Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

The First President

The new Constitution having been accepted by enough states, the Continental Congress decided that its rule should end, and the new Constitution go into force, on the 4th of March, 1789. Having arranged for the beginning of the new government, the Continental Congress, after ruling our country nearly fifteen years, ceased to exist.

As had been decided, the electors chosen by each state met in February, to vote for our first President. Each man wrote Washington's name at the top of his ballot, and thus the "Father of his Country "was chosen first President of the United States of America. Now, it had been settled in the Constitution that the man who received the next largest number of votes should be Vice President. But while all were agreed that Washington was the best man in the country, and voted for him, the second name was not the same on every paper. Still, when the votes were sent to Congress and counted, it was found that John Adams had received more than any one else, and he became our first Vice President.

As soon as the election was over, the news was carried by a horseman to Mount Vernon, where Washington was busy farming. Although several attempts had been made to reward him for his services, he had steadily refused all pay. When the state of Virginia wished to honor its greatest citizen, it made him a present of some bonds. But, true to his principles, Washington would not accept any reward. Still, finding it would hurt the Virginians' feelings if he entirely refused their gift, he suggested that the money be used to found the university which now bears his name and that of Robert E. Lee, the great Southern general.

Washington had hoped he would never have to leave his beautiful home again, but when he heard that he was elected President, he quickly and unselfishly prepared to go and serve his country in a new way.

All along the road to New York he was welcomed by bell-ringing, speeches, receptions, etc., the people all trying to show their love and respect for the man who had brought them safely

[Illustration] from Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber


through the Revolutionary War. When he came to Trenton Bridge, where he had once won a great victory, thirteen young girls, all dressed in white, strewed flowers under his horse's feet. Over his head were great green arches, bearing mottoes, one of

which said that Washington had watched over the mothers, and would therefore take good care of the daughters. Here, too, a band played music written in Washington's honor, and called the "President's March."

As there were no ferries in those days such as we have now, Washington was rowed across to New York in a barge, which was manned by thirteen sailors in fine new red, white, and blue uniforms.

Owing to the slow means of travel, Congress had assembled on the 6th of April, instead of on the 4th of March, as had first been planned; and Washington's inauguration did not take place till the 3oth of April. For this solemn ceremony, Washington was clad in garments every thread of which had been grown and made in America. To give all the people a chance to see him, Washington stood on the balcony of Federal Hall, New York, on the very spot where his statue now stands, on Wall Street.

[Illustration] from Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber


Laying his hand upon a Bible, which has been carefully preserved, he then publicly took this oath: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

As you see, this is a very solemn promise, and it was no easy task that Washington had thus undertaken. The Congress was all new, President and Vice President were new, and there was no one there to tell them what they were to do. The United States was then, it is true, only a third-rate country (of no more importance than Belgium or Denmark is now), but the men at the head of the government had to behave in such a way that every one would learn to respect it.. Besides, as there were then no other republics in the world which could serve as models, except Switzerland, it was hard for them to know just how a republic should act.

[Illustration] from Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber


Nevertheless, Washington proved calm, firm, and just, as ever, and order was soon brought out of chaos. Washington, who was addressed as "Mr. President," chose Jefferson, Hamilton, Knox, and Randolph to help him govern, and they formed what is now called the Cabinet. He also selected judges, making John Jay the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and sent ministers to the principal countries in Europe.

To make sure that the people, who had been accustomed to the pomp of royal governors, should not fail in respect for their new government, Washington, who was always very dignified, generally rode out in a carriage drawn by six horses, and escorted by powdered and liveried servants. He also gave stately dinner parties and balls, which latter he generally opened himself by dancing a minuet. Besides that, he held receptions, to which every one could come. He did this because all men have equal rights in a republic, and, being the representative of the poor as well as of the rich, he said both had the same right to visit him.

Congress was very busy for several years, for the money affairs of the United States were in a bad condition. Some of the members said that our country would never be able to pay all the money it owed. But it was finally decided that not only the debts of the Continental Congress should be paid, but also the state war debts. This was a large sum, amounting to about seventy-five million dollars; but Congress promised to pay it, saying it would be as dishonest for a country to refuse to pay every penny owed, as for a private person to do so. Congress also put a tariff upon goods brought from abroad; arranged, in obedience to the Constitution, that a census should be taken every ten years; and decided that the United States should have a national bank, and a mint to coin the money, used in the country.

Washington ball


Hamilton had a great deal to do with arranging money matters; and he suggested that instead of using the English money table, we should adopt the dollar as the unit of money.. This unit was then divided into hundredth parts, or cents, coins which were first used by our government in 1793. In fact, Hamilton's ideas proved so good that the great orator Webster once said in speaking of him: "He touched the dead corpse of public credit, and it sprang upon its feet."