IN obedience of the mandate of my countrymen I am about to dedicate
myself to their service under the sanction of a solemn oath. Deeply
moved by the expression of confidence and personal attachment which has
called me to this service, I am sure my gratitude can make no better
return than the pledge I now give before God and these witnesses of
unreserved and complete devotion to the interests and welfare of those
who have honored me.
I deem it fitting on this occasion, while indicating the opinion I hold
concerning public questions of present importance, to also briefly refer
to the existence of certain conditions and tendencies among our people
which seem to menace the integrity and usefulness of their Government.
While every American citizen must contemplate with the utmost pride and
enthusiasm the growth and expansion of our country, the sufficiency of
our institutions to stand against the rudest shocks of violence, the
wonderful thrift and enterprise of our people, and the demonstrated
superiority of our free government, it behooves us to constantly watch
for every symptom of insidious infirmity that threatens our national
The strong man who in the confidence of sturdy health courts the
sternest activities of life and rejoices in the hardihood of constant
labor may still have lurking near his vitals the unheeded disease that
dooms him to sudden collapse.
It can not be doubted that our stupendous achievements as a people and
our country's robust strength have given rise to heedlessness of those
laws governing our national health which we can no more evade than human
life can escape the laws of God and nature.
Manifestly nothing is more vital to our supremacy as a nation and to the
beneficent purposes of our Government than a sound and stable currency.
Its exposure to degradation should at once arouse to activity the most
enlightened statesmanship, and the danger of depreciation in the
purchasing power of the wages paid to toil should furnish the strongest
incentive to prompt and conservative precaution.
In dealing with our present embarrassing situation as related to this
subject we will be wise if we temper our confidence and faith in our
national strength and resources with the frank concession that even
these will not permit us to defy with impunity the inexorable laws of
finance and trade. At the same time, in our efforts to adjust
differences of opinion we should be free from intolerance or passion,
and our judgments should be unmoved by alluring phrases and unvexed by
I am confident that such an approach to the subject will result in
prudent and effective remedial legislation. In the meantime, so far as
the executive branch of the Government can intervene, none of the powers
with which it is invested will be withheld when their exercise is deemed
necessary to maintain our national credit or avert financial disaster.
Closely related to the exaggerated confidence in our country's greatness
which tends to a disregard of the rules of national safety, another
danger confronts us not less serious. I refer to the prevalence of a
popular disposition to expect from the operation of the Government
especial and direct individual advantages.
The verdict of our voters which condemned the injustice of maintaining
protection for protection's sake enjoins upon the people's servants the
duty of exposing and destroying the brood of kindred evils which are the
unwholesome progeny of paternalism. This is the bane of republican
institutions and the constant peril of our government by the people. It
degrades to the purposes of wily craft the plan of rule our fathers
established and bequeathed to us as an object of our love and
veneration. It perverts the patriotic sentiments of our countrymen and
tempts them to pitiful calculation of the sordid gain to be derived from
their Government's maintenance. It undermines the self-reliance of our
people and substitutes in its place dependence upon governmental
favoritism. It stifles the spirit of true Americanism and stupefies
every ennobling trait of American citizenship.
The lessons of paternalism ought to be unlearned and the better lesson
taught that while the people should patriotically and cheerfully support
their Government its functions do not include the support of the people.
The acceptance of this principle leads to a refusal of bounties and
subsidies, which burden the labor and thrift of a portion of our
citizens to aid ill-advised or languishing enterprises in which they
have no concern. It leads also to a challenge of wild and reckless
pension expenditure, which overleaps the bounds of grateful recognition
of patriotic service and prostitutes to vicious uses the people's prompt
and generous impulse to aid those disabled in their country's defense.
Every thoughtful American must realize the importance of checking at its
beginning any tendency in public or private station to regard frugality
and economy as virtues which we may safely outgrow. The toleration of
this idea results in the waste of the people's money by their chosen
servants and encourages prodigality and extravagance in the home life of
Under our scheme of government the waste of public money is a crime
against the citizen, and the contempt of our people for economy and
frugality in their personal affairs deplorably saps the strength and
sturdiness of our national character.
It is a plain dictate of honesty and good government that public
expenditures should be limited by public necessity, and that this should
be measured by the rules of strict economy; and it is equally clear that
frugality among the people is the best guaranty of a contented and
strong support of free institutions.
