On April 14th Washington’s election was notified to him, and on the 16th he bade farewell to Mount Vernon, where he had hoped to pass the rest of his days in peace and home duties and agriculture, and he rode in what proved to be a triumphal march to New York. That city was chosen the capital of the new Nation. Streams of enthusiastic and joyous citizens met and acclaimed him at every town through which he passed. At Trenton a party of thirteen young girls decked out in muslin and wreaths represented the thirteen States, and perhaps brought to his mind the contrast between that day and thirteen years before when he crossed the Delaware on boats amid floating cakes of ice and the pelting of sleet and rain. On April 23d he entered New York City. A week later at noon a military escort attended him from his lodging to Federal Hall at the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets, where a vast crowd awaited him. Washington stood on a balcony. All could witness the ceremony. The Secretary of the Senate bore a Bible upon a velvet cushion, and Chancellor Livingston administered the oath of office. Washington’s head was still bowed when Livingston shouted: “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!” The crowds took up the cheer, which spread to many parts of the city and was repeated in all parts of the United States.
THE FIRST AMERICAN PRESIDENT
The inauguration of Washington on April 30, 1789, brought a new type of administration into the world. The democracy which it initiated was very different from that of antiquity, from the models of Greece and of Rome, and quite different from that of the Italian republics during the Middle Age. The head of the new State differed essentially from the monarchs across the sea. Although there were varieties of traditions and customs in what had been the Colonies, still their dominant characteristic was British. According to the social traditions of Virginia, George Washington was an aristocrat, but in contrast with the British, he was a democrat.
He believed, however, that the President must guard his office from the free-and-easy want of decorum which some of his countrymen regarded as the stamp of democracy. At his receptions he wore a black velvet suit with gold buckles at the knee and on his shoes, and yellow gloves, and profusely powdered hair carried in a silk bag behind. In one hand he held a cocked hat with an ostrich plume; on his left thigh he wore a sword in a white scabbard of polished leather. He shook hands with no one; but acknowledged the courtesy of his visitors by a very formal bow. When he drove, it was in a coach with four or six handsome horses and outriders and lackeys dressed in resplendent livery.