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Page 982


Proceeding, fellow-citizens, to that qualification which the Constitution requires before
my entrance on the charge again conferred upon 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.

In 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, favor 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 taken on its word, when recourse 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 seaboard
and frontiers only, and incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it May
be the pleasure and pride of an American to ask, what farmer, what mechanic, what 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 repay 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 and Church authorities acknowledged
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 current, or driven before it. Now reduced within limits too narrow for the hunter
state, humanity enjoins us to teach them agriculture and the domestic arts, to encourage them
to that industry which alone can enable them to maintain their place in existence, and to
prepare them, in time, for that state of society which to bodily comforts adds the improvement
of the mind and morals. We have, therefore, liberally furnished them with the implements
of husbandry and household use; we have placed among them instructors in the arts of first
necessity; and they are covered with the ægis of the law against aggressors from among ourselves.

But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their present course of life,
to induce them to exercise their reason, follow its dictates, and change their pursuits with
the change of circumstances, have powerful obstacles to encounter. They are combated by
the habits of their bodies, prejudice of their minds, ignorance, pride, and the influence of
interested and crafty individuals among them, who feel themselves something in the present
order of things, and fear to become nothing in any other. These persons inculcate a sanctimonious
reverence for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did must be done


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through all time; that reason is a false guide, and to advance under its counsel in their physical,
moral, or political conditions, is perilous innovation; that their duty is to remain as their
Creator made them—ignorance being safety, and knowledge full of danger. In short, my
friends, among them is seen the action and counteraction of good sense and bigotry. They,
too, have their anti-philosophers, who find an interest in keeping things in their present state,
who dread reformation, and exert all their faculties to maintain the ascendency of habit over
the duty of improving our reason and obeying its mandates.

In giving these outlines, I do not mean, fellow-citizens, to arrogate to myself the merit
of the measures; that is due, in the first place, to the reflecting character of our citizens at
large, who, by the weight of public opinion, influence and strengthen the public measures.
It is due to the sound discretion with which they select from among themselves those to whom
they confide the legislative duties. It is due to the zeal and wisdom of the characters thus
selected, who lay the foundations of public happiness in wholesome laws, the execution of
which alone remains for others. And it is due to the able and faithful auxiliaries whose
patriotism has associated with me in the executive functions.

During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press
has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare.
These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted,
inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety. They might, indeed, have
been corrected by the wholesome punishments reserved and provided by the laws of the several
States against falsehood and defamation; but public duties more urgent press on the time of
public servants, and the offenders have therefore been left to find their punishment in the public

Nor was it uninteresting to the world, that an experiment should be fairly and fully
made, whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power, is not sufficient for the propagation
and protection of truth? Whether a government, conducting itself in the true spirit of its
constitution, with zeal and purity, and doing no act which it would be unwilling the whole
world should witness, can be written down by falsehood and defamation? The experiment
has been tried. You have witnessed the scene. Our fellow-citizens have looked on cool and
collected. They saw the latent source from which these outrages proceeded. They gathered
around their public functionaries; and, when the Constitution called them to the decision
by suffrage, they pronounced their verdict, honorable to those who had served them, and consolatory
to the friend of man, who believes he may be intrusted with his own affairs.

No inference is here intended that the laws provided by the State against false and defamatory
publications should not be enforced. He who has time, renders a service to public
morals and public tranquillity in reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law.
But the experiment is noted to prove that, since truth and reason have maintained their ground
against false opinions, in league with false facts, the press, confined to truth, needs no other
legal restraint. The public judgment will correct false reasonings and opinions, on a full
hearing of all parties; and no other definite line can be drawn between the inestimable liberty
of the press and its demoralizing licentiousness. If there be still improprieties which this
rule would not restrain, its supplement must be sought in the censorship of public opinion.

Contemplating the union of sentiment now manifested so generally, as auguring harmony
and happiness to our future course, I offer to our country sincere, congratulations. With
those, too, not yet rallied to the same point, the disposition to do so is gaining strength.
Facts are piercing through the veil drawn over them; and our doubting brethren will at length
see that the mass of their fellow-citizens, with whom they cannot yet resolve to act, as to
principles and measures, think as they think, and desire what they desire; that our wish, as
well as theirs, is, that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good, that
peace be cultivated, civil and religious liberty unassailed, law and order preserved, equality
of rights maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man
from his own industry, or that of his father's. When satisfied of these views, it is not in human
nature that they should not approve and support them. In the meantime, let us cherish them
with patient affection; let us do them justice, and more than justice, in all competitions of
interest,—and we need not doubt that truth, reason, and their own interests, will at length
prevail—will gather them into the fold of their country, and will complete their entire union
of opinion which gives to a nation the blessing of harmony, and the benefit of all its strength.

I shall now enter on the duties to which my fellow-citizens have again called me, and
shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which they have approved. I fear not that any
motives of interest may lead me astray. I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me,
knowingly, from the path of justice; but the weaknesses of human nature, and the limits
of my own understanding, will produce errors of judgment sometimes injurious to your interests.
I shall need, therefore, all the indulgence I have heretofore experienced, the
want of it will certainly not lessen with increasing years. I shall need, too, the favor of that
Being in whose hands we are; who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land,
and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has
covered our infancy with His providence, and our riper years with His wisdom and power; and to
whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications, that He will so enlighten the minds
of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do
shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all
viii, 40. Ford ed., viii, 341. (March 4, 1805.)