First inauguration of George Washington

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First Presidential Inauguration of George Washington
Washington's Inauguration.jpg
Date April 30, 1789; 233 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

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]


File:Federal hall02.jpg
Federal Hall, New York City, site of George Washington's first inauguration, April 30, 1789.

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]

In popular culture

  • 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


  1. U.S. Const. art. VII
  2. Washington, George (1835). The Writings of George Washington : pt. III. American Stationers' Company. pp. 491–492.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Cherry Clinton Playground". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2009-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Plaque commemorating George Washington's landing at Murray's Wharf". The City University of New York. Retrieved 2009-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Presidential Oaths of Office". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Inauguration of President George Washington, 1789". Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Retrieved 2009-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "George Washington's Inaugural Address". The National Archives. Retrieved 2009-01-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Senate Journal April 30, 1789.
  13. "Inaugural Ball". Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Retrieved 2009-01-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Annals of Congress, Vol. 1, p. 25, April 27, 1789

External links

Template:US inaugurations