George Washington photo

Message in Reply to the Senate

May 18, 1789

Address of the Senate to George Washington, President of the United States.

SIR: We, the Senate of the United States, return you our sincere thanks for your excellent speech delivered to both Houses of Congress, congratulate you on the complete organization of the Federal Government, and felicitate ourselves and our fellow-citizens on your elevation to the office of President, an office highly important by the powers constitutionally annexed to it and extremely honorable from the manner in which the appointment is made. The unanimous suffrage of the elective body in your favor is peculiarly expressive of the gratitude, confidence, and affection of the citizens of America, and is the highest testimonial at once of your merit and their esteem. We are sensible, sir, that nothing but the voice of your fellow-citizens could have called you from a retreat chosen with the fondest predilection, endeared by habit, and consecrated to the repose of declining years. We rejoice, and with us all America, that in obedience to the call of our common country you have returned once more to public life. In you all parties confide; in you all interests unite; and we have no doubt that your past services, great as they have been, will be equaled by your future exertions, and that your prudence and sagacity as a statesman will tend to avert the dangers to which we were exposed, to give stability to the present Government and dignity and splendor to that country which your skill and valor as a soldier so eminently contributed to raise to independence and empire.

When we contemplate the coincidence of circumstances and wonderful combination of causes which gradually prepared the people of this country for independence; when we contemplate the rise, progress, and termination of the late war, which gave them a name among the nations of the earth, we are with you unavoidably led to acknowledge and adore the Great Arbiter of the Universe, by whom empires rise and fall. A review of the many signal instances of divine interposition in favor of this country claims our most pious gratitude; and permit us, sir, to observe that among the great events which have led to the formation and establishment of a Federal Government we esteem your acceptance of the office of President as one of the most propitious and important.

In the execution of the trust reposed in us we shall endeavor to pursue that enlarged and liberal policy to which your speech so happily directs. We are conscious that the prosperity of each State is inseparably connected with the welfare of all, and that in promoting the latter we shall effectually advance the former. In full persuasion of this truth, it shall be our invariable aim to divest ourselves of local prejudices and attachments, and to view the great assemblage of communities and interests committed to our charge with an equal eye. We feel, sir, the force and acknowledge the justness of the observation that the foundation of our national policy should be laid in private morality. If individuals be not influenced by moral principles, it is in vain to look for public virtue. It is therefore the duty of legislators to enforce, both by precept and example, the utility as well as the necessity of a strict adherence to the rules of distributive justice. We beg you to be assured that the Senate will at all times cheerfully cooperate in every measure which may strengthen the Union, conduce to the happiness or secure and perpetuate the liberties of this great confederated Republic.

We commend you, sir, to the protection of Almighty God, earnestly beseeching Him long to preserve a life so valuable and dear to the people of the United States, and that your Administration may be prosperous to the nation and glorious to yourself.

May 7, 1789

Reply of the President:

GENTLEMEN: I thank you for your address, in which the most affectionate sentiments are expressed in the most obliging terms. The coincidence of circumstances which led to this auspicious crisis, the confidence reposed in me by my fellow-citizens, and the assistance I may expect from counsels which will be dictated by an enlarged and liberal policy seem to presage a more prosperous issue to my Administration than a diffidence of my abilities had taught me to anticipate. I now feel myself inexpressibly happy in a belief that Heaven, which has done so much for our infant nation, will not withdraw its providential influence before our political felicity shall have been completed, and in a conviction that the Senate will at all times cooperate in every measure which may tend to promote the welfare of this confederated Republic. Thus supported by a firm trust in the Great Arbiter of the Universe, aided by the collected wisdom of the Union, and imploring the divine benediction on our joint exertions in the service of our country, I readily engage with you in the arduous but pleasing task of attempting to make a nation happy.


May 18, 1789.

George Washington, Message in Reply to the Senate Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives