March Forth!

That’s no typo. For most of U.S. history, March 4th was one of the most important dates of the year…at least every four years. From George Washington’s second term to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, March 4th was Inauguration Day.

Washington didn’t make it in time to his first inauguration in 1789…he mozied in on April 30 that year, but for every presidential election thereafter up through FDR in 1933, the inauguration took place on March 4. (Or March 5.)

The 20th Amendment changed all that. In 1933, Congress sought to reduce the four-month “lame duck” period—the time that lapsed between the November election and the day the old President stepped aside—so it changed Inauguration Day to January 20.

The U.S. is not the first country to change its inauguration day from March to January.

In Ancient Rome, March was the month that newly-elected officials took office up until the 2nd century BC. The original “spring cleaning” of government if you will.

In Rome’s case, however, the change was made in order to respond to a rebellion in Iberia that coincided with the Senate’s winter break.

Henceforth the Roman civic calendar began in January rather than March, which is why January 1 marks the New Year.

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