| American History Stories, Volume III|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Anecdotes from the time Washington became president through the War of 1812, the rise of Andrew Jackson, and the sectional differences leading to the Civil War. Numerous black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 8-12 |
THE FIRST PRESIDENT
 When, at last, the States had all agreed to accept the
Constitution as the basis of government, the next thing
to do was to elect a President, and so establish
themselves as the American Nation at once.
As might be expected, Washington was the man chosen for
this important office; and when we recall how generous,
how brave, and how wise he had been during the
Revolution, we cannot doubt for a moment that he was
the very best choice for this new position.
It was decided to make New York City the capital of the
United States; and thither Washington in his
coach-and-four set forth from his beautiful home in
Virginia to take his place as first President of the
United States of America. It is said that his journey
was one ovation from the time he left Mt. Vernon (his
home) until he reached New York City. Crowds of
gaily-dressed people, bearing baskets and wreaths of
flowers, hailed his appearance at every village, with
shouts and songs of joy.
When he reached Trenton—the very place where, a few years
before, so heartsick and discouraged he had crossed the
Delaware on that wintry Christmas night to attack the
drunken Hessians,—at this very place the road was
strewn with roses, the young maidens held arches of
flowers over him, and the air rang with songs of
gratitude and welcome.
 In New York City a grand ball was given. Never before
had this little community seen so much elegance.
Washington had left off his blue "soldier coat," and
was now dressed in a handsome suit of black velvet, with
white silk stockings, beautiful silver buckles, and
satin waistcoat. He was very tall, and straight, and
manly looking; and with his elegant dress, and his
powdered hair, he must indeed have made a very
STATUE OF WASHINGTON. UNITED STATES TREASURY BUILDING, NEW YORK CITY. ON THIS SITE IN FEDERAL HALL, APRIL 30, 1789,
GEORGE WASHINGTON TOOK THE OATH AS THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
John Adams, the Vice-president, was there, and so was
Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury. General Knox,
too, with his beautiful wife—the most beautiful woman
of her time, so it is said, was there. Jefferson, who
had been in France some time, now came back to America
to be present at this "Inauguration Ball." He took
everybody by surprise by appearing dressed as were the
French people at that time—in white broadcloth coat,
scarlet waistcoat, and breeches, cocked hat, and white
stockings. It was indeed a wonderful ball, and I am
sure there were beauty, and elegance, and grace, such
as any court in Europe might well have been proud of.
In all the large towns celebrations of all sorts were
held. In the city of New York there was a grand
procession, such as never before had been seen in
America. This procession was headed by a man dressed
to look like Columbus, the discoverer of the country.
Behind him were long lines of men with axes, who
represented the pioneers—that is,
 the men who first came here from Europe, and felled the
trees and cleared the places for roads and cities; then
came lines of men dressed to represent the farmers,
with plows, and scythes, and reapers; then came carts,
fitted up like work-shops to represent the different
trades. One cart, which represented a bake-shop, had
upon it a huge loaf of bread, ten feet high, on which
were printed the names of all the states; the coopers
were putting together a barrel with thirteen staves,
and binding it with a strong iron band, which they
called "The New Constitution;" the butchers were
roasting a whole ox, which, when the celebration was
over, was to be eaten by the people in the procession.
In the procession there were thirteen boys, each
thirteen years old, dressed in white, with ribbons and
garlands of green.
On another cart was a printing press; and, as it passed
along, the printers printed copies of patriotic verses,
and flung them right and left to the people.
Greatest of all, was a big ship—the "Ship of
State"—drawn by ten large milk-white horses. O, it was
a grand day for New York! The people shouted and
hurrahed till they were hoarse; and, at last, when the
procession had been everywhere and had been seen by
everybody, all went into a great tent, decorated with
flags and banners, where the women of the city had
prepared a feast for them; then
 they shouted and hurrahed more, listened to speeches,
drank toasts to the "new Government" and to the "new
President," and finally went to their different homes,
prouder than ever, I've no doubt, of the new "American
We hear in these days a great deal of fault found over
the manner in which our Presidents from time to time
choose their aids. It is often said, perhaps unjustly,
that they are chosen with very little regard to their
fitness for the offices which they are to fill, but
rather because they chance to be friends or relations,
or to have some other claim upon the president.
Whether this is so or not, Washington certainly set for
all his successors a glorious example in this one line.
During his administration as President of the United
States, a gentleman, a friend of the President
throughout the whole course of the Revolutionary war,
applied for a certain office. The gentleman was at all
times welcome to Washington's table. He had been, to a
certain degree, necessary to the man who had for seven
years fought the battles of his country. At all times
and in all places Washington regarded his Revolutionary
associate with an eye of partiality and confidence.
He was a jovial, pleasant, companion; and in applying
for the office, his friends already cheered him in his
prospect of success.
 The opponent of this gentleman was known to be an enemy
of Washington. He dared, however, to stand as a
candidate for the office to which the friend and
favorite of Washington aspired.
Every one considered the appointment of this man
hopeless. No flattering testimonial of merit had he to
present to the eye of Washington. He was known to be
his political enemy. He was opposed by a favorite of
the General; and yet with such fearful odds he dared to
stand as a candidate. What was the result? The enemy
of Washington was appointed to the office, and his
table companion left destitute and rejected.
A mutual friend, who interested himself in the affair,
ventured to remonstrate with the President for the
injustice of his appointment. "My friend," said he, "I
receive with a cordial welcome. He is welcome to my
house and welcome to my heart. But, with all his good
qualities, he is not a man of business. His opponent
is, with all his political hostility to me, a man of
business. My private feelings have nothing to do in
this case. I am not George Washington, but President
of the United States. As George Washington, I would do
this man any kindness in my power; but as President of
the United States I can do nothing."
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