Washington delivered his Second Inaugural Address in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia on March 4, 1793. It was the shortest inaugural speech given by any United States President; it consisted of only 135 words. Washington’s First Inaugural Address was ten minutes long, and spoke on topics ranging from foreign policy to education, while his second focused on his presidential duties and the consequences that should occur if he were to break them.
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.
- Pair this primary source with Washington’s First Inaugural Address. Instruct students to read both documents and determine the main points of each. Ask students why they think the Second Inaugural Address is significantly shorter than the first one? What could Washington have discussed in his Second Inaugural Address that he chose not to? What issues and debates were government officials and citizens grappling with during the early 1790s?
- Although Washington won re-election unanimously, a political divide was forming in America. Supporters of a strong central government were Federalists, while Anti-Federalists believed more authority should be given to individual states. Read Mount Vernon’s web page on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison to understand the reasons why this divide happened among the Founding Fathers, and ask students to create a Venn diagram explaining the differences and similarities between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists during Washington’s presidency. What were the arguments of each party? Who were some of the individuals associated with each party? Ask students to go a step further and decide which political party they would side with if they lived during the period.
- Create a word cloud for the First Inaugural Address and the Second Inaugural Address. Are the words similar or different? What does this say? What can students infer about the state of the country?
Classroom Materials downloads are ZIP files that include, when available: document images (JPEGs), document transcripts (PDF as well as Word and/or Excel files), and ready to use classroom resources (activities, discussion prompts, lesson plans, etc.). These materials are available for educational uses only. If you would like to reproduce them in any other medium, please contact Dawn Bonner, Manager of Visual Resources.