President George Washington: Election and Second Term

About the election and second term of the first President of the United States George Washington.

PRESIDENCY

Election: 1792....Washington was in poor health and desperately wanted to retire after his 1st term, but political leaders of every faction united in begging him to stay on. The newly forged union of the States was still fragile, and it was widely believed that without Washington as a unifying symbol, the Government would break apart in partisan and sectional bitterness. Jefferson and Hamilton, though they agreed on little else, both considered Washington's reelection a national necessity. Even Vice-President Adams, who was eaten with envy and in line for the top office himself, privately conceded that Washington had to be drafted again. Under these circumstances, the President could hardly refuse to subject himself to a 2nd term, though, as he expected, that term was characterized by mounting partisan frenzy and vicious personal attacks against the Chief Executive. On February 13, 1793, Congress officially tabulated the votes of the election of 1792 and found, to the surprise of absolutely no one, that Washington had once more been unanimously elected.

Second Term: March 4, 1793....

The seat of Government had been moved from New York to Philadelphia in 1790, and Washington took his 2nd oath of office in the Senate Chamber of Philadelphia's Federal Hall. His inaugural address--only 135 words--was the shortest in history.

During Washington's 2 terms a total of 409 bills were passed by Congress, 2 of which were vetoed by the President. The 1st veto in U.S. history (April, 1792) concerned a bill reapportioning the House of Representatives according to the 1790 census. Washington vetoed the measure on constitutional grounds: He believed that it provided for a greater number of representatives than were permitted by the Constitution. A majority of the House actually voted to override the President on this issue, but supporters of the bill fell short of the necessary 2/3. The 2nd veto in our history involved a congressional attempt to trim defense spending. Congress had voted to reduce the number of cavalry units in the Army, but Washington insisted that such a move would dangerously weaken U.S. military strength. He was able to persuade a majority of congressmen to support his position and to sustain his veto.

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