Thursday, January 15, 2009

Inauguration 1789: Showing Up

Woody Allen said "80% of success is showing up". The founding fathers were unsuccessful in bringing off George Washington's inauguration on schedule because, given the realities of transportation in those days, showing up was easier said than done.

According to the terms of the original Constitution, the members of Congress, as well as the president and vice president, were supposed to begin their terms on March 4. On the Senate side, only eight senators arrived on time in New York City, which briefly served as the capital city. The total membership was 22, because only 11 states had ratified the Constitution by then.

The House of Representatives finally achieved a quorum on April 1. In the Senate, that did not happen until April 6.

One implication of all this was that the presidential inauguration was postponed until April 30. Here are accounts of that event from the Library of Congress, and the Senate historians. Better late than never, I suppose.

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