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A manual on the origin and development of Washington online

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nical and result in unjust discrimination in matters of trade and commerce between
the merchants within and outside of the district. But on the other hand the advo-
cates for a Federal City over which Congress would have exclusive jurisdiction
called attention to the great importance for the Government to have a permanent
residence for the Congress and the executive departments, with their files and
records properly housed, and cited the mutiny in Philadelphia as an illustration
as to what might happen to the Government again in the absence of such Federal
authority. On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States was
adopted and soon after was ratified by a majority of the States.


When the time came for the inauguration of President Washington, on April
30, 1789, in New York City, the Continental Congress was completing its ses'
sions, having resided in that city from 1785, a period of four years. Of a population
of 25,000 in 1776, the city in 1789 had a population of only half that number, due
to the continuous occupation by the British Army for a period of seven years.
During the evacuation the city was partly ruined. But a new era began; trade
increased, and the city began to grow rapidly. The Continental Congress was
meeting in the old city hall, which had been used by the British as a prison and
was in a dilapidated condition. As Washington was to be inaugurated in New
York, the people thought that city would become the seat of government, so the city
hall was torn down and a new building erected on the site where the subtreasury
building on Wall Street now stands.

It was recognized that the presence of that national body was a valuable asset
to the city. Pierre Charles I/Enfant, who late in 1791 made the plan for the Fed'
eral City, was selected to design and construct the building. When the Members
of Congress assembled for the First Congress under the Federal Constitution,
they met in a building constructed with classical arches and columns, painted
ceilings and marble pavements, and furnished in a magnificent manner with crimson
damask canopies and hangings. The exterior was marked by a portico with arcaded
front and highly decorated pediments. But the building had been erected too
rapidly to endure permanently; poor work had been done, and in a few years it
was demolished.

The building was called Federal Hall. Here on April 30, 1789, a date never
to be forgotten in the annals of American history, George Washington was inau-
gurated first President of the United States of America. The spot where General
Washington stood is now marked, as nearly as possible, by the J. Q. A. Ward
statue of the first President, which stands in front of the subtreasury building on
Wall Street. Just inside the door, preserved under glass, is a brownstone slab
on which is inscribed:


During the sessions of this Congress long and careful consideration was given
to the question of a permanent seat of government. It had its place with great
problems before Congress at the time as the revenue bill, which would provide
money for the newly established Republic, creating executive departments, plans
for the funding of the public debt and the assumption of State debts, disposal of
public lands, and establishing a judicial system. At the opening of the last month
of the session the question of a residence for the United States Government was
brought up. Protest was made against consideration of the subject in view of the
other important questions pending before Congress that seemed to some to be


more urgent, also because, they said, Congress was properly housed, and that
other towns like Trenton, Germantown, Carlisle, Lancaster, York, and Reading
would be glad to have Congress locate with them.

However, the southern Members, led by Richard Bland Lee and James
Madison, Representatives from Virginia, argued for present consideration of the
subject. They favored the Potomac River site at least as far south as George'
town, which they asserted would be geographically the center of the United
States. They claimed for their section of the country in this matter the con'
sideration of justice and equality. They argued that there was no question more
important one in which the people of the country were so deeply interested
and one on the settlement of which the peace and the permanent existence of
the country so much depended. The question of location finally resolved itself
into the consideration of two localities : First, a site near the falls of the Susque'
hanna, at Wrights Ferry, Pa., 35 miles from tidewater; and second, a site at
Georgetown, Md., near the lower falls of the Potomac.

Great stress was laid on the importance of a site that would place the seat of
government on a navigable stream far enough from the sea to be safe from hostile
attacks. But it was also deemed very important to select a place that would offer
means of communication with the western country, which was a subject, as we
have seen, in which George Washington was interested for years previously.
This argument was effective, as it offered advantages for carrying on trade with
the vast western country for which the Potomac Company had been established.

The subject received the consideration of both the House and Senate in Sep'
tember, 1789, but its final consideration was deferred until the following year, in
June, 1790. The southern Members, especially the Representatives of Maryland
and Virginia, were particularly active, believing a decision on the Potomac River
site was in their favor. In December, 1789, Virginia had made a grant of
$120,000, and a sum equal to two'thirds of that amount had been voted by the
Legislature of the State of Maryland for the construction of buildings, in addition
to their willingness to cede the portion of the 10'mile square in their respective
States along the Potomac River desired for the Federal district.

