FDR’s inauguration

April 21 2012

Franklin D Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration was the last to take place in March.

In terms of facilities for human intercourse no point in the Oikoumenê was so remote from Washington in A.D. 1952 as Georgia and New Hampshire had been when, in A.D. 1792, [footnote] the Congress of the United States had provided for a four months’ delay in the inauguration of a President after the election of his electors [in November], in order to give the successful candidate the time that he would need for winding up his affairs at home and making his way to the seat of the Federal Government on horseback.

In an Act approved on the 1st March, 1792, the Congress of the United States laid down that the members of the Electoral College, provided in the Constitution (Art. II, § 1, par. 2) for electing the President, should themselves be elected on the Tuesday following the first Monday in the November of a presidential election year, and that the term of office of the President elected by the Electoral College should run from “the fourth day of March next succeeding” the date of election. The initial date of the President’s term of office was eventually advanced from the 4th March to the 20th January by the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, which was proclaimed on the 6th February, 1933 – a date by which the United States had moved out of the Horse Age through the Railroad Age into the Air Age.

The music at the beginning is, of course, Hail to the Chief. It is hard to imagine a more American-sounding tune, but it was originally a setting by an Englishman, James Sanderson, of Scott’s verse for a theatrical version in London, c 1812, of The Lady of the Lake.

In 1815 the tune alone was played, under the name Wreaths for the Chieftain, at a ceremony honouring George Washington and commemorating the War of 1812. Later, new lyrics were written in America, but it is rarely sung.

The Star-Spangled Banner was also originally an English song, with a tune by John Stafford Smith.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

One Response to “FDR’s inauguration”


  1. […] This post was about the change in the inauguration date of presidents from March 4 to January 20, where it is now. […]


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