The history of the city of Washington, it is believed, could in no way be more effectively supplied than by telling the story, so far as possible, in the words of the participants. From the documents and records in the Government archives it is possible to give an almost complete story of the establishment of the city of Washington in the actual language of the men who achieved it; and believing that in the words of Washington, Jefferson, L'Enfant, Carroll, Johnson, Stuart, Thornton, Scott and White, this story could be told with more intense interest than in any words of his own, the compiler endeavored, in giving this portion of the city's history, to utilize to the fullest possible extent such of their writings relating to the subject, as are still preserved.
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Standard History Of The City Of Washington
Standard History of the City of Washington, W. Tindall
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
CHAPTER III. 18
CHAPTER VI. 135
CHAPTER XI. 193
CHAPTER XII. 261
CHAPTER XIII. 290
CHAPTER XIV.. 308
CHAPTER XV.. 319
CHAPTER XVI. 325
CHAPTER XVII. 344
The Period Prior to the Adoption of the Site on the Potomac for the Permanent Seat of Government.
AS the beholder looks upon the Capital of the Nation today, with its wide, shaded streets, magnificent buildings, restful parks, costly monuments, and thousands of trees, it requires a vigorous play of the imagination to picture the swamps and forests which they have replaced and to realize that where is now the teeming population of a metropolitan city were once the tepees and campfires of the primitive Indian inhabitants.
Some of the ancient Indian village sites in the present District of Columbia named by archaeologists are: one at Little Falls on the west bank of the Anacostia; one between First and Second Streets, southeast; one on the crest of the hill on the Virginia side of the Potomac at Chain Bridge; another opposite the foot of Analostan Island on the Virginia side; another at the mouth of Four Mile Run; and yet another at the south end of Long Bridge; while the abundance of flint debris on hills bordering Rock Creek, show that vicinity to have been a popular Indian resort for making arrow-heads.
The site where our National Capital now spreads its streets and avenues was formerly the center of the one-time powerful Algonquins, the sub-tribe of this great family having their village here being the Powhatans. They were in possession when Captain John Smith explored the region and had been for hundreds of years previous to that time. All the tribes of the Algonquins met in council here and the place of these national meetings was on the delta between the Potomac and its Eastern Branch. The council-house stood at the foot of the very hill on which now stands the lofty American Capitol. The Indians also came here in great numbers during the fishing season and called the vicinity their "fishing ground."
The first white men to explore the Potomac, though they do not appear to have come as far up as the present site of Washington, were in all probability Spaniards.
The story of the first Spanish settlement as gathered from the Spanish records by Buckingham Smith is related by the Catholic historian Shea in a paper contributed by him to the New York Historical Society. The story as thus given is that a Spanish vessel came up the Potomac in the first half of the Sixteenth Century and carried away to Mexico the brother of the Chief of Axacan. Giving to the letter "x" its Spanish pronunciation approaching the German " ch, " the Spanish name Axacan becomes almost the exact equivalent of the English Occoquan. This Indian was baptized in the Christian Church and sent to Spain. In 1566 the Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez sent a vessel with two Dominican fathers to set up a mission at Axacan but the party was frightened away. The enterprise was taken up four years later by a party of Jesuits under Father Segura. The latter expedition reached Axacan September 10, 1570, bringing with them the Indian who had been taken away by the Spaniards years before and who had been given the name Luis de Velasco, and who was relied upon to protect the party from the attacks of the Indians. Velasco 's wild nature reasserting itself, he deserted the missionaries and participated in their slaughter by the Indians. In the following spring a Spanish vessel arrived with supplies for the mission and carried the news of its fate back to Menendez who proceeded to Axacan and hung at the yard arm eight of those who had participated in the killing of the missionaries, though Velasco had escaped to the mountains. With Menendez the Spanish flag departed forever from the Potomac. The Spaniards named the Chesapeake the Bay of St. Mary and the Potomac the Espiritu Santo.
Parkman in his "Pioneers of New France" mentions letters from Menendez to Philip II of Spain reciting that in 1565 and for some years previous the French above the Gulf of St. Lawrence had received buffalo skins — six thousand in two yean — from the Indians who had brought them down the Potomac and up the coast in canoes. Mr. Hugh T. Taggart in a paper read before the Columbia Historical Society argues that the voyage from the Potomac to the St. Lawrence in heavy laden canoes was an impossibility and that the French must have done their trading with the Indians on the Potomac.
Captain John Smith, probably the first Englishman to explore the Potomac, as well as other rivers emptying into the Chesapeake Bay, said in his valuable and remarkable "General History of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles:"
"The fourth river is called Patawomecke, 6 or 7 myles in breadth. It is navigable 140 myles, and fed as the rest, with many sweet rivers and springs, which fall from the bordering hils. These hils many of them are planted, and yield no lesse plentie and varietie of fruit, then the river exceedeth with abundance of fish. It is inhabited on both sides. First on the south side at the very entrance is Wighcocomoco and hath some 130 men, beyond them Sekacawone with 30. — The Onawmanient with 100. And the Patawomekes more than 200. Here doth the river divide itself into 3 or 4 convenient branches. The greatest of the last is called Quiyouh, trending Northwest, but the river itselfe turneth Northeast, and is still a navigable streame. On the Westerne side of this branch is Tauxenent with 40 men. On the North of the river is Secowocomoco with 40. Somewhat further Potapaco with 20. In the East part is Pamacaeack with 60. After Moyowance with 100. And lastly, Nocotchtanke with 80. The river aboue this place maketh his passage downe a low pleasant valley overshadowed in many places with high rocky mountaines; from whence distill innumerable sweet and pleasant springs. "
Some historians deny that Captain Smith saw the present site of Washington and others assert that it is very uncertain, but whether he stood on the exact site of this city or not, it is reasonably certain that he came this far north on the Potomac. He tells of being entertained near the present site of Mt. Vernon, at Toags, which place appears on his map as Tauxenent on the Virginia side of the river; at Mayaones opposite, on the Maryland side; and at Nacotehtant or Nacotchtanke, which was situated within what is now the District of Columbia.
