March 4 was presidential inauguration day from 1793 till 1933, when it was changed by the 20th Amendment to Jan. 20.
In their inaugural addresses, presidents made appeals to Heaven.
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In his "draft notes" for his first inaugural, George Washington wrote in April of 1789: "The best institution may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest purposes. Should, hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by the supineness (laziness) or venality (open to bribes) of their constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men, however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification, can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable ... that no wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other."
First president George Washington stated in his inaugural address, April 30, 1789: "The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained."
Second president John Adams stated in his ingurual address, March 4, 1797: "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."
Third president Thomas Jefferson stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1805: "I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old from their native land and planted them in a country."
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Fourth president James Madison stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1809: "We have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations."
Fifth president James Monroe stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1817: "With my fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so conspicuously displayed."
Sixth president John Quincy Adams stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1825: "Knowing that 'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain,' with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future destinies of my country."
Seventh president Andrew Jackson stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1833: "It is my fervent prayer to that Almighty Being before whom I now stand, and who has kept us in His hands from the infancy of our Republic to the present day."
Eighth president Martin Van Buren stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1837: "I only look to the gracious protection of that Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all. May it be among the dispensations of His Providence to bless our beloved country with honors and length of days; may her ways be pleasantness, and all her paths peace!"
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Ninth president William Henry Harrison stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1841: "I deem the present occasion sufficiently important and solemn to justify me in expressing to my fellow citizens a profound reverence for the Christian religion, and a thorough conviction that sound morals, religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness."
10th president John Tyler did not give an inaugural address, but stated in a proclamation April 13, 1841, after William Henry Harrison's death: "When a Christian people feel themselves to be overtaken by a great public calamity, it becomes them to humble themselves under the dispensation of Divine Providence."
11th president James K. Polk stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1845: "I fervently invoke the aid of that Almighty Ruler of the Universe in whose hands are the destinies of nations and of men to guard this Heaven-favored land. ... I enter upon the discharge of the high duties which have been assigned to me by the people, again humbly supplicating that Divine Being, who has watched over and protected our beloved country from its infancy to the present hour."
12th president Zachary Taylor stated in his inaugural address, March 5, 1849, delivered a day later than usual as he refused to be sworn in on Sunday in honor of the Sabbath: "The dictates of religion direct us to the cultivation of peaceful and friendly relations with all other powers. ... In conclusion I congratulate you, my fellow-citizens, upon the high state of prosperity to which the goodness of Divine Providence has conducted our common country. Let us invoke a continuance of the same protecting care which has led us from small beginnings to the eminence we this day occupy."
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13th president Millard Fillmore did not give an inaugural address, but stated in his first message, July 10, 1850, after the death of Zachary Taylor: "A great man has fallen among us, and a whole country is called to an occasion of unexpected, deep, and general mourning. ... I appeal to you to aid me, under the trying circumstances which surround me, in the discharge of the duties from which, however much I may be oppressed by them, I dare not shrink; and I rely upon Him who holds in His hands the destinies of nations to endow me with the requisite strength for the task and to avert from our country the evils apprehended from the heavy calamity which has befallen us."
14th president Franklin Pierce stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1853: "It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence."
15th president James Buchanan stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1857: "We ought to cultivate peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations ... in a spirit of Christian benevolence toward our fellowmen, wherever their lot may be cast."
16th president Abraham Lincoln stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1861: "Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty."
17th president Andrew Johnson did not give an inaugural address, but stated in a proclamation April 29, 1865, after Abraham Lincoln's assassination: "The 25th day of next month, was recommended as a day for special humiliation and prayer in consequence of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. ... But whereas my attention has since been called to the fact that the day aforesaid is sacred to large numbers of Christians as one of rejoicing for the ascension of the Savior. ... I ... do hereby suggest that the religious services recommended as aforesaid should be postponed until Thursday, the 1st day of June."
18th president Ulysses S. Grant stated in his inaugural address, March 4: "I ask ... a determined effort on the part of every citizen to do his share toward cementing a happy union; and I ask the prayers of the nation to Almighty God in behalf of this consummation."
19th president Rutherford B. Hayes stated in his inaugural address, March 5, 1877, delivered a day later than usual as he refused to be sworn in on Sunday in honor of the Sabbath: "Looking for the guidance of that Divine Hand by which the destinies of nations and individuals are shaped, I call upon you, Senators, Representatives, judges, fellow-citizens, here and everywhere, to unite with me in an earnest effort to secure to our country the blessings, not only of material property, but of justice, peace, and union."
