Inaugural Address of William McKinley [March 4, 1897] - History

Inaugural Address of William McKinley [March 4, 1897] - History


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IN obedience to the will of the people, and in their presence, by the authority vested in me by this oath, I assume the arduous and responsible duties of President of the United States, relying upon the support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps. The responsibilities of the high trust to which I have been called—always of grave importance—are augmented by the prevailing business conditions entailing idleness upon willing labor and loss to useful enterprises. The country is suffering from industrial disturbances from which speedy relief must be had. Our financial system needs some revision; our money is all good now, but its value must not further be threatened. It should all be put upon an enduring basis, not subject to easy attack, nor its stability to doubt or dispute. Our currency should continue under the supervision of the Government. The several forms of our paper money offer, in my judgment, a constant embarrassment to the Government and a safe balance in the Treasury. Therefore I believe it necessary to devise a system which, without diminishing the circulating medium or offering a premium for its contraction, will present a remedy for those arrangements which, temporary in their nature, might well in the years of our prosperity have been displaced by wiser provisions. With adequate revenue secured, but not until then, we can enter upon such changes in our fiscal laws as will, while insuring safety and volume to our money, no longer impose upon the Government the necessity of maintaining so large a gold reserve, with its attendant and inevitable temptations to speculation. Most of our financial laws are the outgrowth of experience and trial, and should not be amended without investigation and demonstration of the wisdom of the proposed changes. We must be both "sure we are right" and "make haste slowly."

If, therefore, Congress, in its wisdom, shall deem it expedient to create a commission to take under early consideration the revision of our coinage, banking and currency laws, and give them that exhaustive, careful and dispassionate examination that their importance demands, I shall cordially concur in such action. If such power is vested in the President, it is my purpose to appoint a commission of prominent, well-informed citizens of different parties, who will command public confidence, both on account of their ability and special fitness for the work. Business experience and public training may thus be combined, and the patriotic zeal of the friends of the country be so directed that such a report will be made as to receive the support of all parties, and our finances cease to be the subject of mere partisan contention. The experiment is, at all events, worth a trial, and, in my opinion, it can but prove beneficial to the entire country. The question of international bimetallism will have early and earnest attention. It will be my constant endeavor to secure it by co-operation with the other great commercial powers of the world. Until that condition is realized when the parity between our gold and silver money springs from and is supported by the relative value of the two metals, the value of the silver already coined and of that which may hereafter be coined, must be kept constantly at par with gold by every resource at our command. The credit of the Government, the integrity of its currency, and the inviolability of its obligations must be preserved. This was the commanding verdict of the people, and it will not be unheeded.

Economy is demanded in every branch of the Government at all times, but especially in periods, like the present, of depression in business and distress among the people. The severest economy must be observed in all public expenditures, and extravagance stopped wherever it is found, and prevented wherever in the future it may be developed. If the revenues are to remain as now, the only relief that can come must be from decreased expenditures. But the present must not become the permanent condition of the Government. It has been our uniform practice to retire, not increase our outstanding obligations, and this policy must again be resumed and vigorously enforced. Our revenues should always be large enough to meet with ease and promptness not only our current needs and the principal and interest of the public debt, but to make proper and liberal provision for that most deserving body of public creditors, the soldiers and sailors and the widows and orphans who are the pensioners of the United States. The Government should not be permitted to run behind or increase its debt in times like the present. Suitably to provide against this is the mandate of duty—the certain and easy remedy for most of our financial difficulties. A deficiency is inevitable so long as the expenditures of the Government exceed its receipts. It can only be met by loans or an increased revenue. While a large annual surplus of revenue may invite waste and extravagance, inadequate revenue creates distrust and undermines public and private credit. Neither should be encouraged. Between more loans and more revenue there ought to be but one opinion. We should have more revenue, and that without delay, hindrance, or postponement. A surplus in the Treasury created by loans is not a permanent or safe reliance. It will suffice while it lasts, but it can not last long while the outlays of the Government are greater than its receipts, as has been the case during the past two years. Nor must it be forgotten that however much such loans may temporarily relieve the situation, the Government is still indebted for the amount of the surplus thus accrued, which it must ultimately pay, while its ability to pay is not strengthened, but weakened by a continued deficit.

Loans are imperative in great emergencies to preserve the Government or its credit, but a failure to supply needed revenue in time of peace for the maintenance of either has no justification. The best way for the Government to maintain its credit is to pay as it goes—not by resorting to loans, but by keeping out of debt—through an adequate income secured by a system of taxation, external or internal, or both. It is the settled policy of the Government, pursued from the beginning and practiced by all parties and Administrations, to raise the bulk of our revenue from taxes upon foreign productions entering the United States for sale and consumption, and avoiding, for the most part, every form of direct taxation, except in time of war. The country is clearly opposed to any needless additions to the subject of internal taxation, and is committed by its latest popular utterance to the system of tariff taxation. There can be no misunderstanding, either, about the principle upon which this tariff taxation shall be levied. Nothing has ever been made plainer at a general election than that the controlling principle in the raising of revenue from duties on imports is zealous care for American interests and American labor.

The people have declared that such legislation should be had as will give ample protection and encouragement to the industries and the development of our country. It is, therefore, earnestly hoped and expected that Congress will, at the earliest practicable moment, enact revenue legislation that shall be fair, reasonable, conservative, and just, and which, while supplying sufficient revenue for public purposes, will still be signally beneficial and helpful to every section and every enterprise of the people. To this policy we are all, of whatever party, firmly bound by the voice of the people—a power vastly more potential than the expression of any political platform.