The final disposition of this question was settled by compromise.

At the time Hamilton had the funding bill before Congress, and lacked one
vote in the Senate and five in the House to secure its passage, he came to an agree'
ment with Robert Morris, financier of the Revolution, on the question of location
of the seat of government. Also, Thomas Jefferson tells us, in his "Anas," of a
dinner given by him at which the residence question was discussed and an
agreement reached whereby the southern Members agreed to the funding bill
in consideration of the designation of Philadelphia as the seat of government for
a 10'year period and thereafter along the Potomac.




The House of Representatives had proposed a bill naming Baltimore as the
site, but the Senate struck out this provision, and on July 1, 1790, voted 14 to 12
for the Potomac River site between the mouth of the Eastern Branch and the
Connogochegue, a tributary of the Potomac, 20 miles south of the Pennsylvania
State line. The bill which became a law July 16, 1790, reads 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 Connogochegue, be, and the same is hereby, accepted for the permanent seat of the gov
eminent 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 build'
ings for the accommodation of Congress, and of the President, and for the public offices of the gov'
ernment of the United States.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That for defraying the expense of such purchases and build'
ings, 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.

It is said that the loftiest minds of Congress were swayed by the judgment of
George Washington in this matter. They agreed with him that America should
establish the precedent of a nation locating and founding a city for its permanent
capital by legislative enactment. Furthermore, they wished to honor that first
President and great general and counselor, who had made their independence pos-
sible, by conferring upon him the power to select for this Federal City the locality
he had in prophetic vision chosen as a suitable site for the capital of the Republic.
By this act Congress expressed its faith in President Washington by permitting
him to establish the capital anywhere along the Potomac between the Eastern
Branch and the Connogochegue, a distance of 80 miles. The boundaries of no
other city were ever fixed with more certainty. It is recorded that George
Washington was harassed by the importunities of anxious residents and aggres-
sive speculators, but that he never wavered in his purpose to select for the site
of the Federal City that which in former years he had chosen for the Federal
home upon the establishment of the Republic.

By proclamation of January 24, 1791, President Washington directed that a
preliminary survey be made, or, in the President's words, "lines of experiment"
were to be run. This survey was substantially in accord with the lines subse-
quently adopted, moving the southern boundary point of the "ten miles square"
farther south so as to include a convenient part of the Eastern Branch and also
the town of Alexandria.

The act of July 16, 1790, was thereupon amended accordingly by act approved
March 3, 1791, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Con-
gress assembled, That so much of the act, entitled "An act for establishing the temporary and
permanent seat of the government of the United States," as requires that the whole of the district
of territory, not exceeding ten miles square, to be located on the river Potomac, for the permanent
seat of the government of the United States, shall be located above the mouth of the Eastern Branch
be and is hereby repealed, and that it shall be lawful for the President to make any part of the terri-
tory below the said limit, and above the mouth of Hunting Creek, a part of the said district, so as to
include a convenient part of the Eastern Branch, and of the lands lying on the lower side thereof
and also the town of Alexandria, and the territory so to be included, shall form a part of the district
not exceeding ten miles square, for the permanent seat of the government of the United States, in
like manner and to all intents and purposes, as if the same had been within the purview of the above
recited act: Provided, That nothing herein contained, shall authorize the erection of public buildings
otherwise than on the Maryland side of the river Potomac, as required by the aforesaid act.


Thus within a period of nine months the limits of the Federal territory were
established. The corner stone was set with appropriate ceremonies at Jones Point,
Alexandria, Va., April 15, 1791 . Not a cent was advanced by Congress for build'
ings or grounds. In fact, the Treasury was empty, and without credit Congress
was unable to give financial assistance. Washington himself drew up the origi'
nal agreement by which the owners were to convey the land to the Government
which the Cincinnatus of the West bought from the landholders at 25 per acre.

Of George Washington, Daniel Webster said, at the ceremonies for enlarging
the Capitol to its present size, on July 4, 1851 :

He heads a short procession over naked fields, he crosses yonder stream on a fallen tree, he
ascends to the top of this eminence, where original oaks of the forest stood as thick around as if the
spot had been devoted to Druidical worship, and here he performed the appointed duty of the day.

