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George Washington’s First Inaugural Address (1789)

George Washington, the nation’s first president, made his first inaugural address before both houses of Congress.

In this celebrated address, he acknowledged Providence as guiding the nation’s steps: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.” He explained that the virtuous Americans would make the new nation a model for the world: “[T]he foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world.”

Finally, he closed by putting the responsibility for the nation squarely in the hands of citizens. “[T]he preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”