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If it can, I wild if I can help
weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be
saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself 5 one of the happiest of men in the world if I can help
to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about
to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than 10 surrender it. Now, in my view of the present aspect
of affairs, there need be no bloodshed or war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course; and I may say in advance that there will be no blood
shed unless it be forced upon the government, and then 15 it will be compelled to act in self-defense.
My friends, this is wholly an unexpected speech, and I did not expect to be called upon to say a word when I came here. I supposed it was merely to do something
towards raising the flag-I may, therefore, have said 20 something indiscreet. I have said nothing but what.
I am willing to live by, and if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.
FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS
March 4, 1861 FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES—In compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President 5 “before he enters on the execution of his office.”
I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.
Apprehension seems to exist, among the people of the 10 Southern States, that by the accession of a republican administration their property and their peace and per.sonal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all 15 the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution 20 of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And 25 more than this, they placed in the platform for my ac
ceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read :
“Resolved—That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each 5 state to order and control its own domestic institutions
according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to the balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we de
nounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil 10 of any state or territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.”
I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most con
clusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that 15 the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be
given, will be cheerfully given to all the states, when 20 lawfully demanded, for whatever cause—as cheerfully to one section as to another.
There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now
read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any 25 other of its provisions :
"No person held to service or labor in one state; under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be
discharged from such service or labor, but shall be 30 delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the law
giver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution—to this provision as much as any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves, whose cases come within the terms of this clause, “shall be delivered up,” their oaths are unanimous. 5 Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?
There is some difference of opinion whether this clause 10 should be enforced by national or by state authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him, or to others, by which authority it is done. And should any one, in any case, be content 15 that his oath shall go unkept, on a mere unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?
Again, in any law upon the subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and human jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be 20 not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well, at the same time, to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens 25 in the several states ?”
I shall take the official oath to-day with no mental reservation, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rule. And while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Con- 30 gress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting
to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.
It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a president under our national constitution. During 5 that period, fifteen different and greatly distinguished · citizens have, in succession, administered the executive
branch of the government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success.
Yet, with all this scope for precedent, I now enter 10 upon the same task for the brief constitutional term
of four years, under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.
I hold that, in contemplation of universal law, and 15 of the Constitution, the union of these states is per
petual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a
provision in its organic law for its own termination. 20 Continue to execute all the express provisions of our
national government, and the Union will endure forever-it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
Again, if the United States be not a government 25 proper, but an association of states in the nature of con
tract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it-break it, so to speak; but does
it not require all to lawfully rescind it? 30 Descending from these general principles, we find the
proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the articles of association in