A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 322 pages of information about A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents.

PROCEEDINGS INITIATORY TO THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION.

[From the Washington Papers (Executive Proceedings, vol. 17), Department of State.]

Charles Thomson, esq., Secretary of the late Congress, being appointed by the Senate of the United States to carry to General Washington the official information of his unanimous election to the office of President of the United States of America, arrived at Mount Vernon on the 14th day of April, A.D. 1789, when he communicated to General Washington the purport of his mission in the following words: 

Sir:  The President of the Senate chosen for the special purpose, having opened and counted the votes of the electors in presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, I was honored with the commands of the Senate to wait upon Your Excellency with the information of your being elected to the office of President of the United States of America.  This commission was intrusted to me on account of my having been long in the confidence of the late Congress, and charged with the duties of one of the principal civil departments of Government.

I have now, sir, to inform you that the proofs you have given of your patriotism, and of your readiness to sacrifice domestic ease and private enjoyments to preserve the happiness of your country, did not permit the two Houses to harbor a doubt of your undertaking this great and important office, to which you are called, not only by the unanimous vote of the electors, but by the voice of America.

I have it, therefore, in command to accompany you to New York, where the Senate and House of Representatives are convened for the dispatch of public business.

To which General Washington replied: 

Sir:  I have been accustomed to pay so much respect to the opinion of my fellow-citizens that the knowledge of their having given their unanimous suffrages in my favor scarcely leaves me the alternative for an option.  I can not, I believe, give a greater evidence of my sensibility of the honor which they have done me than by accepting the appointment.

I am so much affected by this fresh proof of my country’s esteem and confidence that silence can best explain my gratitude.  While I realize the arduous nature of the task which is imposed upon me, and feel my own inability to perform it, I wish, however, that there may not be reason for regretting the choice, for, indeed, all I can promise is only to accomplish that which can be done by an honest zeal.

Upon considering how long time some of the gentlemen of both Houses of Congress have been at New York, how anxiously desirous they must be to proceed to business, and how deeply the public mind appears to be impressed with the necessity of doing it speedily, I can not find myself at liberty to delay my journey.  I shall therefore be in readiness to set out the day after to-morrow, and shall be happy in the pleasure of your company, for you will permit me to say that it is a peculiar gratification to have received the communication from you.

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