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George Washington
First Inaugural Address
Thursday, April 30, 1789


Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me
with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was
transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present
month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can
never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had
chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with
an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years--a retreat
which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me
by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions
in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other
hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my
country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most
experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his
qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who
(inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the
duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his
own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that
it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just
appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I
dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much
swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an
affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of
my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity
as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me,
my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its
consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality
in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the
public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly
improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to
that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the
councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human
defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and
happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by
themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument
employed in its administration to execute with success the functions
allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of
every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your
sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at
large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore
the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of
the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the
character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by
some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just
accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil
deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from
which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which
most governments have been established without some return of pious
gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings
which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the
present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be
suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are
none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free
government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty
of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as he
shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which I
now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than
to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are
assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to
which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with
those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which
actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular
measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the
patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them.
In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on
one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party
animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought
to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on
another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the
pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence
of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win
the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I
dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for
my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly
established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature
an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and
advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous
policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we
ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can
never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order
and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation
of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of
government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked
on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with
your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power
delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient
at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been
urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given
birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this
subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official
opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your
discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that
whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the
benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await
the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic
rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently
influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be
impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously
promoted.

To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most
properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself,
and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored
with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an
arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my
duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From
this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under
the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to
myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably
included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must
accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I
am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual
expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by
the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave;
but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human
Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the
American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect
tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity
on a form of government for the security of their union and the
advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally
conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the
wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.


***

George Washington
Second Inaugural Address
Monday, March 4, 1793


Fellow Citizens:

I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the
functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall
arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this
distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me
by the people of united America.

Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the
Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to
take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my
administration of the Government I have in any instance violated
willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring
constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are
now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.



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