The paramount duty of Congress is to stop deficiencies by the restoration of that protective legislation which has always been the firmest prop of the Treasury. The passage of such a law or laws would strengthen the credit of the Government both at home and abroad, and go far toward stopping the drain upon the gold reserve held for the redemption of our currency, which has been heavy and well-nigh constant for several years. In the revision of the tariff especial attention should be given to the re-enactment and extension of the reciprocity principle of the law of 1890, under which so great a stimulus was given to our foreign trade in new and advantageous markets for our surplus agricultural and manufactured products. The brief trial given this legislation amply justifies a further experiment and additional discretionary power in the making of commercial treaties, the end in view always to be the opening up of new markets for the products of our country, by granting concessions to the products of other lands that we need and cannot produce ourselves, and which do not involve any loss of labor to our own people, but tend to increase their employment. The depression of the past four years has fallen with especial severity upon the great body of toilers of the country, and upon none more than the holders of small farms.

Agriculture has languished and labor suffered. The revival of manufacturing will be a relief to both. No portion of our population is more devoted to the institution of free government nor more loyal in their support, while none bears more cheerfully or fully its proper share in the maintenance of the Government or is better entitled to its wise and liberal care and protection. Legislation helpful to producers is beneficial to all. The depressed condition of industry on the farm and in the mine and factory has lessened the ability of the people to meet the demands upon them, and they rightfully expect that not only a system of revenue shall be established that will secure the largest income with the least burden, but that every means will be taken to decrease, rather than increase, our public expenditures.

Business conditions are not the most promising. It will take time to restore the prosperity of former years. If we cannot promptly attain it, we can resolutely turn our faces in that direction and aid its return by friendly legislation. However troublesome the situation may appear, Congress will not, I am sure, be found lacking in disposition or ability to relieve it as far as legislation can do so. The restoration of confidence and the revival of business, which men of all parties so much desire, depend more largely upon the prompt, energetic, and intelligent action of Congress than upon any other single agency affecting the situation. It is inspiring, too, to remember that no great emergency in the one hundred and eight years of our eventful national life has ever arisen that has not been met with wisdom and courage by the American people, with fidelity to their best interests and highest destiny, and to the honor of the American name. These years of glorious history have exalted mankind and advanced the cause of freedom throughout the world, and immeasurably strengthened the precious free institutions which we enjoy. The people love and will sustain these institutions. The great essential to our happiness and prosperity is that we adhere to the principles upon which the Government was established and insist upon their faithful observance. Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and everywhere respected and obeyed. We may have failed in the discharge of our full duty as citizens of the great Republic, but it is consoling and encouraging to realize that free speech, a free press, free thought, free schools, the free and unmolested right of religious liberty and worship, and free and fair elections are dearer and more universally enjoyed to-day than ever before. These guaranties must be sacredly preserved and wisely strengthened. The constituted authorities must be cheerfully and vigorously upheld. Lynchings must not be tolerated in a great and civilized country like the United States; courts, not mobs, must execute the penalties of the law. The preservation of public order, the right of discussion, the integrity of courts, and the orderly administration of justice must continue forever the rock of safety upon which our Government securely rests.

One of the lessons taught by the late election, which all can rejoice in, is that the citizens of the United States are both law-respecting and law-abiding people, not easily swerved from the path of patriotism and honor. This is in entire accord with the genius of our institutions, and but emphasizes the advantages of inculcating even a greater love for law and order in the future. Immunity should be granted to none who violate the laws, whether individuals, corporations, or communities; and as the Constitution imposes upon the President the duty of both its own execution, and of the statutes enacted in pursuance of its provisions, I shall endeavor carefully to carry them into effect. The declaration of the party now restored to power has been in the past that of "opposition to all combinations of capital organized in trusts, or otherwise, to control arbitrarily the condition of trade among our citizens," and it has supported "such legislation as will prevent the execution of all schemes to oppress the people by undue charges on their supplies, or by unjust rates for the transportation of their products to the market." This purpose will be steadily pursued, both by the enforcement of the laws now in existence and the recommendation and support of such new statutes as may be necessary to carry it into effect. Our naturalization and immigration laws should be further improved to the constant promotion of a safer, a better, and a higher citizenship. A grave peril to the Republic would be a citizenship too ignorant to understand or too vicious to appreciate the great value and beneficence of our institutions and laws, and against all who come here to make war upon them our gates must be promptly and tightly closed. Nor must we be unmindful of the need of improvement among our own citizens, but with the zeal of our forefathers encourage the spread of knowledge and free education. Illiteracy must be banished from the land if we shall attain that high destiny as the foremost of the enlightened nations of the world which, under Providence, we ought to achieve. Reforms in the civil service must go on; but the changes should be real and genuine, not perfunctory, or prompted by a zeal in behalf of any party simply because it happens to be in power. As a member of Congress I voted and spoke in favor of the present law, and I shall attempt its enforcement in the spirit in which it was enacted. The purpose in view was to secure the most efficient service of the best men who would accept appointment under the Government, retaining faithful and devoted public servants in office, but shielding none, under the authority of any rule or custom, who are inefficient, incompetent, or unworthy. The best interests of the country demand this, and the people heartily approve the law wherever and whenever it has been thus administrated.

Congress should give prompt attention to the restoration of our American merchant marine, once the pride of the seas in all the great ocean highways of commerce. To my mind, few more important subjects so imperatively demand its intelligent consideration. The United States has progressed with marvelous rapidity in every field of enterprise and endeavor until we have become foremost in nearly all the great lines of inland trade, commerce, and industry. Yet, while this is true, our American merchant marine has been steadily declining until it is now lower, both in the percentage of tonnage and the number of vessels employed, than it was prior to the Civil War.

