George Washington was inaugurated as the first United States president on April 30, 1789. He would spend most of his first term defining the role of the executive branch and literally setting up the government.

Setting Up a Presidential Cabinet

During his first term, George Washington’s cabinet included just four original members: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph.

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Appointing the Entire Supreme Court

Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which formally established the federal judiciary. Since there were no sitting justices at the beginning of his term, George Washington had the unique opportunity to fill all the empty seats in the Supreme Court.

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Constructing the Nation's Capitol

In 1790, Washington took personal control over the building of what he once termed "the seat of Empire." He specified the location of the ten-mile square federal district, the President's mansion, and the Capitol on the bank of the Potomac River.

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Native American Policy

Settlers in several southeastern states were fighting skirmishes with the Native Americans primarily over American land expansion. Holding this land was, in Washington's estimation, a federal matter and a treaty was signed with the Creek.

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Southern Tour of the United States

President George Washington coordinated a journey to the southern states between March 21 and June 4, 1791 to emphasize national unity and familiarize himself with political sentiments in the region.

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Whiskey Tax

In January 1791, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed a seemingly innocuous excise tax "upon spirits distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same." What Congress failed to predict was the vehement rejection of this tax by American citizens.

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Presidential Entertaining

To provide order to the steady stream of visitors to the executive residence, Washington established prescribed days and times to meet with his various constituents.

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Life in New York City

The Washington's new home at 3 Cherry Street must have seemed like the center of the universe even though geographically speaking it was not even the center of New York City. Located uptown facing the East River, it was just a few long blocks away from the countryside.

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Move to Philadelphia

George Washington, and the rest of the government, moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in late 1790. The Washingtons resided on Market Street for the remainder of his presidency. 

The Actual First Thanksgiving

Americans don’t know it and children aren’t taught it, but George Washington is responsible for our Thanksgiving holiday. It was our first president, not the Pilgrims and not Abraham Lincoln, who led the charge to make this day of thanks a truly national event.

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The First President

Unanimously elected President of the United States twice, George Washington played an essential part in shaping the role and function of the President of the United States. Learn more about the important precedents his administration established.

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State of the Union Address (1790)

On January 8, 1790, President George Washington delivered to Congress the first State of the Union address in American history. This address presented defense, foreign policy, economic, education, and immigration related topics to gathered representatives and senators in Federal Hall, New York City.

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Key Legislation of Washington's First Term

North Carolina (1789)

North Carolina, the 12th state, enters the Union on November 21, 1789.

Rhode Island (1790)

Rhode Island, the 13th state, enters the Union on May 29, 1790.

Vermont (1791)

Vermont, the 14th state, enters the Union on March 4, 1791.

Coinage Act of 1792

Created the United States Mint and the dollar as our official currency.

Militia Acts of 1792

Two acts that allowed the President to call out the militia when threatened by foreign or domestic threats and created a more uniform and regulated militia structure.

Kentucky (1792)

Kentucky, the 15th state, enters the Union on June 1, 1792.

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