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Inauguration, Presidential


INAUGURATION, PRESIDENTIAL. The presidential inauguration is the term used to designate the ceremony in which the duly elected president of the United States assumes the power and prerogatives of that office. According to the Constitution of the United States, only one thing is required for the inauguration of a president: Article II, Section 1, provides that "before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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.'"

Tradition has expanded the ceremony of taking the oath into a day-long festival attended by throngs of citizens and political partisans of the president. The ceremony begins with the taking of the oath of office by the president on a platform at the east front of the Capitol at Washington, D.C. The oath is usually administered by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The president then delivers his inaugural address, which adumbrates the themes of the new administration. The ceremony is witnessed by hundreds of dignitaries and thousands of spectators, while additional millions watch it on television. The afternoon is devoted to a parade from the Capitol, down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, led by the president and the first lady. In the evening the celebration concludes with several inaugural balls attended by the new president and his official party.

The official date for the inauguration was first set as 4 March by the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution, passed in 1804. The date was changed in 1933 when the Twentieth Amendment set 20 January as the end of the presidential term, to shorten the period between the election of a new president and his inauguration.

George Washington took his oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City on 30 April 1789 because the new government was not sufficiently organized for an earlier inauguration. He then delivered

an inaugural address to both houses of Congress in the Senate chamber. President Andrew Jackson was the first to take the oath on a platform at the east front of the Capitol. The inaugural parade grew out of the escort of honor given to the incoming president as he went up to the Capitol to take the oath of office. The first organized procession from the Capitol back to the White House after the ceremony took place at the inauguration of President William Henry Harrison in 1841. The earliest inaugural ball took place in 1809, after the inauguration of President James Madison.

When the vice president takes the oath of office at the death of a president, all ceremonial formalities are dispensed with. The oath is administered as soon as possible by a justice or civil authority, and the ceremony consists simply of taking the oath in the words prescribed in the Constitution.


Boller, Paul F., Jr. Presidential Inaugurations. New York: Harcourt, 2001.

MargaretKlapthor/a. g.

See alsoConnecticut Compromise ; Corrupt Bargain ; Electoral College ; Lame-Duck Amendment ; Majority Rule ; Midnight Judges ; Republic .

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