Thomas Jefferson – First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1801)

Thomas Jefferson – First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1801)

  • I am called to this office & thank you for the trust you’ve put in me. This job is beyond any human being.
    • We are a young nation with fruitful land, engaged in industry, & commerce with nations who are surging with power & have forgotten justice – rapidly expanding around the world.
    • When I think of these things, I see the honor, happiness & hopes of my country, & then humble myself before the magnitude of the task.
    • The Constitution has given me resources of wisdom, virtue & zeal to rely on under difficulties.
      • Those charged with legislation & those associated with you – I’m counting on you for guidance & support to steer this ship through murky waters.
  • During the election, we had very animated discussion which may strike as odd to strangers not used to seeing people allowed to think, speak & write what they think.
    • But these are the voices of the nation, announcing, according to the rules of the Constitution, the will of the nation. It will be put into the law & will unite in common efforts for the common good.
    • Bear in mind that the will of the majority is to prevail, but it must be reasonable. The minority have their equal rights which the law must protect. Violation of that would be oppression.
    • Let’s restore harmony & affection to social intercourse. Without them, liberty & life aren’t worth having. If we allow political intercourse, we’ll have forgotten the despotic, wicked & persecution of the past.
    • A lot of the agitation from abroad has reached our shores. It will be felt & feared by some more than others. Every differences of opinion is not a difference of principle.
    • If there are any who wish to dissolve the union or change its form, let them speak. We can look to them as examples of where error of opinion will be tolerated & where reason is left free to combat.
      • Some honest men fear a republican government isn’t strong enough. But would they abandon a government that has so far preserved our freedom? I think this is the strongest government on earth. It’s the only one where every man would wish for the standard of the law & meet disruptions of public order as his own personal concern.
    • Sometimes people say man can’t be trusted with government of himself. Can he be trusted with government of others? Or have we found those angels to do it?
  • Let’s pursue Federal & Republican principles, & attachment to union & representative government. We’re luck to be away from the turmoil of the rest of the planet. We’re too high-minded to endure the degradations of others. We have a country large enough for ourselves & our descendants. We understand our equal right to use our own faculties & right to the acquisitions of our own labor. The honor & confidence from fellow citizens comes not from birth but our actions & sense of them.
    • We are enlightened by our benign religion that inculcates in us honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude & love of man. We acknowledge & adore an overruling Providence, which delights in the happiness of man in life & after. What else would we need?
    • We need a wise & frugal government to restrain men from injuring on another, leaving them free to regulate their own pursuits, & not taking from the mouth of labor the bread it’s earned.
  • As I begin this new position, you should know what I consider the essential principles of government are & what ought to shape its administration.
    • Equal & exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political.
    • Peace, commerce & honest friendship with all nations, & entangling alliances with none.
    • Support of State governments in all their rights, because it would provide for the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns & surest bulwarks against anti-Republican tendencies.
    • Preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor – anchor of our peace at home & safety abroad.
    • Jealous care of the right of election by the people – which is a corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceful remedies aren’t available.
    • Absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority
    • Well-disciplined militia – our best reliance in peace & for the 1st moments in war until regulars can relieve them.
    • Supremacy of civil over military authority.
    • Economy in the public expense so that labor will be lightly burdened
    • Honest payment of our debts & sacred preservation of the public faith.
    • Encouragement of agriculture * commerce
    • Diffusion of information & arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason.
    • Freedom of religion
    • Freedom of the press
    • Freedom of person under protection of Habeas Corpus
    • Trial by juries impartially selected
      • These principles have guided us through an age of revolution & reformation. The wisdom of our sages & blood of our heroes have been devoted to getting them.
      • They should be the creed of our political faith, text of civic instruction. If we stray, let’s get back on the only path that leads to peace, liberty & safety.
  • So now I’ll take the office given to me. I’ve had experience in subordinate positions & seen the difficulties of the job.
    • I’ve learned to expect that it’s rare that a man who takes this job will have the same reputation in leaving it as he’d entered into it.
    • I  will often go wrong through lack of judgment. When I’m right, I’ll be thought to be wrong by those who aren’t in a position to see the whole picture. Please forgive my errors – they’ll never be intentional. My job will need to put this government on firm footing & listen to the opinion of the people.

 

Author: knowit68

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