Commendable progress has been made of late years in the upbuilding of the American Navy, but we must supplement these efforts by providing as a proper consort for it a merchant marine amply sufficient for our own carrying trade to foreign countries. The question is one that appeals both to our business necessities and the patriotic aspirations of a great people. It has been the policy of the United States since the foundation of the Government to cultivate relations of peace and amity with all the nations of the world, and this accords with my conception of our duty now. We have cherished the policy of non-interference with affairs of foreign governments wisely inaugurated by Washington, keeping ourselves free from entanglement, either as allies or foes, content to leave undisturbed with them the settlement of their own domestic concerns. It will be our aim to pursue a firm and dignified foreign policy, which shall be just, impartial, ever watchful of our national honor, and always insisting upon the enforcement of the lawful rights of American citizens everywhere. Our diplomacy should seek nothing more and accept nothing less than is due us. We want no wars of conquest; we must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression. War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed; peace is preferable to war in almost every contingency. Arbitration is the true method of settlement of international as well as local or individual differences. It was recognized as the best means of adjustment of differences between employers and employees by the Forty-ninth Congress, in 1886, and its application was extended to our diplomatic relations by the unanimous concurrence of the Senate and House of the Fifty-first Congress in 1890. The latter resolution was accepted as the basis of negotiations with us by the British House of Commons in 1893, and upon our invitation a treaty of arbitration between the United States and Great Britain was signed at Washington and transmitted to the Senate for its ratification in January last. Since this treaty is clearly the result of our own initiative; since it has been recognized as the leading feature of our foreign policy throughout our entire national history—the adjustment of difficulties by judicial methods rather than force of arms—and since it presents to the world the glorious example of reason and peace, not passion and war, controlling the relations between two of the greatest nations in the world, an example certain to be followed by others, I respectfully urge the early action of the Senate thereon, not merely as a matter of policy, but as a duty to mankind. The importance and moral influence of the ratification of such a treaty can hardly be overestimated in the cause of advancing civilization. It may well engage the best thought of the statesmen and people of every country, and I cannot but consider it fortunate that it was reserved to the United States to have the leadership in so grand a work. It has been the uniform practice of each President to avoid, as far as possible, the convening of Congress in extraordinary session. It is an example which, under ordinary circumstances and in the absence of a public necessity, is to be commended. But a failure to convene the representatives of the people in Congress in extra session when it involves neglect of a public duty places the responsibility of such neglect upon the Executive himself. The condition of the public Treasury, as has been indicated, demands the immediate consideration of Congress. It alone has the power to provide revenues for the Government. Not to convene it under such circumstances I can view in no other sense than the neglect of a plain duty. I do not sympathize with the sentiment that Congress in session is dangerous to our general business interests. Its members are the agents of the people, and their presence at the seat of Government in the execution of the sovereign will should not operate as an injury, but a benefit. There could be no better time to put the Government upon a sound financial and economic basis than now. The people have only recently voted that this should be done, and nothing is more binding upon the agents of their will than the obligation of immediate action. It has always seemed to me that the postponement of the meeting of Congress until more than a year after it has been chosen deprived Congress too often of the inspiration of the popular will and the country of the corresponding benefits. It is evident, therefore, that to postpone action in the presence of so great a necessity would be unwise on the part of the Executive because unjust to the interests of the people. Our action now will be freer from mere partisan consideration than if the question of tariff revision was postponed until the regular session of Congress. We are nearly two years from a Congressional election, and politics cannot so greatly distract us as if such contest was immediately pending. We can approach the problem calmly and patriotically, without fearing its effect upon an early election. Our fellow-citizens who may disagree with us upon the character of this legislation prefer to have the question settled now, even against their preconceived views, and perhaps settled so reasonably, as I trust and believe it will be, as to insure great permanence, than to have further uncertainty menacing the vast and varied business interests of the United States. Again, whatever action Congress may take will be given a fair opportunity for trial before the people are called to pass judgment upon it, and this I consider a great essential to the rightful and lasting settlement of the question. In view of these considerations, I shall deem it my duty as President to convene Congress in extraordinary session on Monday, the 15th day of March, 1897.

In conclusion, I congratulate the country upon the fraternal spirit of the people and the manifestations of good will everywhere so apparent. The recent election not only most fortunately demonstrated the obliteration of sectional or geographical lines, but to some extent also the prejudices which for years have distracted our councils and marred our true greatness as a nation. The triumph of the people, whose verdict is carried into effect today, is not the triumph of one section, nor wholly of one party, but of all sections and all the people. The North and the South no longer divide on the old lines, but upon principles and policies; and in this fact surely every lover of the country can find cause for true felicitation. Let us rejoice in and cultivate this spirit; it is ennobling and will be both a gain and a blessing to our beloved country. It will be my constant aim to do nothing, and permit nothing to be done, that will arrest or disturb this growing sentiment of unity and cooperation, this revival of esteem and affiliation which now animates so many thousands in both the old antagonistic sections, but I shall cheerfully do everything possible to promote and increase it. Let me again repeat the words of the oath administered by the Chief Justice which, in their respective spheres, so far as applicable, I would have all my countrymen observe: "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." This is the obligation I have reverently taken before the Lord Most High. To keep it will be my single purpose, my constant prayer; and I shall confidently rely upon the forbearance and assistance of all the people in the discharge of my solemn responsibilities.


Inaugural Address of William McKinley [March 4, 1897] - History

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, to, 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!


1897 – Inaugural Address of William McKinley

President McKinley spends the bulk of his speech addressing the economic concerns that currently trouble the country – the depression which is demanding action. In addition to traditional discussions regarding monetary policy, tariffs, and possible taxes, he takes the extraordinary step of calling for Congress to convene on a specific date to, paraphrasing, “do their job.” McKinley also addresses the US’s position in world affairs, particularly in trade and war. These themes are worthwhile to re-examine in his second inaugural address, after the US becomes involved in both the Boxer Rebellion and Spanish American War during his first term.