He went on up the river until his navigation was prohibited by immense rocks over which the water poured, so that it appears he went to or nearly to the falls.
William Stith, writing in 1746, tells of Captain Smith's voyage up the Potomac River, his encounters with tribes of Indians, the finding of the antimony mine, et cetera, and then says:
"Towards the Falls of Patowmack, they met several Parties of Indians in Canoes, loaded with the Flefh of Bears, Deer, and other wild Beafts."
This early navigator and explorer was one of the most striking and interesting characters of our Country's history, although he is accused of exaggeration and even of prevarication in recording his own deeds. One writer calls him "an egotist and a braggart, " but the same accuser says later: "If John Smith, in his many writings, sometimes boasted more than other men, he had also done more," and one to do was the sort of person needed then, as at all times. Smith was truly brave or he would not and could not have faced all the dangers to be met in exploring a country of savages, many of whom were unfriendly to the white people.
Nor were his explorations made simply for adventure. He drew a map of Virginia, very accurate, considering all the difficulties in his way, and preserved many valuable records of the country and Indian tribes that would be lost to the world but for his pen.
His descriptions of some of the natural advantages of Virginia in those early days, which country includes the Potomac and its cities, are interesting. "This Virginia," he says, "is a country in America betweene the degrees of 34. and 45. of the North latitude. The bounds thereof on the East side are the great Ocean ■. on the South lyeth Florida: on the North nova Francia: as for the West thereof, the limits are vnknowm' Of the climate he said:
"The sommer is hot as in Spaine; the winter colde as in Fraume or England. The heat of sommer is in Iune, luly and August, but commonly the coole Breeses ass wage the vehemencie of the heat. The chiefe of winter is halfe December, Iunuary, February, and halfe March. The colde is extreme sharpe, but here the proverbe is true that no extreme long continueth.
"In the yeare 1607 was an extraordinary frost in most of Europe, and this frost was founde as extreame in Virginia. But the next yeare for 8. or 10. daies of ill weather, other 14 daies would be as Sommer." In general praise of Virginia he said:
"The mildnesse of the aire, the fertilitie of the soile, and the situation of the rivers are so propitious to the nature and vse of man as no place is more convenient for pleasure, profit and mans sustenance," and concluding a chapter of praise in 1612, he wrote:
"So then here is a place a nurse for souldiers, a practise for marriners, a trade for merchants, a reward for the good, and that which is most of all, — a businesse (most acceptable to God) to bring such poore infidels to the true knowledge of God and his holy Gospell."
He tells of the soil and shows considerable knowledge of its properties, as he does of nearly everything that comes under his observation. This vigorous pioneer, trying to build a successful colony, was observant of every advantage in the new country, and when he was placed at the head of the colony his work and reports all tended to the good of the English settlement, regardless of individuals, some of those considering themselves gentlemen above the indignity of labor, bringing forth reprimand from the practical Captain, and contemptuous remark in liis reports of the proceedings of the colony. He forced every man to work or go without provisions, a law he realized to be necessary if the settlers were to be kept from starving. He showed his impatience with the would-be idlers when he wrote, in 1608:
"At this time were most of our chiefest men either sick or discontented, the rest being in such dispaire, as they would rather starue and rot with idlenes, then be perswaded to do anything for their owne relief e without constraint." Captain Smith gives us a very good conception of the Indians of this part of the country in the Seventeenth century. Of their dress the Captain tells us:
"For their apparell, they are some time couered with the skinnes of wilde beasts, which in winter are dressed with the haire, but in sommer without. The better sort vse large mantels of deare skins not much differing in fashion from the Irish mantels. Some imbroidered with white beads, some with copper, other painted after their manner. . . . We have seen some vse mantels made of Turkey feathers, so prettily wrought and wouen with threads that nothing could be discerned but the feathers, that was exceeding warme and very handsome. . . . They adorne themselves most with copper beads and paintings. Their women haue their legs, hands, breasts and face cunningly imbrodered with diuerse workes, as beasts, serpents, artificially wrought into their flesh with blacke spots. In each eare commonly thy haue 3 great holes, whereat they hange chaines, brace. lets, or copper. Some of their men weare in those holes, a smal greene and yellow coloured snake, neare halfe a yard in length, which crawling and lapping her selfe about his necke often times familiarly would kiss his lips. Others wear a dead Rat tied by the tail . . . he is most gallant that is most monstrous to behould. " Of their houses:
"Their buildings and habitations are for the most part by the rivers or not farre distant from some fresh spring. Their houses are built like our Arbors of small young springs (sprigs) bowed and tyed, and so close covered with mats or the barkes of trees very handsomely, that not withstanding either winde raine or weather, they are as warme as stoones, but very smoaky; yet at the toppe of the house there is a hole made for the smoake to goe into right over tie fire."
In these houses or arbors he says of the sleepers that "they lie heads and points one by the other against the fire: some covered with mats, some with skins, and some starke naked lie on the ground; from 6 to 20 in a house. "
"For their musicke they vse a thicke cane, on which they pipe as on a Recorder. For their warres they haue a great deepe platter of wood. They cover the mouth thereof with a skin, at each corner they tie a walnut, which meeting on the backside neere the bottome, with a small rope they twitch them togither till it be so taught aud stiff e, that they may beat vpon it as vpon a drumme. But their chief e instruments a Rattels made of small gourds or Pnmpion shels. Of these they haue Base, Tenor, Counter-tenor, meane and Trible. These mingled with their voices sometimes 20 or 30 togither, make such a terrible noise as would rather affright than delight any man." He tells too of their terrible sacrifices, some of them so horrible as to make the reader shudder. Indian characteristics are summed up in these words:
"They are inconstant in everything, but what feare constraineth them to keepe. Craftie, timerous, quicke of apprehension, and very ingenuous. Some are of disposition fearefull, some bold, most cautelous, all Savage. . . . They are soone moued to anger, and so malicious, that they seldome forget an injury: they seldome steale one from another, lest their coniurers should reveale it, and so they be pursued and punished." Robert Beverly gives us a picture of the physical Indians of those days in these words:
"They are ftraight and well proportioned, having the cleaneft and most exact Limbs in the World: They are so perfect in their outward Frame that I never heard of one Angle Indian that was either dwarfish, crooked, bandyleg 'd or otherwife miffhapen." He also tells of finding in a sack
"some vaft Bones, which we judged to be the Bones of Men, particularly we meafured one Thigh-bone, and found it two foot nine Inches long."
