Second Inaugural Address of President Woodrow Wilson [March 4, 1917] - History

Second Inaugural Address of President Woodrow Wilson [March 4, 1917] - History

My Fellow-Citizens:

WHEN we assembled here on the 4th of March, 1897, there was great anxiety with regard to our currency and credit. None exists now. Then our Treasury receipts were inadequate to meet the current obligations of the Government. Now they are sufficient for all public needs, and we have a surplus instead of a deficit. Then I felt constrained to convene the Congress in extraordinary session to devise revenues to pay the ordinary expenses of the Government. Now I have the satisfaction to announce that the Congress just closed has reduced taxation in the sum of $41,000,000. Then there was deep solicitude because of the long depression in our manufacturing, mining, agricultural, and mercantile industries and the consequent distress of our laboring population. Now every avenue of production is crowded with activity, labor is well employed, and American products find good markets at home and abroad. Our diversified productions, however, are increasing in such unprecedented volume as to admonish us of the necessity of still further enlarging our foreign markets by broader commercial relations. For this purpose reciprocal trade arrangements with other nations should in liberal spirit be carefully cultivated and promoted.

The national verdict of 1896 has for the most part been executed. Whatever remains unfulfilled is a continuing obligation resting with undiminished force upon the Executive and the Congress. But fortunate as our condition is, its permanence can only be assured by sound business methods and strict economy in national administration and legislation. We should not permit our great prosperity to lead us to reckless ventures in business or profligacy in public expenditures. While the Congress determines the objects and the sum of appropriations, the officials of the executive departments are responsible for honest and faithful disbursement, and it should be their constant care to avoid waste and extravagance.

Honesty, capacity, and industry are nowhere more indispensable than in public employment. These should be fundamental requisites to original appointment and the surest guaranties against removal. Four years ago we stood on the brink of war without the people knowing it and without any preparation or effort at preparation for the impending peril. I did all that in honor could be done to avert the war, but without avail. It became inevitable; and the Congress at its first regular session, without party division, provided money in anticipation of the crisis and in preparation to meet it. It came. The result was signally favorable to American arms and in the highest degree honorable to the Government. It imposed upon us obligations from which we cannot escape and from which it would be dishonorable to seek escape. We are now at peace with the world, and it is my fervent prayer that if differences arise between us and other powers they may be settled by peaceful arbitration and that hereafter we may be spared the horrors of war. Intrusted by the people for a second time with the office of President, I enter upon its administration appreciating the great responsibilities which attach to this renewed honor and commission, promising unreserved devotion on my part to their faithful discharge and reverently invoking for my guidance the direction and favor of Almighty God. I should shrink from the duties this day assumed if I did not feel that in their performance I should have the co-operation of the wise and patriotic men of all parties. It encourages me for the great task which I now undertake to believe that those who voluntarily committed to me the trust imposed upon the Chief Executive of the Republic will give to me generous support in my duties to "preserve, protect, and defend, the Constitution of the United States" and to "care that the laws be faithfully executed." The national purpose is indicated through a national election. It is the constitutional method of ascertaining the public will. When once it is registered it is a law to us all, and faithful observance should follow its decrees. Strong hearts and helpful hands are needed, and, fortunately, we have them in every part of our beloved country. We are reunited. Sectionalism has disappeared. Division on public questions can no longer be traced by the war maps of 1861. These old differences less and less disturb the judgment. Existing problems demand the thought and quicken the conscience of the country, and the responsibility for their presence, as well as for their righteous settlement, rests upon us all—no more upon me than upon you. There are some national questions in the solution of which patriotism should exclude partisanship. Magnifying their difficulties will not take them off our hands nor facilitate their adjustment. Distrust of the capacity, integrity, and high purposes of the American people will not be an inspiring theme for future political contests. Dark pictures and gloomy forebodings are worse than useless. These only becloud, they do not help to point the way of safety and honor. "Hope maketh not ashamed." The prophets of evil were not the builders of the Republic, nor in its crises since have they saved or served it. The faith of the fathers was a mighty force in its creation, and the faith of their descendants has wrought its progress and furnished its defenders. They are obstructionists who despair, and who would destroy confidence in the ability of our people to solve wisely and for civilization the mighty problems resting upon them. The American people, intrenched in freedom at home, take their love for it with them wherever they go, and they reject as mistaken and unworthy the doctrine that we lose our own liberties by securing the enduring foundations of liberty to others. Our institutions will not deteriorate by extension, and our sense of justice will not abate under tropic suns in distant seas. As heretofore, so hereafter will the nation demonstrate its fitness to administer any new estate which events devolve upon it, and in the fear of God will "take occasion by the hand and make the bounds of freedom wider yet." If there are those among us who would make our way more difficult, we must not be disheartened, but the more earnestly dedicate ourselves to the task upon which we have rightly entered. The path of progress is seldom smooth. New things are often found hard to do. Our fathers found them so. We find them so. They are inconvenient. They cost us something. But are we not made better for the effort and sacrifice, and are not those we serve lifted up and blessed?

