Heaping Praise on the First President, an Address to Congress, and Columbia University’s Commencement
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The first address of Congress to the new president. [GEORGE WASHINGTON].
Newspaper. Gazette of the United States, May 9, 1789. New York, N.Y. 4 pp.
The Gazette of the United States was the first partisan newspaper reporting on the federal government. Generally friendly to the Federalist Party, Washington had been in office just over a week when this issue was printed. An Autograph Letter Signed of Washington’s reply sold at Sotheby’s for $362,500 net in 2011.
The address of the House of Representatives to George Washington: “The representatives of the people of the United States, present their congratulations on the event by which your fellow-citizens have attested the pre-eminence of your merit. You have long held first place in their esteem....Your resolution in a moment critical to the liberties of your country, to renounce all personal emolument, was among the many presages of your patriotic services, with have been amply fulfilled, and your scrupulous adherence not to the law then imposed on yourself, cannot fail to demonstrate the purity, whilst it encreases [sic] the lustre of a character, which has so many titles to admiration.” (House of Representatives., p. 3, col. 1).
And Washington’s response: “Your very affectionate address, produces emotions, which I know not how to express; I feel that my past endeavors in the service of my country, are far overpaid by its goodness, and I fear that much that my future ones may not fulfil [sic] your kind anticipation. All that I can promise is, that they will be invariably directed by on honest, and an ardent zeal. For all beyond, I rely on the wisdom and patriotism of those with whom I am to co-operate, and a continuance of the blessings of Heaven on our beloved country.” (Washington, p. 3, col. 2).
The first president was retaining the practice, common in the colonial era, of providing a formal, written reply to addresses from legislatures. This practice was later abandoned in favor of no reply at all, but here, Washington employed James Madison to help draft his address. Despite Madison’s time constraints—he had recently been elected to Congress—Washington wanted him to finish the missive. “As you have begun, so I would wish you to finish, the good work in a short reply to the Addresses of the House of Representatives (which I now enclose)” Washington wrote to Madison on May 5, 1789. Moreover, Washington was ever mindful of the precedents his administration was setting: “As the first of every thing, in our situation which serve to establish a Precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles,” in this case, established colonial legislative practice.
This issue also contains other Washington news:
A report of an address from the citizens of Baltimore to George Washington as he travelled to New York for his inauguration, with Washington’s reply. “We feel the honor you have this day conferred on the town of Baltimore, by favouring it with your presence, infinitely heightened and enhanced by the desirable event which has produced it. Happy to behold your elevation, permit us to re-assure you of our purest love and affection.” (Citizens, p. 1, col. 3). “The tokens of regard and affection which I have often received from the citizens of this town, were always acceptable, because I believe them always sincere.—Be pleased to receive my best acknowledgments for the renewal of them on the present occasion.” (Washington, p. 1, col. 3).
A piece entitled “The Importance of the Protestant Religion Politically Considered,” which asserts “To this Religion Britain is principally indebted for that happy reformation, and subsequent glorious revolution, which were the harbingers of her present distinguished greatness.” (p. 1, col. 2)
And a piece concerned with the state of the nation, “A Sketch of the Political State of America, Number V,” signed “Americanus.” “But once more alarmed by a sense of common danger, the citizens of America were led, in spite of a supposed competition of interests, seriously to reflect on those causes, which had reduced their country to such an unfortunate situation, and to seek a remedy for those evils, which were daily increasing upon her.” (p. 1, col. 1).
With a report on the 1789 Commencement of Columbia College, attended by Washington, Adams, and other federal officials (p. 3, col. 2).
And a Benjamin Franklin tribute. “Dr. Franklin has had the happiness of living to see science extended under his fostering hand, from one end of Pennsylvania to the other. What hath he not done in the cause of literature and freedom?” (p. 2, col. 3).