One mode of the misappropriation of public funds is avoided when
appointments to office, instead of being the rewards of partisan
activity, are awarded to those whose efficiency promises a fair return
of work for the compensation paid to them. To secure the fitness and
competency of appointees to office and remove from political action the
demoralizing madness for spoils, civil-service reform has found a place
in our public policy and laws. The benefits already gained through this
instrumentality and the further usefulness it promises entitle it to the
hearty support and encouragement of all who desire to see our public
service well performed or who hope for the elevation of political
sentiment and the purification of political methods.
The existence of immense aggregations of kindred enterprises and
combinations of business interests formed for the purpose of limiting
production and fixing prices is inconsistent with the fair field which
ought to be open to every independent activity. Legitimate strife in
business should not be superseded by an enforced concession to the
demands of combinations that have the power to destroy, nor should the
people to be served lose the benefit of cheapness which usually results
from wholesome competition. These aggregations and combinations
frequently constitute conspiracies against the interests of the people,
and in all their phases they are unnatural and opposed to our American
sense of fairness. To the extent that they can be reached and restrained
by Federal power the General Government should relieve our citizens from
their interference and exactions.
Loyalty to the principles upon which our Government rests positively
demands that the equality before the law which it guarantees to every
citizen should be justly and in good faith conceded in all parts of the
land. The enjoyment of this right follows the badge of citizenship
wherever found, and, unimpaired by race or color, it appeals for
recognition to American manliness and fairness.
Our relations with the Indians located within our border impose upon us
responsibilities we can not escape. Humanity and consistency require us
to treat them with forbearance and in our dealings with them to honestly
and considerately regard their rights and interests. Every effort should
be made to lead them, through the paths of civilization and education,
to self-supporting and independent citizenship. In the meantime, as the
nation's wards, they should be promptly defended against the cupidity of
designing men and shielded from every influence or temptation that
retards their advancement.
The people of the United States have decreed that on this day the
control of their Government in its legislative and executive branches
shall be given to a political party pledged in the most positive terms
to the accomplishment of tariff reform. They have thus determined in
favor of a more just and equitable system of Federal taxation. The
agents they have chosen to carry out their purposes are bound by their
promises not less than by the command of their masters to devote
themselves unremittingly to this service.
While there should be no surrender of principle, our task must be
undertaken wisely and without heedless vindictiveness. Our mission is
not punishment, but the rectification of wrong. If in lifting burdens
from the daily life of our people we reduce inordinate and unequal
advantages too long enjoyed, this is but a necessary incident of our
return to right and justice. If we exact from unwilling minds
acquiescence in the theory of an honest distribution of the fund of the
governmental beneficence treasured up for all, we but insist upon a
principle which underlies our free institutions. When we tear aside the
delusions and misconceptions which have blinded our countrymen to their
condition under vicious tariff laws, we but show them how far they have
been led away from the paths of contentment and prosperity. When we
proclaim that the necessity for revenue to support the Government
furnishes the only justification for taxing the people, we announce a
truth so plain that its denial would seem to indicate the extent to
which judgment may be influenced by familiarity with perversions of the
taxing power. And when we seek to reinstate the self-confidence and
business enterprise of our citizens by discrediting an abject dependence
upon governmental favor, we strive to stimulate those elements of
American character which support the hope of American achievement.
Anxiety for the redemption of the pledges which my party has made and
solicitude for the complete justification of the trust the people have
reposed in us constrain me to remind those with whom I am to cooperate
that we can succeed in doing the work which has been especially set
before us only by the most sincere, harmonious, and disinterested
effort. Even if insuperable obstacles and opposition prevent the
consummation of our task, we shall hardly be excused; and if failure can
be traced to our fault or neglect we may be sure the people will hold us
to a swift and exacting accountability.
The oath I now take to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of
the United States not only impressively defines the great responsibility
I assume, but suggests obedience to constitutional commands as the rule
by which my official conduct must be guided. I shall to the best of my
ability and within my sphere of duty preserve the Constitution by
loyally protecting every grant of Federal power it contains, by
defending all its restraints when attacked by impatience and
restlessness, and by enforcing its limitations and reservations in favor
of the States and the people.
Fully impressed with the gravity of the duties that confront me and
mindful of my weakness, I should be appalled if it were my lot to bear
unaided the responsibilities which await me. I am, however, saved from
discouragement when I remember that I shall have the support and the
counsel and cooperation of wise and patriotic men who will stand at my
side in Cabinet places or will represent the people in their legislative
I find also much comfort in remembering that my countrymen are just and
generous and in the assurance that they will not condemn those who by
sincere devotion to their service deserve their forbearance and
Above all, I know there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men
and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people,
and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek
His powerful aid.