We will be consoled, too, with the fact that opposition has confronted every onward movement of the Republic from its opening hour until now, but without success. The Republic has marched on and on, and its step has exalted freedom and humanity. We are undergoing the same ordeal as did our predecessors nearly a century ago. We are following the course they blazed. They triumphed. Will their successors falter and plead organic impotency in the nation? Surely after 125 years of achievement for mankind we will not now surrender our equality with other powers on matters fundamental and essential to nationality. With no such purpose was the nation created. In no such spirit has it developed its full and independent sovereignty. We adhere to the principle of equality among ourselves, and by no act of ours will we assign to ourselves a subordinate rank in the family of nations. My fellow-citizens, the public events of the past four years have gone into history. They are too near to justify recital. Some of them were unforeseen; many of them momentous and far-reaching in their consequences to ourselves and our relations with the rest of the world. The part which the United States bore so honorably in the thrilling scenes in China, while new to American life, has been in harmony with its true spirit and best traditions, and in dealing with the results its policy will be that of moderation and fairness. We face at this moment a most important question that of the future relations of the United States and Cuba. With our near neighbors we must remain close friends. The declaration of the purposes of this Government in the resolution of April 20, 1898, must be made good. Ever since the evacuation of the island by the army of Spain, the Executive, with all practicable speed, has been assisting its people in the successive steps necessary to the establishment of a free and independent government prepared to assume and perform the obligations of international law which now rest upon the United States under the treaty of Paris. The convention elected by the people to frame a constitution is approaching the completion of its labors. The transfer of American control to the new government is of such great importance, involving an obligation resulting from our intervention and the treaty of peace, that I am glad to be advised by the recent act of Congress of the policy which the legislative branch of the Government deems essential to the best interests of Cuba and the United States. The principles which led to our intervention require that the fundamental law upon which the new government rests should be adapted to secure a government capable of performing the duties and discharging the functions of a separate nation, of observing its international obligations of protecting life and property, insuring order, safety, and liberty, and conforming to the established and historical policy of the United States in its relation to Cuba.

The peace which we are pledged to leave to the Cuban people must carry with it the guaranties of permanence. We became sponsors for the pacification of the island, and we remain accountable to the Cubans, no less than to our own country and people, for the reconstruction of Cuba as a free commonwealth on abiding foundations of right, justice, liberty, and assured order. Our enfranchisement of the people will not be completed until free Cuba shall "be a reality, not a name; a perfect entity, not a hasty experiment bearing within itself the elements of failure."

While the treaty of peace with Spain was ratified on the 6th of February, 1899, and ratifications were exchanged nearly two years ago, the Congress has indicated no form of government for the Philippine Islands. It has, however, provided an army to enable the Executive to suppress insurrection, restore peace, give security to the inhabitants, and establish the authority of the United States throughout the archipelago. It has authorized the organization of native troops as auxiliary to the regular force. It has been advised from time to time of the acts of the military and naval officers in the islands, of my action in appointing civil commissions, of the instructions with which they were charged, of their duties and powers, of their recommendations, and of their several acts under executive commission, together with the very complete general information they have submitted. These reports fully set forth the conditions, past and present, in the islands, and the instructions clearly show the principles which will guide the Executive until the Congress shall, as it is required to do by the treaty, determine "the civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants." The Congress having added the sanction of its authority to the powers already possessed and exercised by the Executive under the Constitution, thereby leaving with the Executive the responsibility for the government of the Philippines, I shall continue the efforts already begun until order shall be restored throughout the islands, and as fast as conditions permit will establish local governments, in the formation of which the full co-operation of the people has been already invited, and when established will encourage the people to administer them. The settled purpose, long ago proclaimed, to afford the inhabitants of the islands self-government as fast as they were ready for it will be pursued with earnestness and fidelity. Already something has been accomplished in this direction. The Government's representatives, civil and military, are doing faithful and noble work in their mission of emancipation and merit the approval and support of their countrymen. The most liberal terms of amnesty have already been communicated to the insurgents, and the way is still open for those who have raised their arms against the Government for honorable submission to its authority. Our countrymen should not be deceived. We are not waging war against the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands. A portion of them are making war against the United States. By far the greater part of the inhabitants recognize American sovereignty and welcome it as a guaranty of order and of security for life, property, liberty, freedom of conscience, and the pursuit of happiness. To them full protection will be given. They shall not be abandoned. We will not leave the destiny of the loyal millions the islands to the disloyal thousands who are in rebellion against the United States. Order under civil institutions will come as soon as those who now break the peace shall keep it. Force will not be needed or used when those who make war against us shall make it no more. May it end without further bloodshed, and there be ushered in the reign of peace to be made permanent by a government of liberty under law!


Second Inaugural Address of President Woodrow Wilson [March 4, 1917] - History

Woodrow Wilson delivers his second Inaugural Address on March 5, 1917.

A second Inaugural Address is a peculiar bit of oratory.

Vindicated by re-election, a president beginning a second term is also seasoned – for better or worse – by the experience of the office. Empowered, he is sometimes embittered as well. And if he speaks in a time of some crisis, it may be one that he fathered, not one that he was selected to confront.

Second Inaugural Addresses can be quirky.

George Washington delivered just four sentences before (not after) taking his oath. “When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor,” he said.

Ulysses S. Grant, another soldier-statesman, offered this utopian sentiment: “I believe that our Great Maker is preparing the world, in His own good time, to

become one nation, speaking one language, and when armies and navies will be no longer required.”

Usually the thoughts of re-elected presidents are more practical than that. Often, predictably, they talk about taxes.

Thomas Jefferson, now revered as the patron saint of a free press, used his moment to assail its excesses. “The artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare,” he complained.

More commonly, though, presidents pray for the nation’s place in the favor of God and their own in the annals of history. A few, like Abraham Lincoln, soar.

Sixteen presidents have delivered such a speech before President Obama below are excerpts of several, historically annotated.

