, My name is Tom and I’m a Park Ranger with the National Park Service here at Independence, National Historical Park in the city of Philadelphia.. We are currently standing in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall. The building that served as the temporary Capitol of the United States from 1790 until 1800. Today, what we’re going to be talking about is something rather unique. How George Washington celebrated his birthday, while serving as President of the United States. In January of 1790 Washington wrote that quotI walk on untrodded ground.? There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.quot Less than a year into his presidency. Washington was already acutely aware that any decision or public movement he made had the potential to shape the future of the young republic.. As President Washington wanted to be accessible to the public, but not too accessible. His weekley levies at the President’s house in Philadelphia. Just a block away from where we’re standing now exemplified this, where Washington would bow to his guests rather than offer a handshake. This extended even to something that we today take for granted the celebration of our birthdays. George Washington was famous in his own lifetime.. He was already referred to as the father of his country. Thousands of Americans, adored him and loved to celebrate. Him. Washington, however, was concerned that anything too celebratory or too extravagant. Well, that might look like monarchy. The accounts of the birthdays that President Washington passed here in Philadelphia tell us of military and civilian processions to the President’s house.
The ringing of bells artillery salutes and elegant dinners and balls hosted in his honor. Washington attended. Many of these celebrations and is often recorded as having a cheerful countenance on his face.. He most often responded to the celebrations with a formal toast and would entertain himself for several hours by watching the dancing.. As the 1790’s progressed, however, things changed. Politics became more bitter and more divisive. Washington tried to stay above party politics.. He even warned against what he called the quotspirit of party.quot, But nevertheless he was frequently attacked in the press.. The criticism extended even to his birthday celebrations. In 1796, Congressman James Madison, recorded that the House of Representatives meeting on the first floor of this building directly below us rejected a motion to adjourn for a mere half hour so that the members could pay their respects.. So clearly, by the late 1790s, the partisan political warfare was getting intense here in the city of Philadelphia, but nevertheless George Washington’s parties – they continued. Even Madison, had to concede in 1796 that Philadelphia had celebrated with greater splendor than ever. In the fall in 1796. George Washington’s farewell address, appeared in newspapers throughout the nation., Exhausted by years of public service and increasingly frustrated by partisan politics. Washington announced that he would retire at the conclusion of his second term. At the final birthday celebration of his presidency. More than 1000 people attended a grand ball at Ricketts Circus Amphitheater, which stood directly across the street from Congress Hall.
. A newspaper reported that the festivities for splendor, taste and elegance was perhaps never excelled by any similar entertainment in the United States.. For President Washington, it seemed as though the pressures of public life were suddenly lifted. Supreme Court Justice. James Iredell wrote that quotI never saw the president look better or in finer spirits, but his emotions were too powerful to be concealed. At times he could scarcely speak.quot Less than 2 weeks later on March, 4th 1797 George, Washington retired from public life. When John Adams was sworn in in the House of Representatives just one floor below us here in Congress, Hall. Returning to Mount Vernon Washington would live nearly three more years as a private citizen in the nation. He had done so much to establish. quotPartaking. In the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart and the happy reward, as I trust of our mutual cares, labors and dangers.quot.