In his speech, President Washington stated his gratitude to people who elected him the President. He talked about the burden of responsibility: “The magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my Country called me” (Washington, 1789); and admitted he had disadvantages. He said, “One, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies” (Washington, 1789). This modest statement emphasized his reluctance to command. Washington did not perceive himself as the supreme ruler of the American nation. On a contrary, he believed in democratic values and the power of community. He thought that society should rely on Constitution, not on his commands: “The Great Constitutional Charter under which you are assembled; and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given” (Washington, 1789). He thought that cooperation of wise and responsible citizens was much better than everything he alone could offer them, according to article establishing the Executive Department. He stated that the President should be mentor, not master. He praised virtues of Americans and insisted that the United States managed to obtain their independence in peaceful and civilized way, unlike other countries. Therefore, he thought that his subordinates and the governmental system were too good to let him rule over them. He also praised “the talents, the rectitude, and patriotism” (Washington, 1789) of his colleagues and stated that his role in being the President was rather watching over this “great assemblage of communities and interests” (Washington, 1789) than making them to obey his will. He emphasized that he would be as just as he can, doing this, and that “no local prejudices, or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities” (Washington, 1789) would prevent him from fulfilling his duty. He also rejected any “pecuniary compensation” (Washington, 1789) and claimed that all the money should be spent on state’s needs, not on him. Overall, Washington believed in power of democracy and respected Americans too much to make them submit to his power. He argued that not the President makes the country great, but its citizens. According to this concept, the President is rather a servant of the nation, not its leader.
Washington believed that he and all Americans should rely on “pure and immutable principles of private morality” (Washington, 1789), and this would help them to maintain free and just government. He argued, “The eternal rules of order and right” (Washington, 1789) were the key to freedom, peace and prosperity. Thus, everything depended on Americans’ conscience, responsibility, and desire to contribute to America’s greatness, not on Washington’s abilities to rule and command. In addition, Washington was determined that all Americans were equally eager to contribute to wellbeing of their country. He also claimed that the Republican model of government was the best one invented by humanity, and this was Americans’ duty to God to maintain this model and its values. He even stated that Americans should decide, “how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the Fifth article of the Constitution is rendered” (Washington, 1789).
Overall, George Washington was a typical politician of the Enlightment era who believed in social progress and superiority of human mind. He was determined that the humanity was driven by high aspirations, such as kindness, justice, tolerance, dedication, and wisdom. For him, democracy meant a collective effort to achieve prosperity. As a person, Washington was very modest and clearly was not comfortable being elected, he rather took it as a burden. All he wanted to do was to serve his country and its citizens.