Andrew Jackson

March 4, 1833

“Without union our independence and liberty would never have been achieved without union they never can be maintained. Divided into twenty-four, or even a smaller number, of separate communities, we shall see our internal trade burdened with numberless restraints and exactions communication between distant points and sections obstructed or cut off our sons made soldiers to deluge with blood the fields they now till in peace the mass of our people borne down and impoverished by taxes to support armies and navies, and military leaders at the head of their victorious legions becoming our lawgivers and judges.”

Abraham Lincoln

March 4, 1865

𠇏ondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman&aposs two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation&aposs wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Woodrow Wilson

March 5,�

“We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.

𠇊nd yet we are not the less Americans on that account. We shall be the more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have been bred. They are not the principles of a province or of a single continent. We have known and boasted all along that they were the principles of a liberated mankind.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

January 20, 1937

“Old truths have been relearned untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.

“This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.

“In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily condoned. Hardheadedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness."

Dwight D. Eisenhower

January 20, 1957

“The designs of that power, dark in purpose, are clear in practice. It strives to seal forever the fate of those it has enslaved. It strives to break the ties that unite the free. And it strives to capture—to exploit for its own greater power𠅊ll forces of change in the world, especially the needs of the hungry and the hopes of the oppressed.

“Yet the world of International Communism has itself been shaken by a fierce and mighty force: the readiness of men who love freedom to pledge their lives to that love. Through the night of their bondage, the unconquerable will of heroes has struck with the swift, sharp thrust of lightning. Budapest is no longer merely the name of a city henceforth it is a new and shining symbol of man’s yearning to be free.”

Richard M. Nixon

January 20, 1973

“The time has passed when America will make every other nation’s conflict our own, or make every other nation’s future our responsibility, or presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own affairs.

“Just as we respect the right of each nation to determine its own future, we also recognize the responsibility of each nation to secure its own future.

“Just as America’s role is indispensable in preserving the world’s peace, so is each nation’s role indispensable in preserving its own peace.

“Together with the rest of the world, let us resolve to move forward from the beginnings we have made. Let us continue to bring down the walls of hostility which have divided the world for too long, and to build in their place bridges of understanding—so that despite profound differences between systems of government, the people of the world can be friends.”

George W. Bush

January 20, 2005

“We have seen our vulnerability𠅊nd we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

“We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”


Second Inaugural Address

THE four years which have elapsed since last I stood in this place have been crowded with counsel and action of the most vital interest and consequence. Perhaps no equal period in our history has been so fruitful of important reforms in our economic and industrial life or so full of significant changes in the spirit and purpose of our political action. We have sought very thoughtfully to set our house in order, correct the grosser errors and abuses of our industrial life, liberate and quicken the processes of our national genius and energy, and lift our politics to a broader view of the people's essential interests.

It is a record of singular variety and singular distinction. But I shall not attempt to review it. It speaks for itself and will be of increasing influence as the years go by. This is not the time for retrospect. It is time rather to speak our thoughts and purposes concerning the present and the immediate future.

Although we have centered counsel and action with such unusual concentration and success upon the great problems of domestic legislation to which we addressed ourselves four years ago, other matters have more and more forced themselves upon our attention - matters lying outside our own life as a nation and over which we had no control, but which, despite our wish to keep free of them, have drawn us more and more irresistibly into their own current and influence.

It has been impossible to avoid them. They have affected the life of the whole world. They have shaken men everywhere with a passion and an apprehension they never knew before. It has been hard to preserve calm counsel while the thought of our own people swayed this way and that under their influence. We are a composite and cosmopolitan people. We are of the blood of all the nations that are at war. The currents of our thoughts as well as the currents of our trade run quick at all seasons back and forth between us and them. The war inevitably set its mark from the first alike upon our minds, our industries, our commerce, our politics and our social action. To be indifferent to it, or independent of it, was out of the question.

And yet all the while we have been conscious that we were not part of it. In that consciousness, despite many divisions, we have drawn closer together. We have been deeply wronged upon the seas, but we have not wished to wrong or injure in return have retained throughout the consciousness of standing in some sort apart, intent upon an interest that transcended the immediate issues of the war itself.

As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready to demand for all mankind - fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live and to be at ease against organized wrong.

It is in this spirit and with this thought that we have grown more and more aware, more and more certain that the part we wished to play was the part of those who mean to vindicate and fortify peace. We have been obliged to arm ourselves to make good our claim to a certain minimum of right and of freedom of action. We stand firm in armed neutrality since it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself. But nothing will alter our thought or our purpose. They are too clear to be obscured. They are too deeply rooted in the principles of our national life to be altered. We desire neither conquest nor advantage. We wish nothing that can be had only at the cost of another people. We always professed unselfish purpose and we covet the opportunity to prove our professions are sincere.

There are many things still to be done at home, to clarify our own politics and add new vitality to the industrial processes of our own life, and we shall do them as time and opportunity serve, but we realize that the greatest things that remain to be done must be done with the whole world for stage and in cooperation with the wide and universal forces of mankind, and we are making our spirits ready for those things.

We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.

And yet we are not the less Americans on that account. We shall be the more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have been bred. They are not the principles of a province or of a single continent. We have known and boasted all along that they were the principles of a liberated mankind. These, therefore, are the things we shall stand for, whether in war or in peace:

That all nations are equally interested in the peace of the world and in the political stability of free peoples, and equally responsible for their maintenance that the essential principle of peace is the actual equality of nations in all matters of right or privilege that peace cannot securely or justly rest upon an armed balance of power that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed and that no other powers should be supported by the common thought, purpose or power of the family of nations that the seas should be equally free and safe for the use of all peoples, under rules set up by common agreement and consent, and that, so far as practicable, they should be accessible to all upon equal terms that national armaments shall be limited to the necessities of national order and domestic safety that the community of interest and of power upon which peace must henceforth depend imposes upon each nation the duty of seeing to it that all influences proceeding from its own citizens meant to encourage or assist revolution in other states should be sternly and effectually suppressed and prevented.

