Inauguration Day

Ross Dunfee

The ink was barely dry on the Declaration of Independence. The thirteen British Colonies, in their view, were no longer a part of Great Britain but they also were not conjoined by any body of law. On June 12, 1776, the day after appointing a committee of five to prepare the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee of 13 to prepare a draft constitution for a union of the Colonies. The Constitution was written in Philadelphia, Pa., Baltimore, Md., and Lancaster and York, Pa. as the Congress evaded the advancing British troops. The draft Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were completed on Nov. 15, 1777. After a lengthy debate concerning territory, the document was ratified by all thirteen Colonies on Feb. 2, 1781—The United States of America.

The Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 to Sept. 3, 1783) was over, and in order to remain stable the young republic needed a stronger central government. In 1786, Alexander Hamilton, a New York lawyer, called for a constitutional convention, and 55 delegates from 12 states arrived in Philadelphia to finalize a constitution. The greatest concern by the representatives was that a central federal government would diminish states’ rights. When completed, the document included three branches of government with a president, a bicameral legislature (upper house, senators; lower house, representatives) and a judiciary.

By September 1778, the 4,500-word draft-Constitution was complete and George Washington, president of the convention, was the first of the 39 delegates to sign the document (16 delegates did not sign). Ratification of the document required approval from nine of the thirteen states and the process was completed on June 21, 1788. Eventually, all thirteen states ratified the document and the Supreme Court held its first session Feb. 2, 1790. The United States government was now fully operational.

After not desiring the position and not spending any money to obtain the position, George Washington became the only president to have ever been unanimously elected by the Electoral College. President Washington took the Constitutional Oath (Article II, Section One, Clause 8) on April 30, 1789 (extended from March 4 for counting ballots and travel time) and an eight-day celebration followed. Martha Washington held an 11-day celebration, and the ringing of church bells, fireworks, and gun salutes became part of the inauguration day celebration. To reduce the time of “Lame Duck” legislators, the 20th amendment was ratified in 1933 to change Inauguration Day to Jan. 20.

Inauguration Day celebrations are held on Jan. 20 every four years even if a president is reelected. Over time, traditions have developed including attending church service, current and immediate past presidents and first ladies attend a swearing in at the White House, family and public officials proceed to the Capitol for swearing-in by the Chief Justice, the President gives an inaugural address and then the balls and parties.

In honor of our Commander-in-Chief, Support Our Troops—Arizona will be placing almost 300 flags along the primary roads in Robson Ranch on Inauguration Day. For questions about this article, contact Ross Dunfee at [email protected]. To learn more about SOT-AZ contact Stephen Reeves, president, at [email protected].