First Words: Andrew Jackson, March 4, 1829

First Words: Andrew Jackson, March 4, 1829

In this ongoing series, the Miller Center’s First Year Project looks at key phrases from past inaugural addresses—the first words spoken by our new presidents. Today we look at Andrew Jackson.

Andrew Jackson established himself as a broadly appealing figure during the election of 1824. The one candidate to appeal beyond his regional base, the rough-hewn Tennessean had never held a cabinet post or even been abroad, but his heroics as a general captured the public imagination. Despite winning the most electoral votes, however, Jackson did not secure a majority, and the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams president, which Jackson derided as a “corrupt bargain.”

Four years later, Jackson’s popularity led to a relatively comfortable victory, and in his first words as the new president Jackson spoke of limited executive authority, respect for state power, and American Indian rights. Once in office, however, Jackson transformed the president's role from chief administrator to popular tribune, reversing a tradition of executive deference to legislative supremacy, and expanding the power of the executive. The Indian Removal Act was the only major piece of legislation passed at Jackson's behest during his eight years as president, with the forced and deadly exodus of American Indians from their native lands in the South to areas west of the Mississippi remembered as the infamous “Trail of Tears.”

In administering the laws of Congress I shall keep steadily in view the limitations as well as the extent of the Executive power, trusting thereby to discharge the functions of my office without transcending its authority.

In such measures as I may be called on to pursue in regard to the rights of the separate States I hope to be animated by a proper respect for those sovereign members of our Union, taking care not to confound the powers they have reserved to themselves with those they have granted to the Confederacy.

Considering standing armies as dangerous to free governments in time of peace, I shall not seek to enlarge our present establishment, nor disregard that salutary lesson of political experience which teaches that the military should be held subordinate to the civil power.

It will be my sincere and constant desire to observe toward the Indian tribes within our limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that humane and considerate attention to their rights and their wants which is consistent with the habits of our Government and the feelings of our people.

The recent demonstration of public sentiment inscribes on the list of Executive duties, in characters too legible to be overlooked, the task of 'reform', which will require particularly the correction of those abuses that have brought the patronage of the Federal Government into conflict with the freedom of elections, and the counteraction of those causes which have disturbed the rightful course of appointment and have placed or continued power in unfaithful or incompetent hands.

Read more about Andrew Jackson.

Read Jackson's entire inaugural address.