Washington's Inauguration
Washington's Inauguration

The Inauguration The Ball
The Speech Costumes
Fireworks Procession

George Washington's Inauguration

Inauguration cu The Republican Court Or American Society in the Days of Washington, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, 1856, p138
The anxiously expected morning of Thursday, the thirtieth of April, was greeted with a national salute from the Bowling Green, and at an early hour the streets were filled with men and women, in their holiday attire, while every moment arrived new crowds from the adjoining country, by the road from King's Bridge, by ferry boats from more distant places, or by packets which had been all night on the Sound or coming down the Hudson. At eight o'clock some clouds about the horizon caused apprehensions of an unpleasant day; but when, at nine, the bells rung out a merry peal, and presently with a slower and more solemn striking, called from every steeple for the people to assemble in the churches "to implore the blessing of Heaven on the nation, its favor and protection to the President, and success and acceptance to his administration," the sun shone clearly down, as if commissioned to give assurance of the approbation of the Divine Ruler of the world.

Inauguration fdc
As the people came out from the churches, where Livingston, Mason, Provoost, Rodgers, and other clergymen, had given passionately earnest and eloquent expression to that reverent and profound desire which filled all hearts - so universal was a religious sense of the importance of the occasion - the military began to march from their respective quarters, with flaunting banners, and the liveliest music. The principal companies were Captain Stake's troop of horse, equipped in the style of Lee's famous partisan legion; Captain Scriba's German Grenadiers, with blue coats, yellow waistcoats and breeches, black gaiters, and towering cone-shaped caps, faced with bear-skin; Captain Harsin's New York Grenadiers, composed, in initation of the guard of the great Frederick, of only the tallest and finest-looking young men of the city, dressed in blue coats with red facings and gold lace broideries, cocked hats with white feathers, and white waistcoats and breeches, and black spatterdashes, buttoned close from the shoe to the knee; and the Scotch Infantry, in full highland costume, with bagpipes.

Inauguration Currier
Ralph Izard, Tristram Dalton, and Richard Henry Lee, on the part of the Senate, and Charles Carroll, Egbert Benson, and Fisher Ames, on the part of the House of Representatives, had been appointed a joint committee of arrangements, and the procession was formed under the immediate direction of Colonel Morgan Lewis, in Cherry street, opposite the President's house, at twelve o'clock. After the military came

The Sheriff of the city and County of New York,
The Committee of the Senate,
George Washington,
The Comittee of the House of Representatives,
John Jay, Secretary for Foreign Affairs,
Henry Knox, Secretary of War,
Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York,
Distinguished Citizens.

The procession having marched through Queen, Great Dock, and Broad streets, until opposite Federal Hall, the troops formed a line on each side of the way, through which the President, with his attendants, was conducted to the chamber of the Senate, where the members of the House of Representatives had a few minutes before assembled, and at the door the Vice President received him and waited upon him to the chair.

Inauguration fdc The Vice President then said, "Sir, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United states are ready to attend you to take the oath required by the Constitution, which will be administered by the Chancellor of the State of New York."

The President answered, "I am ready to proceed."

The Vice President and the Senators led the way, and, accompanied by the Chancellor, and followed by the Representatives, and other public characters present, he then walked to the outside gallery, from which Broad street and Wall street, each way, were perceived to be filled, as with a sea of upturned faces, but as silent as if the immense concourse had been statues instead of living men.

The spectacle must have been in the highest degree interesting and serious. In the centre, between two pillars, was seen the commanding figure of Washington, in a coat, waistcoat, and breeches, of fine dark brown cloth, and white silk stockings, all of American manufacture, plain silver buckles in his shoes, his head uncovered, and his hair dressed in the prevailing fashion of the time. On one side stood the Chancellor, in a full suit of black cloth, and on the other the Vice President, dressed more showily, but like the President entirely in American fabrics. Between the President and the Chancellor was Mr. Otis, Secretary of the Senate, a small short man, holding an open Bible upon a rich crimson cushion, and conspicuous in the group were Roger Sherman, General Knox, General St. Clair, Baron Steuben, and others whose names were equally dear and familiar to the people.

A gesture of the Chancellor arrested the attention of the immense assembly, and he pronounced slowly and distinctly the words of the oath. The Bible was raised, and as the President bowed to kiss its sacred pages, he said audibly, "I swear," and added, with fervor, his eyes closed, that his whole soul might be absorbed in the supplication, "So help me God!"

Then the Chancellor said, "It is done," and, turning to the multitude, waved his hand, and with a loud voice exclaimed, "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!"

Immediately the air was filled with acclamations and the roar of cannon; the President bowed, and again and again the welkin rung with the plaudits of happy and grateful citizens, who felt that Heaven had granted all their reasonable petitions, and that the New Era dreamed of by sages and celebrated by orators and bards was now completely inaugurated.