Thoughts on Transcript:

  1. Addresses monetary policy, particularly the National Bank / precursor to the Federal Reserve
  2. Touches on the the silver-gold standard split (note: He defeated William Jennings Bryan in the general election. It was during the nomination process that WJB gave his famous “Cross of Gold” speech).
  3. The Depression and what the government’s spending policy should be
  4. Revenue generation (taxes and tariffs)
  5. American values, particularly observance of laws
  6. Importance of education and an immigration policy that prevents those who go against American values
  7. Rebuilding of merchant marine
  8. Policy of US internationally: Neutral (note: the Spanish American War will occur 1 year from this speech)
  9. Calls Congress into session to deal with monetary crisis
  10. Points out that wounds from Civil War are starting to heal in that there is no sectional division in latest election (though there is political / philosophical division)

Phrases I have underlined, starred, or otherwise marked:

“Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.”

“Most of our financial laws are the outgrowth of experience and trial, and should not be amended without investigation and demonstration of the wisdom of the proposed changes. We must be both ‘sure we are right’ and ‘make haste slowly.'”

“The credit of the Government, the integrity of its currency, and the inviolability of its obligations must be preserved.”

“It has been our uniform practice to retire, not increase our outstanding obligations, and this policy must again be resumed and vigorously enforced.”

“The best way for the Government to maintain its credit is to pay as it goes–not by resorting to loans, but by keeping out of debt–through an adequate income secured by a system of taxation, external or internal, or both.”

“The brief trial given this legislation amply justifies a further experiment and additional discretionary power in the making of commercial treaties, the end in view always to be the opening up of new markets for the products of our country, by granting concessions to the products of other lands that we need and cannot produce ourselves, and which do not involve any loss of labor to our own people, but tend to increase their employment.”

The great essential to our happiness and prosperity is that we adhere to the principles upon which the Government was established and insist upon their faithful observance. Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and everywhere respected and obeyed.

Lynchings must not be tolerated in a great and civilized country like the United States courts, not mobs, must execute the penalties of the law. The preservation of public order, the right of discussion, the integrity of courts, and the orderly administration of justice must continue forever the rock of safety upon which our Government securely rests.

A grave peril to the Republic would be a citizenship too ignorant to understand or too vicious to appreciate the great value and beneficence of our institutions and laws, and against all who come here to make war upon them our gates must be promptly and tightly closed.”

Illiteracy must be banished from the land if we shall attain that high destiny as the foremost of the enlightened nations of the world which, under Providence, we ought to achieve.

“Yet, while this is true, our American merchant marine has been steadily declining until it is now lower, both in the percentage of tonnage and the number of vessels employed, than it was prior to the Civil War.”

“The question is one that appeals both to our business necessities and the patriotic aspirations of a great people.” (regarding the merchant marine)

We have cherished the policy of non-interference with affairs of foreign governments wisely inaugurated by Washington, keeping ourselves free from entanglement, either as allies or foes, content to leave undisturbed with them the settlement of their own domestic concerns.

“Our diplomacy should seek nothing more and accept nothing less than is due us.”

We want no wars of conquest we must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression. War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed peace is preferable to war in almost every contingency. Arbitration is the true method of settlement of international as well as local or individual differences.

“The condition of the public Treasury, as has been indicated, demands the immediate consideration of Congress. It alone has the power to provide revenues for the Government. Not to convene it under such circumstances I can view in no other sense than the neglect of a plain duty.

“In view of these considerations, I shall deem it my duty as President to convene Congress in extraordinary session on Monday, the 15th day of March, 1897.”

“The North and the South no longer divide on the old lines, but upon principles and policies and in this fact surely every lover of the country can find cause for true felicitation.”

Thoughts on delivery (audio and/or video of speech):

None. McKinley’s inauguration was the first to have a video taken of the speech but no complete audio recordings exist. I am unable to find a video of the speech as well.


1901 – Second Inaugural Address of William McKinley

President McKinley’s second address is one of victory and a new path forward for the United States. Victory in that the financial crisis that hung over his first inauguration has been solved, taxation has been reduced, the Treasury is running a surplus, the country is continuing to heal from Civil War, and wars overseas have been won. A new path forward in that the words of McKinley begin a pivot of US policy toward spreading “American ideals and values abroad”, aka the end of isolation. It does not come all at once, but this is the foot in the door that will be kicked open by Roosevelt and Wilson.

Thoughts on Transcript:

  1. Nation on better financial footing
  2. Trade and business is booming
  3. War came and passed in first term – referring both to the Spanish American War and the Boxer Rebellion
  4. US is united
  5. US thrives on hope for the future and striving for better things
  6. Begins pivot to overseas “spreading of liberty” – would become a greater theme in second half of century, but this is also where the US begins to break away from isolationism
  7. American exceptionalism and supremacy is taking greater hold
  8. Military government and transition plan for Cuba
  9. Military government and transition plan for Philippines

Phrases I have underlined, starred, or otherwise marked:

“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.”

“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.

“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.

“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.

The faith of the fathers was a mighty force in [the Republic’s] 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 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 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.”

“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.'”

“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.” (regarding the Philippines)

“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.”

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.

Thoughts on delivery (audio and/or video of speech):

No audio recording exists. The following files are found within the Library of Congress.


Inaugural Address of William McKinley [March 4, 1897] - History

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, to, 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!


The Speech

Barack Obama has been studying up, reading Abraham Lincoln’s speeches, raising everyone’s expectations for what just might be the most eagerly awaited Inaugural Address ever. Presidential eloquence doesn’t get much better than the argument of Lincoln’s first inaugural, “Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy” the poetry of his second, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away” and its parting grace, “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.”