The next Englishman to ascend the Potomac as far as Washington, of whom we have authentic record, was Henry Fleet, an English fur-trader and explorer.
Fleet was a man of sense, and brave almost to the point of fool-hardiness. He mixed with the Indians a great deal and became familiar with their language and customs, which enabled him to preserve, in his journal and letters, much of the history of his time, as well as to encourage the people of England to emigrate to the new world. We learn most that is known of his explorations in New England and Virginia from his journal.
July 4, 1631, he wrote:
"We weighed anchor from the Downes, and sailed for New England, when we arrived in the harbour of Pascattowaie the 9th of September, making some stay upon the coast of New England. From thence, on Monday the 19th of September, we sailed directly for Virginia, where we came to anchor in the bay there, the 21st of October, but made little stay. Prom thence we set sail for the river of Potowmack, where we arrived the 26th of October at an Indian town called Yowaccomoco, being at the mouth of the river. . . . Here I was tempted to run up the river to the head, there to trade with a strange populous nation, called Mohaks, man-eaters, but after good deliberation, I conceived many inconveniences that might fall out."
He has much to say of his New England explorations but nothing more of Virginia until April, 1632, when he mentions having difficulty in getting to Virginia. May 16, 1632, he wrote: "We shaped our course for the river Potowmack, with the company of Captain Cleybourne, being in a small vessel."
He described the trip up the river and in June he arrived at the rushing part of the river, or falls, now known as Little Falls, four miles above Washington, and described the locality, thus: "This place without all question is the most pleasant and healthful place in all this country, and most convenient for habitation, the air temperate in summer and not violent in winter. "
He traveled yet further up the river:
"The 27th of June I manned my shallop and went up with the flood the tide rising about four feet in height at this place. We had not rowed above three miles but we might hear the Falls to roar about six miles distant."
It must have been on his way back from this expedition that Captain Fleet was captured by Indians or chose to stay at a village on the Piscataway creek, and there, two years later, some English explorers under Leonard Calvert found him. These explorers landed at a point near the present Colonial Beach, then further up at Marlborough Point on Potomac creek, where they were treated in a friendly manner by the Indians. After a visit they sailed on the Piscataway creek, where they encountered "the natives armed and assembled upon the shore to the number of five hundred, ready to dispute his landing, but they succeeded in convincing the savages that they had only friendly intentions. After this adjustment of intentions they were hospitably treated by the Indians and Captain Fleet, who acted as interpreter, and good feeling was established all around.
The Englishmen, who were seeking a place in which to settle, decided that this point was too far up the river and returned to Blackistone's Island, near the mouth of the river, taking Fleet with them. The Captain acted as friend, guide and interpreter, he by this time being thoroughly familiar with the wild Indian country through which they traveled. Some of his descriptions of the upper Potomac, which were later published in England, caused many immigrants to turn to the new country overseas.
Captain Fleet ever continued to be interested in the growing colonies and in 1638 we find him a member of the Maryland House of Assembly and later, 1652, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.
We do not read of other white settlers visiting the site of the District of Columbia until the close of the Seventeenth Century, when a company of Irish and Scotch came over and started a colony in Maryland within the present limits of the District. Of the land ceded to these settlers three tracts lay within the boundaries of the City of Washington.
These refugees seem to have been good managers and to have succeeded accordingly. They called their new home New Scotland and worked their farms in peace and quiet, little dreaming that land where their produce grew would one day be the territory of one of the proudest cities of one of the greatest nations of earth's history.
One of these early proprietors, Robert Troop, called his farm "Scotland Yard," and it comprised what is now Southeast Washington. Another, Francis Pope, named his place Rome, and called a small stream at the foot of his hill, Tiber River. It is told of this dreamer, that he predicted a greater capital than Rome would occupy that hill and that later generations would command a great and flourishing country in the new world. He related that he had had a dream or vision, in which he had seen a splendid parliament house on the hill, now known to us as Capitol Hill, which he purchased and called Rome, in prophetic honor of the great city to be.
His title to the land may be somewhat convincive of his prophecy, as it was deeded under the name "Rome," June 5, 1663. It reads:
"Layd out for Francis Pope of this Province Gentleman
a parcel of land in Charles County called Rome lying on
the East side of the Anacostian River beginning at a
marked oak standing by the riverside, the bounded tree of
Captain Robert Troop and running north by the river for
breadth the length 200 perches to a bounded oak standing
at the mouth of a bay or inlet called Tiber."
His furrows have long since given place to streets and
buildings; his stream still flows in the old course, less glorious,
perhaps, though more useful, as it now serves the modern use
of a city sewer.
Some of the descendants of those early Scotch and Irish farmers were among the first proprietors of the City of Washington and many of their descendants have continued to help build the capital and the country to the present day.
Many of the great men and women of our Country have come down from these old Scotch-Irish pioneers, who settled not only on this site, but all along the Potomac River and other parts of the then known country. They were people who had been persecuted in their own country, and their determined efforts for freedom and prosperous homes, together with like determination in other home-makers of the different colonies, gathered in force and importance, making a people of sturdy mold, of like desires and of democratic principles, who were, at a later day, to break all bans and form a new country on the earth, — a country of freedom for all people.
