The Constitution of the United States was ratified by the states in June 1788. In February of the following year the new nation’s Electoral College unanimously selected George Washington to be its first President. On April 16, 1789 Washington began the journey from his home at Mount Vernon to New York City, then the nation’s capital, where he would be inaugurated. Washington was reluctant to leave the serenity of his home and uncertain about his new position. His journal entry for that day noted:
“About 10 o’clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity, and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in company with Mr. Thompson, and Colonel Humphries, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.”
Washington’s journey to New York City took seven days and was transformed into a triumphal procession by the crowds and local officials who greeted the new President along the way. Celebrations erupted at numerous towns along his route including Alexandria, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia and Trenton.
Washington arrived at Elizabeth Town NJ on April 23 where a naval flotilla awaited to transport him across the river to Manhattan Island, location of the government quarter and his new official residence.
On April 30, Washington was escorted to Federal Hall on Wall Street and into the Senate Chamber. Washington, Vice President John Adams, the Senators and Representatives stepped out of the chamber onto a balcony overlooking the street filled with a cheering crowd. As there were as yet no Supreme Court Justices, the Oath of Office was administered by Chancellor Robert R. Livingston – New York’s highest ranking judge.
In the following excerpt from the HBO production John Adams, we see President-elect George Washington, flanked by his Vice President-elect and other officials, taking the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City.
The image below is a forensic recreation of George Washington at 57, the age at which he was inaugurated first President of the United States.