I need not argue these principles to you, my fellow countrymen they are your own part and parcel of your own thinking and your own motives in affairs. They spring up native amongst us. Upon this as a platform of purpose and of action we can stand together. And it is imperative that we should stand together. We are being forged into a new unity amidst the fires that now blaze throughout the world. In their ardent heat we shall, in God's Providence, let us hope, be purged of faction and division, purified of the errant humors of party and of private interest, and shall stand forth in the days to come with a new dignity of national pride and spirit. Let each man see to it that the dedication is in his own heart, the high purpose of the nation in his own mind, ruler of his own will and desire.

I stand here and have taken the high and solemn oath to which you have been audience because the people of the United States have chosen me for this august delegation of power and have by their gracious judgment named me their leader in affairs.

I know now what the task means. I realize to the full the responsibility which it involves. I pray God I may be given the wisdom and the prudence to do my duty in the true spirit of this great people. I am their servant and can succeed only as they sustain and guide me by their confidence and their counsel. The thing I shall count upon, the thing without which neither counsel nor action will avail, is the unity of America - an America united in feeling, in purpose and in its vision of duty, of opportunity and of service.

We are to beware of all men who would turn the tasks and the necessities of the nation to their own private profit or use them for the building up of private power.

United alike in the conception of our duty and in the high resolve to perform it in the face of all men, let us dedicate ourselves to the great task to which we must now set our hand. For myself I beg your tolerance, your countenance and your united aid.

The shadows that now lie dark upon our path will soon be dispelled, and we shall walk with the light all about us if we be but true to ourselves - to ourselves as we have wished to be known in the counsels of the world and in the thought of all those who love liberty and justice and the right exalted.


WOODROW WILSON, SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS MONDAY, MARCH 5, 1917

The four years which have elapsed since last I stood in this place have been crowded with counsel and action of the most vital interest and consequence. Perhaps no equal period in our history has been so fruitful of important reforms in our economic and industrial life or so full of significant changes in the spirit and purpose of our political action. We have sought very thoughtfully to set our house in order, correct the grosser errors and abuses of our industrial life, liberate and quicken the processes of our national genius and energy, and lift our politics to a broader view of the people’s essential interests.

It is a record of singular variety and singular distinction. But I shall not attempt to review it. It speaks for itself and will be of increasing influence as the years go by. This is not the time for retrospect. It is time rather to speak our thoughts and purposes concerning the present and the immediate future.

Although we have centered counsel and action with such unusual concentration and success upon the great problems of domestic legislation to which we addressed ourselves four years ago, other matters have more and more forced themselves upon our attention—matters lying outside our own life as a nation and over which we had no control, but which, despite our wish to keep free of them, have drawn us more and more irresistibly into their own current and influence.

It has been impossible to avoid them. They have affected the life of the whole world. They have shaken men everywhere with a passion and an apprehension they never knew before. It has been hard to preserve calm counsel while the thought of our own people swayed this way and that under their influence. We are a composite and cosmopolitan people. We are of the blood of all the nations that are at war. The currents of our thoughts as well as the currents of our trade run quick at all seasons back and forth between us and them. The war inevitably set its mark from the first alike upon our minds, our industries, our commerce, our politics and our social action. To be indifferent to it, or independent of it, was out of the question.

And yet all the while we have been conscious that we were not part of it. In that consciousness, despite many divisions, we have drawn closer together. We have been deeply wronged upon the seas, but we have not wished to wrong or injure in return have retained throughout the consciousness of standing in some sort apart, intent upon an interest that transcended the immediate issues of the war itself.

As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready to demand for all mankind—fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live and to be at ease against organized wrong.

It is in this spirit and with this thought that we have grown more and more aware, more and more certain that the part we wished to play was the part of those who mean to vindicate and fortify peace. We have been obliged to arm ourselves to make good our claim to a certain minimum of right and of freedom of action. We stand firm in armed neutrality since it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself. But nothing will alter our thought or our purpose. They are too clear to be obscured. They are too deeply rooted in the principles of our national life to be altered. We desire neither conquest nor advantage. We wish nothing that can be had only at the cost of another people. We always professed unselfish purpose and we covet the opportunity to prove our professions are sincere.

There are many things still to be done at home, to clarify our own politics and add new vitality to the industrial processes of our own life, and we shall do them as time and opportunity serve, but we realize that the greatest things that remain to be done must be done with the whole world for stage and in cooperation with the wide and universal forces of mankind, and we are making our spirits ready for those things.

We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.

And yet we are not the less Americans on that account. We shall be the more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have been bred. They are not the principles of a province or of a single continent. We have known and boasted all along that they were the principles of a liberated mankind. These, therefore, are the things we shall stand for, whether in war or in peace:

That all nations are equally interested in the peace of the world and in the political stability of free peoples, and equally responsible for their maintenance that the essential principle of peace is the actual equality of nations in all matters of right or privilege that peace cannot securely or justly rest upon an armed balance of power that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed and that no other powers should be supported by the common thought, purpose or power of the family of nations that the seas should be equally free and safe for the use of all peoples, under rules set up by common agreement and consent, and that, so far as practicable, they should be accessible to all upon equal terms that national armaments shall be limited to the necessities of national order and domestic safety that the community of interest and of power upon which peace must henceforth depend imposes upon each nation the duty of seeing to it that all influences proceeding from its own citizens meant to encourage or assist revolution in other states should be sternly and effectually suppressed and prevented.