20th president James Garfield stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1881: "Above all, upon our efforts to promote the welfare of this great people and their government I reverently invoke the support and blessings of Almighty God."
21st president Chester Arthur did not give an inaugural address, but stated in a proclamation Sept. 22, 1881, after James Garfield's death: "It is fitting that the deep grief which fills all hearts should manifest itself with one accord toward the Throne of Infinite Grace, and that we should bow before the Almighty and seek from Him that consolation in our affliction and that sanctification of our loss which He is able and willing to vouchsafe."
22nd president Grover Cleveland stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1885: "And let us not trust to human effort alone, but humbly acknowledge the power and goodness of Almighty God who presides over the destiny of nations, and who has at all times been revealed in our country's history, let us invoke His aid and His blessings upon our labors."
23rd president Benjamin Harrison stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1889: "Entering thus solemnly into covenant with each other, we may reverently invoke and confidently extend the favor and help of Almighty God – that He will give to me wisdom, strength, and fidelity, and to our people a spirit of fraternity and a love of righteousness and peace."
24th president Grover Cleveland stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1893: "Above all, I know there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people, and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek His powerful aid."
25th president William McKinley stated in his inaugural, March 4, 1897: "Invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps."
26th president Theodore Roosevelt stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1905: "No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently ... with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has blessed us."
27th president William Taft stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1909: "I invoke the considerate sympathy and support of my fellow-citizens and the aid of the Almighty God in the discharge of my responsible duties."
28th president Woodrow Wilson stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1913: "The feelings with which we face this new age of right and opportunity sweep across our heartstrings like some air out of God's own presence, where justice and mercy are reconciled and the judge and the brother are one. ... God helping me, I will not fail."
29th president Warren G. Harding stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1921: "I must utter my belief in the Divine Inspiration of the founding fathers. Surely there must have been God's intent in the making of this new world Republic. ... America is ready to encourage ... that brotherhood of mankind which must be God's highest conception of human relationship. I ... implore the favor and guidance of God in His Heaven ... I have taken the solemn oath of office on that passage of Holy Writ wherein it is asked: 'What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.'"
30th president Calvin Coolidge stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1925: "America seeks no earthly empires built on blood and force ... The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the Cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but Divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God."
31st president Herbert Hoover stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1929: "This occasion is ... a dedication and consecration under God to the highest office in service of our people. I assume this trust in the humility of knowledge that only through the guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge its ever-increasing burdens. ... I ask the help of Almighty God in this service to my country to which you have called me."
32nd president Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in his inaugural address, March 4, 1933: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ... On my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. ... Where there is no vision the people perish. (Pr. 29:18). ... In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us! May He guide me in the days to come."
Many presidents gave warnings in their inaugural addresses.
James Monroe, March 4, 1817, inaugural address: "It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin."
Franklin Pierce, March 4, 1853, inaugural address: "The dangers of a concentration of all power in the General government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded. You have a right ... to expect your agents in every department to regard strictly the limits imposed upon them by the Constitution. ... Liberty rests upon a proper distribution of power between the State and Federal authorities."
Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, first inaugural address: "The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made ... the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of the eminent tribunal."
Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865, second inaugural address: "As was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the Judgments of the Lord are true and righteous.'"
Lyndon B. Johnson, Jan. 20, 1965, inaugural address: "We have no promise from God that our greatness will endure. ... If we fail now, we shall have forgotten ... that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most favored."
William Henry Harrison, March 4, 1841, inaugural address: "I too well understand the dangerous temptations. ... Limited as are the powers which have been granted, still enough have been granted to constitute a despotism if concentrated. ... The tendency of power to increase itself ... would terminate in virtual monarchy. ... As long as the love of power is a dominant passion of the human bosom, and as long as the understanding of men can be warped and their affections changed by operations upon their passions and prejudices, so long will the liberties of a people depend on their constant attention to its preservation. ... The tendencies of all such governments in their decline is to monarchy, and the antagonist principle to liberty there is the spirit of faction – a spirit which assumes the character and in times of great excitement imposes itself upon the people as the genuine spirit of freedom, and, like the false christs whose coming was foretold by the Savior, seeks to, and were it possible would, impose upon the true and most faithful disciples of liberty. It is in periods like this that it behooves the people to be most watchful of those to whom they have intrusted power."
Andrew Jackson, March 4, 1829, inaugural address: "As long as our government ... secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending."
Theodore Roosevelt, March 4, 1905, inaugural address: "If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is today, and to the generations yet unborn."
John F. Kennedy, Jan. 20, 1961, inaugural address: "The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."
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