On April 30 he was inaugurated. He went in procession to the hall, was received in the senate chamber, and thence proceeded to the balcony to take the oath. He was dressed in dark brown cloth of American manufacture, with a steel-hilted sword, and with his hair powdered and drawn back in the fashion of the time. When he appeared, a shout went up from the great crowd gathered beneath the balcony. Much overcome, he bowed in silence to the people, and there was an instant hush over all. Then Chancellor Livingston administered the oath. Washington laid his hand upon the Bible, bowed, and said solemnly when the oath was concluded, “I swear, so help me God,” and, bending reverently, kissed the book. Livingston stepped forward, and raising his hand cried, “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!” Then the cheers broke forth again, the cannon roared, and the bells rang out. Washington withdrew to the hall, where he read his inaugural address to Congress, and the history of the United States of America under the Constitution was begun.
STARTING THE GOVERNMENT
Washington was deeply gratified by his reception at the hands of the people from Alexandria to New York. He was profoundly moved by the ceremonies of his inauguration, and when he turned from the balcony to the senate chamber he showed in his manner and voice how much he felt the meaning of all that had occurred. His speech to the assembled Congress was solemn and impressive, and with simple reverence he acknowledged the guiding hand of Providence in the fortunes of the States. He made no recommendations to Congress, but expressed his confidence in their wisdom and patriotism, adjured them to remember that the success of republican government would probably be finally settled by the success of their experiment, reminded them that amendments to the Constitution were to be considered, and informed them that he could not receive any pecuniary compensation for his services, and expected only that his expenses should be paid as in the Revolution. This was all. The first inaugural of the first President expressed only one thought, but that thought was pressed home with force. Washington wished the Congress to understand as he understood the weight and meaning of the task which had been imposed upon them, for he felt that if he could do this all would be well. How far he succeeded it would be impossible to say, but there can be no doubt as to the wisdom of his position. To have attempted to direct the first movements of Congress before he had really grasped the reins of the government would have given rise, very probably, to jealousy and opposition at the outset. When he had developed a policy, then it would be time to advise the senators and representatives how to carry it out. Meanwhile it was better to arouse their patriotism, awaken their sense of responsibility, and leave them free to begin their work under the guidance of these impressions.