Inauguration fdc
"The scene," writes one who was present to his correspondent in Philadelphia, "was solemn and awful beyond description. It would seem extraordinary that the administration of an oath, a ceremony so very common and familiar, should in so great a degree excite the pub.ic curiosity; but the circumstances of the President's election, the impression of his past services, the concourse of spectators, the devout fervency with which he repeated the oath, and the reverential manner in which he bowed down and kissed the sacred volume, all these conspired to render it one of the most august and interesting spectacles ever exhibited. ... It seemed, from the number of witnesses, to be a solemn appeal to Heaven and earth at once. In regard to this great and good man I may perhaps be an enthusiast, but I confess that I was under an awful and religious persuasion, taht the gracious Ruler of the Universe was looking down at that moment with peculiar complacency on an act which to a part of his creatures was so very important." Under this impression, he proceeds to say that when the Chancellor proclaimed Washington President, his sensibility was so excited that he could do no more than wave his hat with the rest, without the power of joining in the repeated acclamations which rent the air.

Few persons are now living who witnessed the induction of the first President of the United States into his office; but wlaking, not many months ago, near the middle of a night of unusual beauty, through Broadway - at that hour scarcely disturbed by any voices or footfalls except our own - Washington Irving related to Dr. Francis and myself his recollections of these scenes, with that graceful conversational eloquence of which he is one of the greatest living masters. He had watched the procession till the President entered Federal Hall, and from the corner of New street and Wall street had observed the subsequent proceedings in the balcony.

Washington's Inaugural Speech

The President, members of the Congress, and other dignitaries and distinguished characters, having returned to the Senate chamber and taken their seats, Washington arose and delivered a short inaugural speech, alike remarkable as a display of modesty, dignity, and wisdom. Among the vicissitudes of his life, he said, none could have filled him with greater anxieties than his election to the Presidency.

Inauguration medal
"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 of 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 volice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wiest 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 accepting this task I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendant proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have Inauguration silver dollar thence too little consulted by incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences 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, my 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 our 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 the people 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 this united government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude, along with a 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."

Intimating briefly his unwillingness, until he should become more familiar with the condition of public affairs, to recommend any specific action to the representatives of the people, and suggesting that he desired, as when holding his former office of commander-in-chief of the army, no compensation for his services, but only the repayment of his actual expenses, he closed with renewed expressions of his devout gratitude to Heaven, and supplications for future aid, protection, and direction.

The President, Vice President, Senators, Representatives, Heads of Departments, and many others, then proceeded to St. Paul's Chapel in Broadway, where prayers suited to the occasion were read by Dr. Provoost, recently elected Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York, who had been selected by the Senate to be one of the chaplains of Congress. These services over, the President was escorted back to his own house.



In the evening the city was brilliantly illuminated, and there was a display of fireworks, under Colonel Bauman, surpassing any thing of the kind hitherto seen in New York. Between the Bowling Green and the Fort, at the foot of Broadway, was a large transparent painting, in the centre of which appeared a portrait of Washington, under a figure of Fortitude, and the Senate and House of Representatives were exhibited, one on the right, and the other on the left, under the forms of Justice and Wisdom. The ship Carolina, off the Fort seemed like a pyramid of stars. Federal Hall presented in every window a sheet of light. The front of the Theatre in John Street, was almost covered with transparencies, one of which represented Fame, descending like an angel from Heaven, and crowning Washington with the emblems of immortality.

A very large number of private residences were also illuminated, and none more tastefully or brilliantly than those of the French and Spanish ministers, the Count de Moustier and Don Diego Gardoqui, which were both in Broadway, near the Bowling Green. The doors and windows of M. de Moustier displayed borderings of lamps, which shone upon numerous paintings, ingeniously suggestive of the past, the present, and the future, in American history; and there were also over the front of the house large and striking transparencies, which are described as having done great honor to the taste and sentiment of the inventor, probably Madame de Brehan, the Count's sister, who was always industrious with her pencil when not occupied with more immediate duties to society.

The Spanish minister's residence was still more elaborately and effectively ornamented. In the principal transparency were seen figures of the Graces, exceedingly well executed, among a pleasing variety of patriotic emblems, and trees, flowers, arches, and fountains; and in the windows were moving pictures, so skilful in design and accomplishment as to present the illusion of living panoramas, "the whole," according to Fenno's Gazette, "affording a new, an animated, and an enchanting spectacle."

Mr. Lear mentions in a diary which he kept at the time, that in the beginning of the evening the President, Colonel Humphreys, and himself, went in a carriage to the houses of Chancellor Livingston and General Knox, where they had a full view of the fireworks, and that they returned home at ten o'clock, on foot, the throng of people in the streets being so great as not to permit a carriage to pass.

