First Presidential Election (1789)


~ by James Still ~

On April 6, 1789, as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution, “… [Congress] counted the votes of the electors for President and Vice President of the United States…” George Washington was unanimously voted President and John Adams was voted Vice President. (The terms “Electoral” and “College” would not be referenced in law until 1845.) Here are some events over the next few days.

April 7 “In pursuance of the orders I received from the Senate [to inform Washington of his election], I left New York… [Though] much impeded by tempestuous weather, bad roads, and the many large rivers I had to cross, yet, by unremitted diligence I reached Mount Vernon [on April 14], the seat of his excellency, General Washington…” Charles Thomson, Letter to John Langdon, April 24, 1789

April 14 “I am much affected by this fresh proof of my country’s esteem and confidence, that silence can best explain my gratitude. While I realize the arduous nature of the task which is conferred on me, and feel my inability to perform it, I wish there may not be reason for regretting the choice. All I can promise is, only that which can be accomplished by an honest zeal.” George Washington, Noted by Charles Thomson, Apr 24, 1789

April 16 “About ten 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… with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.” George Washington, Entry in Diary, April 16, 1789

April 23 “… the decorations of the ships, the roar of cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people which rent the skies, as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful… as they are pleasing.” George Washington, Entry in Diary, April 23, 1789

James Still (May 2018),

April 23 “Our worthy President was greatly affected with these tokens of a profound respect… [and] the Huzzaing and shouts of Joy seemed to add life to the heavenly scene… [The] Shores [were] crowded with thousands of People… Nay I may venture to say Tens of Thousands…” Elias Boudinot, Letter to Mrs. Boudinot, April 24, 1789

“When the President was on the wharf, an officer came up &… said he had the honor to command his guard… The President announced that ‘As to the present arrangement he should proceed as was directed but that, after that was over… the affections of his fellow citizens (turning to the crowd) was all the guard he wanted.'” Elias Boudinot, Letter to Mrs. Boudinot, April 24, 1789

“… should we wander from [the Founding Principles]… let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801