“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…”

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1798, MVLA H-4/A-BThe Constitution of the United States made it clear to the first president of the United States that he must regularly update Congress on the “State of the Union.” President George Washington decided he would formally address both chambers.

On January 8, 1790, just over eight months after his inauguration, Washington addressed Congress, which at the time consisted of 64 members of the House of Representatives and 26 Senators. Washington spoke at Federal Hall in New York City, which was the nation’s capital at the time.

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The First State of the Union

During his speech, Washington focused on many issues, including:


that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a Uniform and well digested plan is requisite


Various considerations also render it expedient, that the terms on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of Citizens, should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization.

National Uniformity

Uniformity in the Currency, Weights and Measures of the United States is an object of great importance, and will, I am persuaded, be duly attended to...

and of facilitating the intercourse between the distant parts of our Country by a due attention to the Post-Office and Post Roads.


But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home; and of facilitating the intercourse between the distant parts of our Country by a due attention to the Post-Office and Post Roads...

Nor am I less pursuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing, which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every Country the surest basis of public happiness. In one, in which the measures of Government recieve their impression so immediately from the sense of the Community as in our’s, it is proportionably essential.

Stable Economy

I saw with peculiar pleasure, at the close of the last Session, the resolution entered into by you expressive of your opinion, that an adequate provision for the support of the public Credit is a matter of high importance to the national honor and prosperity. In this sentiment, I entirely concur. And to a perfect confidence in your best endeavours to divise such a provision, as will be truly consistent with the end, I add an equal reliance on the chearful co-operation of the othe[r] branch of the Legislature.

Read the full address


Dr. Douglas Bradburn describes George Washington's 1790 State of the Union Address.

The First President

Unanimously elected twice, President Washington established many crucial presidential precedents including the State of the Union address.

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