National Archives and Records Administration

"My station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground."
--George Washington in a letter, January 9, 1790
In 1789 the United States Constitution was untried. It created a system of government based on the consent of the governed and shared powers. The Constitution invented the office of the President. George Washington, hero of the American Revolution and of the Constitutional Convention, was elected in 1789 to serve as this nation's first President.

George Washington's first inauguration took place at Federal Hall in New York City, where the first Congress was assembled. Keenly aware of the momentousness of the occasion, Washington accepted the Presidency and spoke of his determination to make the American experiment a success. All eight pages of the speech delivered to the Congress are in George Washington's own clear and distinctive handwriting.
(National Archives, Still Picture Branch, 148-CCD-92C)

[EXCERPT:] "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

Opening of George Washington's first inaugural address,
April 30, 1789

Like other Presidential addresses to the Congress, President Washington's inaugural address is preserved at the National Archives in the Center for Legislative Archives, which has physical custody of the official records of the U.S. Congress dating from 1789; Congress maintains legal custody of these records, and they are exhibited with the permission of the Senate.

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Last updated: August 17, 1998