The Seventeenth Century closed and the Eighteenth advanced many years without any remarkable event disturbing these workers, living their contented lives, with plenty of work to occupy them and much beauty to behold in the great woods, hills and rivers, on which floated majestic swans in great numbers, fish abounded in the waters, and birds of the air, now no longer known to this region, often passed overhead in flocks of thousands and tens of thousands during migrating seasons.
As time progressed and English subjects were occupying their plantations and smaller tracts in the new world, the French were broadening their claims until finally encroachments on their part caused Britain 's children to become alert and question their safety if encroachment continued unmolested. So, as preparation against possible invasion, ammunition and other army supplies were sent to Virginia, which colony then occupied large territory in the West.
The English governor, Robert Dinwiddie, a Scotchman, was ordered in 1753 to write a protest to the French Commandant, which done, the Governor looked about for a trustworthy messenger to carry the message. A young man then only twenty-one years of age, George Washington, who had already served his country in several useful capacities, was selected for the important duty, and history tells of his successful trip through" almost insurmountable difficulties.
Chevalier de St. Pierre received the young envoy with courtesy, but his reply to the English protest was a refusal to comply with the request, which unwelcome answer Washington was compelled to carry back through the winter woods, a trip through which in those early days, was almost Herculean. It is recorded that an Indian guide attempted to shoot Washington during this return trip and that his life was also endangered by a fall into the Alleghany River, at that time filled with floating ice.
It is known how, after this failure to bring about amicable relations, the English, in 1754, sent the ill-fated expedition under General Braddock against the French, which was the beginning of hostilities that ended only after years of fighting, in English victory. This long French and English war is matter of history, mentioned here only to bring forward George Washington, who then played a conspicuous part and was later to take such active part in the history of his country.
Governor Dinwiddie's choice shows the esteem in which the young Washington was held at twenty-one, and this respect of his elders began at a much earlier age. During his early years George Washington was learning to be a surveyor, gaining rough and valuable experience in Virginia wilds with Indians and other woods inhabitants. At sixteen Lord Fairfax engaged him to survey his lands of thousands of acres and the lad proved himself capable of such a performance. The government surveyors engaged in laying out the Appalachian forest reserve have recently reported finding the marks left by Washington in running the lines of Lord Fairfax's lands.
These early incidents of Washington's life had an important if indirect bearing upon the subsequent establishment of the National Capital. As will be noted later, one of the important considerations which determined the selection of the present site was its accessibility to the country west of the Allegheny Mountains by way of the Potomac River, the Cumberland Pass, and the headwaters of the Ohio River. It was this route which Washington traversed in the occasion of his mission to the French and again in company with the Braddock expedition. After the close of the Revolution he again, in 1784, journeyed across the mountains by the same route. His familiarity with the importance of the Western Territory and of the advantages of the Potomac route which he acquired on these trips was doubtless an important factor among the influences which brought Congress to adopt the site on the Potomac for the Federal City.
The Adoption of the Site on the Potomac
THE Capital City of the United States is the only national capital the establishment of which was to a material degree due to or influenced by the purpose of the national authority to protect itself from its own citizens.
It will be recalled that near the close of the Revolutionary War a body of dissatisfied soldiers of the American Army marched to Philadelphia where the Continental Congress was then holding its sessions, and with threats of violence demanded of that body the satisfaction of certain demands, chief among which was that for the settlement of arrears of pay due the soldiers. This was in June of the year 1783. The immediate result of this action on the part of the revolutionary soldiers was that on June 21, 1783, the Continental Congress passed the following resolution:
"Resolved, That the President and supreme executive council of Pennsylvania be informed that the authority of the United States having been this day grossly insulted by the disorderly and menacing appearance of a body of armed soldiers about the place within which Congress were assembled, and the peace of this city being endangered by the mutinous disposition of the said troops now in the barracks, it is, in the opinion of Congress, necessary that effectual measures be immediately taken for supporting the public authority.
"Resolved, That the committee, on a letter from Colonel Butler, be directed to confer, without loss of time, with the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania, on the practicability of carrying the preceding resolution into effect; and that in case it shall appear to the committee that there is not a satisfactory ground for expecting adequate and prompt exertions of this State for supporting the dignity of the Federal Government, the President on the advice of the committee be authorized and directed to summon the members of Congress to meet on Thursday next at Trenton or Princeton, in New Jersey, in order that further and more effectual measures may be taken for suppressing the present revolt, and maintaining the dignity and authority of the United States.
"Resolved, That the Secretary at War be directed to communicate to the commander in chief, the state and disposition of the said troops, in order that he may take immediate measures to dispatch to this city such force as he may judge expedient for suppressing any disturbances that may ensue. "
On June 21, a committee consisting of Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Ellsworth was appointed for the purpose of conferring with the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania with a view to obtaining the protection of Congress by the militia of the State of Pennsylvania, and on June 24 that committee returned a lengthy report in which the attitude of the authorities of that State was set forth as follows:
"That the council had a high respect for the representative sovereignty of the United States and were disposed to do everything in their power to support its dignity. That they regretted the insult which had happened, with this additional motive of sensibility, that they had themselves had a principal share in it. That they had consulted a number of well-informed officers of the militia and found that nothing in the present state of things was to be expected from that quarter. That the militia of the city in general were not only ill provided for service but disinclined to act upon the present occasion. That the council did not believe any exertions were to be looked for from them, except in case of further outrage and actual violence to person or property. That in such case a respectable body of citizens would arm for the security of their property and of the public peace; but it was to be doubted what measure of outrage would produce this effect, and in particular, it was not to be expected merely from a repetition of the insult which had happened. " Without going at length into the methods by which the mutiny was dealt with, and the equanimity of Congress, which had removed to Princeton, restored, it is sufficient to note that the immediate effect of the incident was the commencement of a series of discussions which was destined to last through a period of seven years looking to the establishment of the seat of government to be under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress. The matter first came up in definite form when, on October 6, 1783, the order of the day having been called for and read, it was resolved "that the question be taken in which state buildings shall be provided and erected for the residence of Congress, beginning with New Hampshire and proceeding in the order in which they stand." The question upon each state passed in the negative, no state having received more than four votes, New Jersey and Maryland having each received that number.
