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  3d Presidential Inaugural (Adams)
Title3d Presidential Inaugural (Adams)
Start Date/TimeMarch 04, 1797 09:00am
End Date/TimeMarch 04, 1797 06:00pm
Last ModifiedChronicler - May 30, 2009 06:26pm
Description The third presidential inaugural took place on 3/4/1797. Thomas Jefferson took the VP oath in the morning before the U.S. Senate, meeting in special session, and John Adams took the Presidential oath at noon in the U.S. House chamber.

The "President-Elect" and "Vice President-Elect"

The terms above had not been used in either 1789 or 1792. Newspapers considered George Washington to have been the President from the time the popular votes were cast. The Massachusetts Mercury described Adams as the "President-Elect" on 12/30/1796, even though at that time it was still quite uncertain that he had been elected. The Philadelphia Minerva described Jefferson as the "Vice President Elect" on 3/4/1797 in a story on his arrival in Philadelphia on 3/2/1797 from Monticello. These are the first times the terms appear in the historic newspaper database.

On 2/15/1797, VP Adams took his leave of the Senate to make his preparations to become President. He gave a farewell address to the body at the end of the day's session [Senate minutes].

Vice Presidential Inauguration

President Washington called the U.S. Senate into special session on 3/4/1797 so they could vote on any changes to the Cabinet desired by John Adams. PPT Bingham administered the oath of office to Jefferson, the first time in US history that the VP took the oath before the President [Newburyport MA Impartial Herald, 3/14/1797]. Jefferson gave his own inaugural address to the Senate [Connecticut Gazette, 3/16/1797].

Inauguration of President Adams

At noon on 3/4/1797, the Senate adjourned to the U.S. House chamber. A large number of citizens had gathered around Congress Hall to observe the transfer of power. VP Jefferson arrived, followed by the Senate. The gathering applauded when Jefferson arrived. The next person to arrive was President Washington. A "burst of applause broke forth from every quarter" as Washington walked to his appointed seat. VP Adams entered the room with the Supreme Court Justices, SOS Pickering, some foreign ministers, and local officials. Applause broke out again at the appearance of President-elect Adams. Justices Ellsworth, Cushing, Wilson, and Iredell took the seats below the Speaker's seat. Adams assumed the speaker's chair, with Jefferson, Washington, and the Secretary of the Senate on his right and the Speaker of the House on his left. Adams gave his inaugural address. Chief Justice Ellsworth administered the oath to Adams (who did not add "so help me God" at the end) [Connecticut Gazette, 3/16/1797; New Bedford MA Medley, 3/24/1797].

At the end of his address, Adams withdrew from the room. VP Jefferson wanted former Pres. Washington to leave next, but he insisted that Jefferson as the new VP should leave after the departure of the new President. Therefore, the audience left the room in this order: Jefferson, Washington, the Senate, foreign ministers, heads of departments (the Cabinet?), and the U.S. Representatives [Connecticut Gazette, 3/16/1797].

As Adams, Jefferson, and Washington left the building and walked to their respective houses, the crowd gathered outside cheered each man [Philadelphia Gazette, 3/6/1797].

In the afternoon, the Senate in special session contacted President Adams to see if he had any business for them. He had decided to retain Washington's Cabinet, so the Senators adjourned until they were scheduled to convene in nine months [Newburyport MA Impartial Herald, 3/14/1797].

Philadelphia leaders organized a supper at O'eller's Hotel at 4:30 p.m. for former President Washington. In addition to live music, a large painting was revealed, showing Washington departing Philadelphia for Mount Vernon [Philadelphia Gazette, 3/6/1797].

Historic Trivia

  • 1797 was the first time that the President and Vice President were inaugurated on the same day.
  • The terms "president elect" and "vice president elect" were first used between the election of 1796 and the inauguration on 3/4/1797.
  • 1797 was the second of just two inaugurals to take place in Philadelphia.
  • For the first time, the Vice President was inaugurated before the President.

Popular Vote of 1796

Electoral Vote of 1796

2d Presidential Inaugural (1793)

3d Presidential Inaugural (1801)

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