Washington began by congratulating North Carolina’s recent decision to join the federal republic. North Carolina had rejected the Constitution in July 1788 because it lacked a bill of rights. Under the terms of the Constitution, the new government acceded to power after only 11 of the 13 states accepted the document. By the time North Carolina ratified in November 1789, the first Congress had met, written the Bill of Rights and dispatched them for review by the states.
Washington’s address gave a brief outline of his administration’s policies as designed by Alexander Hamilton. The former commander in chief of the Continental Army argued "in favor of securing the common defence [sic]," as he believed preparedness for war to be one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. Washington’s guarded language allowed him to hint at his support for the controversial idea of creating a standing army without making an overt request.
After covering the clearly federal issues of national defense and foreign affairs, Washington urged federal influence over domestic issues as well. The strongly Hamilton-influenced administration desired money for and some measure of control over Agriculture, Commerce and Manufactures as well as Science and Literature. These national goals required a Federal Post Office and Post-Roads and a means of public education, which the president justified as a means to secure the Constitution, by educating future public servants in the republican principles of representative government.