Sonicfrog Mangles History – The Compromise Of 1790.

Share Button

At Ann Althous’s blog, there is a discussion going o about the Constitutionality of granting Congressional voting rights to the Representative from the capitol of the U. S., Washington D. C.o. I’ve always understood that this would require a constitutional amendment, but I’m not a lawyer so I’ll leave this up to the experts. However, I thought it would be fun to review exactly why the capitol is where it is.

Upon the ratification and adoption of the Constitution in 1789, the young government of the United States did not have a permanent home; it was a vagabond of sorts. The big bugaboo was rooted in the practice of slavery (of course) and its influence on national policy. Because of the divide in ideals between north and south (already), no one could agree on the permanent location of the federal seat of government, and because of distrust of the development of a powerful national government, it was proposed by some that the Capitol should change locations every ten years. The Compromise of 1790, brokered between Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, resolved this problem and set the eventual location of the Capitol to be at a brand new location, the District of Columbia.

Alexander Hamilton wanted the Capitol to be in his home state of NY, though, by popular congressional consent driven mainly by New Englanders, it probably would have ended up in Philly. Jefferson and Madison, who wanted it on the Potomac, both greatly feared that the location of the Capitol would affect national policy; a northern location would produce a government that would favor northern ideals, and would force an end to the Southern way of life, i.e. slavery. Now both Jeffy and Maddy thought that the practice would die out on its own eventually, but they did not want the North to dictate when it would end.

Hamilton, a potent political player and obstacle to Jeffy and Maddy, was consumed with the prospect that his goal to have the national govt. assume state debts, a vital piece of his plan to put the government on sound financial footing, would not pass in congress. So Mr. H struck the bargain with Maddy and Jeffy; give me the national fiscal policy I want, and I’ll agree to have the Capitol located on the Potomac. He got what he desperately wanted. All agreed that the Capitol would be a district, eliminating the possibility of a permanent northern nor souther bias emanating from the Capital itself. And Hamilton, in the end, was not nearly as consumed with the location of the Capitol as J and M, the future financial state of the nation was his obsession at the time, and he was probably fine with idea of locating the Capitol on the Potomac in honor of his friend and mentor, the Man himself, Gen Washington.

And now for your amusement, “The Compromise of 1790”, as interpreted by a fellow traveler!!!

PS. Maybe I won’t leave this up to the experts. IANAL, but, in retrospect, this seems like a pretty good slam dunk to me. If Congress were understood to have the power to take this action, then why did it take a Constitutional Amendment, the 23rd, to allow the people living in the District to be able to cast a vote for President?

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply