Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington
Hakeem Fullerton,  Off Beat,  Politics

The Election Of 1788-89: The Election That Started It All

Hello everyone and welcome to the first in a new series exploring one of my favourite topics when it comes to history and that’s the Presidential Elections of the United States of America.

In this series, I’ll be discussing every Presidential Election in United States History all the way to the 2020 election. Along the way, I will be discussing some important and lesser-known bits of trivia when it comes to the men and women who’ve taken part in these campaigns and the impact these elections have left on America today

So let’s not waste any more time…And let’s get to the very first presidential election.

Establishing The Constitution

The Election Of 1788

Before we get into the election itself, let’s first start off with some background information that’ll be very crucial later on…

In June of 1788, the Constitution of the United States was ratified, although not all the states that made up the United States at the time ratified the Constitution. By the time of the first U.S. election, there were enough states that did ratify thus allowing it to be passed into law.

This document included a number of articles that focused on important things like the power of Congress, the roles of the President and Vice President as well as the powers of the Supreme Court, the ability to add news states into the country and using an electoral college for presidential elections.

In regards to that last point, the rules dictated that electors could cast votes for a candidate with the person with the most electoral votes becoming the President and the runner-up becoming the Vice President.

This idea would become problematic in the following years as there were no specifics at the time that differentiated who the electors could vote for when it came to those two roles but will focus more on that in future articles.

The Candidates


Because telegram and other communication devices didn’t exist yet, the first presidential election became the only election to occur in two years. It went on from December 15th 1788 to January 10th 1789. 

Known for his bravery and determination in the Revolutionary War, General George Washington was one of the most popular people in the early formation of the United States and despite some wanting him to become King he refused. Instead, he was chosen to become the country’s first President even though Washington himself never wanted to be President in the first place.

With Washington being the obvious choice for President, the question then became: Who would be the country’s first Vice President?

There were several names who ran for the VP spot like John Adams, John Jay, John Hancock and Samuel Huntington who were seen as ‘Federalists’ aka those who supported the ratification of the Constitution. Those who didn’t support its ratification like VP candidate George Clinton were called ‘Anti-Federalists’.

These politicians who disagreed with the Federalists will soon be known under the new name of Democratic-Republicans which has absolutely no connection to the modern-day Democratic or Republican party.


The Results

When the electoral votes were counted George Washington won, winning 69 electoral votes to become the first President of the United States and the only candidate in American history to ever win 100% of the electoral votes.

Despite this victory, there were some issues like Vermont, for example, wasn’t officially recognized as a state just yet and some states like Connecticut didn’t have a popular vote; Meanwhile, other states like North Carolina and Rhode Island didn’t ratify the Constitution just yet so they were unable to vote in this election. As you could probably tell from looking at the map above, New York had zero electoral votes which is unusual but that’s due to the New York legislature being deadlocked with their votes and as such their votes were not counted.

John Adams came in second place receiving 34 electoral votes and thus becoming the first Vice President in American History thanks to Alexander Hamilton, who persuaded enough people to throw their votes to other candidates. This was to avoid a possible deadlock with the electoral votes or possibly John Adams becoming the accidental first President. 

All the other candidates who ran for Vice President received much less than Washington or Adams, but just enough to prevent a deadlocked election…Hopefully, the idea of election meddling wouldn’t come back to bite the new country in the years to follow.

And that’s the story of the Election of 1788-89, be sure to come back in two weeks for the next presidential election, but if you are interested in learning more about U.S. political history on this site, be sure to check the links below to read more about that:

Every Vice President Who Suddenly Became President Ranked From Worst To Best

Every Vice President Who Suddenly Became President Ranked From Worst To Best | Lace ‘Em Up (

10 Most Unbelievable U.S. Presidential Stories In History

10 Most Unbelievable U.S. Presidential Stories In History | Lace ‘Em Up (

If you like this kind of content, be sure to leave your thoughts down below in the comment section and be sure to follow Lace ‘Em Up on Twitter @laceemupoffice and you can follow me also on Twitter @hakeemfullerton and I’ll see you in the next article

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