“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore theinvisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, morethan the people of the United States. Every step, by whichthey have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some tokenof providential agency.”
—George Washington,First Presidential Address to Congress
n April 30, 1789, a sea of people spilled into the streets of thecity of New York, standing shoulder to shoulder, crowding onrooftops, hanging out of open windows, vying for a view. Theirfocus was the second-story balcony of Federal Hall, the “large and ele-gant Bible” placed atop a crimson-draped table, and the closed door thatwould open at any minute.
But as the hours went by, nothing happened.The First Congress of the United States of America under the newConstitution had gathered that morning to receive General GeorgeWashington as the new president, but the ceremony was delayed by fightsabout how that president should be received. One senator pointed outthat the House of Lords is seated when the king addresses Parliament,but the House of Commons stands. Another explained that the Com-mons stood because they had no chairs to sit in. A third dismissed out-right the idea of using or even consulting British protocol. The dispute