Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (1801)

1800 was a bitter election year. The incumbent Federalist president ran against his Democratic-Republican vice-president. John Adams lost, but two rival candidates tied. The House of Representatives decided that Aaron Burr would get the secondary title. On March 4, 1801, in the new capital of Washington D.C., Thomas Jefferson was sworn in as the third president. Here are some of his words urging reconciliation.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. conflicting
    in disagreement
    To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.
  2. contest
    a struggle between rivals
    During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think
  3. common
    belonging to or participated in by the people as a whole
    but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good.
  4. reasonable
    marked by sound judgment
    All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
  5. harmony
    compatibility in opinion and action
    Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.
  6. intolerance
    unwillingness to respect differences in opinions or beliefs
    And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.
  7. principle
    a basic truth or law or assumption
    But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle.
  8. opinion
    a personal belief or judgment
    We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. 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.
  9. preserve
    keep in safety and protect from harm, loss, or destruction
    I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself?
  10. attachment
    a feeling of affection for a person or an institution
    Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government.
  11. restrain
    keep under control; keep in check
    a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.
  12. felicity
    state of well-being characterized by contentment
    This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
  13. comprehend
    include in scope
    About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration.
  14. persuasion
    a personal belief or judgment
    Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none
  15. constitutional
    sanctioned by or consistent with or operating under the law
    the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad
  16. acquiescence
    agreement with a statement or proposal to do something
    absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics
  17. diffusion
    the act of dispersing something
    the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason
  18. touchstone
    a basis for comparison
    They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.
  19. confidence
    a feeling of trust in someone or something
    I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs.
  20. defect
    a failing or deficiency
    I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment.
  21. condemn
    express strong disapproval of
    I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts.
  22. approbation
    official acceptance or agreement
    The approbation implied by your suffrage is a great consolation to me for the past
  23. conciliate
    gain the good will of or cause to be more favorably inclined
    my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.
  24. patronage
    the act of providing approval and support
    Relying, then, on the patronage of your good will, I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make.
  25. council
    an assembly convened to regulate matters of doctrine
    And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.

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