THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION
THE ONLY KNOWN PRIVATELY OWNED COPY OF THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR INAUGURATING GEORGE WASHINGTON
THE THIRD DOCUMENT PRINTED BY THE NEW UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
Printed Broadside, The Committees of Both Houses of Congress, appointed to take order for conducting the ceremonial of the formal reception, & of the President of the United States, on Thursday, next, have agreed to the following order thereon.… [New York]: April 29, 1789. Legal folio.
Of extreme rarity: only three other copies known (Library of Congress, New York Historical Society, New York Public Library).
This is the first edition of the order of ceremonies for the inauguration of George Washington, the earliest printed document of the new national government in private hands. It sets forth the official arrangements for the inauguration of president-elect George Washington, held at Federal Hall, New York, on April 30, 1789. Washington had been notified of his election on April 14th, and arrived in New York from Mount Vernon on april 23rd. The date for the inauguration was then set for April 30th, and this document drafted and printed on the previous day, April 29th.
The broadside describes a simple ceremony. Chairs are placed for the president and vice-president, the governor of the Western Territory, and the ministers of France and Spain. The president-elect is escorted from his residence to the Senate Chamber and out to the gallery for the Oath of Office. “To the end that the Oath of Office may be administered to the President in the most public manner, and that the greatest number of the people of the United States, and without distinction, may be witnesses to the solemnity, that the Oath be administered in the outer Gallery adjoining the Senate Chamber.…” Following the Oath, the president is to be escorted back to the Chamber (where Washington delivered his address), then to St. Paul’s Chapel to hear divine service, and then finally, back to his residence.
The lack of precedent, and the rush to inaugurate, are evident both in what the broadside says and does not say. It notes, for instance, that “no salutation is expected [from dignitaries] on their entrance into, or their departure from the Senate-chamber,” but neglects to say whether the Senate should stand if addressed by the president. This point, and others, were left to be debated on the morning of the inauguration itself. The Committee also neglected to mention a Bible for the Oath, and one had to borrowed at the last minute from St. John’s Masonic Lodge that was nearby. Although an address is not mentioned in the document, the Joint Committee that morning provided Washington with an opportunity to speak before Congress in the Senate Chamber. He did so and thus established the tradition of the inaugural address.
This broadside is the third printed, and earliest obtainable, document of the national government. Kenneth Bowling of the First Federal Congress Project, based at George Washington University, confirms that after decades of searching, it is clear that this is the third printed document of the federal government. The first two, dealing with the rules of the House, are known to exist only in institutions (the library of Congress and the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society), and this is almost certainly the only privately held copy of the first inauguration broadside.
The text reads: “The Committees of both Houses of Congress, appointed to take order for conducting the ceremonial of the formal reception, etc., of the President of the United States, on Thursday next have agreed to the following order thereon, viz.
“That General Webb, Colonel Smith, Lieutenant-Colonel Fish, Lieut.-Col. Franks, Major L’Enfant, Major Blecker, and Mr. John R. Livingston, be requested to serve as Assistants on the occasion.
“That a chair be placed in the Senate-Chamber for the President of the United States. That a chair be placed in the Senate-Chamber for the Vice-President, to the right of the President’s chair; and that the Senators take their seats on that side of the chamber on which the Vice-President’s chair shall be placed. That a chair be placed in the Senate-Chamber for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the left of the President’s chair—and that the Representatives take their seats on that side of the Chamber on which the Speaker’s chair shall be placed.
“That seats be provided in the Senate-Chamber sufficient to accommodate the late President of Congress, the Governor of the Western Territory, the five persons being the heads of the three great departments, the Minister Plenipotentiary of France, the Encargado de negocios of Spain, the chaplains of Congress, the person in the suite of the President; and also to accommodate the following Public Officers of the State, viz. The Governor, the Lieutenant-Governor. The Chancellor, the Chief Justice, and other Judges of the Supreme Court, and the Mayor of the city. That one of the Assistants wait on these gentlemen, and inform them that the seats are provided for their accommodation, and that no salutation is expected from them on their entrance into, or their departure from the Senate-Chamber.
“That the members of both Houses assemble in their respective Chambers, precisely at twelve o’clock, and that the Representatives preceded by the Speaker, and attended by their Clerk, and other Officers, proceed to the Senate-Chamber. There to be received by the Vice-President and Senators rising.
“That the Committees attend the President from his residence to the Senate-Chamber, and that he be there received by the Vice-President, the Senators and Representatives rising, and be by the Vice-President conducted to his chair.
“That after the President shall be seated, the Vice-President shall announce to the President that the members of both Houses will attend him to be present at his taking the Oath of Office required by the Constitution. To that end the Oath of Office may be administered to the President in the most public manner, and that the greatest number of people of the United States, and without distinction, may be witnesses to the solemnity, that therefore the Oath be administered in the outer Gallery adjoining to the Senate-Chamber.
“That when the President shall proceed to the gallery to take the Oath, he be attended by the Vice-President, and be followed by the Chancellor of the State, and pass through the middle door, that the Senators pass through the door on the right, and the Representatives, proceeded by the Speaker, pass through the door on the left, and such of the persons who shall have been admitted into the Senate Chamber, and be desirous to go into the gallery, are then also to pass through the door on the right. That when the President shall have taken the Oath, and returned to the Senate-chamber, attended by the Vice-President, and shall be seated in his chair, that the Senators and the Representatives also return into the Senate-Chamber, and that the Vice-President and they resume their respective seats.
“Both Houses having resolved to accompany the President after he shall have taken the Oath, to St. Paul’s Chapel, to hear divine service, to be performed by the Chaplain of Congress. That the following order of procession be observed, viz., The Door-keeper and messenger of the House of Representatives. The Clerk of the House. The Representatives. The Speaker. The president, and the Vice-President at his left hand. The Senators. The Secretary of State. The door-keeper, and messenger of the Senate.
“That a Pew be reserved for the President—Vice-President—Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Committees; and that the pews be also reserved sufficient for the reception of the Senate and Representatives.
“That after divine service shall be performed, the President be received at the door of the Church, by the Committees, and by them attended in carriages to his residence.
“That it be intrusted to the Assistants to take the proper precautions for keeping the avenues to the Hall open, and that for that purpose, they wait on His Excellency the Governor of this State, and in the name of the Committees, request his aid by an order of recommendation tot he Civil Officers, or militia of the city, to attend and serve on the occasion, as he shall judge most proper.”
Matted in crimson and ivory with a full-length engraving of Washington being sworn in during the Frist Inauguration. In an antiqued gilt frame measuring 22 ¾ inches wide by 19 inches high.