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Washington's First Inauguration,
April 30, 1789

Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
George Washington (1732-1799)
Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4
Holograph manuscript
Manuscript Division (3.11)

George Washington passed through several cities -- including Philadelphia and Trenton -- on the way to his first inauguration at Federal Hall in New York City, then the temporary capital of the United States. Aware of the importance of this national ritual, the brown-suited Washington set many precedents during his first inauguration: the swearing-in took place outside; the oath was taken upon a Bible; an inaugural address was given (to the assembled Congress inside the Hall) the contents of which set the pattern for all subsequent addresses; and festivities accompanied the inauguration, including a church service, a parade, and fireworks.

According to a description in the May 1789 issue of Columbian Magazine: "About noon the illustrious Washington appeared, and as he passed under the first triumphal arch, the acclamations of an immense crowd of spectators rent the air, and the laurel crown, at that instant, descended on his venerable head. His Excellency was saluted on the common by a discharge from the artillery, and escorted into Philadelphia by a large body of troops, together with his excellency the president of the state, and a numerous concourse of respectable citizens."

Washington's inaugural address, numbering ten pages, reveals both the deep anxiety and the tenacious idealism with which he approached the office of the presidency. He steeped his words in a moral context: "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States."

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