March 4, 1873: Second Inaugural Address
Under Providence I have been called a second time to act as Executiveover this great nation. It has been my endeavor in the past to maintainall the laws, and, so far as lay in my power, to act for the best interestsof the whole people. My best efforts will be given in the same directionin the future, aided, I trust, by my four years' experience in the office.
When my first term of the office of Chief Executive began, the countryhad not recovered from the effects of a great internal revolution, andthree of the former States of the Union had not been restored to theirFederal relations.
It seemed to me wise that no new questions should be raised so longas that condition of affairs existed. Therefore the past four years, sofar as I could control events, have been consumed in the effort to restoreharmony, public credit, commerce, and all the arts of peace and progress.It is my firm conviction that the civilized world is tending toward republicanism,or government by the people through their chosen representatives, and thatour own great Republic is destined to be the guiding star to all others.
Under our Republic we support an army less than that of any Europeanpower of any standing and a navy less than that of either of at least fiveof them. There could be no extension of territory on the continent whichwould call for an increase of this force, but rather might such extensionenable us to diminish it.
The theory of government changes with general progress. Now that thetelegraph is made available for communicating thought, together with rapidtransit by steam, all parts of a continent are made contiguous for allpurposes of government, and communication between the extreme limits ofthe country made easier than it was throughout the old thirteen Statesat the beginning of our national existence.
The effects of the late civil strife have been to free the slave andmake him a citizen. Yet he is not possessed of the civil rights which citizenshipshould carry with it. This is wrong, and should be corrected. To this correctionI stand committed, so far as Executive influence can avail.
Social equality is not a subject to be legislated upon, nor shall Iask that anything be done to advance the social status of the colored man,except to give him a fair chance to develop what there is good in him,give him access to the schools, and when he travels let him feel assuredthat his conduct will regulate the treatment and fare he will receive.
The States lately at war with the General Government are now happilyrehabilitated, and no Executive control is exercised in any one of themthat would not be exercised in any other State under like circumstances.
In the first year of the past Administration the proposition came upfor the admission of Santo Domingo as a Territory of the Union. It wasnot a question of my seeking, but was a proposition from the people ofSanto Domingo, and which I entertained. I believe now, as I did then, thatit was for the best interest of this country, for the people of Santo Domingo,and all concerned that the proposition should be received favorably. Itwas, however, rejected constitutionally, and therefore the subject wasnever brought up again by me.
In future, while I hold my present office, the subject of acquisitionof territory must have the support of the people before I will recommendany proposition looking to such acquisition. I say here, however, thatI do not share in the apprehension held by many as to the danger of governmentsbecoming weakened and destroyed by reason of their extension of territory.Commerce, education, and rapid transit of thought and matter by telegraphand steam have changed all this. Rather do I believe that our Great Makeris preparing the world, in His own good time, to become one nation, speakingone language, and when armies and navies will be no longer required.
My efforts in the future will be directed to the restoration of goodfeeling between the different sections of our common country; to the restorationof our currency to a fixed value as compared with the world's standardof values--gold--and, if possible, to a par with it; to the constructionof cheap routes of transit throughout the land, to the end that the productsof all may find a market and leave a living remuneration to the producer;to the maintenance of friendly relations with all our neighbors and withdistant nations; to the reestablishment of our commerce and share in thecarrying trade upon the ocean; to the encouragement of such manufacturingindustries as can be economically pursued in this country, to the end thatthe exports of home products and industries may pay for our imports--theonly sure method of returning to and permanently maintaining a specie basis;to the elevation of labor; and, by a humane course, to bring the aboriginesof the country under the benign influences of education and civilization.It is either this or war of extermination: Wars of extermination, engagedin by people pursuing commerce and all industrial pursuits, are expensiveeven against the weakest people, and are demoralizing and wicked. Our superiorityof strength and advantages of civilization should make us lenient towardthe Indian. The wrong inflicted upon him should be taken into account andthe balance placed to his credit. The moral view of the question shouldbe considered and the question asked, Can not the Indian be made a usefuland productive member of society by proper teaching and treatment? If theeffort is made in good faith, we will stand better before the civilizednations of the earth and in our own consciences for having made it.
All these things are not to be accomplished by one individual, but theywill receive my support and such recommendations to Congress as will inmy judgment best serve to carry them into effect. I beg your support andencouragement.
It has been, and is, my earnest desire to correct abuses that have grownup in the civil service of the country. To secure this reformation rulesregulating methods of appointment and promotions were established and havebeen tried. My efforts for such reformation shall be continued to the bestof my judgment. The spirit of the rules adopted will be maintained.
I acknowledge before this assemblage, representing, as it does, everysection of our country, the obligation I am under to my countrymen forthegreat honor they have conferred on me by returning me to the highest officewithin their gift, and the further obligation resting on me to render tothem the best services within my power. This I promise, looking forwardwith the greatest anxiety to the day when I shall be released from responsibilitiesthat at times are almost overwhelming, and from which I have scarcely hada respite since the eventful firing upon Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, tothe present day. My services were then tendered and accepted under thefirst call for troops growing out of that event.
I did not ask for place or position, and was entirely without influenceor the acquaintance of persons of influence, but was resolved to performmy part in a struggle threatening the very existence of the nation. I performeda conscientious duty, without asking promotion or command, and withouta revengeful feeling toward any section or individual.
Notwithstanding this, throughout the war, and from my candidacy formy present office in 1868 to the close of the last Presidential campaign,I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in politicalhistory, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in view ofyour verdict, which I gratefully accept as my vindication.