Acts of Congress

Below are selected images from the volume.

All images are courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Photography by Mark Finkenstaedt.



This version of the Acts of the First Congress was expertly bound for Washington with a label embossed in gilt letters reading, "President of the United States." The personalized copy contains the United States Constitution, the proposed Bill of Rights, and other lesser-known legislative acts adopted by the first Congress. The binding of the book has been attributed to Thomas Allen of New York, who bound similar copies of the book for both Thomas Jefferson and John Jay in 1789.

Inside Cover

Title Page

George Washington pasted his armorial bookplate inside the front cover. The bookplate features the Washington family coat of arms and the motto “exitus acta probat,” which translates to “the result is the test of the actions.” In addition, Washington's signature appears inside of this copy of the Acts.


On Article II, Section 1, Washington has written “President” in the margin and has added a long bracket around the following:

“The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and together with the Vice-President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows:”

Page IX

On Article II, Section 2, Washington has written “President” and “Powers” in the margin and has added a long bracket. An excerpt from the bracketed text is below.

“The President shall be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States ... and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of the impeachment.”

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the supreme court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law. But the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.”

“The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”

On Article II, Section 3, Washington has written “Required” in the margin and has added a long bracket. An excerpt from the bracketed text is below.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union ... he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.”

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The Acts of Congress also contains the 12 amendments to the Constitution that met arguments most frequently advanced against it. The first two proposed amendments, which concerned the number of constituents for each Representative and the compensation of Congressmen, were not ratified. Articles 3 to 12, however, ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, constitute the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.


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