I need not argue these principles to you, my fellow countrymen they are your own part and parcel of your own thinking and your own motives in affairs. They spring up native amongst us. Upon this as a platform of purpose and of action we can stand together. And it is imperative that we should stand together. We are being forged into a new unity amidst the fires that now blaze throughout the world. In their ardent heat we shall, in God’s Providence, let us hope, be purged of faction and division, purified of the errant humors of party and of private interest, and shall stand forth in the days to come with a new dignity of national pride and spirit. Let each man see to it that the dedication is in his own heart, the high purpose of the nation in his own mind, ruler of his own will and desire.

I stand here and have taken the high and solemn oath to which you have been audience because the people of the United States have chosen me for this august delegation of power and have by their gracious judgment named me their leader in affairs.

I know now what the task means. I realize to the full the responsibility which it involves. I pray God I may be given the wisdom and the prudence to do my duty in the true spirit of this great people. I am their servant and can succeed only as they sustain and guide me by their confidence and their counsel. The thing I shall count upon, the thing without which neither counsel nor action will avail, is the unity of America—an America united in feeling, in purpose and in its vision of duty, of opportunity and of service.

We are to beware of all men who would turn the tasks and the necessities of the nation to their own private profit or use them for the building up of private power.

United alike in the conception of our duty and in the high resolve to perform it in the face of all men, let us dedicate ourselves to the great task to which we must now set our hand. For myself I beg your tolerance, your countenance and your united aid.

The shadows that now lie dark upon our path will soon be dispelled, and we shall walk with the light all about us if we be but true to ourselves—to ourselves as we have wished to be known in the counsels of the world and in the thought of all those who love liberty and justice and the right exalted.

Woodrow Wilson - Wikipedia

Wilson was born to a Scots-Irish American family in Staunton, Virginia, on December 28, 1856, at 18–24 North Coalter Street (now the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library).


President Lincoln was looking to get reconstruction going even before the war was officially won. Lincoln thought that the beginning of reconstruction would help speed the war effort and bring it to a close sooner. Wade and Davis would have preferred to delay and wait for the war to end and for the South to be completely beaten with pre-secession institutions gone and needing to be rebuilt. There were a number of concepts that both Lincoln’s 10 percent plan and the Wade-Davis bill had in common. In 1863, with Union victory apparently on the horizon Lincoln “announces a policy for the reconstruction of recanting Confederates”, “Whereas it is now desired by some persons heretofore engaged in said rebellion to resume their

"Well, I tell you, sir, frankly my boys are beginning to wonder at the attitude of the high command toward my division. But I mean, the whole war could be damn well over soon. and my boys would have missed it. This book also sets up the importance of the battle for if the south were to win this battle It would be the battle that pulls the Confederates so much need allies. this book is great for our class because we have covered the revolutionary war for what the south is fighting their own one but at the same time we can see how important it is to finally take the offensive against an enemy in war as to pull some much need friend s to join your side. cause as we have seen this year we could not have beaten Britain without French support but that was the same for the Confederates the battle of Gettysburg was a repeat of the battle of Saratoga but end with the reverse affects leading to the South losing any hope of getting foreign allies to join in on the


1917 – Second Inaugural Address of Woodrow Wilson

Following his victory in the 1916 Presidential Election, President Woodrow Wilson delivers the Inaugural Address to his second Presidential term. The President speaks about the nation’s neutral position in the current European conflict, World War I, in addition to guidelines for peace.

Thoughts on Transcript:

  1. WW1 looms
  2. USA has maintained an armed neutrality
  3. USA is a player on the world stage now
  4. Beginning of 14 Points (later speech fleshed out in more detail)
  5. Call for unity
  6. Support for future
  7. Much less progressive than first address
  8. Wilson is preparing the nation for the darkness of the war ahead

Phrases I have underlined, starred, or otherwise marked:

“Although we have centered counsel and action with such unusual concentration and success upon the great problems of domestic legislation to which we addressed ourselves four years ago, other matters have more and more forced themselves upon our attention– matters lying outside our own life as a nation and over which we had no control, but which, despite our wish to keep free of them, have drawn us more and more irresistibly into their own current and influence.

We are a composite and cosmopolitan people. We are of the blood of all nations that are at war.

“We have been deeply wronged upon the seas, but we have not wished to wrong or injure in return have retained throughout the consciousness of standing in some sort apart, intent upon an interest that transcended the immediate issues of the war itself.

As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready to demand for all mankind–fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live and to be at ease against organized wrong.”

“We stand firm in armed neutrality since it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself. … We desire neither conquest nor advantage. We wish nothing that can be had only at the cost of another people.

We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.

“These, therefore, are the things we shall stand for, whether in war or in peace:

That all nations are equally interested in the peace of the world and in the political stability of free peoples, and equally responsible for their maintenance that the essential principle of peace is the actual equality of nations in all matters of right or privilege that peace cannot securely or justly rest upon an armed balance of power that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed and that no other powers should be supported by the common thought, purpose or power of the family of nations that the seas should be equally free and safe for the use of all peoples, under rules set up by common agreement and consent, and that, so far as practicable, they should be accessible to all upon equal terms that national armaments shall be limited to the necessities of national order and domestic safety that the community of interest and of power upon which peace must henceforth depend imposes upon each nation the duty of seeing to it that all influences proceeding from its own citizens meant to encourage or assist revolution in other states should be sternly and effectually suppressed and prevented.”

