Recently, I had a discussion with my History of the United States class regarding Alexander Hamilton’s debt plan for the young nation. In that exchange, the resistance to the plan by a developing faction led by Thomas Jefferson, to be known as Democratic-Republicans, was raised. While the article below places the final decision with President Washington, my students and I debated the merits of using the ultimate location of the new republic’s capital city as a bargaining chip between the Pro-debt plan Federalists and the Anti-debt plan Democratic-Republicans.
President Washington was the perfect person to present the compromise location. His moral and political stature was beyond reproach. His offering of the land on the banks of the Potomac River for “Federal City” could hardly be challenged as anything other than a ‘fair’ decision by a leader who avoided any affiliation with the developing factions. Of course, President Washington was no fool. He fully understood the shaky ground upon which the new nation rested itself. Addressing the nation’s debt problem would also go far in asserting the central government’s constitutional authority to tax and enforce ‘national’ law.
The capital city is moved from New York City to Federal City (later to be called Washington, DC). Alexander Hamilton’s debt plan is ratified, and the nation compromises its way out of another tough political situation.
D.C. residents cast first presidential votes
On this day in 1964, residents of the District of Columbia cast their ballots in a presidential election for the first time. The passage of the 23rd Amendment in 1961 gave citizens of the nation’s capital the right to vote for a commander in chief and vice president. They went on to help Democrat Lyndon Johnsondefeat Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, the next presidential election.
Between 1776 and 1800, New York and then Philadelphia served as the temporary center of government for the newly formed United States. The capital’s location was a source of much controversy and debate, especially for Southern politicians, who didn’t want it located too far north. In 1790, Congress passed a law allowing President George Washington to choose the permanent site. As a compromise, he selected a tract of undeveloped swampland on the Potomac River, between Maryland and Virginia, and began to refer to it as Federal City. The commissioners overseeing the development of the new city picked its permanent name—Washington—to honor the president. Congress met for the first time in Washington, D.C., on November 17, 1800.
The District was put under the jurisdiction of Congress, which terminated D.C. residents’ voting rights in 1801. In 1961, the 23rd Amendment restored these rights, allowing D.C. voters to choose electors for the Electoral College based on population, with a maximum of as many electors as the least populated state. With a current population of over 550,000 residents, 61-square-mile D.C. has three electoral votes, just like Wyoming, America’s smallest state, population-wise. The majority of D.C.’s residents are African Americans and they have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in past presidential elections.
In 1970, Congress gave Washington, D.C., one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives and with the passage of 1973’s Home Rule Act, Washingtonians got their first elected mayor and city council. In 1978, a proposed amendment would have given D.C. the right to select electors, representatives and senators, just like a state, but it failed to pass, as have subsequent calls for D.C. statehood.
Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!
Mr.V at WHR