The Reluctant President

George Washington didn't look forward to being the first president of the nation he helped to create, but there was no one else seriously considered. He was elected unanimously in February of 1789, but was not certified by Congress until April.
Because the vote counting had been long delayed, Washington, 57, felt the crush of upcoming public business and decided to set out promptly for New York on April 16, accompanied in his elegant carriage by Thomson and aide David Humphreys. His diary entry conveys a sense of foreboding: “About ten o’clock, I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity and, with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York...with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.” Waving goodbye was Martha Washington, who wouldn’t join him until mid-May. She watched her husband of 30 years depart with a mixture of bittersweet sensations, wondering “when or whether he will ever come home again.” She had long doubted the wisdom of this final act in his public life. “I think it was much too late for him to go into public life again,” she told her nephew, “but it was not to be avoided. Our family will be deranged as I must soon follow him.”

Washington knew the job would be difficult, but he didn't know exactly what it would entail, as no one had held the office before. He knew the citizens had high expectations that he might be able to deliver. He also knew that he was setting precedents, and that future presidents would be compared with the first one. Read about his reluctant step into history at Smithsonian. Link

(Illustration: Joe Ciardiello)

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