FDR inaugurated, 1933
On March 4, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States. In his famous inaugural address, delivered outside the east wing of the U.S. Capitol, Roosevelt outlined his "New Deal"--an expansion of the federal government as an instrument of employment opportunity and welfare--and told Americans that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Although it was a rainy day in Washington, and gusts of rain blew over Roosevelt as he spoke, he delivered a speech that radiated optimism and competence, and a broad majority of Americans united behind their new president and his radical economic proposals to lead the nation out of the Great Depression.
Lincoln sworn in for first presidential term, 1861
On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln becomes the 16th president of the United States. In his inauguration speech Lincoln extended an olive branch to the South, but also made it clear that he intended to enforce federal laws in the states that seceded.
Since Lincoln's election in November 1860, seven states had left the Union. Worried that the election of a Republican would threaten their rights, especially slavery, the lower South seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. In the process, some of those states seized federal properties such as armories and forts. By the time Lincoln arrived in Washington, D.C., for his inauguration, the threat of war hung heavy in the air. Lincoln took a cautious approach in his remarks, and made no specific threats against the Southern states. As a result, he had some flexibility in trying to keep the states of the upper South--North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware--in the Union.
Government under the U.S. Constitution begins, 1789
The first session of the U.S. Congress is held in New York City as the U.S. Constitution takes effect. However, of the 22 senators and 59 representatives called to represent the 11 states who had ratified the document, only nine senators and 13 representatives showed up to begin negotiations for its amendment.
In 1786, defects in the Articles of Confederation became apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce and the inability of Congress to levy taxes, leading Congress to endorse a plan to draft a new constitution. On September 17, 1787, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the new U.S. Constitution, creating a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of 41 delegates to the convention.
Ernest Hemingway finishes The Old Man and the Sea, 1952
Ernest Hemingway completes his short novel The Old Man and the Sea. He wrote his publisher the same day, saying he had finished the book and that it was the best writing he had ever done. The critics agreed: The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and became one of his bestselling works.