Reading Lincoln left James Garfield nearly speechless. After Garfield was elected, in 1880, he, like most of our more bookish Chief Executives, or at least their speechwriters, undertook to read the Inaugural Addresses of every President who preceded him. “Those of the past except Lincoln’s, are dreary reading,” Garfield confided to his diary. “I have half a mind to make none.” Lincoln’s are surpassingly fine most of the rest are utterly unlovely. The longest are, unsurprisingly, the most vacuous it usually takes a while to say so prodigiously little. “Make it the shortest since T.R.,” John F. Kennedy urged Ted Sorensen, who, on finishing his own reading, reported, “Lincoln never used a two- or three-syllable word where a one-syllable word would do.” Sorensen and Kennedy applied that rule to the writing of Kennedy’s inaugural, not just the “Ask not” but also the “call to”: “Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle.”

Economy isn’t everything. “Only the short ones are remembered,” Richard Nixon concluded, after reading all the inaugurals, an opinion that led him to say things briefly but didn’t save him from saying them badly: “The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep.” Even when Presidential inaugurals make more sense than that, they are not, on the whole, gripping. “The platitude quotient tends to be high, the rhetoric stately and self-serving, the ritual obsessive, and the surprises few,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., observed in 1965, and that’s still true. A bad Inaugural Address doesn’t always augur a bad Presidency. It sinks your spirit, though. In 1857, James Buchanan berated abolitionists for making such a fuss about slavery: “Most happy will it be for the country when the public mind shall be diverted from this question to others of more pressing and practical importance.” Ulysses S. Grant groused, “I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political history.” Dwight D. Eisenhower went for a numbered list. George H. W. Bush compared freedom to a kite. For meaninglessness, my money’s on Jimmy Carter: “It is that unique self-definition which has given us an exceptional appeal, but it also imposes on us a special obligation to take on those moral duties which, when assumed, seem invariably to be in our own best interests.” But, for monotony, it’s difficult to outdrone Warren G. Harding (“It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it,” H. L. Mencken admitted): “I speak for administrative efficiency, for lightened tax burdens, for sound commercial practices, for adequate credit facilities, for sympathetic concern for all agricultural problems, for the omission of unnecessary interference of . . .” I ellipse, lest I nod off. The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep.

When Garfield was elected, there were fewer inaugurals to plow through, but they were harder to come by. Obama might not be allowed to e-mail, but he can still Google. Sorensen, who mimeographed, had merely to walk over to the Library of Congress. Garfield’s staff had to hunt down every inaugural, and any copying they did they did by hand. The inaugurals weren’t regularly compiled and printed as a set until 1840, in “The True American,” and, six years later, in “The Statesman’s Manual,” but by 1880 no edition remained in print, and Garfield’s men had to cobble them together all over again. Since 1893, a complete set of texts has been reissued every few decades or so, including, this past year, in “Fellow Citizens: The Penguin Book of U.S. Presidential Inaugural Addresses” (Penguin $16), edited, with an introduction and commentaries, by Robert V. Remini and Terry Golway.

Inaugural Addresses were written to be read as much as heard. Arguably, they still are. The first thirty-three of our country’s Inaugural Addresses survive only as written words. Before 1921, when Warren Harding used an amplifier, even the crowd couldn’t make out what the President was saying, and before Calvin Coolidge’s speech was broadcast over the radio, in 1925, the inaugurals were, basically, only read, usually in the newspaper. Since Truman’s, in 1949, inaugurals have been televised, and since Bill Clinton’s second, in 1997, they have been streamed online. Obama’s inaugural, the fifty-sixth in American history, will be the first to be YouTubed. “Our Founders saw themselves in the light of posterity,” Clinton said. “We can do no less.” Inaugurals are written for the future, but they look, mostly, to the past (“We are the heirs of the ages,” T.R. said), which, when you think about it, might help explain why so many prove so unsatisfying in the present. (“Achieve timelessness! ” is, as a piece of writing advice, probably not the most helpful.) On January 20th, most of us will watch and listen. Delivery counts. But, for now at least, speaking to posterity still means writing for readers. Bedside reading old inaugurals are not. But they do offer some hints about what will be at stake when Barack Obama raises his hands, quiets the crowd, and clears his throat.

“Made the first actual study for inaugural by commencing to read those of my predecessors,” Garfield wrote in his diary on December 20, 1880, when he still had plenty of time. (New Presidents used to be sworn in on March 4th. In 1933, the Twentieth Amendment changed the date to January 20th, to shorten the awkward interregnum between election and Inauguration.) He started with George Washington’s first (the oldest) and second (at a hundred and thirty-five words, the shortest). The next day, he read John Adams’s overworked and forgettable one and only: “His next to the last sentence contains more than 700 words. Strong but too cumbrous.” (Actually, Garfield was wrong it’s the third-to-last sentence. But it is cumbrous. Also, indefinite: nineteen of those seven hundred words are “if.”) That afternoon, Garfield listened as a friend read aloud Thomas Jefferson’s first, probably more forcefully than had Jefferson, who was, famously, a mumbler. “Stronger than Washington’s, more ornate than Adams’ ” was the President-elect’s verdict on the address, widely considered nearly as transcendent as Lincoln’s two, for these lines: “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” But it’s the next, if admittedly more ornate, sentence that steals my breath: “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

