Washington's Presidency

30 April 1789

Washington Takes Office

On April 30, 1789 when George Washington stood on the balcony of Federal Hall in Wall Street. This was where he was sworn in as the first president of the United States and John Adams as the vice-president. As the first president, Washington knew that everything he does would set a precedent.

Precedent - an action that becomes standard practice.

Setting Up the Courts

When the Constitution was created, there were many matters that needed to be decided by Congress -- one being how many justices would be on the Supreme Court. To create a court system, Congress passed the Federal Judiciary Act of 1789. This gave the Supreme Court six members: a chief justice or judge, and five associate justices. Now that number has grown to nine. The act also provided other less powerful federal courts.

Judiciary - system of courts and judges

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Washington's Cabinet

The Constitution gave Congress the job of creating departments to help the president. Congress created three unique departments. The president had the power to appoint the heads of these departments, who were to assist with the many issues and problems the president had to face. These department heads became his cabinet.

George Washington chose talented people to be on his cabinet. For secretary of war, he picked Henry Knox whose job was to oversee the nation’s defenses. For secretary of state, Washington chose Thomas Jefferson. The state department oversees the relations between the United States and other countries. Washington then turned to Alexander Hamilton to be the secretary of the Treasure. It was Hamilton’s job to manage the government’s money. And, to advise Washington on any legal matters, he picked Edmund Randolph as attorney general. The Constitution never mentioned of a cabinet, but it was Washington who began the practice of calling his department heads together to advise him.

Cabinet: a body of advisors to the president

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