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Link to MillerCenter.org’s transcript of speech

Summary of speech:

Pierce continues the themes of previous presidencies: pursuing peace, free trade, expansion of the United States to the West.  Pierce defends slavery as a Constitutional right and laments the growing prospect of civil strife, “let not a single star be lost.”

Thoughts on Transcript:

<To Do – Analysis on these speeches is taking a little longer than I’ve hoped, and if I keep trying to do it, I’ll never progress>

Franklin Pierce’s son, Benjamin, died in a train accident on the way to Washington DC.

Notes on speech:

  1. Wisdom of Founding Fathers
  2. City on a Hill – USA as a beacon to the world
  3. Ability of US form of government to scale
  4. Plans / justification for expansion
  5. Use of trade for diplomacy
  6. Reaffirmation of Monroe Doctrine
  7. The Army and Navy’s importance for defense and importance of good training / academies
  8. Warning against large standing armies
  9. Political appointments
  10. Federal Government vs the States
  11. Importance of Union
  12. Defense of Slavery as it is enshrined in Constitution
  13. Belief that compromises of recent years have headed off the dangers threatening nation

Phrases I have underlined, starred, or otherwise marked:

“You have summoned me in my weakness; you must sustain me by your strength.”

“Whether the elements of inherent force in the Republic have kept pace with its unparalleled progression in territory, population, and wealth has been the subject of earnest thought and discussion on both sides of the ocean.”

“It is no paradox to say that although comparatively weak the new-born nation was intrinsically strong.  Inconsiderable in population and apparent resources, it was upheld by a broad and intelligent comprehension of rights and an all-pervading purpose to maintain them, stronger than armaments.”

The object sought was not a thing dream of, it was a thing realized.  They had exhibited only the power to achieve, but, what all history affirms to be so much more unusual, the capacity to maintain.  The oppressed throughout the world from that day to the present have turned their eyes hitherward, not to find those lights extinguished or to fear lest they should wane, but to be constantly cheered by their steady and increasing radiance.

“Preeminently, the power of our advocacy reposes in our example; but no example, be it remembered, can be powerful for lasting good, whatever apparent advantages may be gained, which is not based upon eternal principles of right and justice.”

“The energy with which that great conflict was opened and, under the guidance of a manifest and beneficent Providence the uncomplaining endurance with which it was prosecuted to its consummation were only surpassed by the wisdom and patriotic spirit of concession which characterized all the counsels of the early fathers.”

“The stars upon your banner have become nearly threefold their original number, your densely populated possessions skirt the shores of the two great oceans, and yet this vast increase of people and territory has not only shown itself compatible with the harmonious action of the States and Federal Government in their respective constitutional spheres, but has afforded an additional guaranty of the strength and integrity of both.”

“With an experience thus suggestive and cheering, the policy of my Administration will not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion.  Indeed, it is not to be disguised that our attitude as a nation and our position on the globe render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection, if not in the future essential for the preservation of the rights of commerce and the peace of the world.”

“An Administration would be unworthy of confidence at home or respect abroad should it cease to be influenced by the conviction that no apparent advantage can be purchased at a price so dear as that of national wrong or dishonor.”

“Of the complicated European systems of national polity we have heretofore been independent.  From their wars, their tumults, and anxieties we have been, happily, almost entirely exempt.”

The vast interests of commerce are common to all mankind, and the advantages of trade and international intercourse must always present a noble field for the moral influence of a great people.

The rights which belong to us as a nation are not alone to be regarded, but those which pertain to every citizen in his individual capacity, at home and abroad, must be sacredly maintained.

The rights, security, and repose of this Confederacy reject the idea of interference or colonization on this side of the ocean by any foreign power beyond present jurisdiction as utterly inadmissible.

“The opportunities of observation furnished by my brief experience as a soldier confirmed in my own mind the opinion, entertained and acted upon by others from the formation of the Government, that the maintenance of large standing armies in our country would be not only dangerous, but unnecessary.”

“… your Army what it is, under the discipline and instruction of officers not more distinguished for their solid attainments, gallantry, and devotion to the public service than for unobtrusive bearing and moral tone.  The Army as organized must be the nucleus around which in every time of need the strength of your military power, the sure bulwark of your defense–a national militia–may be readily formed into a well-disciplined and efficient organization.”

“Offices can be properly regarded only in the light of aids for the accomplishment of these objects, and as occupancy can confer no prerogative nor importunate desire for preferment any claim, the public interest imperatively demands that they be considered with sole reference to the duties to be performed.  Good citizens may well claim the protection of good laws and the benign influence of good government, but a claim for office is what the people of a republic should never recognize.”

“They require at my hands diligence, integrity, and capacity wherever there are duties to be performed.  Without these qualities in their public servants, more stringent laws for the prevention or punishment of fraud, negligence, and peculation will be vain.  With them they will be unnecessary.”

“If the Federal Government will confine itself to the exercise of powers clearly granted by the Constitution, it can hardly happen that its action upon any question should endanger the institutions of the States or interfere with their right to manage matters strictly domestic according to the will of their own people.”

“The sentiments I now announce were not unknown before the expression of the voice which called me here.  My own position upon this subject was clear and unequivocal, upon the record of my words and my acts, and it is only recurred to at this time because silence might perhaps be misconstrued.”

What becomes of the noblest field ever opened for the advancement of our race in religion, in government, in the arts, and in all that dignifies and adorns mankind?  From that radiant constellation which both illumines our own way and points out to struggling nations their course, let but a single star be lost, and, if these be not utter darkness, the luster of the whole is dimmed.

It is with me an earnest and vital belief that as the Union has been the source, under Providence, of our prosperity to this time, so it is the surest pledge of a continuance of the blessings we have enjoyed, and which we are sacredly bound to transmit undiminished to our children.

The field of calm and free discussion in our country is open, and will always be so, but never has been and never can be traversed for good in a spirit of sectionalism and uncharitableness.

“I believe that involuntary servitude, as it exists in different States of this Confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution.  I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions.”

“I believe that the constituted authorities of this Republic are bound to regard the rights of the South in this respect as they would view any other legal and constitutional right, and that the laws to enforce them should be respected and obeyed, not with a reluctance encouraged by abstract opinions as to their propriety in a different state of society, but cheerfully and according to the decisions of the tribunal to which their exposition belongs.”

“It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation’s humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence.”

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

None.  They didn’t have that technology when Pierce was inaugurated.