To trace in detail the events of Washington’s administration would be to write the history of the country during that period. It is only possible here to show, without much regard to chronological sequence, the part of the President in developing the policy of the government at home, and his attitude toward each question as it arose. We are concerned here merely with the influence and effect of Washington in our history, and not with the history itself. What did he do, and what light do we get on the man himself from his words and deeds? These are the only questions that a brief study of a career so far-reaching can attempt to answer.
Congress came together for the first time with the government actually organized on January 4, 1790. On the day when the session opened, Washington drove down to the hall where the Congress met, alone in his own coach drawn by four horses. He was preceded by Colonel Humphreys and Major Jackson, mounted on his two white horses, while immediately behind came his chariot with his private secretaries, and Mr. Lewis on horseback. Then followed in their own coaches the chief justice and the secretaries of war and of the treasury. When the President reached the hall he was met at the entrance by the doorkeeper of the Congress, and was escorted to the Senate chamber. There he passed between the members of each branch, drawn up on either hand, and took his seat by the Vice-President. When order and silence were obtained, he rose and spoke to the assembled representatives of the people standing before him. Having concluded his speech, he bowed and withdrew with his suite as he had come. Jefferson killed this simple ceremonial, and substituted for it the written message, sent by a secretary and read by a clerk in the midst of talk and bustle, which is the form we have to-day. Jefferson’s change was made, of course, in the name of liberty, and also because he was averse to public speaking. From the latter point of view, it was reasonable enough, but the ostensible cause was as hollow and meaningless as any of the French notions to which it was close akin. It is well for the head of the state to meet face to face the representatives of the same people who elected him. For more than a century this has been the practice in Massachusetts, to take a single instance, and liberty in that commonwealth has not been imperiled, nor has the State been obliged to ask Federal aid to secure to her a republican form of government because of her adherence to this ancient custom.