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Observers noted that Washington appeared as if he would have preferred facing cannon and musket fire to taking the political helm of the country. He fidgeted, with his hand in one pocket, and spoke in a low, sometimes inaudible voice while he reiterated the mixed emotions of anxiety and honor he felt in assuming the role of president. For the most part, his address consisted of generalities, but he directly addressed the need for a strong Constitution and Bill of Rights and frequently emphasized the public good. He told the House of Representatives that he declined to be paid beyond such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require. In deference to the power of Congress, Washington promised to give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good.
After delivering his address, Washington walked up Broadway with a group of legislators and local political leaders to pray at St. Paul’s Chapel. Later, he made the humble and astute observation that his presidency, and the nation itself, was an experiment.