America’s first president George Washington addressed the assembled Congress with the first State of the Union on this day in history, Jan. 8, 1790.

Washington’s address took place at Federal Hall in New York City — and addressed a variety of topics including national defense, foreign policy, economics and education.

America’s first president started off by congratulating North Carolina for recently joining the federal republic, according to

This decision followed the state’s initial rejection of the Constitution in 1788 for not including a bill of rights.

The official Bill of Rights was eventually written up and dispatched to the 11 out of 13 states that accepted the Constitution before North Carolina’s ratification in 1789.

Washington went on to briefly outline his administration’s policies, designed by Alexander Hamilton.

As the former commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, Washington was reportedly careful about addressing his support for creating a standing army.

Washington with his cabinet.
President George Washington’s first cabinet, circa 1790. Left to right: Secretary of War Henry Knox, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and George Washington (1732-1799).
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Washington’s idea was controversial, says, but he argued that “providing for the common defense will merit particular regard.”

“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace,” Washington said, according to

Washington also encouraged federal influence over certain domestic issues, after discussing federal issues including foreign affairs and national defense in his speech.

The administration at the time, influenced by Hamilton, was looking for more money and some control over sectors such as agriculture, commerce and manufacturing, as well as science and literature, reports.

Washington said that achieving this would require a federal post office, post roads and a public education system, which he explained would bolster the nation in its new Constitution.

An illustration of first president George Washington and his cabinet.
An illustration of president George Washington and the first presidential cabinet.
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“Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness,” the president said in his address. 

“To the security of a free Constitution it contributes in various ways: By convincing those, who are entrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people: And by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights.”

Washington left his administration with the sentiment that the welfare of the United States is the “great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed.”

The president concluded, “And I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you, in the pleasing though arduous task of ensuring to our fellow citizens the blessings, which they have a right to expect, from a free, efficient and equal government.”

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