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lesson; that an implicit and undeviating adherence to the principles on which we set out can carry us prosper. ously onward through all the conflicts of circumstances, and the vicissitudes inseparable from the lapse of years. The success that has thus attended our great experiment, is, itself, sufficient cause for gratitude, on account of the happiness it has actually conferred, and the example it has unanswerably given. But to me, my fel. low-citizens, looking forward to the far distant future, with ardent prayers and confiding hopes, this retrospect presents a ground for still deeper delight. It impresses on my mind a firm belief that the perpetuity of our institutions depends upon themselves; that, if we maintain the principles on which they were established, they are destined to confer their benefits on countless generations yet to come; and that America will present to every friend of mankind the cheering proof, that a popular government, wisely formed, is wanting in no element of endurance or strength. Fifty years ago its rapid failure was predicted. Latent and uncontrollable causes of dissolution were supposed to exist, even by the wise and good; and not only did unfriendly or speculative theorists anticipate for us the fate of past republics, but the fear of many an honest patriot overbalanced his sanguine hopes. Look back on these forebodings, not hastily, but reluctantly made, and see how, in every instance, they have completely failed.
An imperfect experience, during the struggles of the revolution, was supposed to warrant a belief that the people would not bear the taxation requisite to the discharge of an immense public debt already incurred, and to defray the necessary expenses of government. The cost of two wars has been paid, not only without a murmur, but with unequalled alacrity. No one is now left to doubt that every burden will be cheerfully borne that may be necessary to sustain our civil institutions, or guard our honor or our welfare. Indeed, all experience has shown that the willingness of the people to contribute to these ends, in cases of emergency, has uniformly outrun the confidence of their representatives.
In the early stages of the new government, when all felt the imposing influence, as they recognized the unequalled services of the first President, it was a coinmon sentiment, that the great weight of his character could alone bind the discordant materials of our government together, and save us from the violence of contending factions. Since his death, nearly forty years are gone. Party exasperation has been often carried to its highest point; the virtue and fortitude of the people have some. times been greatly tried; yet our system, purified and enhanced in value by all it has encountered, still preserves its spirit of free and fearless discussion, blended with unimpaired fraternal feeling.
The capacity of the people for self-government, and their willingness from a high sense of duty, and without those exhibitions of coercive power so generally employed in other countries, to submit to all needsul restraints and exactions of the municipal law, have also been favor. ably exemplified in the history of the American states. Occasionally it is true, the ardor of public sentiment, outrunning the regular process of the judicial tribunals, or seeking to reach cases not denounced as criminal by the existing law, has displayed itself in a manner calculated to give pain to the friends of free government, and to encourage the hopes of those who wish for its overtlırow. These occurrences, however, have been less frequent in our country than any other of equal population on the globe; and with the diffusion of intelligence, it may well be hoped that they will constantly diminish in frequency and violence. The generous patriotism and sound common sense of the great mass of our fellow-citizens, will assuredly, in time, produce this result; for as every assumption of illegal power not only wounds the majesty of the law, but furnishes a pretext for abridging the liberties of the people, the latter have the most direct and permanent interest in preserving the great landmarks of social order, and maintaining, on all occasions, the inviolability of those constitutional and legal provisions which they themselves have made.
In a supposed unfitness of our institutions for those hostile emergencies which no country can always avoid, their friends found a fruitful source of apprehension
their enemies of hope. While they forsaw less promptness of action than in governments differently formed, they overlooked the far more important considerations, that with us war could never be the result of individual or irresponsible will, but must be a measure of redress for injuries sustained, voluntarily resorted to by those who were to bear the necessary sacrifice, who would consequently seel an individual interest in the contest, and whose energy
would be commensurate with the difficulties to be encountered. Actual events have proved their error : the last war, far from impairing, gave new confidence to our government; and amid recent apprehensions of a similar conflict, we saw that the energies of our country would not be wanting in ample season to vindicate its rights. We may not possess, as we should not desire to possess, the extended and ever ready military organization of other nations; we may occasionally suffer in the outset for the want of it, but, among ourselves, all doubt upon this great point has ceased, while a salutary experience will prevent a contrary opinion from in. viting aggression from abroad.
