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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  March 1, 2015 12:45pm-1:55pm EST

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a shorter route to the far east, india. the s sailing ships had to find a way to make their own living. they started shipping lower valued cargoes, coal, oil, cotton etc. she found her niche carrying cargo that did not required getting to market at a fast pace. >> what all of our events from galveston on c-span twos -- 2's tv. >> up next on "american history tv", historian, kenneth boling recounts how the sea became the capital of the united dates. his lecture and about how the location was chosen and includes the story that an architect
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presented to george washington. this presentation from smithsonian associates and the historical society of washington dc is about one hour. >> i do not have any visuals and i can claim that is because i do not know how to do it, but the truth is that i never know how i will say it until i get here. i hope you will forgive me for the lack of visuals. my title is "dreams, nightmares and neglect." i will start with earlier than 1783. i will start with the european explorations the early part of , the 17th century, so it is going to be almost a 200-year dream, but it will go fast, as i concentrate on what happened
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once the dream was realized. in 1607, john smith entered the seven-mile wide mouth of the potomac river and headed north. whether he got this far north, we are actually not certain, but people living here, algonquin peoples called the place -- it as the place where something is brought, a training place, a place to which tribute is brought. it was a beautiful area in which the tidewater from the ocean stopped. the river narrowed, and as you know, north of georgetown, it is a very different river. but here, there was a huge tidal
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marsh, and this is the origin of the swamp myth. washington dc was not built in a swap. it is an insult to george washington to think he would locate the capital of the united states in a swamp. it was a very well drained area of ancient potomac river terraces. think of the cathedrals coming down to dupont circle and eventually down to the level of the white house, to where it sits now. very well drained. in fact, if there was a torrential rainstorm in the 18th or 19th century, logs and dead cattle would slow down the creeks. in the 17th century, the calvert family began to provide
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speculative land grants in the area. so, there were places here plantations if you will, although they were not settled at the time named variously -- rome, widows mite, huckle's the light -- the light [laughter] all of those were encompassed in what became the federal city. settlement took place at the end of the 17th century, and through the 18th-century so that by 1749, when georgetown was founded and soon became the largest tobacco exporting port in maryland, there were many plantations, tobacco plantations and in fact by the 1770's the land had pretty much been exhausted of tobacco. slave economy.
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very prominent catholic community as well. it was the route of these fairy -- ferry that crossed from virginia to georgetown and up to ballmer in philadelphia and new york. the revolutionary war was not fought here. it was fought elsewhere in the united states. the revolutionary war lasted seven and a half years. but, the revolution was much longer. since i'm sure most of you are americans you know very little about the revolution. [laughter] that is because we deny that we had one. it was actually a 30 to 40 year event from 1762 about 1800. and the location of the capital is very much a metaphor for what
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happened constitutionally during that revolution. more property was appropriated taken by the states in the united states during that revolution and more people fled then fled france during the french revolution. like all revolutions, pretty much a minority event. probably a third of the people supported it. it had an ideology. republicanism. the belief that a people were capable of governing themselves and they did not need a king or some strong executive figure. secondly, there was something called the westward course of empire. there was a belief that empire
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the concept, had a life of its own and since the time of the fertile crescent in egypt, it had been progressively traveling westward. greece, rome. in the 18th century it was a competition between england, france, and spain over which would be the great new empire and which empire, which country would control the new world. americans, of course, thought that americans should control it and american revolutionaries were very familiar with this concept and in fact, they saw it continental leey. many of them, rather. the pacific was going to be part of the united states. we were going to go across the continent in time. 1783, the war came to an end and
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suddenly there were 17 of england's 32 colonies that were no longer british. the people had very strong prejudices against people and other colonies. indeed, the man who drafted the united states constitution and owned the south bronx, his father's will provided any amount of money necessary to educate him anywhere in the world except for the colony of connecticut, where the people hide behind god, but are really abolitionist criminals. he did not use the word criminals, but it was that kind of prejudice. you can imagine the attitude
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that new englanders had towards southerners and southerners had toward new england. what held the united states together after 1783? it was very fragile, believe me. a national debt. $25 million. a common language. and the pride in having defeated the strongest military, and especially naval, power in the world. well, from where was congress going to govern this country? we had a constitution. it was called the articles of confederation. it may be states supreme over the federal government. it was ratified in 1781. it granted the united states of america power over foreign affairs, war, and a post office
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. that was it. if congress wanted money, which of course it needed, it had to requisition it from the states. every year, congress would adopt a budget, and would have to tell each state what their share would be. often the money never arrived. congress had no power over commerce. no power of revenue, no taxation and certainly no power to create -- as it would, later -- a 100-square mile federal territory over which the united states congress had exclusive jurisdiction. in 1783, congress consisted of the 13 states. each delegation could have as many members as it could pay for, but only one vote.
