In the wake of winning his country's independence and then overseeing the formation of its government, George Washington thought he had done enough. He desperately wanted to go home and live a quiet life, but Americans wanted no one else to lead them. No other person was seriously considered. America's first presidential campaign was really its citizens' efforts to convince Washington to accept the office. Letters poured into Mount Vernon—from citizens great and small, from former comrades in arms, even from other shores. Many told Washington that his country needed him more than ever and that there was no justification for his refusal. While he warmed slightly to the idea, he still told a friend, "I feel very much like a man who is condemned to death does when the time of his execution draws nigh."

As specified by the Constitution, the President was chosen by the Electoral College. In 1788, the method for selecting electors was decided by each state legislature—by public vote in some states and by legislative selection in others. Each state had as many electors as senators and representatives. The election was administered only in ten of the states because Rhode Island and North Carolina had yet to ratify the Constitution and a quarreling New York failed to choose electors in time. Each elector was given two votes to cast for President. Washington received the support of every one of the electors, each of whom cast one of the two ballots for him. John Adams, who received thirty-four votes, was the runner-up and was thus named vice president.

Source: Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “George Washington: Campaigns and Elections.” Accessed May 22, 2016.­/president/biography/washington-campaigns-and-elections.

17881789 federal hall.jpg

Amos Doolittle. 1789. "Federal Hall, N.Y. - First capitol of the United States." gelatin silver print of engraving. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

Edward Hedges. 1788. "General Washington." E. Hedges No. 92 Cornhill.  After Charles Wilson Peale. Engraving.  From Rare Flags.  Accessed May 25, 2016.