March 4 Inauguration Day

March 4 In Presidential History

March 4 is part of Presidential history from 1789 through 1933, as the 20th Amendment, ratified later that year, changed Inauguration Day to January 20, starting in 1937.

March 4, 1789 was the day that the newly ratified Constitution went into effect, but George Washington was not in New York City on that day to be inaugurated the first President, only arriving 57 days late and being inaugurated at Federal Hall in lower Manhattan on April 30, 1789, so therefore did not serve a full eight years, as his second term ended on March 4, 1797.

March 4, 1801 saw the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, and the world witnessed the first peaceful transition of power from one political party to another, and the losing party and candidate gracefully exiting.

March 4, 1829 saw the inauguration of Andrew Jackson, “the people’s President”, first born as NOT part of the aristocracy, and seen as representing the “common man”.

March 4, 1841, saw the inauguration of the first Whig President, William Henry Harrison, who gave the longest inauguration speech without a topcoat in cold, rainy conditions in Washington, DC, and proceeded to fall into illness, believed to be pneumonia, confined to bed and at times in a coma, until he died exactly one month later, April 4, 1841.

March 4, 1857, President James Buchanan was so sick that he considered bypassing a public ceremony of inauguration, but went through the motions, and then was in bed recovering for two weeks, before being able to lead the nation.

March 4, 1861, after a dangerous trek from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, and surviving a potential plot on his life (Baltimore Plot), Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as the first Republican President, in the midst of seven states having declared their secession from the Union, and only six weeks to the outbreak of the Civil War.

March 4, 1865, the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, and the giving of the most famous Inaugural Address, “With Malice toward none, with Charity for all”, Lincoln did not know that his future assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was in the inauguration crowd, and was moving toward the Inauguration stand as Lincoln spoke.

March 4, 1885, Grover Cleveland was sworn in as the first Democratic President since before the Civil War.

March 4, 1913, Woodrow Wilson was sworn in as the first Democratic President in a generation, and only the second since the Civil War.

March 4, 1933, the last such inauguration date, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as the nation was in the worst moments of the Great Depression, and he gave the second most remembered Inauguration speech, “Let me assert my firm belief, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, and rallied the nation around what came to be known as the New Deal.

January 20 Presidential Inauguration Days

Since 1937, as a result of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, we have had the President of the United States inaugurated every fourth year, so there have been 21 such inaugurations from 1937 to 2017.

Every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the exception of Gerald Ford, has been inaugurated on January 20 since 1937. So 13 Presidents have had the excitement of inauguration at the US Capitol before crowds of varying sizes.

The greatest inauguration crowd was in 2009, when Barack Obama took the oath of office for the first time, and this author and blogger was fortunate enough to have been at his inauguration with his older son, and a video of that experience is on the right side of this blog.

The electricity in the crowd in 2009 was special, as it was in 1961, when the youngest elected President, John F. Kennedy, was inaugurated, and gave one of the top three inaugural addresses in American history, after Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, both on the original Inauguration Day of March 4.

In 1941, FDR was sworn in to an unprecedented third term in the Presidency, and in 1949, Harry Truman was sworn in after shocking America with his surprise victory over Thomas E. Dewey, something no one other than Truman himself, expected to occur.

In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in after the greatest popular vote percentage victory in all of American history.

In 1973, Richard Nixon was sworn in for his second term, with no former President present, as Lyndon B. Johnson was not feeling well enough to attend, and then his passing two days later, at age 64.

And in 1977, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale were sworn in as President and Vice President, with no one able to know that 41 years later, today, that they were both alive and in their 90s, and flourishing.

And in 1981, former movie actor and California Governor Ronald Reagan was sworn in, and at the same time, 52 Americans who had been held hostage in Iran were freed.

So January 20 has had its historic moments, including Donald Trump taking the oath exactly a year ago, after a much smaller crowd to witness, and followed by a Woman’s March the next day.