Today marks the 225th anniversary of our first president’s first inaugural. And it therefore seems fitting to remark on the text of his inaugural address and the priorities with which he set about as our first federal head:
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.
Washington began his term with what is essentially a prayer. His “fervent supplicatons to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe…” were bold and necessary, in his view, to ensure the “liberties and happiness of the People of the United States….” Further, Washington was not renegade in his pronouncements. He was merely confirming the general sentiment of those people who had elected him to govern.
And he ended his address with yeat another prayer. A prayer that God and His blessing be “conspicuous” in the actions of the new government:
…I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favour the American people, with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparellelled unanimity on a form of Government, for the security of their Union, and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.
Washington began his address by acknowledging God in the establishment of this country and closed his speech with another “supplication” that He be readily apparent in the workings of this new government.
The success that our country experienced after its founding can surely be seen as an answer to Washington’s – and the peoples’ prayers. And at a distance of 225 years, we would do well to emulate our first President.