Washington’s Annual Messages to Congress

Washington’s First Annual Message to Congress
8 January 1790, New York City
Federal Hall, Wall & Broad Streets

Washington delivered his first State of the Union address in the Senate chambers on 8 January 1790. TheVirginia Herald and Fredericksburg Advertiser, 21 Jan. 1790, noted that Washington “was dressed in a crow coloured suit of clothes, of American manufacture. . . . This elegant fabric was from the manufactory in Hartford.”

According to Sen. William Maclay’s account “The President was dressed in a second Mourning, and . . . read his speech well. the senate headed by their President were on his right The House of Representatives . . . with their Speaker were on his left his [official] Family with the Heads of Departments attended. the business was soon over and the Senate were left alone”
(Diary of William Maclay, Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit, eds. [Baltimore, 1988], pp. 179-80).

Washington’s speech was widely printed in the newspapers. See, for example, the New York Daily Advertiser, 9 Jan. 1790, the Virginia Herald and Fredericksburg Advertiser, 21 Jan. 1790, the Connecticut Courant(Hartford), 14 Jan. 1790, and the New-York Daily Gazette, 9 Jan. 1790.


Washington’s Second Annual Message to Congress 
8 December 1790, New York City 
Federal Hall, Wall & Broad Streets

Washington delivered his second State of the Union address in the Senate chambers on 8 Dec. 1790. A joint committee of Congress consisting of senators Robert Morris and John Langdon and congressmen Elias Boudinot, John Laurance, and William Loughton Smith waited on Washington on 7 Dec. 1790 to inform him that a quorum had been reached and that Congress was ready to proceed with business. The committee reported that “The President was pleased to say, that he would attend, to make a communication to both Houses of Congress, to-morrow at twelve o’clock, in the senate-chamber” (Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, Linda G. De Pauw et al., eds. [Baltimore, 1972–], vol. 3, p. 619).

The two houses assembled the next morning at 11 A.M., and Washington arrived at the appointed time. William Maclay reported that the event “was attended with all the Bustle and hurry usual on such Occasions[.] the President was dressed in black, and read his speech well enough, or at least tolerably[.] after he was gone and the senate only remained our President [John Adams], seemed to take great pains to read it better, if he had such a View he succeeded. but the difference between them amounted to this[:] One might be considered as at home. and the other in a strange company. the speech was committed” (Diary of William Maclay, Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit, eds. [Baltimore, 1988], p. 340.

After Washington retired the Senate ordered the speech printed and appointed a committee to draft a suitable reply, and the House resolved to present Washington with a reply on 9 Dec. 1790.


Washington’s Third Annual Message to Congress
25 October 1791, Philadelphia


Washington’s Fourth Annual Message to Congress
6 November 1792, Philadelphia


Washington’s Fifth Annual Message to Congress
3 December 1793, Philadelphia


Washington’s Sixth Annual Message to Congress
19 November 1794, Philadelphia


Washington’s Seventh Annual Message to Congress
8 December 1795, Philadelphia


Washington’s Eighth Annual Message to Congress
7 December 1796, Philadelphia

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