March…the month that deceives. It’s supposed to be coming up to spring, but here in the Great Lakes we can expect at least one more big snowstorm. We’ll know when it gets here.
4 March was an important day in American history for over a century. The 2nd Congress decided, under the Articles of Confederation, that the Constitution would take effect on 4 March 1789, when Washington was to be sworn in as President. But the electoral votes couldn’t be counted by then, so his inauguration was put off to 5 April. Thereafter, every routine presidential inauguration was held on 4 March except when it was on a Sunday in 1821, 1849, 1877 and 1917. The tradition ended with Amendment XX in 1933, which fixed the inauguration on 20 January.
This was less because of presidents than it was because of Congress. The Constitution states that Congress should meet on the first Monday in December each year, principally so that they would be available to decide who the president may be in the event of an Electoral College tie. 4 March was also the last day of Congressional business. Thus, the “lame duck” Congress was four months long…too long if control of Congress was to change, and those vengeful “other guys” wanted to change things.
Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural in 1801 was the first held in Washington, DC. James Monroe’s 1817 inauguration was at the Old Brick Capitol in Washington because the British had burned the Capitol down in 1813, and restoration was underway. Andrew Jackson’s inauguration in 1829 was marked by drunken revelry but was the first of 35 held on the east front of the Capitol. Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural was the first performed under armed guard. A blizzard forced William H. Taft’s 1909 inauguration into the Senate Chamber. Warren G. Harding in 1921 was the first to ride in a car to and from the ceremony. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration in 1945 was entirely without fanfare: the exhausted president had less than four months to live. Jimmy Carter’s inauguration marked the first “march” from the Capitol to the White House–a hike of about a mile. Since Ronald Reagan in 1981, the ceremonies have been held on the Capitol’s west front, a move designed to both cut costs and to provide more space for spectators. There have also been milestones in communications:
- Thomas Jefferson, 1801: the first covered by a newspaper extra of an inaugural address
- James K. Polk, 1845: the first covered by telegraph; first known newspaper illustration of a presidential inauguration
- James Buchanan, 1857: the first to be photographed
- William McKinley, 1897: the first to be recorded on film
- Theodore Roosevelt, 1905: the first time that telephones were installed on the Capitol Grounds for an inauguration
- Calvin Coolidge, 1925: the first to be broadcast nationally by radio
- Herbert Hoover, 1929: the first recorded by a talking newsreel
- Harry S. Truman, 1949: the first to be televised
- John F. Kennedy, 1961: the first to be televised in color
- Ronald Reagan, 1981: first closed-captioning of television broadcast for the hearing impaired
- Bill Clinton, 1997: the first time the ceremony was broadcast live on the Internet
- Donald Trump, 2017: the first inauguration broadcast live on Twitter.
Eh, for what it’s worth.
National I Want You to Be Happy Day
Yesterday was National I Want You to Be Happy Day because the folks at–you guessed it–The National Day Calendar say it is. It should be spent doing things that make others happy. A flower here, a silly knock-knock joke there. Buy the person’s coffee standing in line behind you. Remind your kids how much you love them. Leave a sticky note for a co-worker telling them to have a spectacular day, a happy day. Draw a happy face in the snow for a stranger to come across later. Give someone a hug. Putting a smile on someone’s face tends to put one on ours, too.
There’s a great deal of frustration…sometimes…trying to make someone else happy, as we have all experienced. Smiling and telling a joke to someone who just got bad news of any kind can elicit poor reactions. Flowers delivered to allergy sufferers can be deadly. Donuts for the work gang the day of a mass layoff can make the event flat. But sometimes someone, like the illustration to the right, just can’t do “happy” as others do. Its occasions like that, and circumstances like that, when the most positive-thinking folk just move on, and hope for the best.
Hope yesterday was at least reasonably happy for everyone.