- January 7 - First nationwide United States election
- January 21 - The first American novel, The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth, is printed in Boston, Massachusetts
- January 23 - Georgetown College becomes the first Catholic college in the United States (Washington, DC).
- February 4 - George Washington is unanimously elected to be the first President of the United States by the U.S. Electoral College.
- March 4 - At Federal Hall in New York City, the first United States Congress meets and declares the new Constitution of the United States is in effect.
- April 1 - At Federal Hall in New York City, the United States House of Representatives holds its first quorum and elects Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania as its first House Speaker.
- April 28 - Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny on HMS Bounty against Captain William Bligh
- April 30 - George Washington officially begins his term as the 1st President of the United States with his inauguration at Federal Hall in New York City.
- June 14 - HMAV Bounty mutiny survivors including Captain William Bligh and 18 others reach Timor after a nearly 4,000 mile journey in an open boat
- June 17 - In France, representatives of the Third Estate at the Estates-General declare themselves the National Assembly.
- June 23 – Tennis Court Oath in Paris
- July 9 - In Versailles, the National Assembly reconstitutes itself as the National Constituent Assembly and begins preparations for a French constitution.
- July 10 - Alexander Mackenzie reaches Mackenzie River Delta.
- July 11 - King of France fires popular chief minister Necker
- July 12 – Angry Parisian crowd demonstrates against King’s decision to dismiss minister Necker
- July 14 - French Revolution: Citizens of Paris storm the Bastille and free seven prisoners. In rural areas, peasants attack noble manors.
- July 27 - The first U.S. federal government agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs, is established (later renamed Department of State).
- August 4 - The feudal system is abolished in France
- August 7 - The United States War Department is established
- August 26 – Declaration of the Rights of Man in France
- September 2 - United States Department of the Treasury is founded.
- September 25 - United States Bill of Rights containing a package of twelve are proposed to the state legislatures for consideration, with ratification of ten of them completed two years later. An eleventh was ratified more than two centuries later in 1992.
- September 29 - War Department first establishes regular army with strength of several hundred men.
- November 6 - Pope Pius VI appoints Father John Carroll as the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States.
- November 20 - New Jersey becomes the first U.S. state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
- November 21 - North Carolina ratifies the United States Constitution and becomes the 12th U.S. state.
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