Citizens of the United States:
YOUR suffrages having elected me to the office of President of the
United States, I have, in conformity to the Constitution of our country,
taken the oath of office prescribed therein. I have taken this oath
without mental reservation and with the determination to do to the best
of my ability all that is required of me. The responsibilities of the
position I feel, but accept them without fear. The office has come to me
unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious
desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the
satisfaction of the people.
On all leading questions agitating the public mind I will always express
my views to Congress and urge them according to my judgment, and when I
think it advisable will exercise the constitutional privilege of
interposing a veto to defeat measures which I oppose; but all laws will
be faithfully executed, whether they meet my approval or not.
I shall on all subjects have a policy to recommend, but none to enforce
against the will of the people. Laws are to govern all alike—those
opposed as well as those who favor them. I know no method to secure the
repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent
The country having just emerged from a great rebellion, many questions
will come before it for settlement in the next four years which
preceding Administrations have never had to deal with. In meeting these
it is desirable that they should be approached calmly, without
prejudice, hate, or sectional pride, remembering that the greatest good
to the greatest number is the object to be attained.
This requires security of person, property, and free religious and
political opinion in every part of our common country, without regard to
local prejudice. All laws to secure these ends will receive my best
efforts for their enforcement.
A great debt has been contracted in securing to us and our posterity the
Union. The payment of this, principal and interest, as well as the
return to a specie basis as soon as it can be accomplished without
material detriment to the debtor class or to the country at large, must
be provided for. To protect the national honor, every dollar of
Government indebtedness should be paid in gold, unless otherwise
expressly stipulated in the contract. Let it be understood that no
repudiator of one farthing of our public debt will be trusted in public
place, and it will go far toward strengthening a credit which ought to
be the best in the world, and will ultimately enable us to replace the
debt with bonds bearing less interest than we now pay. To this should be
added a faithful collection of the revenue, a strict accountability to
the Treasury for every dollar collected, and the greatest practicable
retrenchment in expenditure in every department of Government.
When we compare the paying capacity of the country now, with the ten
States in poverty from the effects of war, but soon to emerge, I trust,
into greater prosperity than ever before, with its paying capacity
twenty-five years ago, and calculate what it probably will be
twenty-five years hence, who can doubt the feasibility of paying every
dollar then with more ease than we now pay for useless luxuries? Why, it
looks as though Providence had bestowed upon us a strong box in the
precious metals locked up in the sterile mountains of the far West, and
which we are now forging the key to unlock, to meet the very contingency
that is now upon us.
Ultimately it may be necessary to insure the facilities to reach these
riches and it may be necessary also that the General Government should
give its aid to secure this access; but that should only be when a
dollar of obligation to pay secures precisely the same sort of dollar to
use now, and not before. Whilst the question of specie payments is in
abeyance the prudent business man is careful about contracting debts
payable in the distant future. The nation should follow the same rule. A
prostrate commerce is to be rebuilt and all industries encouraged.
The young men of the country—those who from their age must be its rulers
twenty-five years hence—have a peculiar interest in maintaining the
national honor. A moment's reflection as to what will be our commanding
influence among the nations of the earth in their day, if they are only
true to themselves, should inspire them with national pride. All
divisions—geographical, political, and religious—can join in this common
sentiment. How the public debt is to be paid or specie payments resumed
is not so important as that a plan should be adopted and acquiesced in.
A united determination to do is worth more than divided counsels upon
the method of doing. Legislation upon this subject may not be necessary
now, or even advisable, but it will be when the civil law is more fully
restored in all parts of the country and trade resumes its wonted
It will be my endeavor to execute all laws in good faith, to collect all
revenues assessed, and to have them properly accounted for and
economically disbursed. I will to the best of my ability appoint to
office those only who will carry out this design.
In regard to foreign policy, I would deal with nations as equitable law
requires individuals to deal with each other, and I would protect the
law-abiding citizen, whether of native or foreign birth, wherever his
rights are jeopardized or the flag of our country floats. I would
respect the rights of all nations, demanding equal respect for our own.
If others depart from this rule in their dealings with us, we may be
compelled to follow their precedent.
The proper treatment of the original occupants of this land—the Indians
one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course toward them
which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship.
The question of suffrage is one which is likely to agitate the public so
long as a portion of the citizens of the nation are excluded from its
privileges in any State. It seems to me very desirable that this
question should be settled now, and I entertain the hope and express the
desire that it may be by the ratification of the fifteenth article of
amendment to the Constitution.
In conclusion I ask patient forbearance one toward another throughout
the land, and a determined effort on the part of every citizen to do his
share toward cementing a happy union; and I ask the prayers of the
nation to Almighty God in behalf of this consummation.