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it took seven votes to do anything and nine votes to do anything that cost money. consequently, it did not get too much none. so, immediately there were attempts to amend it, to strengthen it, to give congress the power to tariff. like all revolutions, when the articles of confederation were first written, everybody was on the same side of things, so they put in a provision in the articles that in order to amend the articles, it took the unanimous vote of all 13 states. never happens. very quickly, the patriot party divided into two camps. those who believed in strong states, the dominance of the states and those who increasingly saw the necessity of a stronger federal union, if indeed the united states was
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going to survive. in early june 1783, while it was sitting in philadelphia, where had congress that since 1774 except on two occasions when it fled to baltimore and then to lancaster to avoid the british army. on june 4, congress invited these states to submit proposals for a place within their boundaries that might be the seat of federal government. the offers came quickly. there is going to be eventually more than 50 places between newport news and norfolk virginia that were either mentioned in the newspapers as possibilities or are actually
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offered by states. the offers that came in in the summer of 1783 were very limited in size and jurisdiction. from one-mile square, over which congress would have limited jurisdiction, but with places like princeton and new brunswick and newark, new jersey and williamsburg and annapolis. each offer trying to top the previous offer so that by the end of the summer, they were talking about 36 square miles. congress was not in philadelphia when the decision was made. congress informed the states in june, please make your offers. we are going to make a decision the first week of october. congress was not in philadelphia because of an event. probably the most destructive
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event in washington dc history. on june 21, a saturday, soldiers of the continental army, wearing their arms, marched on what we call independence hall. it was the pennsylvania state house. that is where the assembly of pennsylvania met, the supreme executive council of pennsylvania, and to give you an idea of the relative unimportance of the congress of the united states, the congress of the united states met in the pennsylvania statehouse. but the soldiers were not stupid. what they wanted was to demand that pay and various other promises made to them. the new congress had no revenue. there was no point confronting congress. it was the states that had the revenue. they chose saturday because congress never met on a
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saturday, but the executive they surrounded the statehouse, and alexander hamilton, who was the chairman of a congressional committee to deal with this mutiny that had been going on now for five days got congress to call a special session. the congressman went into the building, because hamilton and congress wanted it to appear this was a demonstration against the united states of america. this was the horror of the republic, the military rising against civilian control. and that would appeal to the american people's feelings and they would come to the defense of congress. so, congress, even though they did not get a quorum, congress was not surrounded by these troops, it nonetheless represented to the supreme executive council and asked the
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president or governor if you will, of pennsylvania, the great john dickinson to call on the philadelphia militia and drive the continental soldiers away from the building. dickinson looked at the congressman and set you nuts? do you think the militia of philadelphia's going to take up arms against the men that one independence for them? that's not going to happen. nobody's been harmed. it's a political demonstration and indeed congress left the building and a half and the soldiers went back to their barracks. that night, congress held an emergency session at which there was a quorum and it voted that if pennsylvania, since
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pennsylvania did not defend the congress of the united states, the congress of the united states is going to move. it was going to move to princeton, new jersey, the little village of princeton, and that is exactly what it did. what happened was quickly there were op-ed pieces in the newspapers saying this should never happen again. what congress needs is an exclusive jurisdiction, some territory where the federal government is supreme and controls everything. this idea had been talked about privately by members of congress for three or four years but it was so threatening to the constitutional basis of the republic in which the states were supreme that it was never brought out publicly until after the demonstration when the idea came out of the closet and to
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the floor of congress. another one of these amendments to the constitution, to the articles of confederation, that would allow congress to have a small territory over which it had exclusive jurisdiction. it was laughed off the floor of congress because the states controlled congress. in 1787, that committee report was taken out of the files of the pages of the continental congress and written into the united states constitution. it was not one mile or three miles. it was a federal territory of up to 100 square miles over which congress would have exclusive jurisdiction. the term capital was not used. capital was really threatening.
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states have capitals, of course. richmond was the capital. boston was a capital. athens was another capital. what they had was a state government in one city or town and rotated around the state. the term "seat of federal government" or "seat of government" is a term in the constitution. as our next speaker will point out, people of the united states did not refer to this place as the capital of the united states until the 1870's, except for a very few people such as -- not george washington, who would not use the word because he was so
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careful about doing things constitutionally. but certainly, l'enfant, the american, peter l'enfant who designed washington, d.c., and who i will talk about. i'm highly offended to hear the word "pierre." this man was an american. french born, but american. he was an american citizen. the pierre nonsense was created by the american institute of architecture in the late 19th century in order to claim our capital was not designed by some mere american slob but by a frenchman, and indeed a parisian. this was picked up by the french ambassador at the end of the
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19th century, who was trying desperately to find frenchmen who had been involved in the creation of the country so he could have a second lafayette to hold up against the prussians who were arguing von steuben was more important than lafayette. now the prussians were the germans before 1900. everybody in the diplomatic world knew there was going to be a war. his duty as ambassador to the united states was to create a french hero in the minds of the americans so this germanic nation would go to war on the side of france and not germany. that is where this pierre nonsense comes from. in my book, i call him pierre. i did not know any better.
