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George Washington's inauguration was an occasion for nationwide rejoicing, but when the celebration had ended, the new nation had to face the serious business of building a government. Many details had to be added to the structure of the Constitution. The financial problems of the republichad to be dealt with, and the remaining differences of opinion about the function ofgovernment had to be reconciled.
| | Antifederalist | Somebody who opposed the Constitution of the United States and the idea of a strong national government. |
| | cabinet | A group of advisors chosen by the head of a nation to help in government. |
| | electoral college | The group of people chosen by the voters to elect a president and Vice president of the United States. || | electors | Members of the electoral college. |
| | excise tax | A tax on the manufacture, sale, or use of certain articles. |
| | inauguration | The act or ceremony of installing a president into office. |
| | ratify | To confirm, approve. |
| | republic | A nation or state in which the citizens elect representatives to manage the government, which is usually headed by apresident rather than a monarch. |
| | tariff | A duty levied by a government on imported or exported goods. |
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By June 1788, the Constitution of the United States had been ratified by nine states and went into effect. Within the next two years, North Carolina and Rhode Island had joined the Union. These thirteen states formed a country ofroughly four million people.
The Congress of the Confederation had asked the states to hold elections for presidential electors, representatives, and senators. The electoral college met in February 1789. Each elector cast two votes. The candidate receiving the greatest number of votes was to become president, with the second choice becoming vice president. However, the results would not be knownuntil the new Congress convened. Congress was scheduled to meet in March 1789, but its members were so slow in assembling that the legislative body did not have a quorum until April.
First President. George Washington was elected president by unanimous vote and John Adams was elected vice president. However, Washington did not arrive in New York until late April. On April 30, 1789, he took theoath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall. Crowds cheered. Washington then stepped back inside to read his inaugural address.
The new president assumed his responsibilities with reluctance. He wrote: "My movement to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution; so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearlyconsumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an ocean of difficulties."
Washington always considered carefully before making a decision, and once he had made a decision nothing could turn him from the course he thought right and proper. He knew that his actions would be a model for his successors, so he took great care from the beginning in establishing the government and respect forthe office of the presidency.
The Constitution made no mention of a presidential cabinet, but Washington established the custom of using the heads of various departments which Congress and the president established as his personal advisers. The departments that Washington established included the Department of Foreign Affairs (later renamed the Department of State), the Department of the Treasury,and the Department of War. A fourth executive position was established for the Attorney General, who had the responsibility of handling the legal business of the government.
Thomas Jefferson was chosen as Secretary of State because of his diplomatic experience abroad. Alexander Hamilton, a New York lawyer and a strong supporter of the Constitution, was made Secretary of the Treasury. Henry...
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