In earlier years Washington had noted the beauty of the broad eminence on
which the Capitol was destined to be reared, and had marked the breadth of the
picture and the strong colors of the landscape with its environing wall of wooded
heights, which rolled back against the sky as if to inclose a beautiful area fit for
the supreme deliberation of the governmental affairs of a great Republic in the
New World, founded on the truths "that all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These truths, as set forth in the
unanimous declaration of the thirteen original colonies of the United States of
America adopted July 4, 1776, formed the basis of the Magna Charta of American
liberty, known to us as the Declaration of Independence.


Somewhat more than a century and a half before (in 1608) Capt. John Smith
and his men sailed up the Patawomeck and visited the site of the future Federal
City. The famous adventurer only partially explored the country, the principal
item in the log book of his voyage being that they found the river full of luscious
fish and its shores lined with ferocious savages. They met with opposition from
Chief Powhatan and were subject to continual attacks. Nevertheless the explora^
tion was continued up the Potomac as far as Little Falls, about 5 miles above
the city of Washington. At the time of this exploration there were about 30
tribes, principal and subordinate, living along the shores of Chesapeake Bay in
Maryland and Virginia. The chief of these principal tribes were the Powhatans,
the Manahoacs, and the Monacans. The Powhatans lived along the shores of the
Chesapeake as far north as the Patuxent in Maryland, and the other two lived in
the territory contiguous to the York and Potomac Rivers. The Manahoacs and
the Monacans, who were continuously at war with the Powhatans in Virginia,


inhabited the present District of Columbia. The Manahoacs were almost exter'
minated by war, pestilence, and spirituous liquors, and about 1712 migrated to
the west, joining the Iroquois and the Tuscaroras. Among the smaller tribes
were the Nacotchants and the Toags, who were friendly to Capt. John Smith.
The Toags lived near Mount Vernon, as is shown by the name Tauxement on
Capt. John Smith's map. The Moyaones lived directly opposite Mount Vernon,
in Maryland, at the mouth of the Piscataway. The Nacotchants lived just below
the Eastern Branch, within the District of Columbia.

There is a tradition of the early settlers of Maryland that the valley at the foot
of Capitol Hill, drained by Tiber Creek, was a popular fishing ground of the Indians,
and that they gathered not far from there, at Greenleafs Point, for their councils.
The Indians of Maryland and Virginia closely resembled each other. Those of
Maryland were descendants of the same race as the Powhatans and spoke dialects
of the great Algonquin language. Powhatan claimed jurisdiction over the Patuxent,
but it is doubtful whether he ever enforced the claim.

The Indians lived along the banks of the rivers in this part of the country, and
thus many Indian names, suggested by the suffixes "annock" and "any," have
come down to us, as the Susquehanna, Rappahannock, Allegheny, and Chicka'
hominy. The name Chesapeake is said to have come from the Algonquin language,
and Potomac comes from the Indian name Patawomeck. The Powhatans were won
over to the English by the marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe, but the marriage,
though notable in history, offered no advantages to the settlers. The original
inhabitants were finally driven out by the relentless Iroquois. Among the early
fighters against the Indians was Col. John Washington, who came to America
in 1657 and settled at Bridges Creek, Va., later called Wakefield. He led 1,000
men against the Susquehannas. The Maryland tribes were gradually consolidated
with the Piscataways, and about 1700 they moved to a new settlement on the
lower Susquehanna, near Bainbridge, Pa. Here, in 1765, they numbered about
150 persons and were under the jurisdiction of the Iroquois. Thereafter they
moved to the Ohio Valley and joined the Delawares.

To'day the name Anacostia, derived from the name of the small Indian tribe
of Nacotchants, reminds us of the occupation of the District of Columbia by
Indians. As has been said, they lived just below the Eastern Branch, in a suburb
of Washington known as Anacostia. The great Anacostia Park, in the immediate
vicinity, is named after them. They were a tribe of peaceful Indians, about 80 in
number, and were kind and well disposed to Capt. John Smith and his explorers.
The name of Anacostia was also given to an island near the shores of Virginia, at
Georgetown. Later it took the name Analostian and also Anacostian Island.
When George Mason, prominent delegate to the Virginia Legislature, purchased
it in 1777, it came to be known as Masons Island. Later it was called Analostan

Island. Stone implements and fragments of pottery and traces of Indian villages
have been found in these locations, which give evidence of habitations of the
Indians in the District of Columbia in those days. It was a region favored by the
Indians for its game of all kinds, as well as fish. The soil was rich and fertile and
crops were plentiful. Then, too, the climate was agreeable; that is, it did not have
the extreme cold of the North, nor did the inhabitants suffer from the continued
heat of a tropical sun. The latitude of Washington is 38 52' 37" N. and the
longitude 76 55' 30.54" W.

