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Union, with constitutions and laws, framed and enforced by their own citizens, to secure the manifold blessings of local and self-government. The jurisdiction of this constitution now covers an area fifty times greater than that of the original thirteen States, and a population twenty times greater than that of 1870. The supreme trial of the constitution came at last, under the tremendous pressure of civil war. We, ourselves, are witnesses that the Union emerged from the blood and fire of that conflict purified and made stronger for all the beneficent purposes of good government, and now, at the close of this first century of growth, with inspirations of its history in their hearts, our people have lately reviewed the condition of the nation, passed judgment upon the conduct and opinions of the political parties, and have registered their will concerning the future administration of government. To interpret and execute that will, in accordance with the constitution, is the paramount duty of the Executive.
Even from this brief review, it is manifest that the nation is resolutely facing to the front, resolved to employ its best energies in developing the great possibilities of the future. Sacredly preserving whatever has been gained to liberty and good government during the century, our people are determined to leave behind them all those bitter controversies concerning things which have been irrevocably settled, and the further discussion of which can only stir up strife and delay the onward march. The supremacy of the nation and its laws should be no longer a subject of debate. That discussion, which for half a century threatened the existence of the Union, was closed at last in the high court of war, by a decree from which there is no appeal, that the constitution and laws made in pursuance thereof shall continue to be
administration, places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen. The emancipated race has already made remarkable
progress. With unquestioning devotion to the Union, with a patience and gentleness not born of fear, they have“ followed the light as God gave them to see the light.” They are rapidly laying the material foundations for self-support, widening the circle of intelligence, and beginning to enjoy the blessings that gather around the homes of the industrious poor. They deserve the generous encouragement of all good men. So far as my authority can lawfully extend, they shall enjoy the full and equal protection of the constitution and laws.
The free enjoyment of equal suffrage is still in question, and a frank statement of the issue may aid its solution. It is alleged that in many communities negro citizens are practically denied the freedom of the ballot. In so far as the truth of this allegation is admitted, it is answered that in many places honest local government is impossible, if the mass of uneducated negroes are allowed to vote. These are grave allegations. So far as the latter is true, it is the only palliation that can be offered for opposing the freedom of the ballot. A bad local government is certainly a great evil which ought to be prevented, but to violate the freedom and sanctity of suffrage is more than an evil; it is a crime, which, if persisted in, will destroy the government itself. Suicide is not a remedy. If in other lands it be high treason to compass the death of the king, it should be counted no less a crime here to strangle our sovereign power and stifle its voice.. It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose of nations; it should be said, with the utmost emphasis, that this question of suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States or to the nation until each,
partisanship should be unknown. Let our people find a new meaning in the divine oracle which declares that "a little child shall lead them.” For our little children will soon control the destinies of the Republic.
My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgment concerning the controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies. They will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union was preserved, that slavery was overthrown, and that both races were made equal before the law. We may hasten or we may retard, but we cannot prevent the final reconciliation. Is it not possible for us now to make a truce with time, by anticipating and accepting its inevitable verdicts ? Enterprises of the highest importance to our moral and material well-being invite us, and offer ample scope for the employment of our best powers. Let all our people, leaving behind them the battle-fields of dead issues, move forward, and, in the strength of liberty and a restored Union, win the grander victories of peace.
The prosperity which now prevails is without parallel in our history. Fruitful seasons have done much to secure it, but they have not done all.
The preservation of the public credit, and the resumption of specie payments, so successfully attained by the administration of my predecessors, has enabled our people to secure the blessings which the seasons brought. By the experience of commercial nations in all ages, it has been found that gold and silver afford the only safe foundation for a monetary system. Confusion has recently been created by variations in the relative value of the two metals, but I confidently believe that arrangements can be made between the leading commercial nations which will secure the general use of both