First inauguration of George Washington

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First Presidential Inauguration of George Washington
Washington's Inauguration.jpg
Date April 30, 1789; 226 years ago (1789-04-30)
Location Federal Hall,
New York City
Participants President of the United States, George Washington
Assuming office
Chancellor of New York, Robert Livingston
Administering oath
Vice President of the United States, John Adams
Assuming office

The first inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States took place on April 30, 1789.

The inauguration marked the commencement of the first four-year term of George Washington as President. John Adams had already taken office as Vice President on April 21. Sworn in by Chancellor of New York Robert Livingston during this first presidential inauguration, Washington became the first President of the United States following the ratification of the Constitution.

Start of the first Presidential term[edit]

The first presidential term started on March 4, 1789. Following the ratification of the Constitution by the required nine states,[1] that date had been set by the Congress of the Confederation for the beginning of the operations of the new government under the Constitution of the United States. On that date, the House of Representatives and the Senate assembled, but both convened without a quorum. The House of Representatives first achieved a quorum on April 1, when it elected its officers. The Senate first achieved a quorum and elected its officers on April 6. Also on April 6 the House and Senate met in joint session (the first joint session of Congress), and the electoral votes were counted. Washington and Adams were respectively declared elected president and vice president, and the results of the count were subsequently published in the journals of Congress. It was 5 p.m. at Mount Vernon on April 14, 1789, when Washington received official notification that he had been unanimously selected by the Electoral College to be the nation's first president. The letter had been sent by Senator John Langdon of New Hampshire, the first president pro tempore of the United States Senate, who had presided over the counting of the electoral votes. Washington replied immediately, and set off in the morning two days later,[2] accompanied by David Humphreys and a Mr. Thomson,[3] who was the Messenger appointed by the Senate, that delivered to General Washington the letter containing the news of his election.[4]

On his way to New York City Washington passed through Alexandria, Georgetown, present-day Washington D.C., and Baltimore, arriving to an elaborate welcome at Gray's Ferry in Philadelphia just after noon on April 20. He left early the next morning for another welcome awaiting him in Trenton. On April 23 he took a small barge with 13 pilots through the Kill Van Kull tidal strait into the Upper New York Bay, and from there the city. A variety of boats surrounded him during the voyage, and Washington's approach was greeted by a series of cannon fire, first a thirteen gun salute by the Spanish warship Galveston, then by the North Carolina, and finally by other artillery.[3] Thousands had gathered on the waterfront to see him arrive.[5] Washington landed at Murray's Wharf (at the foot of Wall Street), where he was greeted by New York Governor George Clinton as well as other congressmen and citizens.[3] A plaque now marks the landing site.[6] They proceeded through the streets to what would be Washington's new official residence, 3 Cherry Street.[5]

Inauguration[edit]

Federal Hall, location of inaugural ceremonies.

On April 30, 1789, the inaugural ceremony took place on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City,[7] then the first U.S. Capitol and the first site where the 1st United States Congress met.

Since nearly first light a crowd of people had begun to gather around Washington's home, and at noon they made their way to Federal Hall by way of Queen Street and Great Dock (both now Pearl Street) and Broad Street.[3] Washington dressed in an American-made dark brown suit with white silk stockings and silver shoe buckles; he also wore a steel-hilted sword and dark red overcoat.[8]

Upon his arrival at Federal Hall, Washington was formally introduced to the House and Senate in the then-Senate chamber, after which already sworn-in Vice President John Adams announced it was time for the inauguration. Washington moved to the second-floor balcony where he took the presidential oath of office, administered by Chancellor of New York Robert Livingston in view of throngs of people gathered on the streets.[9] The Bible used in the ceremony was from St. John's Lodge No. 1, A.Y.M., [10] and due to haste, it was opened at random to Genesis 49:13 ("Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon").[8] Afterwards, Livingston shouted "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!" [11] to the crowd, which was replied to with cheers and a 13-gun salute.[12] The first inaugural address was subsequently delivered by Washington in the Senate chamber,[3] running 1419 words in length.[8] At this time there were no inaugural balls on the day of the ceremony, though a week later, on May 7, a ball was held in New York City to honor the first President.[13]

Three days before George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States, Congress passed the following resolution: Resolved, That after the oath shall have been administered to the President, he, attended by the Vice President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives, shall proceed to St. Paul’s Chapel, to hear divine service.[14] Accordingly, the Right Rev. Samuel Provoost (1742–1815), newly appointed chaplain of the United States Senate and first Episcopal bishop of New York, performed “divine service” at St. Paul's Chapel on April 30, 1789, immediately following Washington’s inauguration.[15]

WASHINGTON'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF 1789

A Transcription from the U.S. Archives: [April 30, 1789]

Fellow Citizens of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the fourteenth day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years: a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my Country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence, one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver, is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of eve ry circumstance, by which it might be affected. All I dare hope, is, that, if in executing this task I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof, of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me; my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by my Country, with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the Executive Department, it is made the duty of the President "to recommend to your consideration, such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which I now meet you, will acquit me from entering into that subject, farther than to refer to the Great Constitutional Charter under which you are assembled; and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications, I behold the surest pledges, that as on one side, no local prejudices, or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests: so, on another, that the foundations of our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of a free Government, be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its Citizens, and command the respect of the world.

I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the oeconomy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that 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: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide, how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the Fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the System, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good: For I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of a United and effective Government, or wh ich ought to await the future lessons of experience; a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen, and a regard for the public harmony, will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be more impregnably fortified, or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

To the preceding observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honoured with a call into the Service of my Country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed. And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the Executive Department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the Station in which I am placed, may, during my continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imported to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favour the American people, with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparellelled unanimity on a form of Government, for the security of their Union, and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The inauguration is depicted in an episode of the 2008 HBO miniseries, John Adams, although Robert Livingston is erroneously depicted as shouting "God bless George Washington!" at the conclusion of the ceremony, rather than "Long live George Washington!"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ U.S. Const. art. VII
  2. ^ Washington, George (1835). The Writings of George Washington : pt. III. American Stationers' Company. pp. 491–492. 
  3. ^ a b c d e McMaster, John Bach (2006). A History of the People of the United States: From the Revolution to the Civil War. Cosimo, Inc. pp. 539–540. ISBN 978-1-59605-233-8. 
  4. ^ http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsj&fileName=001/llsj001.db&recNum=5&itemLink=r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj0011)):%230010001&linkText=1
  5. ^ a b "Cherry Clinton Playground". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  6. ^ "Plaque commemorating George Washington's landing at Murray's Wharf". The City University of New York. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  7. ^ "Presidential Oaths of Office". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  8. ^ a b c "Inauguration of President George Washington, 1789". Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  9. ^ "George Washington's Inaugural Address". The National Archives. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  10. ^ http://www.stjohns1.org
  11. ^ http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsj&fileName=001/llsj001.db&recNum=15&itemLink=r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj0011)):%230010001&linkText=1 Senate Journal April 30, 1789.
  12. ^ http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=11
  13. ^ "Inaugural Ball". Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  14. ^ Annals of Congress, Vol. 1, p. 25, April 27, 1789
  15. ^ http://www.nationalcathedral.org/about/presidentialInaugurals.shtml
  16. ^ http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/american_originals/inaugtxt.html

External links[edit]