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This Week in History
April 27 - May 3, 1789

225th Anniversary — April 30, 1789
George Washington Inaugurated President

by Anton Chaitkin
April 2014

National Archives
Page 1 of George Washington's Inaugural Address. To view the full address, visit the National Archives.

General George Washington, having led the Revolutionary army through the eight-year struggle against the British empire, was sworn in as the nation’s first President.

The new United States Federal Government convened temporarily in New York City. The headquarters moved to Philadelphia the following year, where plans were made to create a permanent capital on the Potomac River, named in honor of George Washington            

The President was a passionate nationalist. He foresaw the USA growing into a great industrial power at peace in a world of  prosperous powers, each protecting its own citizens from the backwardness imposed by imperialism.

Thus the first substantive legislation of the Federal Congress, the Duty Act, begins, “Whereas, it is necessary for the support of government, for the discharge of the debts of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures, that duties be laid on goods, wares and merchandises imported.”

Passed by the founding U.S. Congress and signed by President Washington on July 4, 1789, to associate nationalist economics with Independence Day, the Act imposed tariffs on imported steel ($10 per ton), nails ($20 per ton), cast iron, coaches, boots, shoes, hats, clothing, cables, cords, fish, liquors, and luxuries. It discriminated in favor of American shipping.

Two months later, President Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton as the first U.S. Treasury Secretary. Washington asked Hamilton for a program to transform America by modern industry, to reorient the country away from the de facto colonial system of plantations.