On December 22nd, Garfield trudged through a few more lesser addresses: “Curious tone of self-depreciation runs through them all—which I cannot quite believe was genuine. Madison’s speeches were not quite up to my expectations. Monroe’s first was rather above.” And then, what with Christmas, trips to the dentist, and choosing a Cabinet, Garfield found his interest in reading inaugurals flagging. Instead, he devoured a novel, hot off the presses—Disraeli’s three-volume, autobiographical “Endymion.” He finished it on New Year’s Eve, just weeks after he started it, and concluded in his diary, twenty minutes before midnight, “It shows adroitness, great reserve on dangerous questions, with enough frankness on other questions to make a show of boldness.” Even that much he could not say for the inaugurals stretching from John Quincy Adams (who wore pants instead of knee breeches) to Buchanan (a man Kennedy once aptly described as “cringing in the White House, afraid to move,” while the nation teetered on the brink of civil war). By mid-January, Garfield’s staff had entered summaries of the inaugurals into a book for him to read. But, abridged or unabridged, they were a slog. Did he really have to write one? He wasn’t so sure: “I am quite seriously discussing the propriety of omitting it.”

“Hello, son. I suppose chicken farming doesn’t seem so bad now.”

He could have. The Constitution says nothing about an Inaugural Address. It calls only for the President to take an oath: “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.” George Washington took that oath in New York City, on April 30, 1789 (the election hadn’t been concluded until mid-April). Just hours before the ceremony, a special congressional committee decided that it might be fitting for Washington to rest his hand on a Bible, and, since no one in Federal Hall had a copy, there followed a mad dash to find one. At midday, Washington took his oath standing on a balcony above a crowd assembled on Wall Street. Then he kissed his borrowed Bible and uttered four words more: “So help me, God.” Ever since, most Presidents have done the same, but some have dispensed with the kiss, a few have skipped those four words, and, in 1853, Franklin Pierce even refused the Bible.

After Washington was sworn in, he entered Federal Hall and made a speech before Congress. He didn’t have to. He thought it would be a good idea. Like most things Washington did, this set a precedent. Washington’s first inaugural was addressed to “Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and the House of Representatives.” He wasn’t speaking to the American people he was speaking to Congress. In 1801, Jefferson, the first President to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C., the nation’s new capital, addressed his remarks to the American people—“Friends and Fellow-Citizens”—but, the day he delivered it, he, too, was really speaking only to Congress and assorted dignitaries, assembled in the half-built Capitol. James Monroe, in 1817, was the first to deliver his inaugural in the open air (before a crowd of eight thousand, who couldn’t hear a thing), although this came about only because the Capitol was undergoing renovations and House members refused to share a chamber with the senators. In 1829, some twenty thousand Americans turned up for Andrew Jackson’s Inauguration. Jackson, who had campaigned as a common man, addressed his inaugural to the American people, and that’s how it has been done ever since. Talking to the American people proved to be the death of William Henry Harrison, who, on a bitterly cold and icy day in 1841, became, at sixty-eight, the oldest President then to have taken office. Determined to prove his hardiness, Harrison delivered his address hatless and without so much as an overcoat. “In obedience to a custom coeval with our Government and what I believe to be your expectations I proceed to present to you a summary of the principles which will govern me in the discharge of the duties which I shall be called upon to perform,” Harrison said, introducing a speech that, far from being a summary, took more than two hours to deliver, and, at more than eight thousand words, still reigns as the longest. Harrison caught a cold that day it worsened into pneumonia he died a month later.

“I must soon begin the inaugural address,” Garfield scolded himself in his diary on January 25, 1881. He had finished his dreary reading. There was no real avoiding the writing. “I suppose I must conform to the custom, but I think the address should be short.” Three days later, he reported, “I made some progress in my inaugural, but do not satisfy myself. The fact is I ought to have done it sooner before I became so jaded.”

George Washington wasn’t jaded, but he struggled, too. Possibly with the help of David Humphreys, he wrote the better part of a first draft, seventy-three pages of policy recommendations. Eager to assure Americans that he had not the least intention of founding a dynasty, he reminded Congress that he couldn’t: “the Divine providence hath not seen fit that my blood should be transmitted or my name perpetuated by the endearing though sometimes seducing, channel of personal offspring.” James Madison judiciously deleted that. Jackson made a stab at a draft, but his advisers, calling it “disgraceful,” rewrote it entirely. After reading a draft of William Henry Harrison’s inaugural, cluttered with references to ancient republics, Daniel Webster pared it down, and declared when he was done, “I have killed seventeen Roman pro-consuls as dead as smelts.”

Lincoln gave a draft of his first inaugural to his incoming Secretary of State, William Seward, who scribbled out a new ending, offering an olive branch to seceding Southern states:

I close. We are not, we must not be, aliens or enemies, but fellow-countrymen and brethren. Although passion has strained our bonds of affection too hardly, they must not, I am sure they will not, be broken. The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriot graves, pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angels of the nation.

But it was Lincoln’s revision that made this soar:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Revision usually helps. Raymond Moley drafted Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural, but Louis Howe added, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Sorensen wrote much of Kennedy’s, but it was Adlai Stevenson and John Kenneth Galbraith who proposed an early version of “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” Carter, who had a vexed relationship with speechwriters, wrote his own unmemorable inaugural, although James Fallows managed to persuade him to open by thanking Gerald Ford. In “White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters” (Simon & Schuster $30), Robert Schlesinger argues that Ronald Reagan gave, in the course of his career, iterations of what was essentially the same talk, known as the Speech. His inaugural, remarkable for its skilled delivery, was no exception. Clinton solicited advice from dozens of people, including Sorensen, and then tinkered. About her husband, Hillary Clinton once said, “He’s never met a sentence he couldn’t fool with.”