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americans did not know any better. i did not know until i discovered in his own handwriting, "peter charles l'enfant." he is never called pierre l'enfant in public records. now i'm way ahead of my story. let me back up a bit. we are approaching october 1783. the vote is held, where to locate this seat of government this federal town. each state has one vote. they called the roll starting with how many states wanted to be in new hampshire, massachusetts, all the way down to georgia.
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the state that won was new jersey. it could have been pennsylvania, but it happened to be new jersey. somewhere near trenton, new jersey. the committee is appointed to view the delaware river. they could have chosen the pennsylvania side for a small federal town. it was very upsetting to the southerners. they very much wanted the seat of government to have a southern atmosphere. of course, it was not mentioned exactly why. but of course, everybody knew the issue was slavery. if you have a southern town as the seat of government, it is going to have a southern atmosphere. southern officeholders, southern
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bias, newspapers, etc. arthur lee from virginia, if you saw the great musical "1776," best thing written was the coming of the -- arthur had been in congress and was part of the lees of virginia. the radical seat of the revolution. these people had led the revolution. thousands of americans had died in the revolutionary war. as i said, many had fled the country. but here we have for the first
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time the south saying we are not going to remain in a union which locates its seat of government so far to the north as trenton new jersey, when everybody knows, and it is a lucky fact for our friend george washington, the exact north-south center of the united states was arlington house in arlington cemetery. i recently saw a wonderful print, a bird's eye view of the city of washington in the 1830's from arlington house. very unusual. most bird's eye view's are from the capital. you can see the vast expanse of tidal marsh south of georgetown.
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lee went to his friend and said we have got to find a solution. we've got to hold the union together after all the sacrifice made. we are not going to tolerate a seat of government so far to the north as trenton. they came up with a wonderful compromise called the dual residence. "seat of government," "federal town," these terms are not in the dialogue. dual residence. they would have six months in the trenton area on the delaware and six months on the potomac in the environs of georgetown maryland. this is a government that had no
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source of revenue, sometimes could not even pay the interest on its debt. certainly could not pay all the claims of americans from the war itself. it is now going to build two federal towns. philadelphians were outraged. philadelphia in the 18th century and perhaps in the 21st -- philadelphians viewed themselves as -- the only thing between philadelphia and heaven was london. [laughter] and how in the world could congress have the audacity to bypass philadelphia and go to the potomac? and so, francis hopkins, a signer of the declaration of independence and one of america's earliest event planners, wrote a wonderful op-ed piece saying -- congress you're such a wise body.
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in august you voted to appropriate money which you did not have to build an equestrian statue of george washington at the seat of government. that was the term used. in october, this was written in november of '83, you have decided to have two seats of government but only one equestrian horse. what can you do? hopkins said, obviously, you build it on wheels. twice a year you drag the horse. why not make the horse large enough so you can put all of the members of congress in the horse? [laughter] because you're such a wise body
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and so important, you must have very important papers, so let's build a little closet for the papers of the united states in the horse's rectum. just to let you know, these were rather earthy people. [laughter] well, it never happened. no horse. although the statute itself does appear on peter l'enfant's plan in 1791, and we now have the equestrian statue off the campus of george washington university. it did not occur because congress actually did start its move from princeton, as part of the compromise was two federal towns, the two temporary residences. every time it comes up, there is a major fight about where it
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will be. the temporary seven seat of government would be in annapolis, which the new englanders thought was fine because a lot of republicans who believed in various theories that went beyond self-government included the vices of commerce luxury, banking, and things like that, a.k.a. capitalism. so they were delighted to go to annapolis. i sent the people that live there or nothing about anything but pleasure. they are not going to interfere with congress. whereas in philadelphia, the philadelphians and especially the quakers were constantly petitioning for this or that. congress sat in annapolis over
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the winter of 1783-1784, ratified the treaty of paris sent thomas jefferson to france, and accepted the resignation of george washington as commander-in-chief. one of the most important events in american history, the military turning over its commission as commander-in-chief to the civilian body. and the president of which was probably washington's most bitter political enemy. it adjourned in the summer of 1784, reconvened temporarily at trenton, at which point congress said the europeans are making fun of us. back and forth, back and forth. we need a permanent, temporary seat. [laughter] until we choose a permanent, permanent seat. and we need to be in a city where we can have access to
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money and various other things like accommodations. and so, congress agreed in december of 1784 to abandon the dual residence and have one single place of residence. and it was going to be new york city. and it was going to stay in new york until it made up its mind. let me picture new york for you as it was four years later in 1789. this time, richard henry, the men that proposed the resolution for independence originally in 1776, senator from virginia hated new york city. he wrote a letter to his wife. some of the things i'm going to say are not in the letter but are in other letters of the same time. lee hated new york city because of what? crime, pollution, traffic.
