Week of: January 14, 2001
Jackson Recognized Government Limits
by F.R. Duplantier
In his first inaugural address, President Andrew Jackson acknowledged the limitations of the federal government and the rights of the states.
"In administering the laws of Congress 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," declared President Andrew Jackson in his first inaugural address in 1829. "With foreign nations it will be my study to preserve peace and to cultivate friendship on fair and honorable terms, and in the adjustment of any differences that may exist or arise to exhibit the forbearance becoming a powerful nation. . . ."
With regard to "the rights of the separate States," Jackson expressed his desire to be "animated by a proper respect for those sovereign members of our Union, taking care not to confound the powers they have reserved to themselves with those they have granted" to the federal government.
As for "the public revenue," Jackson proposed "a strict and faithful economy . . . both because it will 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. . . ."
Recognizing the danger of peace-time armies, Jackson vowed not 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 . . . 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" were measures that Jackson prudently supported. "But the bulwark of our defense is the national militia," he asserted, "which in the present state of our intelligence and population must render us invincible. 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," Jackson affirmed; "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," he insisted, "a million of armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe. . . ."
Recognizing the need for reform, Jackson promised to correct "those abuses that have brought the patronage of the Federal Government into conflict with the freedom of elections" and to counteract "those causes which have disturbed the rightful course of appointment and have placed or continued power in unfaithful or incompetent hands." He concluded his first inaugural address by professing "a firm reliance on the goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our national infancy, and has since upheld our liberties in various vicissitudes." Jackson offered "ardent supplications that He will continue to make our beloved country the object of His divine care and gracious benediction."