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George Washington broke political barriers during the creation of the presidency when he set out on the Southern Tour from March-July 1791. As the first President, he was convinced that the survival of the new republic depended on people identifying as Americans and feeling a sense of belonging to the same nation. Its survival also depended on their support of the federal government. Washington astutely expected that as a Revolutionary hero, President, and symbol of the new nation he would be well-received, even though heated debates in Congress over diverse economic and social interests, slavery, for example, made clear how different the states saw themselves. Many feared that the fragile republic would crumble. Washington, who witnessed the sacrifices people made during the Revolution, believed in the future of the nation. President Washington wanted to become acquainted with people and hear what they envisioned for the future of the nation while he also promoted the new government. Washington and his companions traveled through rough terrain and visited small and large settlements. Washington broke political barriers by traveling to the different states and listening to people’s opinions about the government and informing himself on how to better create new policies. More importantly, by visiting people in person, and he showed them that they were an essential part of the new federal government.

Establishing a Connection

A Rough Journey

This coach from Mount Vernon is similar to the one George Washington traveled in.

Memories of War

Documenting the Tour

The People

The President in Salisbury

The President in Salisbury

An account from the President’s visit to Salisbury, N.C. republished in the Gazette of the United States, in June 1791.

Primary Source: The account begins here and continues here

The account revealed how President Washington was received by people in Salisbury, and how they viewed the new government. A representative of the community addressed Washington and assured him that, although they were situated far away from the seat of the government, they would “maintain and perpetuate the federal government.” A grateful Washington pointed that they were all cooperating with their “fellow-citizens throughout the union” to keep the country together. As he made his way to dinner, the President "bowed respectfully to the people," as many cheered "Long live the President!" 

The support of the people in Salisbury likely gave Washington hope for the future.  

A New Perspective

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