The first consideration of a proposal to acquire territory for the establishment of a new capital city, and apparently the first consideration of the Potomac River as the site thereof appears in a motion by Mr. Gerry of Massachusetts, seconded by Mr. Howell of Rhode Island, on Tuesday, October 7, 1783, as follows:
"That buildings for the use of Congress be erected on the banks of the Delaware, near Trenton, or of Potomac, near Georgetown, provided a suitable district can be procured on one of the rivers as aforesaid for a Federal town, and the right of soil and an exclusive or such other jurisdiction as Congress may direct shall be vested in the United States."
Omitting a review of the long series of motions, countermotions and debates relating to the proposed Federal city which constituted a very considerable portion of the proceedings of the Continental Congress, it is worthwhile to call attention to the fact that repeatedly the motions for the adoption of one site or another contained the proviso found in Mr. Gerry's motion, namely that "the right of soil and an exclusive or such other jurisdiction as Congress may direct shall be vested in the United Stated."
It is interesting to note the striking and fundamental difference between this language and that later adopted by the Constitutional Convention, to which the question of providing for a permanent capital was shifted. By Section eight of Article 1 of the Constitution Congress is given power:
"To exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding 10 miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings." It will be observed that with regard to the seat of government, that the Constitution makes provision for "exclusive legislation," only, over such District as may by cession of particular states and the acceptance of Congress become the seat of government. As to sites for forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards and other needful buildings, the Constitution gives Congress like authority over all places " purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be." It is evident from the language used in the Constitution, that as to places acquired for forts, magazines, arsenals and dockyards, its framers contemplated not only that Congress should exercise exclusive legislation over such places, but that the title to the land acquired for such purposes should be in the United States. The land was to be purchased not from the State in which it might be situated but from its individual owners, with the consent of the state legislature.
But as to the territory to be acquired as the seat of government, it is evident from the language used in the Constitution, that there was no thought of any purchase of title to the land further than of such as might be necessary for government purposes. The territory was to be acquired not by purchase but "by cession of particular states." By this cession the states were to transfer to the United States merely their sovereignty over the territory ceded — not the ownership of the land. The ownership of the land was to remain in the individual proprietors and only so much of the land to be purchased by the United States from such proprietors, as should be needed for government purposes. In line with this thought, the act of cession of Virginia of December 3, 1789, and the Act of Maryland of December 19, 1791, ratifying the cession of that State, both contained provisos to the effect that nothing therein contained should be construed to vest in the United States any right of property in the soil or to affect the rights of individuals therein otherwise than as the same should or might be transferred by such individuals to the United States.
This proviso of the Maryland and Virginia Acts, as well as the spirit of the Constitutional provision for the Federal Territory, are notably different from the underlying idea involved in Mr. Gerry 's original motion for the establishment of a Capital City on the Potomac River and embodied in nearly all of the motions and resolutions on the subject of the location of a permanent capital discussed by the Continental Congress. In the propositions considered by the Continental Congress, the almost invariable language: " provided a suitable district can be procured * * * and the right of soil and an exclusive or such other jurisdiction as Congress may direct shall be vested in the United States," indicates that the consideration of primary importance during that period was that the Federal Government should own the soil itself. The matter of exclusive jurisdiction was then regarded as of secondary importance, as is clearly to be gathered from the repeated use of the alternative provision, — provided an exclusive or such other jurisdiction as Congress may direct, shall be vested in the United States.
The reversal of the attitude of the founders upon the question of the respective importance of these two considerations was of fundamental consequence in its bearing upon the future relationship between the Federal Government and the District of Columbia. Whether this has worked to the detriment or to the advantage of the latter, it is impossible to say; but it is safe to assert that if the Constitution had provided for the acquisition not only of jurisdiction but also of the "right of soil" by the United States as provided for in the motions considered by the Continental Congress, and if these requirements had been observed in the acquisition of the site for the Federal city, Congress would not have taken between seventy and eighty years to come to a realization of its obligations toward the development of the District of Columbia, nor, having come to that realization be constantly holding over the District the menace of a reversal of its attitude. As proprietor of all the land, it would at least have felt and could not have evaded the responsibilities incident to the ownership of the land. Whether the opportunities for outsiders to move in and assist in building up a beautiful capital city would have been so favorable, and whether the burden upon the population as lessees of the government would have been greater or less than as owners of the land, it is impossible to say; but in any aspect of the case the National Government would have been compelled to recognize from the outset its primary responsibility for the municipal expense of the District, regardless of the measures to be adopted by it in seeking contribution or reimbursement from the local population.
Immediately upon the assembling of the Congress provided for by the Constitution, the question of the establishment of a permanent seat of government was taken up. The discussion was marked, as it had been during the sessions of the Continental Congress, by a divergence of sentiment between the Northern and Southern states, — the former favoring a city to be established upon either the Delaware or the Susquehanna, and the latter a city to be established upon the Potomac. The discussion at times was exceedingly acrimonious as is evidenced by Mr. Madison's remark in the course of a debate, that had a prophet started up in the Constitutional Convention and foretold the proceedings of that day, he verily believed that Virginia would not then have been a party to the Constitution.
