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Primary Documents in American History

George Washington's First Inaugural Address

George Washington
George Washington / painted by G. Stuart ; engraved by H. S. Sadd, N.Y.
[New York City] : Published at the Albion Office, 1844.
Prints & Photographs Division
Reproduction Number:

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States. He delivered his first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress, assembled in Federal Hall in the nation's new capital, New York City. With one exception, his first inaugural address did not contain specific policy recommendations. Washington urged Congress to add a bill of rights to the Constitution that would express “a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony…” Although not required by the Constitution, every president since Washington has followed his example and delivered an inaugural address.

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

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

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

"I Do Solemnly Swear . . .": Presidential Inaugurations

This is a collection of approximately 400 items relating to inaugurations from George Washington's in 1789 to Barack Obama's inauguration of 2009.

The James Madison Papers

James Madison (1751-1836) is one of 23 presidents whose papers are held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. The Madison Papers consist of approximately 12,000 items.

  • James Madison to Edmund Randolph, May 10, 1789 - Beginning on page 2 of this letter, Madison describes why Washington was delayed in coming to New York for his inauguration, the certainty of his election, and the removal of titles in his inaugural address as prescribed beforehand by a joint congressional committee. [Transcription] External Link

Words and Deeds in American History

In honor of the Manuscript Division's centennial, its staff has selected for online display approximately ninety representative documents spanning from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.


American Treasures at the Library of Congress - Washington's First Inauguration

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 that set the pattern for all subsequent addresses; and festivities accompanied the inauguration, including a church service, a parade, and fireworks.

"I Do Solemnly Swear..." Inaugural Materials from the Collections of the Library of Congress

This online exhibition presents a letter from George Washington to Henry Knox addressing the quality of the cloth and buttons that would be used for Washington's suit of plain brown cloth. Also shown is a letter by the first Inaugural Committee on Ceremony in the Senate and a Currier & Ives print illustrating the public adulation that greeted the first president-elect along his route to New York.

Library of Congress Information Bulletin

Conservation Corner: Washington's First Inaugural Address

This 2001 article examines the treatment of Washington's first inaugural address by the Library of Congress Conservation Division.

The Teachers Page

Presentations - Inaugurations

This feature is a supplement to the American Memory collection "I Do Solemnly Swear...": Presidential Inaugurations. It includes an essay on the history of presidential inaugurations and links to primary source materials, including items related to Washington's first inauguration.

Today in History

April 30, 1789

On April 30, 1789, George Washington delivered his first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress, assembled in Federal Hall in the nation's new capital, New York City.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

George Washington's Inaugural Address, National Archives and Records Administration

Our Documents, President George Washington's First Inaugural Speech, National Archives and Records Administration

The Papers of George Washington: First Inaugural Address, University of Virginia

Selected Bibliography

Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2010. [Catalog Record]

Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Flexner, James Thomas. George Washington and the New Nation, 1783-1793. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970. [Catalog Record]

Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York: Scribner, 1948-1957. [Catalog Record]

McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of George Washington. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1974. [Catalog Record]

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  April 28, 2015
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