Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

George Washington Delivers the First Address

Heeding the Constitution's directive that the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient," George Washington addressed the House and Senate in New York City on Jan. 8, 1790. He spoke of such pertinent matters as "the recent accession of the important state of north Carolina," "certain hostile tribes of Indians," and the need for "uniformity in the currency, weights, and measures of the United States." The speech isn't completely dated, however: he also emphasized "the promotion of science and literature" in the republic — a message as relevant today as it was then. His was the first stand-alone State of the Union address, though it was then called the "Annual Message." (Washington had combined the previous year's Annual Message with his Inaugural Address in April 1789.) It was also the shortest speech of its kind, at 1,089 words.