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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 again*! 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 tranfers 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 aud 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 and 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 positions as members of the confederacy within the last week. Our population has tiicreased from three to twenty millions. New communities and States are seeking proiection under its aigis, 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 chuTch and state, and perfect freedom of opinion is guarantied 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 fre'e 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 govern inent 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 heart-burnings 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 wTiich shall tend to favor monopolies, or the peculiar interests of sections or classes, must operate to the prejudice of the interests of their fellow-citizens, and should be avoided. If the compromises of the constitution be preserved,—if sectional jealousies and heart-burnings 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 interest.
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 oiu revolution, and during the war of 1812, have been happily extinguished. By a judicious application of the revenues, hot required for other necessary purposes, it is not doubted that the d-ebt 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 restora-' tion 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 asiume them, yet we cannot but feel a deep interest in