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Mr. President, we have been warned, by a picture of the evils produced by the French revolution, to forbear to amend our constitution ; for what end I am at a loss to conjecture. Sir, how are these arguments intended to apply to the people of the United States ? If the state of national information in France, has disqualified the great mass of that nation for the enjoyment of self-government, does it therefore follow, that the people of America are disqualified for self-government? If this state adapts the French nation for the species of government now existing in France, does it follow, that we are adapted for a similar government ? Sir, it is our superior degree of national knowledge, which enables us safely to use national opinion as an element of government. This is evinced by facts. In France, constitutions were several times made and amended, without producing good effect; in America, constitutions have been, in many instances, perhaps to the extent of sixty or seventy, made, repeated and amended, without producing the least disturbance or evil effects in a single case. Changes in France, were often for the worse; here, generally, and perhaps constantly, for the better. It is because the public will is here rooted in a sufficient degree of public knowledge, to preserve a moderate and free government. Shall we sacrifice this will, and the right to amend our constitutions, to a species of metaphysical idolatry, although we owe to these sources all the prosperity and happiness we now possess ? For the doctrine, « that it is a species of political sacrilege to amend constitutions, and that the people should be jealous of every such attempt,” is precisely the best means to destroy the right in the people to do so. It is a doctrine levelled against the people themselves, under the predominance of whose will the right can only be exercised; and tending to throw this mode of national self-defence against the arts of avarice and ambition, into the back ground; whilst these foes can carry on their encroachments upon liberty and property, by
form of law. Let not, then, sir, the people of the United States be deterred from exercising their right to alter their constitutions, so frequently and so successfully exercised, by a picture of the French revolution.
Finally, Mr. President, this amendment receives my approbation and support, because I think it conformable to public opinion, evidently the special recommendation of sundry states, and a concurrence of a great majority of the representatives of the people in the other House; because it accords with the principle of self-government, that this expression of the public will should be obeyed, that the right of the nation to amend the form of its government, should, upon that ground, be solemnly recognized; because elections, the result of preference, are more consistent with moral rectitude, than those influenced or guided by intrigue, party artifice, or the intrigues of diets; and because it was the intention of the constitution, that the election of a President and vice president should be determined by a fair expression of the public will by a majority, and not that this intention should be defeated by the subsequent occurrence of a state of parties, neither foreseen nor contemplated by the constitution or those who made it.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
DELIVERED MARCH 4, 1805.
PROCEEDING, fellow-citizens, to that qualification which the constitution requires, before my entrance on the charge again conferred on me, it is my duty to express the deep sense I entertain of this new proof of confidence from my fellow-citizens at large, and the zeal with which it inspires me, so to conduct myself as may best satisfy their just expectations.
On taking this station on a former occasion, I declared the principles on which I believed it my duty to administer the affairs of our commonwealth. My conscience tells me that I have, on every occasion, acted up to that declaration, according to its obvious import, and to the understanding of every candid mind.
İn the transaction of your foreign affairs, we have endeavored to cultivate the friendship of all nations, and especially of those with which we have the most important relations. We have done them justice on all occasions, favored where favor was lawful, and cherished mutual interests and intercourse on fair and equal terms. We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations, as with individuals. our interests, soundly calculated, will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties; and history bears witness to the fact that a just nation is trusted on its
word, when resource is had to armaments and wars to bridle others.
At home, fellow-citizens, you best know whether we have done well or ill. The suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expenses, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. These covering our land with officers, and opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation, which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of produce and property. If among these taxes some minor ones fell which had not been inconvenient, it was because their amount would not have paid the officers who collected them, and because, if they had any merit, the state authorities might adopt them, instead of others less approved.
The remaining revenue on the consumption of foreign articles, is paid cheerfully by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts, being collected on our sea-board and frontiers only, and incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it may be the pleasure and the pride of an American to ask-what farmer-what mechanicwhat laborer, ever sees a tax-gatherer of the United States ? These contributions enable us to support the current expenses of the government, to fulfil contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, and to apply such a surplus to our public debts, as places at a short day their final redemption, and that redemption once effected, the revenue thereby liberated, may, by a just repartition among the states, and a corresponding amendment of the constitution, be applied, in time of peace, to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects within each state. In time of war, if injustice by ourselves or others must sometimes produce war, increased as the same revenue will be increased by population and consumption, and aided by other resources reserved for that crisis,
it may meet, within the year, all the expenses of the year, without encroaching on the rights of future generations by burdening them with the debts of the past. War will then be but a suspension of useful works, and a return to a state of peace, a return to the progress of improvement.
I have said, fellow-citizens, that the income reserved, had enabled us to extend our limits; but that extension may possibly pay for itself, before we are called on, and in the mean time may keep down the accruing interest : in all events, it will replace the advances we have made. I know that the acquisition of Louisiana has been disapproved by some, from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our territory would endanger its union. But who can limit the extent to which the federative principle may operate effectively? The larger our association, the less will it be shaken by local passions; and in any view, is it not better that the opposite bank of the Mississippi should be settled by our own brethren and children, than by strangers of another family? With which shall we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse ?
In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the constitution independent of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of state or church authorities acknowledg. ed by the several religious societies.
The aboriginal inhabitants of these countries I have regarded with the commiseration, their history inspires. Endowed with the faculties and the rights of men, breathing an ardent love of liberty and independence, and occupying a country which left them no desire, but to be undisturbed, the stream of overflowing population from other regions, directed itself on these shores. Without power to divert, or habits to contend against, they have been overwhelmed by the