Weather reports of a hundred years ago give 97 for the average of maximum
in summer and 24 above zero for the winter. This mild climate has had its con'
sequent effect on the flora of the District of Columbia. A report of the Botanical
Society of Washington, made in 1825, gives us the names of 860 distinct species
and varieties of plants in the District of Columbia. To'day grow here the oak,
walnut, hickory, elm, maple, and other hardy trees; pine trees in all their
varieties, and magnolia, also the rhododendron, laurel, box bushes, privet hedges,
holly; and roses bloom in Washington almost the entire year. In spring the
beautiful Japanese cherry trees add charm to the city.







The first mention of the upper Potomac and adjacent regions to Indianhead,
about 35 miles south of Washington, is made by Capt. John Smith, who explored
this region from the Jamestown settlement in Virginia in 1608. In 1634 Henry
Fleet, who was taken captive by Indians, visited the falls of the Potomac. In 1635
a tract of land (400 acres) called Rome was laid out for Francis Pope, gentleman.
The Capitol is said to be on this land. In 1790 the region in which the city
of Washington has been built was in the form of 17 large farm tracts, as is
shown on the following page. They were covered with woods and streams;
the arable portions were tilled and produced wheat, maize, and tobacco. Two
hamlets, Carrollsburg (where the War College now stands), and Hamburg
(about where the Naval Hospital is located), which was then southeast of the
thriving port of Georgetown, were within the limits of the early survey.

On April 30, 1783, 19 days after the proclamation of peace between the
American Colonies and England, the subject of a permanent capital for the General
Government of the States was brought up in Congress. The act of July 16, 1790,
heretofore cited, provided for the selection of a permanent site on the upper
Potomac River for the National Capital-
according to such plans as the President shall approve and prior to the first Monday in December,
1800, and suitable buildings for the accommodation of Congress, and of the President, and for
the public offices of the Government of the United States.

On January 22, 1791, President Washington appointed three commissioners-
Daniel Carroll and Thomas Johnson, of Maryland, and David Stuart, of Virginia.

By proclamation of January 24, 1791, President Washington directed that
the three commissioners appointed pursuant to the act approved July 16, 1790,
" proceed forthwith to run the said lines of experiment and, the same being run, to
survey and by proper metes and bounds to define and limit the part within the
same," which were substantially in accord with the lines subsequently adopted,
moving the southern boundary point of the 10 miles square farther south, so as to
include a convenient part of the Eastern Branch and also the town of Alexandria.

When President Washington arrived in the future National Capital he
found the great task before him was to bring into harmony the rival interests of
the Eastern Branch, or Carrollsburg, and of Georgetown. The property holders








of Carrollsburg appeared to be anxious that the new public buildings be located
in their town. David Burnes, who owned much of the land that now lies
between the White House and the Capitol, was keen to have, on condition that
he give up part of his property, the public buildings located there. Thus from
the beginning of the history of the city there has been rivalry between various
sections of the city while the Government was planning for its development.

The controversy between the landholders led Thomas Jefferson to make a
rough outline plan for a city one'fourth less in size than that which George Wash'
ington had in mind, to be built in the vicinity of Georgetown. This sketch
showed the Capitol building at the site of the town called Hamburg, about
where the Naval Hospital is now located; from there eastward public walks or
a Mall was planned, with the location of the President's House at about the
present Nineteenth Street, south of Pennsylvania Avenue. Jefferson also pro'
posed a rectangular system of streets, in contrast with the open spaces and
radiating avenues planned by L'Enfant, who also reversed the position of the
Capitol by placing that to the east of the President's House on Jenkins Hill.


The terms of the sale of land to the Government were agreed to on March 30,

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Online LibraryH. Paul (Hans Paul) CaemmererA manual on the origin and development of Washington → online text (page 2 of 22)