James Garfield wrote his inaugural alone. “I must shut myself up to the study of man’s estimate of himself as contrasted with my own estimate of him,” he vowed, with much misgiving, in mid-January. “Made some progress on the inaugural,” he reported a few weeks later, “but still feel unusual repugnance to writing.” At least he had settled on an outline: “1st a brief introduction, 2nd a summary of recent topics that ought to be treated as settled, 3rd a summary of those that ought to occupy the public attention, 4[th] a direct appeal to the people to stand by me in an independent and vigorous execution of the laws.” In “Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Words” (Chicago $25), Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson argue that inaugural rhetoric serves four purposes: reuniting the people after an election rehearsing shared and inherited values setting forth policies and demonstrating the President’s willingness to abide by the terms of his office. That list happens to be a near-match to Garfield’s outline. But it misses what has changed about inaugurals over the years, and what was newish about Garfield’s. The nation’s first century of inaugural speeches, even when they were addressed to the people, served to mark an incoming President’s covenant with the Constitution. As the political scientist Jeffrey Tulis pointed out in his 1987 study, “The Rhetorical Presidency,” every nineteenth-century inaugural except Zachary Taylor’s mentions the Constitution. John Quincy Adams called that document our “precious inheritance.” To Martin Van Buren, it was “a sacred instrument.” James K. Polk called it “the chart by which I shall be directed.” Most do more than mention the Constitution they linger over it. A few nineteenth-century inaugurals, including William Henry Harrison’s, consist of ponderous constitutional analysis. Meanwhile, only half the inaugurals delivered in the twentieth century contain the word “Constitution,” and none do much more than name it. Nineteenth-century Presidents pledged themselves to the Constitution twentieth-century Presidents courted the American people.

We now not only accept that our Presidents will speak to us, directly, and ask for our support, plebiscitarily we expect it, even though the founders not only didn’t expect it, they feared it. Tulis and other scholars who wrote on this subject during the Reagan years generally found the rise of the rhetorical Presidency alarming. By appealing to the people, charismatic Chief Executives were bypassing Congress and ignoring the warnings of—and the provisions made by—the Founding Fathers, who considered popular leaders to be demagogues, politicians who appealed to passion rather than to reason. The rhetorical Presidency, Tulis warned, was leading to “a greater mutability of policy, an erosion of the processes of deliberation, and a decay of political discourse.”

“I’m looking for something that says I have a headache.”

In the years since, that prediction has largely been borne out. Still, scholars have quibbled about Tulis’s theory. In the latest corrective, “The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush” (Oxford $24.95), the political scientist Elvin T. Lim argues that the problem isn’t that Presidents appeal to the people it’s that they pander to us. Speech is fine blather is not. By an “anti-intellectual President”—a nod to Richard Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” from 1963—Lim doesn’t just mean George W. Bush, though Bush’s government-by-the-gut is a good illustration of his point. He means everyone from Harding forward (except for T.R., Wilson, F.D.R., and J.F.K., who, while rhetorical Presidents, were not, by Lim’s accounting, anti-intellectual ones), a procession of Presidents who have, in place of evidence and argument, offered platitudes, partisan gibes, emotional appeals, and lady-in-Pasadena human-interest stories. Sloganeering in speechwriting has become such a commonplace that this year the National Constitution Center is hosting a contest for the best six-word inaugural. (“New deal. New day. New world.”) Public-spirited, yes nuanced, not so much.

Lim dates the institutionalization of the anti-intellectual Presidency to 1969, when Nixon established the Writing and Research Department, the first White House speechwriting office. There had been speechwriters before, but they were usually also policy advisers. With Nixon’s Administration was born a class of professionals whose sole job was to write the President’s speeches, and who have been rewarded, in the main, for the amount of applause their prose could generate. Of F.D.R.’s speeches, only about one a year was interrupted for applause (and no one applauded when he said that fear is all we have to fear). Bill Clinton’s last State of the Union address was interrupted a hundred and twenty times. The dispiriting transcript reads, “I ask you to pass a real patients’ bill of rights. [Applause.] I ask you to pass common sense gun safety legislation. [Applause.] I ask you to pass campaign finance reform. [Applause.]” For every minute of George W. Bush’s State of the Union addresses, there were twenty-nine seconds of applause.

Lim interviewed forty-two current and former White House speechwriters. But much of his analysis rests on running inaugurals and other Presidential messages through something called the Flesch Readability Test, a formula involving the average number of words in a sentence and the average number of syllables per word. Flesch scores, when indexed to grade levels, rate the New York Times at college level Newsweek at high school and comic books at fifth grade. Between 1789 and 2005, the Flesch scores of Inaugural Addresses descended from a college reading level to about an eighth-grade one. Lim takes this to mean that Inaugural Addresses are getting stupider. That’s not clear. They’ve always been lousy. Admittedly, the older speeches are, as Garfield put it, cumbrous, but it’s a mistake to assume that something’s smarter just because it’s harder to read. This essay, with the exception of the sentence after this one, gets an eleventh-grade rating. However, were circumstances such that a disquisition on Presidential eloquence were to proffer, to a more loquacious narrator—one whose style and syntax were characterized by rhetorical flourishes which, to modern ears, might, indeed, give every appearance of being at once extraordinary and antiquated, and, yet more particularly, obnoxious—were, that is, this composition to present to such a penman a propitious opportunity for maundering, not to say for circumlocution, that tireless soul would be compensated, if a dubious reward it would prove, by a Flesch score more collegial, nay: this extracted digression rates “doctoral.” It is, nevertheless, malarkey. Flesch scores turn out to be not such a useful measure of meaningfulness, especially across time. Still, Lim is onto something. The American language has changed. Inaugural Addresses can be lousy in a whole new idiom. The past half century of speechwriters, most of whom trained as journalists, do favor small words and short sentences, as do many people whose English teachers made them read Strunk and White’s 1959 “Elements of Style” (“Omit needless words”) and Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” (“Never use a long word where a short one will do”). Lim gets this, but only sort of. Harding’s inaugural comes in at a college reading level, George H. W. Bush’s at about a sixth-grade level. Harding’s isn’t smarter or subtler it’s just more flowery. They are both empty-headed both suffer from what Orwell called “slovenliness.” The problem doesn’t lie in the length of their sentences or the number of their syllables. It lies in the absence of precision, the paucity of ideas, and the evasion of every species of argument.


