The results are in! General George Washington won the first election to the office of President of the United States of America, by unanimous vote. General Washington was a national hero and the citizens of the new republic wanted no other to lead them. Despite his personal desire, at age sixty, to live a quiet life after the War of Independence, he honored the people's wishes.
Here are a few things about our country's first Presidential election that you might find interesting.
The elections took place from Monday, December 15, 1788, to Saturday, January 10, 1789.
There were no political parties at the time.
Eleven candidates included both Federalists (supported the ratification of the Constitution) and Anti-Federalists (those who opposed), although Washington was Independent.
43,782 votes were cast, approximating less than 1.8% of the population. Only "free" white males were allowed to vote.
Only 11 of the 17 states at the time chose electors by popular vote.
There were 69 electors, each having two votes.
The candidate who received the majority would become the President. The candidate coming in second would become the Vice-President.
All 69 electors voted for George Washington. John Adams received 34 votes, earning him the position of Vice-President.
George Washington did not accept the Presidential position until April 6, 1789 in New York when a Congressional quorum tallied and certified the electoral ballots. Originally, the Congress was to meet on March 4th, but weather and other delays prevented a quorum.
Washington received this letter from Congress notifying him of the official results.
"I have the honor to transmit to your Excellency the information of your unanimous election to the Office of President of the United States of America. Suffer me, Sir, to indulge the hope, that so auspicious a mark of public confidence will meet your approbation, and be considered as a sure pledge of the affection and support you are to expect from a free and an enlightened people."
His reluctant reply:
"I have been long accustomed to entertain so great a respect for the opinion of my fellow-citizens, that the knowledge of their unanimous suffrages having been given in my favor, scarcely leaves me. . .an option. Whatever may have been my private feelings and sentiments, I believe I cannot give a greater evidence of my sensibility for the honor they have done me, than by accepting the appointment... All I can promise is, only that which can be accomplished by an honest zeal."
George Washington left his home in Mount Vernon for New York two days later to take the oath of office on April 30, 1789. He was greeted by multitudes of cheering and singing, bands playing, and cannon salutes.
There was a congressional discussion as to what to call the new president: "Your Highness" or "Your Mightiness" or "Your Excellency." Mr. Washington deemed that "President" was quite suitable.
In 1789 the presidential salary was 2 % of the total U.S. budget, $25,000 per year. After serving a two year term, President Washington was re-elected for a successive term of four years.
In 1804 the twelfth amendment of the Constitution was ratified to change the process by which President and Vice-President was voted.
President and Mrs. Washington did not live in the White House.
President Washington established the precedent of cabinet advisors.
A few things that President George Washington did while in office:
Established the Post Office, instituted the first copyright law, signed the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, personally led troops into the field to stop the Whiskey Rebellion, created first United States Bank, established rules for granting citizenship with the Naturalization Act, Created the United States Mint and dollar as official currency, created the United States Navy.
In Washington’s Farewell Address, he encouraged a focus on morality and education, warned against entnaglements with foreign nations, and cautioned against sectionalism within the nation and “the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party.”
For a complete breakdown of the first election see:
United States presidential election, 1788–89