Our early Presidents, who provided a constitutional structuring of self-government for a society capable of banishing slavery and providing opportunity for oppressed individuals from everywhere, could articulate those principles, as is evidenced by George Washington's "Farewell Address."
Two other examples of such clear articulation of principles follow:
The second President of the U. S., John Adams, the impassioned advocate for liberty and for the Declaration of Independence, himself a signer of both that document and the subsequent Constitution, in his First Inaugural's closing paragraph, laid out his understanding of the qualifications and role of the Office of President.
Philadelphia, March 4, 1797
. . . as something may be expected, the occasion, I hope, will be admitted as an apology if I venture to say that
- if a preference, upon principle, of a free republican government, formed upon long and serious reflection, after a diligent and impartial inquiry after truth;
- if an attachment to the Constitution of the United States, and a conscientious determination to support it until it shall be altered by the judgments and wishes of the people, expressed in the mode prescribed in it;
- if a respectful attention to the constitutions of the individual States and a constant caution and delicacy toward the State governments;
- if an equal and impartial regard to the rights, interest, honor, and happiness of all the States in the Union, without preference or regard to a northern or southern, an eastern or western, position, their various political opinions on unessential points or their personal attachments;
- if a love of virtuous men of all parties and denominations;
- if a love of science and letters and a wish to patronize every rational effort to encourage schools, colleges, universities, academies, and every institution for propagating knowledge, virtue, and religion among all classes of the people, not only for their benign influence on the happiness of life in all its stages and classes, and of society in all its forms, but as the only means of preserving our Constitution from its natural enemies, the spirit of sophistry, the spirit of party, the spirit of intrigue, the profligacy of corruption, and the pestilence of foreign influence, which is the angel of destruction to elective governments;
- if a love of equal laws, of justice, and humanity in the interior administration;
- if an inclination to improve agriculture, commerce, and manufacturers for necessity, convenience, and defense;
- if a spirit of equity and humanity toward the aboriginal nations of America, and a disposition to meliorate their condition by inclining them to be more friendly to us, and our citizens to be more friendly to them;
- if an inflexible determination to maintain peace and inviolable faith with all nations, and that system of neutrality and impartiality among the belligerent powers of Europe which has been adopted by this Government and so solemnly sanctioned by both Houses of Congress and applauded by the legislatures of the States and the public opinion, until it shall be otherwise ordained by Congress;
- if a personal esteem for the French nation, formed in a residence of seven years chiefly among them, and a sincere desire to preserve the friendship which has been so much for the honor and interest of both nations;
- if, while the conscious honor and integrity of the people of America and the internal sentiment of their own power and energies must be preserved, an earnest endeavor to investigate every just cause and remove every colorable pretense of complaint;
- if an intention to pursue by amicable negotiation a reparation for the injuries that have been committed on the commerce of our fellow-citizens by whatever nation, and if success can not be obtained, to lay the facts before the Legislature, that they may consider what further measures the honor and interest of the Government and its constituents demand;
- if a resolution to do justice as far as may depend upon me, at all times and to all nations, and maintain peace, friendship, and benevolence with all the world;
- if an unshaken confidence in the honor, spirit, and resources of the American people, on which I have so often hazarded my all and never been deceived;
- if elevated ideas of the high destinies of this country and of my own duties toward it, founded on a knowledge of the moral principles and intellectual improvements of the people deeply engraven on my mind in early life, and not obscured but exalted by experience and age;
and, with humble reverence, I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect.
With this great example before me, with the sense and spirit, the faith and honor, the duty and interest, of the same American people pledged to support the Constitution of the United States, I entertain no doubt of its continuance in all its energy, and my mind is prepared without hesitation to lay myself under the most solemn obligations to support it to the utmost of my power.
And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence. - John Adams, First Inaugural
NYT's Bob Herbert, in 2009, said of the current President: "He's smart, deft, elegant. . . ."
But, we might have asked, does he hold fast to the principles of liberty stated so "elegant(ly)" by the Author of our Declaration of Independence and President of the U. S., Thomas Jefferson, in his 1801 Inaugural Address--wherein Jefferson laid out what might be considered to be "qualifications" for the American presidency:
(Excerpt, "Our Ageless Constitution," p. xiv, reformatted)
"Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation;
- entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them;
- enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man;
- acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter
with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people?
- Still one thing more, fellow-citizensa 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.
- This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
"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. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations.
- 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;
- the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies;
- the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad;
- a jealous care of the right of election by the peoplea mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided;
- absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism;
- a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them;
- the supremacy of the civil over the military authority;
- economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened;
- the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith;
- encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid;
- the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason;
- freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.
These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. 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."