Every four years the president is sworn in on January 20th, but it hasn’t always been that way. Originally, the president was sworn in sometime in the first week of March. Obviously, having the old president still in office for almost four whole months before the new guy gets sworn in could cause some problems, and it didn’t take long for this to catch up with us. During the time between Abraham Lincoln’s election and inauguration, seven states left the Union and the Civil War had all but started. If Honest Abe had taken power in January, like presidents do now, he might have been able to stop the war from happening or kept the South from gaining strength. But that isn’t what caused Congress to change the inauguration date.
One of the main reasons Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected was that he promised to bring America out of the Great Depression through a series of economic reforms. His political opponents weren’t big fans of his New Deal, and between November and March, sitting President Herbert Hoover repeatedly tried to get Roosevelt to back off his plans. He didn’t, but the uncertainty over whether or not he would change his mind once he got into office was enough to cause a new financial crisis. This is when Congress stepped in and created the 20th amendment, which set a new date for the inauguration.
Fast Fact: A sitting president is referred to as a “lame duck” between November and January until the new president is sworn in. This is when the sitting president is seen as having less influence.
“2013 Presidential Inauguration Day – Presidential Seal” by Glyn Lowe Photoworks. is licensed under CC BY