Election of 1789

Election of 1789

George Washington was the unanimous choice of the electors who cast their presidential ballots in February 1789. The Constitution (text) had not provided for the direct election of the chief executive, but instead had fashioned a more cumbersome Electoral College to temper democratic passions.

Federalist leaders generally agreed that John Adams should be the Vice President -- a Massachusetts resident would help establish a regional balance in the Executive Branch. Alexander Hamilton wisely diverted a few votes from Adams to avoid the embarrassment of a tie vote.

Each of the 69 electors was expected to cast two ballots. All voted for Washington, making him the unanimous choice as the first president.

Election of 1789
Candidates

Party

Electoral
Vote

Popular
Vote

George Washington (VA)

Federalist

69

*

John Adams (MA)

Federalist

34

John Jay (NY)

Federalist

9

John Rutledge (SC)

Federalist

6

John Hancock (MA)

Federalist

4

George Clinton (NY)

Anti-Federalist

3

Others

7

Electoral votes not cast

44

*Popular vote totals were not retained until the Election of 1824.

Washington took the oath of office on April 30, 1789 in New York City, the site of the capital for the next 18 months. North Carolina would not ratify the Constitution (narrative) until November 1789 and Rhode Island until 1790.


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