Inaugural Address of William McKinley [March 4, 1897] - History

Fast Fact: Under William McKinley the Nation gained its first overseas possessions.

Biography: At the 1896 Republican Convention, in time of depression, the wealthy Cleveland businessman Marcus Alonzo Hanna ensured the nomination of his friend William McKinley as "the advance agent of prosperity." The Democrats, advocating the "free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold"--which would have mildly inflated the currency--nominated William Jennings Bryan.

While Hanna used large contributions from eastern Republicans frightened by Bryan's views on silver, McKinley met delegations on his front porch in Canton, Ohio. He won by the largest majority of popular votes since 1872.

Born in Niles, Ohio, in 1843, McKinley briefly attended Allegheny College, and was teaching in a country school when the Civil War broke out. Enlisting as a private in the Union Army, he was mustered out at the end of the war as a brevet major of volunteers. He studied law, opened an office in Canton, Ohio, and married Ida Saxton, daughter of a local banker.

At 34, McKinley won a seat in Congress. His attractive personality, exemplary character, and quick intelligence enabled him to rise rapidly. He was appointed to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Robert M. La Follette, Sr., who served with him, recalled that he generally "represented the newer view," and "on the great new questions .. was generally on the side of the public and against private interests."

During his 14 years in the House, he became the leading Republican tariff expert, giving his name to the measure enacted in 1890. The next year he was elected Governor of Ohio, serving two terms.

When McKinley became President, the depression of 1893 had almost run its course and with it the extreme agitation over silver. Deferring action on the money question, he called Congress into special session to enact the highest tariff in history.

In the friendly atmosphere of the McKinley Administration, industrial combinations developed at an unprecedented pace. Newspapers caricatured McKinley as a little boy led around by "Nursie" Hanna, the representative of the trusts. However, McKinley was not dominated by Hanna he condemned the trusts as "dangerous conspiracies against the public good."

Not prosperity, but foreign policy, dominated McKinley's Administration. Reporting the stalemate between Spanish forces and revolutionaries in Cuba, newspapers screamed that a quarter of the population was dead and the rest suffering acutely. Public indignation brought pressure upon the President for war. Unable to restrain Congress or the American people, McKinley delivered his message of neutral intervention in April 1898. Congress thereupon voted three resolutions tantamount to a declaration of war for the liberation and independence of Cuba.

In the 100-day war, the United States destroyed the Spanish fleet outside Santiago harbor in Cuba, seized Manila in the Philippines, and occupied Puerto Rico.

"Uncle Joe" Cannon, later Speaker of the House, once said that McKinley kept his ear so close to the ground that it was full of grasshoppers. When McKinley was undecided what to do about Spanish possessions other than Cuba, he toured the country and detected an imperialist sentiment. Thus the United States annexed the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

In 1900, McKinley again campaigned against Bryan. While Bryan inveighed against imperialism, McKinley quietly stood for "the full dinner pail."

His second term, which had begun auspiciously, came to a tragic end in September 1901. He was standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition when a deranged anarchist shot him twice. He died eight days later.


WILLIAM MCKINLEY, SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS MONDAY, MARCH 4, 1901

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!

William McKinley - Wikipedia

William McKinley Jr. was born in 1843 in Niles, Ohio, the seventh child of William McKinley Sr. and Nancy (née Allison) McKinley (1809–1897). The McKinleys were of English and Scots-Irish descent and had settled in western Pennsylvania in the 18th century, tracing back to a David McKinley who was born in Dervock, County Antrim, in present-day Northern Ireland.


The Inaugural Luncheon

After the new president and vice-president have seen the outgoing executives leave, they then return to Statuary Hall within the capitol to attend a luncheon given by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. During the 19th century, this luncheon was typically hosted at the White House by the outgoing president and first lady. However, since the early 1900's the luncheon location was moved to the Capitol. It has been given by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies since 1953.


Every U.S. Presidential Inauguration Since McKinley, In Photos

Much has been made of Donald Trump's inability to attract high-profile acts to appear at his inaugural festivities. Such a scenario wouldn't have been much of a concern in eras past. A look through history reveals that the presidential inauguration hasn't always been a carefully orchestrated, day-long affair filled with speeches, parades and balls.

Emergency circumstances&mdashtypically the sudden death of the incumbent&mdashhave seen some incoming presidents sworn in under less formalized situations. Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office by kerosene light at his father's home after William Harding's death from a heart attack the prior night. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in aboard Air Force One two hours after John F. Kennedy's assassination. Andrew Johnson was reportedly drunk at his emergency inauguration after Abraham Lincoln was killed.

Even when presidents have had fair warning of the day to come, not everything has always gone as planned. Richard Nixon's inaugural parade route was littered with dead birds after he'd had it pre-emptively sprayed with repellent. James Buchanan was struck with severe diarrhea the night before his swearing-in and almost didn't attend. And many believe that William Henry Harrison's record-holding inaugural address, which lasted an hour and forty-five minutes in the freezing cold, may have caused him to catch the pneumonia that would kill him a month later.

In the slideshow above, take a look at the inaugurations of every president since William McKinley, who took office in 1897, through President Obama.


Watch the video: JFKs Famous Inaugural Address Passage