The final determination to locate the Capital City upon the Potomac River was probably ascribable to a number of important considerations. Its location there was in a measure a compliment to General Washington and had the further advantage of being the most nearly accessible to both the Northern and Southern states of any site that could have been selected. Another geographical reason which played a highly important part, in the adoption of that location, was the fact that the Potomac River allowed of a site, which could be reached by ocean navigation, the farthest inland of any to be found on any of the rivers of the Atlantic seaboard, and at the same time afforded the shortest line of communication with the vast undeveloped region to the west, the most important point of which at that time was the present site of the City of Pittsburg. The head waters of the Potomac and the head waters of the Ohio River approach so close to each other that these two rivers afford an almost continuous potential water passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ohio Valley. General Washington had as has already been told traversed this route on several occasions prior to the Revolutionary War and in the fall of 1784 had again traversed it on the occasion of a trip to the Western country. He was an ardent believer in the feasibility of utilizing this route as a great commercial highway when developed by means of canals. He had in fact organized the Potowmack Company in 1785 for the purpose of clearing the channel of the Potomac and building canals around the Great and Little Falls, and the work was in course of prosecution while the debates on the site for the federal city were in progress. It was expected that the region west of the Allegheny Mountains would rapidly become populated and developed, and with this expectation in mind, the importance of placing the National Capital where it could be most easily reached by the population which should settle in this new Western country was obvious to everyone.
In the records of the proceedings of Congress for September 14, 1789, appears the following discussion which will serve to indicate the force of this argument in determining the question where the Capital City should be placed:
"Mr. Scott, of Pennsylvania, observed that the question seemed to lie between the Susquehanna and the Potomac. He gave a geographical description of those rivers, in relation to their advantages of communication with the Western territory; he considered Pittsburg as the key of that territory. The result of his detail was clearly in favor of the Potomac. That there is no comparison between the advantages of one communication and the other, with respect to the Ohio country. The Potomac will, no doubt, one day be a very important channel into those regions. That though he thought that the Potomac was nearer the center of communication between the Atlantic and the Ohio than the Susquehanna, as there was no prospect of a decision in favor of the former he should give his vote for the Susquehanna. In this situation, as he was a native of Pennsylvania, there was a certain duty which he owed to his country, and which he should now perform." Mr. Madison, in debate (on the 4th of September), observed —
"if there be any event on which we may calculate with tolerable certainty, I take it the center of population will continually advance in a southwestern direction. It must then travel from the Susquehanna, if it is now found there. It may go beyond the Potomac; but the time will be long first; and, if it should, the Potomac is the great highway of communication between the Atlantic and the Western country, which will justly prevent any attempts to remove the seat farther south. I have said, sir, that the communication to the Western territory is more commodious through the Potomac than the Susquehanna. I wish all the facts connected with this subject could have been more fully ascertained and more fully stated. But if we consider the facts which have been offered by gentlemen who spoke, we must conclude that the communication through the Potomac would be much more facile and effectual than any other." Mr. Madison stated the probable distance by land from the seat of government, if fixed on the Potomac, to Pittsburg, at 170 or 180 miles; if by the river, 250 miles; and from the seat of Government, if fixed on the Susquehanna, by land, 250; by the river, 500.
"Whether, therefore [he said], we measure the distance by land or water, it is in favor of the Potomac; and if we consider the progress in opening this great channel, I am confident that consideration would be equally favorable. It has been determined, by accurate research, that the waters running into the Ohio may be found not more than 2 or 3 miles distant from those of the Potomac. This is a fact of peculiar importance." The journal kept by William Macklay, Senator from Pennsylvania, who was an ardent advocate of the site on the Susquehanna River, recites that a decisive argument in favor of the site on the Potomac was an estimate of the expenditure which would be required to render the Susquehanna navigable. On the other hand, the Potowmack Company of which President Washington was the moving spirit had already demonstrated the practicability of opening to navigation the Potomac and its tributaries from their headwaters to tidewater at Georgetown and had carried this project well toward completion.
All of the considerations above noted, however, would probably have failed to bring about the selection of the Potomac River as the site for the Federal Capital, owing to the reluctance of the Northern States to place the seat of government so far south, had it not been for an additional consideration less legitimate but undoubtedly much more powerful than the others. The Northern States were exceedingly anxious to have the Federal Government assume the debts contracted by the several states in the prosecution of the Revolutionary War, and a measure to this effect had been ardently championed by Alexander Hamilton as part of the general fiscal scheme which he was endeavoring to put in operation. The Southern States were opposed to this measure, and finally agreed to its passage, but only when the consent of the Northern States to the location of the Capital City on the Potomac River had been pledged. The manner in which the final compromise was brought about is interestingly related by Mr. Jefferson in the collection of notes which he entitled his "Ana," as follows:
"Hamilton was in despair. As I was going to the President's one day, I met him in the street. He walked me backwards and forwards before the President's door for half an hour. He painted pathetically the temper into which the legislature had been wrought, the disgust of those who were called the creditor States, the danger of the secession of their members, and the separation of the States. He observed that the members of the administration ought to act in concert, that tho' this question was not of my department, yet a common duty should make it a common concern; that the President was the center on which all administrative questions ultimately rested, and that all of us should rally around him and support with joint efforts measures approved by him; and that the question having been lost by a small majority only, it was probable that an appeal from me to the judgment and discretion of some of my friends might affect a change in the vote, and the machine of government, now suspended, might be again set in motion. I told him that I was really a stranger to the whole subject; not having yet informed myself of the system of finances adopted, I knew not how far this was a necessary sequence; that undoubtedly if its rejection endangered a dissolution of our Union at this incipient stage, I should deem that the most unfortunate of all consequences, to avert which all partial and temporary evils should be yielded. I proposed to him, however, to dine with me the next day, and I would invite another friend or two, bring them into conference together, and I thought it impossible that reasonable men, consulting together cooly, could fail, by some mutual sacrifices of opinion, to form a compromise which was to save the Union. The discussion took place. I could take no part in it but an exhortatory one, because I was a stranger to the circumstances which should govern it. But it was finally agreed that whatever importance had been attached to the rejection of this proposition the preservation of the Union and of the concord among the States was most important, and that therefore it would be better that the vote of rejection should be rescinded, to effect which some members should change their votes. But it was observed that this pill would be peculiarity bitter to the Southern States, and that some concomitant measure should be adopted to sweeten it a little to them. There had before been propositions to fix the seat of government either at Philadelphia or at Georgetown on the Potomac; and it was thought that by giving it to Philadelphia for ten years and to Georgetown permanently afterwards this might, as an anodyne, calm in some degree the ferment which might be excited by the other measure alone. So two of the Potomac members (White and Lee, but White with a revulsion of stomach almost convulsive) agreed to change their votes, and Hamilton undertook to carry the other point.
