Today in History: January 7th, 1789, First Presidential Election
On January 7th, 1789, the newly-minted United States of America held its first presidential election. This right — hard-won after the American Revolution — gave white, property-owning men the opportunity to cast ballots and vote, democratically, for the leader of the new nation. The process itself ran akin to the electoral process we still use today. The States themselves provided for a popular vote to select the presidential electors, who became delegates for the Electoral College. The States then tallied the votes for electors in the weeks following. Ultimately, the person with the most votes became President, and the person with the second most votes became the Vice President. At the time, Washington ran almost entirely unopposed — his popularity from the Revolution assured the popular vote. As such, unsurprisingly, George Washington, hero of the Revolution, won with 69 votes; and he was sworn in as the first President of the United States on April 30th, 1789. John Adams, coming in second place with 34 votes (ouch) became the first Vice President.
The face of elections in the United States today is vastly different than it was back in the inaugural election of 1789. But this evolution is entirely pragmatic, and reflective of the principles the great nation stands upon — a spirit of change, of understanding, of acceptance. Now, all legal citizens over 18, regardless of race, gender, sex or creed, can vote — citizens of color gaining the right to vote in 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment, and women gaining the right to vote in 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment. In 2008, the United States elected its 44th President — who was also its first African-American President (who is currently serving his second and last term); and if the rumors of the Democratic Party are true, a female elector will potentially be the first woman to get the Democratic Party nomination and thus open the door for potentially the first female President.
To learn more about Presidential Elections, past and present, considering exploring this section of the History Channel website — you may learn something new!