Certain danger was foretold from the extension of our territory, the multiplication of states, and the increase of population. Our system was supposed to be adapted only to boundaries comparatively narrow. These have been widened beyond conjecture ; the members of our confederacy are already doubled; and the numbers of our people are incredibly augmented. The alleged causes of danger have long surpassed anticipation, but none of the consequences have followed. The power and influence of the republic have risen to a height obvious to all mankind ; respect for its authority was not more apparent at its ancient than it is at its present limits; new and inexhaustible sources of general prosperity have been opened; the effects of distance have been averted by the inventive genius of our people, developed and fostered by the spirit of our institutions; and the large variety and amount of interests, productions, and pursuits, have strengthened the chain of mutual dependence, and formed a circle of mutual benefits, too apparent ever to be overlooked.
In justly balancing the powers of the federal and state authorities, difficulties nearly insurmountable arose at the outset, and subsequent collisions were deemed inevitable. Amid these, it was scarcely believed possible that a scheme of government so complex in construction, could remain uninjured. From time to time, embarrassments have certainly occurred; but how just is the confidence of future safety imparted by the knowledge that each in succession has been happily removed. Overlooking partial and temporary evils as inseparable from the practical operation of all human institutions, and looking only to the general result, every patriot has reason to be satisfied. While the federal government has successfully performed its appropriate functions in relation to foreign affairs, and concerns evidently national, that of every state has remarkably improved in protecting and developing local interests and individual welfare ; and if the vibrations of authority have occasionally tended too much towards one or other, it is unquestionably certain that the ultimate operation of the entire system has been to strengthen all the existing institutions, and to elevate our whole country in prosperity and renown.
The last, perhaps the greatest, of the prominent sources of discord and disaster supposed to lurk in our political condition, was the institution of domestic slavery. Our forefathers were deeply impressed with the delicacy of this subject, and they treated it with a forbearance so evidently wise, that, in spite of every sinister foreboding, it never, until the present period, disturbed the tranquillity of our common country. Such a result is sufficient evidence of the justice and the patriotism of their course; it is evident not to be mistaken, that an adherence to it can prevent all embarrassment from this, as well as every other anticipated cause of difficulty or danger. Have not recent events made it obvious to the slightest reflection, that the least deviation from this spirit of forbearance is injurious to every interest, that of humanity included ?
Amidst the violence of excited passions, this generous and fraternal feeling has been sometimes disregarded ; and standing as I now do before my countrymen, in this high place of honor and trust, I cannot refrain from anxiously invoking my fellow-citizens never to be deaf to its dic.
tates. Perceiving, before my election, the deep interest this subject was beginning to excite, I believed it a solemn duty fully to make known my sentiments in regard to it; and now, when every motive for misrepresentation has passed away, I trust that they will be candidly weighed and understood. At least they will be my standard of conduct in the path before me. I then declared that, if the desire of those of my countrymen who were favorable to my election was gratified, “I must go into the presi. dential chair the inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt, on the part of Congress, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, against the wishes of the slaveholding states; and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the states where it exists." I submitted also to my sellow-citizens, with fulness and frankness, the reasons which led me to this determination. The result authorizes me to believe that they have been approved, and are confided in by a majority of the people of the United States, including those whom they most immediately affect. It now only remains to add, that no bill conflicting with these views can ever receive my constitutional sanction. These opinions have been adopted in the firm belief that they are in accordance with the spirit that actuated the venerated fathers of the republic, and that succeeding experience has proved them to be humane, patriotic, expedient, honorable and just. If the agitation of this subject was intended to reach the stability of our institutions, enough has occurred to show that it has signally failed; and that in this, as in every other instance, the apprehen. sions of the timid and the hopes of the wicked for the destruction of our government, are again destined to be disappointed. Here and there, indeed, scenes of dangerous excitement have occurred; terrifying instances of local violence have been witnessed; and a reckless disre. gard of the consequences of their conduct has exposed individuals to popular indignation ; but neither masses of the people nor sections of country have swerved from their devotion to the bond of union, and the principles it has made sacred. It will be ever thus. Such attempts at agitation may periodically return, but with each the