George Washington's first inaugural address, 30 April 1789
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George Washington (1732-1799) delivered his first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress, assembled in Federal Hall, New York City, on 30 April 1789. The newly elected president delivered the speech in a deep, low voice that betrayed what one observer called "manifest embarrassment." Aside from recommending constitutional amendments to satisfy citizens demanding a Bill of Rights, Washington confined himself to generalities. He closed by asking for a "divine blessing" on the American people and their elected representatives. In delivering an inaugural address, Washington went beyond the constitutional requirement of taking an oath of office and thus established a precedent that has been followed since by every elected president.
The Confederation Congress had set the date of the first inauguration as Wednesday, 4 March 1789. Members of the new Congress, however, were delayed in arriving in New York and were unable to count the electoral ballots as early as anticipated. Consequently, the inauguration was postponed until Congress officially notified Washington and the president-elect travelled from Virginia to New York. Subsequent inaugurations took place on either 4 March (or 5 March when the fourth fell on a Sunday), until 1937 when the Twentieth (or Lame-Duck) Amendment changed the date to 20 January (or 21 January when the twentieth fell on a Sunday).