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With signal unanimity Washington was chosen President. Leaving his home at Mount Vernon, he repaired to New York,—where the first Congress had already commenced its session,—to assume his place as elected Chief of the Republic. On the thirtieth of April, 1789, the organization of the Government was completed by his inauguration. Entering the Senate Chamber, where the two Houses were assembled, he was informed that they awaited his readiness to receive the oath of office. Without delay, attended by the Senators and Representatives, with friends and men of mark gathered about him, he moved to the balcony in front of the edifice. A countless multitude, thronging the open street, and eagerly watching this great espousal,

With reverence look on his majestic face,
Proud to be less, but of his god-like race.

The oath was administered by the Chancellor of New York. At this time, and in this presence, beneath the uncovered heavens, Washington first took this vow upon his lips: ‘I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’

Over the President, on this high occasion, floated the national flag, with its stripes of red, and its stars on a field of blue. As his patriot eyes rested upon the glowing ensign, what currents must have rushed swiftly through his soul! In the early days of the Revolution, in those darkest hours about Boston, after the battle of Bunker Hill, and before the Declaration of Independence, the thirteen stripes had been first unfurled by him, as the emblem of Union among the Colonies for the sake of Freedom. By him, at that time, they had been named the Union Flag. Trial, struggle, and war were now ended, and the Union, which they first heralded, was unalterably established. To every beholder, these memories must have been full of pride and consolation. But looking [127] back upon the scene, there is one circumstance which, more than all its other associations, fills the soul; more even than the suggestions of Union, which I prize so much. At this moment, when Washington took his first oath to support the Constitution of the United States, the National ensign, nowhere within the National Territory, covered A single Slave. Then, indeed, was Slavery sectional, and Freedom national.

On the sea, an execrable piracy, the trade in slaves, was still, to the national scandal, tolerated under the national flag. In the States, as a sectional institution, beneath the shelter of local laws, Slavery unhappily found a home. But in the only territories at this time belonging to the nation, the broad region of the North-west, it had already, by the Ordinance of Freedom, been made impossible, even before the adoption of the Constitution. The District of Columbia, with its fatal incumbrance, had not yet been acquired.

The Government thus organized was Anti-Slavery in character. Washington was a slave-holder; but it would be unjust to his memory not to say that he was an Abolitionist also. His opinions do not admit of question. Only a short time before the formation of the National Constitution, he had declared, by letter, ‘That it was among his first wishes to see some plan adopted, by which Slavery may be abolished by law;’ and again, in another letter, ‘That, in support of any legislative measure for the abolition of slavery, his suffrage should not be wanting;’ and still further, in conversation with a distinguished European Abolitionist, a travelling propagandist of Freedom, Brissot de Warville, recently welcomed to Mount Vernon, he had openly announced, that to promote this object in Virginia, ‘He desired the formation of a Society, and that he would second it.’ By this authentic testimony, he takes his place with the early patrons of Abolition Societies.

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