"In doing this, the influence he had established over the Eastern members, with the agency of Robert Morris with those of the Middle States, effected his side of the agreement and so assumption was passed, and twenty millions of stock divided, among favored states, and thrown in as a pabulum to the stock-jobbing herd. This added to the number of votaries to the treasury, and made its chief the master of every vote in the legislature which might give to the Government the direction suited to his political views. "
Two letters written by Mr. Madison to Mr. Monroe within a space of six weeks preceding the final decision of the question in Congress give a very good idea of the apprehension which Mr. Madison felt that the measure for which he had labored so earnestly to locate the Capital City on the Potomac would be defeated. Under date of June 1, 1790, he writes:
"You will see by the enclosed paper that a removal from this place has been voted by a large majority of our House. The other is pretty nearly balanced. The Senators of the three Southern States are disposed to couple the permanent with the temporary question. If they do so, I think it will end in either an abortion of both, or a decision of the former in favor of the Delaware. I have good reason to believe that there is no serious purpose in the Northern States to prefer the Potomac, and that if supplied with a pretext for a very hasty decision, they will indulge their secret wishes for a permanent establishment on the Delaware. As Rhode Island is again in the Union and will probably be in the Senate in a day or two, the Potowmac has the less to hope and the more to fear from that quarter." Under date of June 17, 1790, he writes:
"You will find in the enclosed papers some account of the proceedings on the question relating to the seat of government. The Senate have hung up the vote for Baltimore, which, as you may suppose, could not have been seriously meant by many who joined in it. It is not improbable that the permanent seat may be coupled with the temporary one. The Potomac stands a bad chance, and yet it is not impossible that in the vicissitudes of the business it may turn up in some form or other." At the time of the passage of the Act of July 16, 1790, the Acts of cession of Maryland and Virginia were already in existence. The Act of Maryland approved December 23, 1788, was a model of brevity, and provided merely:
"Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland, That the representatives of this State in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, appointed to assemble at New York on the first Wednesday of March next, be, and they are hereby, authorized and required, on behalf of this State, to cede to the Congress of the United States any district in this State not exceeding ten miles square, which the Congress may fix upon and accept for the seat of government of the United States." The somewhat more extensive Act of Virginia, approved December 3, 1789, was as follows:
" I. Whereas the equal and common benefits resulting from the administration of the General Government will be best diffused and its operations become more prompt and certain by establishing such a situation for the seat of said government as will be most central and convenient to the citizens of the United States at large, having regard as well to population, extent of territory, and free navigation to the Atlantic Ocean, through the Chesapeake Bay, as to the most direct and ready communication with our fellow citizens in the Western frontiers; and whereas it appears to this assembly that a situation combining all the considerations and advantages before recited may be had on the banks of the river Potomac above tide water, in a country rich and fertile in soil, healthy and salubrious in climate, and abounding in all the necessaries and conveniences of life, where, in a location of ten miles square, if the wisdom of Congress shall so direct, the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia may participate in such location:
"II. Be it further enacted by the General Assembly, That a tract of country, not exceeding ten miles square, or any lesser quantity, to be located within the limits of this State, and in any part thereof as Congress may by law direct, shall be, and the same is, forever ceded and relinquished to the Congress and Government of the United States, in full and absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, as well of soil as of persons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution of the Government of the United States.
"III. Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be herein construed to vest in the United States any right of property in the soil, or to affect the rights of individuals therein, otherwise than the same shall or may be transferred by such individuals to the United States.
"IV. And provided also, That the jurisdiction of the laws of this Commonwealth over the persons and property of individuals residing within the limits of the cession aforesaid shall not cease or determine until Congress, having accepted the said cession, shall by law provide for the government thereof, under their jurisdiction, in the manner provided by the article of the Constitution before recited." The result of the debate on this subject was the passage of the Act approved by President Washington July 16, 1790, accepting a site to be later more definitely located, which should lie upon the Potomac River at some point between the Eastern Branch and the Conogocheague, the latter being a small stream emptying into the Potomac from the Maryland side near Williamsport, about eighty miles above the present site of Washington and near the Battlefield of Antietam. This act passed the Senate on Thursday, July 1, 1790, by a vote of fourteen to twelve. It passed the House of Representatives on Friday, July 9, 1790, by a vote of thirty-two to twenty-nine.
The text of the Act is as follows:
"AN ACT for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States.
"Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That a district of territory, not exceeding ten miles square, to be located as hereafter directed on the river Potomac, at some place between the mouths of the Eastern Branch and the Connogochegue, be, and the same is hereby, accepted for the permanent seat of the Government of the United States: Provided nevertheless, That the operation of the laws of the State within such district shall not be affected by this acceptance, until the time fixed for the removal of the government thereto, and until Congress shall otherwise by law provide.
"Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be authorized to appoint, and by supplying vacancies happening from refusals to act or other causes, to keep in appointment as long as may be necessary, three commissioners, who, or any two of whom, shall, under the direction of the President, survey, and by proper metes and bounds define and limit a district of territory, under the limitations above mentioned; and the district so defined, limited, and located shall be deemed the district accepted by this Act for the permanent seat of the Government of the United States.
