Millercenter.org’s summary of speech:
“President Jackson thanks the nation for its support in electing him and highlights his promises to use the public funds wisely and to stop the expansion of the military. Jackson’s campaign charged large amounts of corruption in the federal government and in his inauguration speech, Jackson again expresses his determination to remove patronage systems in Washington.”
Thoughts on Transcript:
Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory. Our Presidents back then really had something, didn’t they? In the case of Andrew Jackson, it was a military hero who rode to power on a people’s revolution, promising to sweep the career politicians and hangers-on out of Washington DC. His speech drops a lot of the length that had been picked up over the last three addresses, clocking in at about the same length as Madison’s addresses, a third the length of Monroe’s, and half that of John Q. Adams. Military efficiency. Drops the flowery words and gets right to the point.
Jackson cares a lot about the limitations of the power of the Executive branch, staying within them, and ensuring the rights of the states (keep this in mind when reading his second address). He speaks not only of being the executor of the law in the US, but also of the danger of a large army – saying that he will not increase the size of the standing army, though he will certainly pay attention to the defensive fortifications and Navy that guards the borders. More than the military, he sees the strength of America’s defense in its people: “as long as our Government is administered for the good of the people … a million of armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe.”
Two other topics are brought up in Jackson’s address: budgetary issues and the elimination of those who are “unfaithful or incompetent” from the federal government. On the budget, Jackson is remarkable in becoming the first, and only, president to wipe out the National Debt. Jackson believes that the Debt is “incompatible with real independence” and that even having debt will encourage the government to simply spend more. He talks of establishing taxes on agriculture, commerce, and industry in equal parts in order to raise the proper funds.
Summary of speech:
- Philosophy of Executive Branch and Limitations of Power
- The Budget and the need to eliminate debt
- Danger of standing armies and desires to expand them
- Defensive measures are good and right to fund
- Power of militia / common man as a bulwark
- Elimination of patronage (“Draining the Swamp”)
- Look to past example and God for guidance.
Phrases I have underlined, starred, or otherwise marked:
“I shall keep steadily in view the limitations as well as the extent of the Executive power trusting thereby to discharge the functions of my office without transcending its authority.”
“… facilitate the extinguishment of the national debt, the unnecessary duration of which is incompatible with real independence, and because it will counteract that tendency to public and private profligacy which a profuse expenditure of money by the Government is but too apt to engender.”
“Internal improvement and the diffusion of knowledge, so far as they can be promoted by the constitutional acts of the Federal Government, are of high importance.”
“Considering standing armies as dangerous to free governments in time of peace, I shall not seek to enlarge our present establishment, nor disregard that salutary lesson of political experience which teaches that the military should be held subordinate to the civil power. The gradual increase of our Navy, whose flag has displayed in distant climes our skill in navigation and our fame in arms; the preservation of our forts, arsenals, and dockyards, and the introduction of progressive improvements in the discipline and science of both branches of our military service are so plainly prescribed by prudence that I should be excused for omitting their mention sooner than for enlarging on their importance. But the bulwark of our defense is the national militia.“
“As long as our Government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending; and so long as it is worth defending a patriotic militia will cover it with an impenetrable aegis. Partial injuries and occasional mortifications we may be subjected to, but a million of armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe.”
“[I have the task of reforming] … the patronage of the Federal Government into conflict with the freedom of elections … [which has] disturbed the rightful course of appointment and [has] placed or continued power in unfaithful or incompetent hands.”
“… look with reverence to the examples of public virtue left by my illustrious predecessors, and with veneration to the lights that flow from the mind that founded and the mind that reformed our system.”
Thoughts on delivery (audio and/or video of speech):
None. They didn’t have that technology when Jackson was inaugurated.