On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States. Of this he wrote to James Madison: As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.
Written about Washington after his death by another of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson: His mind was great and powerful . . . as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion. . . . Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw doubt, but, when once decided, going through his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed. His integrity was the most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known. . . . He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good and a great man . . . On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect . . . it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great. . . .