"Sec. 3. And be it (further) enacted, That the said commissioners, or any two of them, shall have power to purchase or accept such quantity of land on the eastern side of the said river, within the said district, as the President shall deem proper for the use of the United States and according to such plans as the President shall approve, the said commissioners, or any two of them, shall, prior to the first Monday in December, in the year one thousand eight hundred, provide suitable buildings for the accommodation of Congress and of the President, and for the public offices of the Government of the United States.
"Sec. 4. And be it (further) enacted, That for defraying the expense of such purchases and buildings, the President of the United States be authorized and requested to accept grants of money.
"Sec. 5. And be it (further) enacted, That prior to the first Monday in December next, all offices attached to the seat of the Government of the United States, shall be removed to, and until the said first Monday in December, in the year one thousand eight hundred, shall remain at the city of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, at which place the session of Congress next ensuing the present shall be held.
"Sec. 6. And be it (further) enacted, That on the said first Monday in December, in the year one thousand eight hundred, the seat of the Government of the United States shall, by virtue of this act, be transferred to the district and place aforesaid. And all offices attached to the said seat of government, shall accordingly be removed thereto by their respective holders, and shall, after the said day, cease to be exercised elsewhere; and that the necessary expense of such removal shall be defrayed out of the duties on imposts and tonnage, of which a sufficient sum is hereby appropriated.
"Approved, July 16, 1790. (1 Stats., 130.)" The Act of Congress of July 16, 1790, notwithstanding it was officially entitled "An Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States," was generally referred to as the Residence Act, by reason of its purpose to establish a residence for the Government. It is by the latter name that it is mentioned in all the correspondence of the times, and the generality of the use of that name justifies its adoption for the sake of brevity in future references to the Act herein.
It is a matter of interest in connection with the proceedings leading up to the passage of this law, that evidence of the President's interference with the deliberations of Congress is singularly meager. This is doubtless owing to the fact that, notwithstanding the keen interest which he must have entertained towards the proposition to establish the seat of government on the Potomac, his invariable recognition of the proprieties made him reluctant to obtrusively use his influence in support of a measure in which he necessarily had so strong a personal concern.
That he was nevertheless, a close observer of the course of events, and that he was in conference with and probably helped to furnish arguments to Mr. Madison, who seems to have led the fight for the site on the Potomac, is attested by the following letter to Mr. Madison under date of August 18, 1788:
"I am clearly in sentiment with you that the longer the question respecting the permanent Seat of Congress remains unagitated, the greater certainty there will be of its fixture in a central spot. But not having the same means of information and judging that you have, it would have been a moot point with me, whether a temporary residence of that body at New York would not have been a less likely means of keeping it ultimately from the center (being further removed from it) than if it was to be at Philadelphia; because, in proportion as you draw it to the center, you lessen the inconveniences and of course the solicitude of the Southern and Western extremities; — and when to these are superadded the acquaintances and connections which will naturally be formed — the expenses which more than probably will be incurred for the accommodation of the public officers — with a long train of et ceteras, it might be found an arduous task to approach nearer to the Axis thereafter. These, however, are first thoughts, and may not go to the true principles of policy which govern in this case."
Again, in a letter to Madison, under date of September 23, 1788, he writes:
"Upon mature reflection, I think the reasons you offer in favor of Philadelphia, as the place for the first meeting of Congress, are conclusive; especially when the farther agitation of the question respecting its permanent residence is taken into consideration."
If any further proof of Washington's interest in the premises were required, it is found in the untrammeled authority with which the Residence Act invested the President in carrying out the purpose of that Act coupled with the undivided responsibility for the success of the undertaking, which the statute imposed upon him, obviously in accordance with his preference.
Selection of the Site and Acquisition of the Land for the City
WITH the passage of the Residence Act, Congress imposed upon President Washington the task of evolving out of the wilderness, within the space of ten years, a city equipped and ready for the reception of the National Government. It is difficult at this day to bring the mind to a just conception of the magnitude of this task. It was not in the mere administrative proceedings necessary to its performance, though these were formidable, that its chief difficulties lay. The great obstacle to be overcome was the devising and carrying out of a plan whereby the necessary ground should be acquired and the expense of laying out the city and erecting the public buildings be provided for; and this in the face of doubt, distrust, and jealous opposition in every quarter. The President in accomplishing this end was to find his resourcefulness, his great tact and unfailing patience, and his marvelous executive faculties taxed to the uttermost. It is indeed by no means unlikely that the votes necessary to the decision in favor of the Potomac would not have been forthcoming but for the secret conviction in the minds of many that, shorn as the Act was of any appropriation, it imposed upon the President the accomplishment of an impossibility. Certainly the task was one which none but a man of Washington's extraordinary capacity for achievement could hope to accomplish, and which none but a brave man could face without dismay.
From the outset President Washington was fortunate in having the enthusiastic and disinterested encouragement, and advice of his Secretary of State, Mr. Jefferson. It is interesting to speculate as to how far he would ever have gotten in carrying the Residence Law into effect but for the aid which Mr. Jefferson rendered during the early period when the wheels of the federal establishment were being put in motion. While it is impossible from the evidence at hand to be certain where to apportion the credit for what was done, the careful investigator will be forced to conclude that there is at least strong evidence tending to indicate that the solutions of many of the most difficult problems which confronted President Washington were the product of the restless and versatile mind of Mr. Jefferson.
Perhaps the most satisfactory aspect of the association of these two men in this undertaking was the complete harmony that existed between them. President Washington, at all times reserving to himself the final decision, yet gave to the suggestions of Mr. Jefferson the most respectful and thorough consideration; and Mr. Jefferson, while advancing his ideas with the earnestness of an enthusiast, nevertheless did so with the utmost diffidence; and when overruled yielded with a completeness that gave grace even to his reluctance.
That Mr. Madison, also, was an active worker for the new federal seat after the passage of the Residence Act, as he had been in advocating the adoption of the site on the Potomac, is strongly suggested by the evidence at hand, though this evidence is much more fragmentary and incomplete than that which testifies to the activities of Mr. Jefferson.
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