George Washington: First Inaugural Address

(1789)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

In the opening paragraph of the First Inaugural Address, Washington explains how his election as president changed his life. He had been happy with his “immutable decision” never again to assume public office after his retirement from the army in December 1783. He was content to spend his “declining years” on his plantation, which served as a private “asylum” from public responsibilities. The voice of his country, however, which he could “never hear but with veneration and love,” reminded him of his duty.

His promise to refrain from further service in public office was not the only reason Washington was reluctant to become president. In his inaugural address, he explains his concern that he might be physically unable to do the job because of intermittent bad health and “the gradual waste committed on it by time.” Although he had led the army for eight years, he realizes “his own deficiencies.” He is inexperienced in “civil...

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

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