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This Day in History: George Washington tours the new American nation

On this day in 1789, George Washington returned from his first presidential tour. He thought it important to visit every part of the country and to visit a variety of the new nation’s citizens. He wanted to “acquire knowledge of the face of the Country the growth and Agriculture there of and the temper and disposition of the Inhabitants towards the new government.”

Washington left on October 15, 1789, not too long after the first Congress adjourned on September 29. He went through nearly sixty towns and hamlets. And he skipped Rhode Island, which had not yet ratified the Constitution.

As he traveled, he was welcomed enthusiastically. Washington’s diary describes the scene in Boston: “[W]e passed through the Citizens classed in their different professions, and under their own banners, till we came to the State House; from which, across the Street, an Arch was thrown; in the front of which was this Inscription—“To the Man who unites all hearts” and on the other—“To Columbia’s favourite Son” . . . . This arch was handsomely ornamented, and over the Center of it a Canopy was erected 20 feet high with the American Eagle perched on the top. . . . . The Streets, the Doors, Windows & Tops of the Houses were crouded with well dressed Ladies and Gentlemen.”

Washington’s tour also enabled him to observe the area’s various industries, factories and exports. For instance, he visited (and was impressed by) a sail factory. “They have 28 looms at work,” he wrote in his diary, “and 14 Girls spinning with Both hands, (the flax being fastened to their waste.) Children (girls) turn the wheels for them, and with this assistance each spinner can turn out 14 lbs of Thread pr. day when they stick to it.”

In the end, Washington was always happy to return home. His diary recounts that, on the morning of November 13, he began the last leg of his trip “as soon as we could see the Road . . . and three Oclock arrived at my House at New York where I found Mrs. Washington and the rest of the family all well.”

Unfortunately for him, there was a large crowd present. His diary simply states: “[I]ts being Mrs. Washington’s Night to receive visits a pretty large Company of Ladies and Gentlemen were present.”

And such, really, was the story of Washington’s life. Always wanting peace and quiet (preferably at Mt. Vernon) but always surrounded by the Americans who loved him.

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