Washington Gives Nation’s First Inaugural Address

1789

The first president, George Washington, is not inaugurated until April 30, 1789. Although Congress scheduled the first inauguration for March 4 of that year, it is unable to count the electoral ballots as early as anticipated. Consequently, the first inauguration is postponed to allow the president-elect time to make the trip from his home in Virginia to New York City, where the first Congress convened. During the trip, Washington is greeted with decorations, songs, poems and pageants. In New York Harbor, hundreds of ships sail out to greet him, and thousands of cheering spectators listen to bands playing, cannons booming, and church bells ringing. Washington chooses to travel on foot from the dock in New York to show that he is not a king. In Washington’s first inaugural address, he discussed his reasons for refusing a salary as president of the United States. He also includes a religious invocation as many later presidents have done during their inaugural address and added, “So help me God,” to the oath of office.