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Washington’s First Inauguration

April 29, 2013

On April 30, 1789, George Washington traveled from Virginia to New York to take the oath of office as the first President of the United States.  The Constitution had officially taken effect in March, but due to weather delays, votes from the electoral college were not counted until April.  Washington was unanimously elected by 69 votes of the electoral college.

In addition to setting the course for the young nation, Washington’s  sentiments about the Presidency established a tradition that continues.  He declined a third term, which practice was unbroken until the re-election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1940.  He preferred referring to the President as “Mr. President,” and not “His Excellency.”  In his first inaugural speech, Washington stated:

To the preceeding observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honoured with a call into the Service of my Country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed. And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the Executive Department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the Station in which I am placed, may, during my continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

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