See the journal page that records the election of George Washington of Virginia, now on display from April 1 to 16, 2014, in the National Archives Building.
This year marks the 225th anniversary of the First Congress. On March 4, 1789, the Congress of the United States met for the first time. It was arguably the most important Congress in U.S. history.
To this new legislature fell the responsibility of passing laws needed to implement a brand new system of government, defining the rules and procedures of the House and Senate, and establishing the precedents that set constitutional government in motion.
One of the first duties of the new legislative body was to meet jointly and count the electoral ballots for President and Vice President of the United States. This page of the first Senate Journal shows the results of that election: George Washington of Virginia was unanimously elected President, and John Adams of Massachusetts, who finished second in the balloting, was elected Vice President.
Image: Senate Journal of the First Congress, First Session, showing entry for April 6, 1789. National Archives, Records of the U.S. Senate
Happy St. Patrick’s Day from General George Washington!
Issued March 16, 1780, this General Order by George Washington grants Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th, as a holiday to the troops — “a day held in particular regard by the people of that Nation.”
George Washington’s General Order of March 16, 1780, granting Saint Patrick’s Day as a holiday to the troops.
From the firmest persuasion of mind that you will receive this note with the same cordiality that it is dictated, permit me my dear dear friend to felicitate you on the return of your birth day…
According to the Julian calendar in use at the time, George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which moved the calendar ahead 11 days and made January the first month of the year instead of March. The new calendar placed Washington’s birth on February 22, 1732.
Happy President’s Day!
Half a dozen Commander-in-Chiefs, via Media Matters » Images of the Week (02/14/2014)
Can you name all 6 in just once glance?
To the President of Congress
[Philadelphia, 17 September 1787]
We have now the Honor to submit to the Consideration of the United States in Congress assembled that Constitution which has appeared to us the most advisable.
The Friends of our Country have long seen and desired that the Power of making War Peace and Treaties, that of levying Money & regulating Commerce and the correspondent executive and judicial Authorities should be fully and effectually vested in the general Government of the Union. But the Impropriety of delegating such extensive Trust to one Body of Men is evident—Hence results the Necessity of a different Organization.
It is obviously impracticable in the fœderal Government Of these States to secure all Rights of independent Sovereignty to each and yet provide for the Interest and Safety of all—Individuals entering into Society must give up a Share of Liberty to preserve the Rest. The Magnitude of the Sacrifice must depend as well on Situations and Circumstances as on the Object to be obtained. It is at all Times difficult to draw with Precision the Lines between those Rights which must be surrendered and those which may be reserved. And on the present Occasion this Difficulty was encreased by a Difference among the several States as to their Situation Extent Habits and particular Interests.
In all our Deliberations on this Subject we kept steadily in our View that which appears to us the greatest Interest of every true american the Consolidation of our Union in which is involved our Prosperity Felicity Safety perhaps our national Existence. this important Consideration seriously and deeply impressed on our Minds led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on Points of inferior Magnitude than might have been otherwise expected. And thus the Constitution which we now present is the Result of a Spirit of Amity and of that mutual Deference & Concession which the Peculiarity of our political Situation rendered indispensible.
That it will meet the full and entire Approbation of every State is not perhaps to be expected. But each will doubtless consider that had her Interests been alone consulted the Consequences might have been particularly disagreable or injurious to others. That it is liable to as few Exceptions as could reasonably have been expected we hope and believe That it may promote the lasting Welfare of that Country so dear to us all and secure her Freedom and Happiness is our most ardent wish.
Purple Heart Day
On August 7, 1782, General George Washington ordered the creation of
the Badge of Military Merit, the predecessor to the Purple Heart.
"Adam T. Raczhowski, 89, receives the Purple Heart from Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh Jr. nearly 66 years after he was hospitalized following a gas attack on his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 308th Infantry, 77th Division, on August 18, 1918, in the Vesle Sector near Chateau Thierry, France. Raczkowski did not realize the Purple Heart was authorized for gassing as well as flesh wounds. With him are his wife Anna and Representative Nancy L. Johnson, Republican-Connecticut, 03/21/1984"
George Washington’s Family Tree
Pedigree of the Most Illustrious General George Washington, first President of the United States of America, 08/01/1873
This illustrated lineage chart was presented by genealogist James Phillippe of London, England to President Ulysses S. Grant in 1873.
Want to research your own ancestry? Check out the National Archives’ Genealogy resources →
What illustrious personalities are hiding in your family tree?
…The Honorable the Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent STATES: The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective Parades, at six OClock, when the declaration of Congress, shewing the grounds & reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice.
