George Washington: First Inaugural Address


George Washington delivered his First Inaugural Address on April 30, 1789, to a joint session of Congress in the Senate chambers in New York City’s Federal Hall. Believing that he would be elected the first president under the Constitution of 1787, Washington had asked his close friend David Humphreys to draft an inaugural address. Washington discarded Humphreys’s seventy-three-page draft, however, and asked James Madison to write a more appropriate address.

This simple, concise, well-polished address recognized the historical importance of the day and the trials to be faced in the future. Washington explained his reluctance to accept the presidency and highlighted his own deficiencies, among them occasional ill health, little experience in civil administration, and a lack of intellectual gifts. He left the matter of outlining a legislative agenda to Congress, except for one concern. He asked Congress to draft a bill of rights as an amendment to the Constitution. Such...

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George Washington's First Inaugural Address (National Archives and Records Administration)

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