March 4th: The Original Inauguration Day
This Saturday, March 4, 2017, marks the 200th anniversary of the inauguration of James Monroe.
Today we know Inauguration Day as January 20th, but for much of the country’s past it was March 4th. Prior to 1933, an incoming president took the oath of office and gave his inaugural address on March 4th. If the fourth fell on a Sunday, the proceedings were moved to the following Monday.
The original system created a four-month gap between Election Day and Inauguration Day. This time was necessary to accurately count votes and to move the new president to Washington, D.C.
As voting, communication, and travel became easier, this lengthy lame-duck period became unnecessary, and created an obstacle to governing. In 1933, the 20th Amendment changed Inauguration Day to January 20th.
Check out our infographic for a handful of significant inaugural addresses – including some of the most famous addresses, the longest (and deadliest) address, the shortest address, and other interesting inaugural facts.
Want to share this with your students?
This infographic can be easily printed or projected. And, here’s a lesson with questions (and answers) to give your students a more in-depth look at our nation’s inaugural history.
1. What is the name of the day the new president takes office?
2. What was the date that Congress first set as Inauguration Day?
3. Why was there such a long gap between the November election and the March inauguration?
4. Which amendment to our Constitution changed the date the president takes office? What is the current inauguration date?
5. Today a president takes office nearly eleven weeks after Election Day. Why might the sitting president be called a “lame-duck” during this time?
6. We have had political party strife since our earliest days. How does Thomas Jefferson’s first inauguration demonstrate this? Think about his political party.
7. Who gave the shortest inaugural address? The longest?
8. Lincoln’s second inaugural address was delivered near the end of the Civil War. What does he mean when he says, “With malice toward none, with charity for all,…”?
9. During the Great Depression, who famously said, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”?
10. Which president’s speech is Bill Clinton responding to when he states, “Government is not the problem, and government is not the solution”?