We are being forged into a new unity amidst the fires that now blaze throughout the world. In their ardent heat we shall, in God’s Providence, let us hope, be purged of faction and division, purified of the errant humors of party and of private interest, and shall stand forth in the days to come with a new dignity of national pride and spirit.

“I pray God I may be given the wisdom and the prudence to do my duty in the true sprit of this great people. I am their servant and can succeed only as they sustain and guide me by their confidence and their counsel.

The shadows that now lie dark upon our path will soon be dispelled, and we shall walk with the light all about us if we be but true to ourselves–to ourselves as we have wished to be known in the counsels of the world and in the thought of all those who love liberty and justice and the right exalted.


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Taking the Oath of Office

It is probably safe to say that the presidential inauguration is the transcendent public ritual of American representative government. Unlike the coronation of a monarch or any ritual associated with the rise to power of a dictator or autocrat, the inauguration of a president is a cyclical, regularly scheduled event held every four years, and one to which, perhaps thankfully, since the ratification of the 22nd Amendment in 1951 no one individual can be subjected more than twice. It is also a ritual that involves all three branches of the federal government at the seat of the first branch—the legislative—at the U.S. Capitol.

The regularity of presidential inaugurations lends a reassuring sense of stability, continuity, and permanence to a political system that permits turnover in officeholders and change in policy agendas. Moreover, it is a peaceful change in government, unlike the violence that so often accompanies a new head of state elsewhere. Lastly, the evolution of inaugural ceremonies, from the relatively simple affair of George Washington’s first inaugural to the current lavish, expensive, and choreographed event calculated to maximize media exposure, mirrors similar changes in American political culture in which money, the media, and appearance rather than reality prevail.

Consider the symbolism of inauguration day. In instances in which a new president has been elected, the outgoing president and a delegation of congressional leaders escort the president-elect from the White House to the Capitol. 1 Members of the Joint Congressional Inaugural Committee escort the president-elect from a holding room in the Capitol outside to the inaugural platform on the West Front. The chief justice of the Supreme Court administers the oath in the presence of the public—the electorate who chose the president—as members of Congress, past and present, justices of the Supreme Court, members of the diplomatic corps, and other dignitaries bear witness. In this way, all three branches of the federal government and the public they serve join in a ritual of renewal and reaffirmation.

On March 4, 1917, crowds gathered to observe the second inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson on the East Front of the US Capitol, where 27 presidents have taken the oath of office. In 1981 the event was moved to the West Front.

The administration of the oath of office as a ritual of reaffirmation combines the worlds of the sacred and the profane—or in other terms—religion and politics. The president-elect with hand on an open Bible takes the oath as specified in Article II, section 1, of the Constitution: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

In promising to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, the secular Bible of our form of government, the ritual invokes the solemnity of sacrament. Elements of the sacred and the profane coalesce in a civic religion whose sacred texts are the Bible and the Constitution, though not necessarily in that order.

Just as feasts and celebrations follow other sacred ceremonies, the remainder of inauguration day takes the form of festival. The president and privileged members of Congress have lunch in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, where dead American heroes in marble and bronze link past with present. In hosting the president, congressional leaders symbolically offer both the olive branch of cooperation and the none-too-subtle claim of priority of the first branch of government. The president and his entourage then travel back to the White House at the head of an increasingly elaborate parade. From a reviewing stand, the president watches as everything from baton-twirling high school bands to military marching units pass in review, acknowledging and celebrating the new occupant of the White House. The day concludes with inaugural balls that evening at various locations around the city, at which the political power elite parties with its corporate backers and major financial supporters.

President Harry S. Truman and his successor Dwight D. Eisenhower smile and wave as their car leaves the White House en route to the Capitol on inauguration day, January 20, 1953.

The function of festival in this case seems to be to bring the consecrated one back down to the grubby secular world of social and political obligations— although most new presidents do not return to earth until they encounter their first foreign policy crisis or their first real opposition from Congress.

A brief historical survey of the Capitol component of presidential inaugurations reveals that although the ceremony has become increasingly stage-managed, the essential elements of sacred ritual and festival have always been present. Prior to 1937, when the date was changed to January 20 as a result of the 20th Amendment, inauguration day was set on March 4. The first inauguration, however, did not take place on March 4, 1789, but nearly two months later, on April 30, because Congress lacked a quorum necessary to do business, including counting the electoral votes cast for president and vice president.

The Constitution does not specify that president must go to Congress to take the oath of office, but Washington did so on April 30, 1789. Washington had been commissioned to command the Continental Army by the Continental Congress, and he had voluntarily resigned his commission at the end of the war in a show of military subordination to civil authority, so it came as little surprise that he swore the oath on the balcony outside the second-floor Senate Chamber of Federal Hall, the then-capitol in New York City. Because no Supreme Court justices had yet been appointed, Robert R. Livingston, chancellor of the state of New York, administered the oath. A Bible had to be borrowed from nearby St. John’s Masonic Lodge when none could be found in Federal Hall. Livingston raised the Bible Washington bent over and kissed it, setting a precedent followed by most of his successors. The president then went back into the building and delivered his inaugural address in the Senate Chamber in the presence of both Houses of Congress.

Livingston raised the Bible Washington bent over and kissed it, setting a precedent followed by most of his successors.

