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A piece of History: Why Does Inauguration Day Fall on January 20?

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Initially, the gap between Election Day and Inauguration Day was even longer. The Congress of the Confederation set March 4, 1789, as the date “for commencing proceedings” of the new government established by the U.S. Constitution. While a particularly bad winter delayed the inauguration of George Washington by eight weeks, subsequent incoming presidents and vice presidents took their oaths of office on March 4. In many countries a newly elected leader takes power within a couple weeks or—as in the case of Great Britain—even the day following an election. In the United States, though, more than 11 weeks can pass between Election…

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