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Presidential Election of 1789: A Resource Guide

Washington's reception by the ladies, on passing the bridge at Trenton, N.J. April 1789
Washington's reception by the ladies, on passing the bridge at Trenton, N.J. April 1789, on his way to New York to be inaugurated first president of the United States.
1 print: chromolithograph.
1897.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-DIG-ppmsca-24336

The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a variety of material associated with the presidential election of 1789, including manuscripts, letters, broadsides, and government documents. This guide compiles links to digital materials related to the presidential election of 1789 that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site. In addition, it provides links to external Web sites focusing on the 1789 election and a selected bibliography.

1789 Presidential Election Results [1]

Presidential Nominee Electoral College
George Washington 69
John Adams 34
John Jay 9
Robert H. Harrison 6
John Rutledge 6
John Hancock 4
George Clinton 3
Samuel Huntington 2
John Milton 2
James Armstrong 1
Benjamin Lincoln 1
Edward Telfair 1

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875

This collection consists of published congressional records of the United States of America from 1774 to 1875.

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789

The Continental Congress Broadside Collection (256 titles) and the Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection (21 titles) contain 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution.

  • By the United States in Congress assembled, September 13, 1788, "RESOLVED, That the first Wednesday in January next, be the day for appointing Electors in the several States, which before the said day shall have ratified the said Constitution, that the first Wednesday in February next, be the day for the Electors to assemble in their respective States, and vote for a President; and that the first Wednesday in March next, be the time, and the present Seat of Congress the place for commencing Proceedings under the said Constitution."

George Washington Papers

The complete George Washington Papers collection from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 65,000 documents.

A selection of items related to the 1789 presidential election includes:

James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859

The Madison Papers consist of approximately 12,000 items, spanning the period 1723-1859, captured in some 72,000 digital images.

A selection of items related to the 1789 presidential election includes:

  • James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October 8, 1788, "There is no doubt that Genl. Washington will be called to the Presidency. For the vice Presidency, are talked of principally Mr. Hancock & Mr. Adams. Mr. Jay or Genl. Knox would I believe be preferred to either, but both of them will probably chuse to remain where they are. It is impossible to say which of the former would be preferred, or what other Candidates may be brought forward." [Transcription]
  • James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788, "As the President will be from a Southern State, it falls almost of course for the other part of the Continent to supply the next in rank." [Transcription]
  • James Madison to Edmund Randolph, October 28, 1788, "The public mind seems not to be yet settled on the Vice President. The question has been supposed to lie between Hancock & Adams." [Transcription]
  • Alexander Hamilton to James Madison, November 23, 1788, "On the whole I have concluded to support Adams; though I am not without apprehensions on the score we have conversed about. My principal reasons are these—First He is a declared partisan of referring to future experience the expediency of amendments in the system (and though I do not altogether adopt this sentiment) it is much nearer my own than certain other doctrines. Secondly a character of importance in the Eastern states, if he is not Vice President, one of two worse things will be likely to happen—Either he must be nominated to some important office for which he is less proper, or will become a malcontent and possibly espouse and give additional weight to the opposition to the Government." [Transcription]
  • James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, December 8, 1788, "General Washington will certainly be called to the Executive department. Mr. Adams, who is pledged to support him, will probably be the vice president." [Transcription]
  • James Madison to George Washington, March 5, 1789, "On our Journey hither we have fallen in with the Bearer of the Electoral Votes of Georgia. They are unanimous as to the President and are all thrown away on Individuals of the State as to the Vice President." [Transcription]
  • James Madison to Edmund Randolph, May 10, 1789, "No question has been made in this quarter or elsewhere as far as I have learned, whether the Genl. ought to have accepted the trust. On the contrary Opinions have been unanimous & decided that it was essential to the Commencement of the Government, and a duty from which no private considerations could absolve him." [Transcription]

Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827

The complete Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 27,000 documents.

A selection of items related to the 1789 presidential election includes:

  • Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, August 12, 1788, "Another defect, the perpetual re-eligibility of the same president, will probably not be cured during the life of General Washington. His merit has blinded our countrymen to the dangers of making so important an officer re-eligible. I presume there will not be a vote against him in the U.S." [Transcription]
  • John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, January 2, 1789, "The new Government has my best Wishes and most fervent Prayers, for its Success and Prosperity: but whether I shall have any Thing more to do with it, besides praying for it depends on the future Suffrages of Freemen." [Transcription]
  • William S. Smith to Thomas Jefferson, February 15, 1789, "It is Generally believed here and in the middle states, that Mr. Adams will be the Vice President, he had the unanimous Vote of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and 5 out of 7 of the electors of Connecticut. That he had not the whole there, originated from an apprehension, that if the state of Virginia should not vote for General Washington that Mr. A. would be President, which would not be consistant with the wish of the country and could only arise from the finese of antifœdral Electors with a View to produce confusion and embarass the operations of the Constitution..." [Transcription]
  • John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, March 1, 1789, "In four days, the new Government is to be erected. Washington appears to have an unanimous Vote: and there is probably a Plurality, if not a Majority in favour of your Friend." [Transcription]
  • Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, March 4, 1789, "Genl. Washington, tho’ with vast reluctance, will undertake the presidency if called to it, and there was no doubt he would be so called." [Transcription]

External Web Sites

The American Presidency Project: Election of 1789 External Link

The American Presidency Project Web site presents election results from the 1789 presidential election.

Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington: Presidential Election of 1789 External Link

The Mount Vernon Estate's Web site contains an essay on the presidential election of 1789.

Founders Online

The National Archives, through its National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), has entered into a cooperative agreement with The University of Virginia Press to create this site and make freely available online the papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns, 1787-1825 External Link

A searchable collection of election returns from 1787 to 1825. The data were compiled by Philip Lampi. The American Antiquarian Society and Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives have mounted it online with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Selected Bibliography

Jensen, Merrill and Robert A. Becker, eds. The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections, 1788-1790. 4 vols. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976-1989. [Catalog Record]

Cunliffe, Marcus. "Elections of 1789 and 1792," in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, eds. Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and Fred L. Israel. 3 vols. I, 1-28. New York: Facts On File, 2012. [Catalog Record]

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., Fred L. Israel, and David J. Frent, eds. The Elections of 1789 & 1792 and the Administration of George Washington. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Notes

1. Presidential Elections, 1789-2008. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2010), 206.

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