The Inauguration of George Washington

The Inauguration of George Washington

The inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States of America was a momentous occasion.

New York City, where the inauguration took place, was filled with joy and celebration.

Today, let’s take a look at how events unfolded the day America was given its first Commander-in-Chief.

April 30, 1789


New York City is awoken by the sound of artillery firing.

The shots were not two armies firing on each other as had been the case a decade earlier. Instead, this was a celebration.

On this day, the first President of the United States was to be inaugurated. It was the final step in the creation of a new nation, one which stood for liberty and republican values.

For one man, it was to be a very long day.

9:00 AM

Bells began to ring across the city. They would chime continuously for half an hour.

George Washington readied himself to assume the highest office established under the new Constitution.

New York was abuzz setting up the festivities. Parades, feasts and fireworks were prepared for an event which all citizens knew the momentousness of. 

12:30 PM

The parade began.

Washington rode in a carriage with his two secretaries, Tobias Lear and David Humphreys.

He was preceded by a 500 man military parade, foreign diplomats and members of New York high society.

Half an hour later they arrived at Federal Hall where he was officially welcomed by Vice President John Adams.

2:00 PM

Washington stepped out onto the balcony in front of a crowd of thousands.

Samuel Otis has the honor of holding the bible while longtime Chancellor of New York Robert Livingston administered the oath of office.

The General kisseed the bible and turns to the onlookers. Livingston shouted, “Long live George Washington, President of the United States.” The gathered citizens erupt into celebration.

The nation had officially been set on course, but there was much work to be done.

First Address

The Commander-in-Chief returned to the Senate Chamber where he was to give the first inaugural address.

Washington gave a speech so short that no one until FDR (who was terminally ill at his fourth inauguration) would be quicker for 150 years.

Reports by those on hand indicate that George looked nervous and spoke in a quieter tone than usual.


Washington joined many of the Congressmen at church that afternoon.

He then decided to return the Executive Mansion, Franklin House (then owned by Samuel Osgood), where he ate dinner alone.

Though it had been a busy day, the President went out to watch the fireworks with Livingston and his old friend Henry Knox.

Afterward, the streets were so crowded with joyful citizens that George Washington was forced to forgo his carriage and walked home.

He would finally get some much needed rest.

In the morning, there was a nation to build.

Here are some other articles I’ve written about General Washington:

George Washington: The Early Years

George Washington and The Rules of Civility

First Siblings - George Washington’s Brothers (And Sister)

George Washington has hundreds of biographies about him.

Personally, I would recommend to most readers ‘His Excellency.’ I like Joseph J. Ellis’ writing style because it is targeted at a general audience and easy to consume.

If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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Washington's First Inaugural Address

Washington's First Inaugural Address

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