“My station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground.”
–George Washington in a letter, January 9, 1790
Today’s post comes to us from Michael Hussey, education and exhibition specialist at the National Archives. In honor of the 2013 Inauguration, the first and last page of Washington’s first Inauguration Address are on display at the National Archives until January 31.
Unseasonably cold and snowy weather delayed the first Presidential inauguration, which had been scheduled for the first Wednesday in March 1789. Many members of the First Federal Congress were unable to arrive promptly in New York City, then the seat of government.
On April 6, 1789—over a month late—enough members had reached New York to tally the electoral ballots. George Washington won unanimously with 69 electoral votes. When notified of his victory, he traveled to New York City from his home in Virginia.
On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the Presidential oath on a second floor balcony of Federal Hall. Below, an enthusiastic crowd assembled in the streets. The President and members of Congress then retired to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered his first inaugural address.
Keenly aware of the momentousness of the occasion, Washington accepted the Presidency and spoke of his determination to make the American experiment a success. He humbly noted the power of the nation’s call for him to serve as President and the shared responsibility of the President and Congress to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty” and a republican form of government. (You can read the transcript of this speech.)
On May 9, 1789, House of Representatives responded to President George Washington“The Representatives of the People of the United States present their congratulations on the event by which your fellow citizens have attested the pre-eminence of your merit. You have often received tokens of their affection. You now possess the only proof that remained of their gratitude for your services, of their reverence for your wisdom, and of their confidence in your virtues.”
The National Archives will be open on Inauguration Day. Come and see this featured document, and then watch the swearing-in ceremony in our theater.