The inauguration of a US President

One of my colleagues in the Lords, knowing that Donald Trump was to be inaugurated as President of the USA on Friday, asked if the inauguration was determined by the day (Friday) or the date (20 January).  It is the date.  George Washington was ibbkge5ccqaaotfmnaugurated in April 1789, but thereafter – up to and including 1933 – the President was inaugurated on 4 March.  Since 1937, the date has been 20 January.  If 20 January falls on a Sunday (as it did in 2013), the President is sworn in by the Chief Justice in a private ceremony, with a public ceremony the following day.

The longest inaugural address – lasting nearly two hours – was given by William Henry Harrison in 1841.  At 68, he was the oldest President to be elected (until Ronald Reagan and now Donald Trump) and it was a bitterly cold day.  He caught a cold and is generally believed to have contracted pneumonia.  Some sources have argued that he had a bacterial infection.  In any event, he fell ill and died a month later, the first President to die in office.

The inauguration ceremony normally takes place on Capitol Hill but on occasion, as when a Vice-President succeeds a President who has died, it has occurred elsewhere and the oath administered by someone other than the Chief Justice.  Lyndon B. Johnson (1963) was famously sworn in by District Judge Sarah T. Hughes and the only President to be sworn in aboard an aircraft.  Calvin Coolidge (1923) was sworn in by his father, a notary public.  Franklin Roosevelt is the only President to be sworn in more than twice, having been elected to four terms, though dying shortly after being sworn in for his fourth term, propelling his new Vice-President, Harry S Truman, into the White House.  The Constitution was subsequently amended to prevent a President being elected to more than two terms.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The inauguration of a US President

  1. Ken Batty says:

    Who is president from noon if the inauguration is running late(as with Truman in’48) and the oath is not taken by then?

  2. Croft says:

    “…William Henry Harrison ….He caught a cold and is generally believed to have contracted pneumonia…In any event, he fell ill and died a month later, the first President to die in office.

    He was delirious/unconscious for much of his ‘term of office’. I seem to remember some wag suggesting when his grandson took office that his presidency proved as effective as if they had just propped William Henry Harrison’s body up in a chair!

    Btw OT – I read in today’s press an unattributed Cabinet minister saying if parliament votes down the final brexit deal the PM will go to the country – !!! – please let that b a lazy journalist surely even cabinet ministers get the fixed term parliament act.

    Btw – any opinion LN as to why the PM hasn’t sought to amend the act? Even if you don’t wish to use it now given the turbulent times it would seem prudent. Does she fear her MPs won’t back it? Odd if so given the polling you’d think they would see an advantage.

  3. Nice summary.
    Here was a wrinkle, a man not elected by the Electoral College, Congress or Speaker of the House. He was President by force of law. Also sworn in during the heat of August:

    First Inauguration I recall clearly, although the term is controverted a bit only in this particular case…

  4. Pingback: Inauguration Day: Donald J. Trump –45! | Franksummers3ba's Blog

  5. Croft says:


    I read in todays press the ‘government’ are considering ‘sunset peers’ to be created for the duration of the art 50 process if the lords attempts to block it.

    Seriously I don’t know which fool came up with this idea. There is no lawful way to create ‘time limited peers’ and it would require primary legislation to create allow it. 😦

  6. Croft says:

    LN: Care to comment on the bill language. Other than silver, gold and platinum plating the bill I can’t quite see the purpose of clause II:

    “”this section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment.”

    Since the Art 50 is part of the TEU which is par of the ECA Schedule of Treaties and through it part of UK law I don’t quite see what mischief this is trying to prevent.

  7. maude elwes says:

    It looks to me as if Trump is man of the day. I have a deep respect for the people in power who pour water on political correctness and he is up for it in a major fashion. He may yet turn out to be a great President.

    The best of all viewing was the obese MP of Stratford upon Avon whimpering tearfully about his not being able to visit his boys in ‘Princeton University.’ (who, I wonder, is footing that massive bill) As, being an Iraqi born Kurd, he can no longer get a visa for the USA. If only the UK was smart enough to adopt such scrutiny of those entering our country, he, and others like him, who want to stay uncommitted to their mistress the UK, in order to keep dual nationality, whilst they suck the tax payer dry from arrival, then fiddle their expenses to boot, until one day they return home pockets all bulging, will once and for all be shot of.

    Can’t wait to see and hear more of the very clever Donald.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s