Following the inaugural address, the president and members of Congress walked to St. Paul’s Chapel for special services and prayers for the new nation—a further indication that although the Founding Fathers might have opposed government support for any particular religious establishment, they expected religion to support the state. A giant fireworks display that evening concluded inaugural observances. 2

The first inauguration to take place at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., was one of the most significant in the nation’s history. Thomas Jefferson’s March 4, 1801, inauguration was the first instance in which the presidency changed political parties. It also was the result of the first time an election had to be decided by the House of Representatives. The House decided the election in Jefferson’s favor over his erstwhile running mate Aaron Burr only two weeks before inauguration day. Only one wing of the Capitol, the old Senate wing, had been completed, and the swearing-in ceremony was scheduled for the Senate Chamber. Jefferson walked the short distance from his lodgings at Conrad and McMunn’s boardinghouse on New Jersey Avenue, escorted by several members of Congress and a crowd of onlookers. 3 The semicircular Senate chamber was crowded with an estimated 1,000 spectators, an impossible number given the size of the chamber, to hear Jefferson’s inaugural address, carefully worded to reassure the public and his Federalist opponents that continuity would prevail over change. 4

The inauguration of Jefferson’s successor, James Madison, moved to the larger House Chamber in 1809, which continued to be the site until 1829, with the exception of James Monroe’s inaugural in 1817, which had to be held in front of the temporary Old Brick Capitol because the restoration of the Capitol had not been completed following the fire set by British troops in 1814. 5

On March 4, 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant made his way through the Capitol to deliver his inaugural address on the East Steps. This wood engraving shows him moving with a procession from the Senate Chamber through the Rotunda in a traditional ritual of inauguration day.

In 1829, however, the inauguration of Andrew Jackson as the seventh president of the United States moved the ceremony outside to the East Portico of the Capitol. A ship’s cable stretched across the central East Front stairs kept the large crowd back. At the close of the ceremony, the crowd pressed forward to greet Jackson, the cable broke, and the president had to flee on horseback. Spontaneously, the crowd followed down Pennsylvania Avenue in an improvised and chaotic parade. 6 The ensuing reception at which an estimated 20,000 revelers trashed the White House has become notorious in American history. 7

The East Front remained the usual site for presidential inaugurations until 1981. The Capitol was still a work in progress at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office. The two new wings designed by architect Thomas U. Walter and constructed by army engineer Montgomery C. Meigs had been completed and occupied, but the cast-iron dome was still under construction. 8 Its completion, Lincoln is reported to have said later, was a sign that the Union would survive the Civil War. 9

Lincoln’s second inaugural came just as the Civil War was drawing to a close in 1865. A war-weary president ennobled the occasion with his inaugural address, which many consider the greatest speech in American history. 10

Some scholars believe Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth and other conspirators can be seen in this photograph taken by Alexander Gardner.

Most inaugural addresses are eminently forgettable— either droning generalities or blowsy platitudes. In recent memory, inaugural addresses have been, predictably, expressions of optimism as presidents exercise their role as the nation's chief therapist. John Kennedy’s inaugural speech may have set the tone, although more eloquently than his successors. Kennedy, the last president to wear the traditional stovepipe hat on inaugural day, also was the first president to use a poet, Robert Frost in Kennedy’s case, on the program. 11

The apparent need for optimism even goes so far that each inauguration now must have an upbeat official theme, all variations on the innocuous, such as Richard Nixon’s “Forward Together” in 1969 and George W. Bush’s 2001 “Celebrating America’s Spirit Together,” both of which at least had the virtue of brevity over Bill Clinton’s 1997 “An American Journey: Building a Bridge to the 21st Century.”

Lincoln, however, did not see himself as a Dr. Feel Good therapist bearing tidings of rosy optimism, nor did he need to seek the services of a poet. His second inaugural address was a somber, deeply felt, and articulate meditation on the meaning of the Civil War to the soul of America. The last paragraph— “with malice toward none”—is rightly considered the most famous passage of any presidential inaugural speech. 12

In keeping with tradition, the outgoing president escorts the president-elect to the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration. In 1929, President Calvin Coolidge poses with his successor President Herbert Hoover.

Including Jackson and Lincoln, 27 presidents took the oath of office at the East Front of the Capitol. Exceptions included vice presidents who succeeded presidents who died in office or resigned—John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, and Gerald R. Ford. 13 William Howard Taft was sworn in on March 4, 1909, in the Senate Chamber because of bad weather and the advanced age of Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller. On January 20, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt overrode congressional protests and held his fourth inauguration at the White House because of the war he felt an elaborate celebration was not called for, although some suggest that he was feuding with congressional leaders. 14

In 1981, planners moved the inauguration of Ronald Reagan to the West Front of the Capitol, setting a precedent that continues to this day. The West Front location provides more space for spectators and a larger platform for dignitaries but most of all, with its sweeping vista of the Mall, the West Front is best suited for televising the event and provides the new president his first opportunity to demonstrate that most important of qualities, being “presidential.” 15

Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985 was unusual for a different reason. Because of bad weather, the ceremony moved inside to the Capitol Rotunda, the first time that location had been used for this purpose. It also was held on January 21 rather than the 20th, which fell on a Sunday. Reagan took the oath privately at the White House on Sunday and then publicly at the Capitol on Monday. 16

In 1981, the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan was moved from the East Front to the West Front of the Capitol, setting a precedent continued by Presidents William J. Clinton (1993 and 1997), George W. Bush (2001 and 2005), and Barack Obama (2009 and 2013). The West Front allows a view from the Mall and provides more space for onlookers.