The New York Ball

Mrs Smith Mrs Beekman Mrs Beekman
Mrs. William S. Smith Mrs. James Beekman Mrs. Chauncey Goodrich

Some preparations had been made by the managers of the City Assemblies for an Inauguration Ball, but as Mrs. Washington did not accompany the President to New York the design was abandoned. A week after, however - on the evening of Thursday, the seventh of May - a very splendid ball was given at the Assembly Rooms, at which the President, the Vice President, a majority of the members of both houses of Congress, the French Minister, the Spanish Minister, the Governor of New York, Chancellor Livingston, Baron Steuben, General Knox, Mr. Jay, Mr. Hamilton, and a great number of other distinguished persons, were present. "The collection of ladies," says a contemporary, "was numerous and brilliant, and they were dressed with consummate taste and elegance."

The Assembly Room was on the east side of Broadway, a little above Wall street, and it was decorated on this occasion with tasteful and appropriate magnificence.

Among the most distinguished women at this ball were Lady Stirling, and her two daughters, Lady Mary Watts and Lady Kitty Duer; Mrs. Peter Van Brugh Livingston, who was a sister of the late Lord Stirling, Mrs. Montgomery, widow of the hero of Quebec, Lady Christiana Griffin, Lady Temple, the Marchioness de Brehan, Madame de la Forest, Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Jay, Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. Provoost, wife of Bishop Provoost, Mrs. Duane, wife of the Mayor, Mrs. Dalton, wife of a senator from Massachusetts, Mrs. Langdon, wife of a senator from New Hampshire, Mrs. Dominick Lynch, Mrs. Elbridge Gerry, Mrs. William S. Smith, Mrs. James H. Maxwell, Mrs. Beekman, Mrs. Robinson, the Misses Livingston, the Misses Bayard, and Miss Van Zandt. The President danced during the evening in the cotillion with Mrs. Peter Van Brugh Livingston and Mrs. Maxwell, and with the latter in a minuet. He had repeatedly danced with Mrs. Maxwell, then Miss Van Zandt, while the headquarters of the army were at Morristown.

On this occasion an agreeable surprise was prepared by the managers for every woman who attended. A sufficient number of fans had been made for the purpose in Paris, the ivory frames of which displayed, as they were opened, between the hinges and the elegant paper covering, an extremely well executed medallion portrait of Washington in profile, and a page was appointed to present one, with the compliments of the manager, as each couple passed the receiver of the tickets.

On the following Thursday, the fourteenth of May, the Count de Moustier gave a magnificent ball in honor of the President, at his hosue in Broadway. It is described in a letter by one of the young women present, to a friend in Philadelphia, as remarkable for the good taste

The Costumes of the Time by Colonel Stone

Few jewels were then worn in the United States; but in other respects, the dresses were rich and beautiful, according to the fashions of the day. We are not quite sure that we can describe the full dress of a lady of rank at the period under consideration, so as to render it intelligible. But we will make the attempt.

One favorite dress was a plain celestial blue satin gown, with a white satin petticoat. On the neck was worn a very large Italian gauze handkerchief, with border stripes of satin. The head-dress was a pouf of gauze, in the form of a globe, the creaeaux or head-piece of which was composed of white satin, having a double wing, in large plaits, and trimmed with a wreath of artificial roses, falling from the left at the top to the right at the bottom, in front, and the reverse behind. The hair was dressed all over in detached curls, four of which, in two ranks, fell on each side of the neck, and were relieved behind by a floating chignon.

Another beautiful dress was a perriot, made of gray Indian taffeta, with dark stripes of the same color, - having two collars, the one yellow, and the other one white, both trimmed with a blue silk fringe, and a reverse trimmed in the same manner. Under the perriot they wore a yellow corset or boddice, with large cross stripes of blue. Some of the ladies with this dress wore hats a l'Espagnole, of white satin, with a band of the same material placed on the crown, like the weath of flowers on the head-dress above mentioned. This hat, which, with a plume, was a very popular article of dress, was relieved on the left side, having two handsome cockades, - one of which was at the top, and the other at the bottom. On the neck was worn a very large plain gauze handkerchief, the ends of which were hid under the boddice, after the manner represented in Trumbell's and Stuart's portraits of Lady Washington. Round the bosom of the perriot a frill of gauze, a la Henri IV, was attached, cut in points around the edge.

There was still another dress which was thought to be very simple and pretty. It consisted of a perriot and petticoat, both composed of the same description of gray striped silk, and trimmed round with gauze, cut in polints at the edges in the manner of herrisons. The herrisons were indeed nearly the sole trimmings used for the perriots, caracos, and petticoats of fashionable ladies, made either of ribbons or Italian gauze. With this dress they wore large gauze handkerchiefs upon their necks, with four satin stripes around the border, two of which were narrow, and the others broad. The head-dress was a plain gauze cap, after the form of the elders and ancients of a nunnery. The shoes were celestial blue, with rose-colored rosettes.

Such are descriptions of some of the principal costumes; and although varied in divers unimportant particulars, by the several ladies, according to their respective tastes and fancies, yet, as with the peculiar fashions of all other times, there was a general correspondence of the outlines, - the tout ensemble was the same.


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