numerous Indian 
tribes to vast tracts of country has been extinguished; new States have 
been admitted into the Union; new Territories have been created and our 
jurisdiction and laws extended over them. As our population has 
expanded, the Union has been cemented and strengthened. AS our 
boundaries have been enlarged and our agricultural population has been 
spread over a large surface, our federative system has acquired 
additional strength and security. It may well be doubted whether it 
would not be in greater danger of overthrow if our present population 
were confined to the comparatively narrow limits of the original 
thirteen States than it is now that they are sparsely settled over a 
more expanded territory. It is confidently believed that our system may 
be safely extended to the utmost bounds of our territorial limits, and 
that as it shall be extended the bonds of our Union, so far from being 
weakened, will become stronger.

None can fail to see the danger to our safety and future peace if Texas 
remains an independent state or becomes an ally or dependency of some 
foreign nation more powerful than herself. Is there one among our 
citizens who would not prefer perpetual peace with Texas to occasional 
wars, which so often occur between bordering independent nations? Is 
there one who would not prefer free intercourse with her to high duties 
on all our products and manufactures which enter her ports or cross her 
frontiers? Is there one who would not prefer an unrestricted 
communication with her citizens to the frontier obstructions which must 
occur if she remains out of the Union? Whatever is good or evil in the 
local institutions of Texas will remain her own whether annexed to the 
United States or not. None of the present States will be responsible for 
them any more than they are for the local institutions of each other. 
They have confederated together for certain specified objects. Upon the 
same principle that they would refuse to form a perpetual union with 
Texas because of her local institutions our forefathers would have been 
prevented from forming our present Union. Perceiving no valid objection 
to the measure and many reasons for its adoption vitally affecting the 
peace, the safety, and the prosperity of both countries, I shall on the 
broad principle which formed the basis and produced the adoption of our 
Constitution, and not in any narrow spirit of sectional policy, endeavor 
by all constitutional, honorable, and appropriate means to consummate 
the expressed will of the people and Government of the United States by 
the reannexation of Texas to our Union at the earliest practicable period.

Nor will it become in a less degree my duty to assert and maintain by 
all constitutional means the right of the United States to that portion 
of our territory which lies beyond the Rocky Mountains. Our title to the 
country of the Oregon is "clear and unquestionable," and already are our 
people preparing to perfect that title by occupying it with their wives 
and children. But eighty years ago our population was confined on the 
west by the ridge of the Alleghanies. Within that period--within the 
lifetime, I might say, of some of my hearers--our people, increasing to 
many millions, have filled the eastern valley of the Mississippi, 
adventurously ascended the Missouri to its headsprings, and are already 
engaged in establishing the blessings of self-government in valleys of 
which the rivers flow to the Pacific. The world beholds the peaceful 
triumphs of the industry of our emigrants. To us belongs the duty of 
protecting them adequately wherever they may be upon our soil. The 
jurisdiction of our laws and the benefits of our republican institutions 
should be extended over them in the distant regions which they have 
selected for their homes. The increasing facilities of intercourse will 
easily bring the States, of which the formation in that part of our 
territory can not be long delayed, within the sphere of our federative 
Union. In the meantime every obligation imposed by treaty or 
conventional stipulations should be sacredly respected.

In the management of our foreign relations it will be my aim to observe 
a careful respect for the rights of other nations, while our own will be 
the subject of constant watchfulness. Equal and exact justice should 
characterize all our intercourse with foreign countries. All alliances 
having a tendency to jeopard the welfare and honor of our country or 
sacrifice any one of the national interests will be studiously avoided, 
and yet no opportunity will be lost to cultivate a favorable 
understanding with foreign governments by which our navigation and 
commerce may be extended and the ample products of our fertile soil, as 
well as the manufactures of our skillful artisans, find a ready market 
and remunerating prices in foreign countries.

In taking "care that the laws be faithfully executed," a strict 
performance of duty will be exacted from all public officers. From those 
officers, especially, who are charged with the collection and 
disbursement of the public revenue will prompt and rigid accountability 
be required. Any culpable failure or delay on their part to account for 
the moneys intrusted to them at the times and in the manner required by 
law will in every instance terminate the official connection of such 
defaulting officer with the Government.

Although in our country the Chief Magistrate must almost of necessity be 
chosen by a party and stand pledged to its principles and measures, yet 
in his official action he should not be the President of a part only, 
but of the whole people of the United States. While he executes the laws 
with an impartial hand, shrinks from no proper responsibility, and 
faithfully carries out in the executive department of the Government the 
principles and policy of those who have chosen him, he should not be 
unmindful that our fellow-citizens who have differed with him in opinion 
are entitled to the full and free exercise of their opinions and 
judgments, and that the rights of all are entitled to respect and regard.

Confidently relying upon the aid and assistance of the coordinate 
departments of the Government in conducting our public affairs, I enter 
upon the discharge of the high duties which have been assigned me by the 
people, again humbly supplicating that Divine Being who has watched over 
and protected our beloved country from its infancy to the present hour 
to continue His gracious benedictions upon us, that we may continue to 
be a prosperous and happy people.

That girl became the spring wind
She flew somewhere, far away
Undoing her hair, lying down, in her sleep
She becomes the wind.

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