White House Historical Association

George W. Bush’s inauguration, on January 20, 2001, was the 68th time the oath of office was administered, the 54th time a president was inaugurated following his election, the 51st inauguration ceremony held in Washington, the 49th held at the U.S. Capitol, and the fifth at its West Front.

Although it is tempting to dismiss the pomp and pageantry of presidential inaugural ceremonies as just another indication of the triumph of style over substance in American political culture, in the case of the Capitol’s connection to presidential inaugurations, style is substance at least on this one occasion, when all three branches symbolically join in a national affirmation of purposeful unity.

This article was originally published in White House History Number 15 Fall 2004


Second Inaugural Address of President Woodrow Wilson [March 4, 1917] - History

It is a record of singular variety and singular distinction. But I shall not attempt to review it. It speaks for itself and will be of increasing influence as the years go by. This is not the time for retrospect. It is time rather to speak our thoughts and purposes concerning the present and the immediate future.

Although we have centered counsel and action with such unusual concentration and success upon the great problems of domestic legislation to which we addressed ourselves four years ago, other matters have more and more forced themselves upon our attention-- matters lying outside our own life as a nation and over which we had no control, but which, despite our wish to keep free of them, have drawn us more and more irresistibly into their own current and influence.

It has been impossible to avoid them. They have affected the life of the whole world. They have shaken men everywhere with a passion and an apprehension they never knew before. It has been hard to preserve calm counsel while the thought of our own people swayed this way and that under their influence. We are a composite and cosmopolitan people. We are of the blood of all the nations that are at war. The currents of our thoughts as well as the currents of our trade run quick at all seasons back and forth between us and them. The war inevitably set its mark from the first alike upon our minds, our industries, our commerce, our politics and our social action. To be indifferent to it, or independent of it, was out of the question.

And yet all the while we have been conscious that we were not part of it. In that consciousness, despite many divisions, we have drawn closer together. We have been deeply wronged upon the seas, but we have not wished to wrong or injure in return have retained throughout the consciousness of standing in some sort apart, intent upon an interest that transcended the immediate issues of the war itself.

As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready to demand for all mankind--fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live and to be at ease against organized wrong.

It is in this spirit and with this thought that we have grown more and more aware, more and more certain that the part we wished to play was the part of those who mean to vindicate and fortify peace. We have been obliged to arm ourselves to make good our claim to a certain minimum of right and of freedom of action. We stand firm in armed neutrality since it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself. But nothing will alter our thought or our purpose. They are too clear to be obscured. They are too deeply rooted in the principles of our national life to be altered. We desire neither conquest nor advantage. We wish nothing that can be had only at the cost of another people. We always professed unselfish purpose and we covet the opportunity to prove our professions are sincere.

There are many things still to be done at home, to clarify our own politics and add new vitality to the industrial processes of our own life, and we shall do them as time and opportunity serve, but we realize that the greatest things that remain to be done must be done with the whole world for stage and in cooperation with the wide and universal forces of mankind, and we are making our spirits ready for those things.

We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.

And yet we are not the less Americans on that account. We shall be the more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have been bred. They are not the principles of a province or of a single continent. We have known and boasted all along that they were the principles of a liberated mankind. These, therefore, are the things we shall stand for, whether in war or in peace:

That all nations are equally interested in the peace of the world and in the political stability of free peoples, and equally responsible for their maintenance that the essential principle of peace is the actual equality of nations in all matters of right or privilege that peace cannot securely or justly rest upon an armed balance of power that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed and that no other powers should be supported by the common thought, purpose or power of the family of nations that the seas should be equally free and safe for the use of all peoples, under rules set up by common agreement and consent, and that, so far as practicable, they should be accessible to all upon equal terms that national armaments shall be limited to the necessities of national order and domestic safety that the community of interest and of power upon which peace must henceforth depend imposes upon each nation the duty of seeing to it that all influences proceeding from its own citizens meant to encourage or assist revolution in other states should be sternly and effectually suppressed and prevented.

I need not argue these principles to you, my fellow countrymen they are your own part and parcel of your own thinking and your own motives in affairs. They spring up native amongst us. Upon this as a platform of purpose and of action we can stand together. And it is imperative that we should stand together. We are being forged into a new unity amidst the fires that now blaze throughout the world. In their ardent heat we shall, in God's Providence, let us hope, be purged of faction and division, purified of the errant humors of party and of private interest, and shall stand forth in the days to come with a new dignity of national pride and spirit. Let each man see to it that the dedication is in his own heart, the high purpose of the nation in his own mind, ruler of his own will and desire.

I stand here and have taken the high and solemn oath to which you have been audience because the people of the United States have chosen me for this august delegation of power and have by their gracious judgment named me their leader in affairs.

I know now what the task means. I realize to the full the responsibility which it involves. I pray God I may be given the wisdom and the prudence to do my duty in the true spirit of this great people. I am their servant and can succeed only as they sustain and guide me by their confidence and their counsel. The thing I shall count upon, the thing without which neither counsel nor action will avail, is the unity of America--an America united in feeling, in purpose and in its vision of duty, of opportunity and of service.

We are to beware of all men who would turn the tasks and the necessities of the nation to their own private profit or use them for the building up of private power.

United alike in the conception of our duty and in the high resolve to perform it in the face of all men, let us dedicate ourselves to the great task to which we must now set our hand. For myself I beg your tolerance, your countenance and your united aid.

The shadows that now lie dark upon our path will soon be dispelled, and we shall walk with the light all about us if we be but true to ourselves--to ourselves as we have wished to be known in the counsels of the world and in the thought of all those who love liberty and justice and the right exalted.


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