The General hopes this important Event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms: And that he is now in the service of a State, possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit, and advance him to the highest Honors of a free Country.…
To George Bryan
Head Qrs [Valley Forge]
½ after 11 A.M. June 18th 1778
I have the pleasure to inform you, that I was this minute advised by Mr Roberts’s, that the Enemy evacuated the City early this morning. He was down at the Middle ferry on this side, where he received the intelligence from a number of Citizens, who were on the opposite shore. The destruction of the Bridge prevented him passing. I have not yet had any Official accounts on the subject, but there are many in corroboration of Mr Roberts’s. I congratulate you very heartily on this interesting event and have the Honor to be in haste Sir Yr Most Obedt servt
The city of Philadelphia was abandoned by the British Army 235 years ago on June 18, 1778, as relayed in this letter from George Washington.
Find more references to the evacuation of Philadelphia and other events on June 18, 1778 in the Founders Online!
Yesterday afternoon, the National Archives launched Founders Online—a tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. A partnership between the University of Virginia Press and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, you can read more about this massive undertaking at Prologue: The Papers of the Founding Fathers Are Now Online
National History Day winners had the honor of making the inaugural search, reportedly using the keyword “Cheese.”
But what kind of cheese did the Founders favor? We found at least 2 hits for “Stilton” — the “king” of cheeses. Maybe some intrepid Tumblarians can find a more egalitarian variety within?
A Twenty-Second-of-February Dream; Things that the Father of His Country would discover in 1903, 02/22/1903
There is no such thing as Presidents Day. Or President’s Day.
There is such a thing as Washington’s Birthday, and the National Archives Research Rooms in DC (but not the museum side) will be closed on Monday, February 19, in observance of this holiday.
“Before 1971, Washington’s Birthday was one of nine federal holidays celebrated on specific dates, which fell on different days of the week (the exception being Labor Day—the original Monday holiday). Then came the tinkering of the Ninetieth Congress in 1968. Determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays, Congress voted to shift three existing holidays to Mondays and expanded the number further by creating one new Monday holiday.
Washington’s Birthday was uprooted from its fixed February 22 date and transplanted to the third Monday in February, followed by Memorial Day being relocated from the last day in May to the last Monday in May.
When a new federal law was implemented in 1971, only two days separated Abraham Lincoln’s Friday birthday of February 12 from the Washington’s Birthday holiday that fell on February 15—the third Monday in February.
For advertisers, the Monday holiday change was the goose that laid the golden “promotional” egg. Using Labor Day marketing as a guide, three-day weekend sales were expanded to include the new Monday holidays. Once the “Uniform Monday Holiday Law” was implemented, it took just under a decade to build a head of national promotional sales steam.
Local advertisers morphed both “Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday” and “George Washington’s Birthday” into the sales sound bite “President’s Day,” expanding the traditional three-day sales to begin before Lincoln’s birth date and end after Washington’s February 22 birth. In some instances, advertisers promoted the sales campaign through the entire month of February. To the unsuspecting public, the term linking both presidential birthdays seemed to explain the repositioning of the holiday between two high-profile presidential birthdays.”
For the full story, go to http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2004/winter/gw-birthday-1.html
Image: S. 623, A bill to make the 22nd day of February George Washington’s Birthday, RG 46, Records of the United States Senate. Text via the Center for Legislative Archives.
Inauguration Fact: The shortest Inaugural Address is Washington’s second address at just 133 words. The longest Inaugural Address was 8,495 words, delivered by President Harrison on an extremely cold day. (He died of pneumonia a month later.)
One of the most memorable lines in American history comes from an Inaugural Address. On March 4, 1933, President Roosevelt was sworn in, and told the crowd that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
In honor of the upcoming Inauguration Day, George Washington’s first Inaugural Address is on display at the National Archives until January 31.
Image: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address, 03/04/1933, ARC 197333.
In honor of the 2013 Inauguration, the first and last page of Washington’s first Inaugural Address are on display at the National Archives until January 31.
Unseasonably cold and snowy weather delayed the first Presidential inauguration, which had been scheduled for the first Wednesday in March 1789. Many members of the First Federal Congress were unable to arrive promptly in New York City, then the seat of government.
On April 6, 1789—over a month late—enough members had reached New York to tally the electoral ballots. George Washington won unanimously with 69 electoral votes. When notified of his victory, he traveled to New York City from his home in Virginia.
On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the Presidential oath on a second floor balcony of Federal Hall. Below, an enthusiastic crowd assembled in the streets. The President and members of Congress then retired to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered his first inaugural address.
Keenly aware of the momentousness of the occasion, Washington accepted the Presidency and spoke of his determination to make the American experiment a success. He humbly noted the power of the nation’s call for him to serve as President and the shared responsibility of the President and Congress to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty” and a republican form of government. You can read the transcript of this speech.
The National Archives will be open on Inauguration Day! Come and see this featured document, and then watch the 11:30 a.m. swearing-in ceremony in our theater.
Transcript for President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation from October 3, 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor— and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be— That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions— to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.