April 30, 1789
On the morning of the 30th, George Washington dressed in a suit of brown broadcloth spun in Hartford, with buttons displaying an eagle with wings spread. Finishing off the outfit were white silk stockings, silver shoe buckles, and a dress sword in a steel scabbard.
washington's inaugural suit
Following the arrival of the president-elect, committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives, “appointed to consider of the time, place, and manner in which, and of the person by whom the oath prescribed by the Constitution shall be administered to the President of the United States” met, both separately and together, to discuss the ceremonies associated with the inauguration. In addition to deciding on the seating lists and order of various processions, they determined that Congress would assemble at noon on the chosen day; that Washington would be “FORMALLY” received by both houses of Congress in the Senate Chamber; that, in addition to American officials and New York state notables, diplomats from France and Spain would also be present in the Senate chamber; that the oath would be administered by the Chancellor of the state of New York, Robert Livingston (1746-1813) on the gallery [balcony] outside the Senate Chamber so “that the greatest number of the people of the United States, and without distinction, may be witnesses to the solemnity”; and that following the swearing-in, both the Senators and Congressmen would accompany the new President in a ceremonial procession to St. Paul’s Chapel, in order to “hear divine service, to be performed by the Chaplain of Congress.” Afterwards, Washington would “be received at the door of the Church, by the Committees, and by them attended in carriages to his residence.”
Washington was escorted by numerous representatives to Federal Hall about half past noon. Upon arriving, he entered the Senate chamber where the two houses of Congress awaited their new head of state. John Adams, elected Vice President, formally welcomed Washington. Robert Livingston, Chancellor of New York, administered the oath, and Samuel Otis, Secretary of the Senate, held the ceremonial Bible. From the portico overlooking Wall and Broad Streets, Livingston turned to the teeming streets below and shouted, "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!"
At this point, an exhilarated eyewitness recalled that " ... my sensibility was wound to such a pitch that I could do no more than wave my hat with the rest, without the power of joining in the requested acclamations which rent the air!" Another, who had described the streets as "so dense that it seemed as if one might literally walk on the heads of people," stated:
All the bells in the city rang out a peal of joy ... The President bowed ... to the people and then retired from a scene such as the proudest monarch could never have enjoyed-the delight not only of his own nation and people, but for all mankind.