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[laughter] the traffic was the water. there was no water system. all of the water was brought into the city in carts and barrels. the pollution was in large part the result of the horses pulling the wagons. there was horse manure everywhere. he found a solution. he wrote his wife i have found a room in a farmhouse in the wonderful village a mile and a half north of the city. it is called greenwich. a mile and a half north of new york city. well, that resolution in december of 1784 to move to new york city also contained the creation of a three-man committee to oversee the
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building of one federal town on the delaware, in the environs of trenton, on either side of the river. seven states were willing, as they had been a year earlier, to vote that way. but it is going to take nine to appropriate the money. george washington, the only comment he has on paper about the location of the seat of government was when he wrote to congressman grayson from virginia and said i don't have to be someone who sees into the future to know that location will never satisfy the united states of america. grayson led the fight in congress to block appropriation. it took nine votes. they only had seven.
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money was never appropriated. this federal town on the delaware was not built. the issue kind of goes to sleep until 1787 when the new constitution is written. believe me, it was a counterrevolution led by washington, hamilton, madison, and a lot of other people who had very strong patriots were part of that wing of the patriot movement that supported a strong federal or central government. they overturned the articles of confederation illegally. the convention was supposed to amend the articles. instead, it threw them out and wrote a new constitution which we call the constitution of the united states. it made the federal government supreme over the states and delegated powers to the federal government like interstate
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commerce, revenue, and something that said that congress could also do whatever was necessary and proper to do to accomplish those powers that were explicitly delegated. the constitution was ratified. it was very close. the first state to ratify was delaware. patrick henry of virginia mocked the delaware ratification convention. it sat for a day and a half, i think. it spent all of its time writing and adopting an offer of 100 square miles to the federal government for the location of the seat of government, as the constitution specified. this is a rather large part of the state of delaware. pennsylvania followed suit
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several days later with ratification and an offer of 100 square miles anywhere in the state of pennsylvania, except for philadelphia, which was its only port. now, it would be perfectly fine for congress, according to the pennsylvania ratification convention, to choose germantown, which is now central philadelphia. but at the time was not. i have had the cold. other states ratified by june, 1788. nine states have ratified. the drafters of the constitution provided it did not take unanimity to ratify, only 3/4 of
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the states. so it was ratified. congress started debating when the new government would meet, when the president would be elected, and where it would meet. the debate was not over when or how to elect the president but where. so we have our third major debate between supporters of philadelphia, which was perfectly fine for a temporary residence, and new york city. finally, the philadelphians gave up because it was clear there was not going to be a decision. there had been this long fight over ratification. and here this issue of where the first federal congress was going to meet was threatening the implementation of the constitution. the philadelphians gave up.
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the compromise -- the ordinance would not say congress was going to meet in new york. it simply said at the present location. [coughing] congress met in 1789. the philadelphians immediately wanted to bring forth a resolution that congress was going to move to philadelphia. madison talked them out of it and promised in september or the end of the session they would debate the issue. in september of 1789, congress begins to debate where it would locate its 100 square mile seat of federal government. the southerners went to the pennsylvanians with the eight representatives in the house and made a deal.
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we are going to locate temporarily in philadelphia. after 10 or 15 years, we will live to the potomac river where we will have built a federal city. not a town. the new englanders said to the pennsylvanians, "you are crazy. we are the central state. let's make a deal." let's stay in new york temporarily and permanently relocate to pennsylvania. ok, said the pennsylvanians and knifed the virginians in the back. the house of representatives passed the bill to locate the seat of federal government on the susquehanna river, approximately three mile island. [laughter]
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a place called columbia, pennsylvania, which had previously been wright's ferry, but he changed the name to columbia in hopes of enticing congress. the bill went to the senate. the senate amended the bill, crossing out the susquehanna and saying it would be in germantown, pennsylvania. the bill came back to the house. the new englanders and pennsylvanians were willing to go along with that. pennsylvania is going to be upset at the result. madison tries to argue constitutionally that this bill was different, it could not have it at the end of the session, we need to discuss it. the meaning and pennsylvanians said no, vote. madison said there is one problem. there is no provision for who has jurisdiction over this 100
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square mile area in the bill. the fact is the federal government is not ready to assume exclusive jurisdiction. we need to amend the bill to include the provision that the laws of pennsylvania will remain in effect. it goes back to the senate. madison goes to the new york senators over the weekend and says vote against the bill. that will kill it. and congress will remain in new york. that is what happened. second session, there is a move to bring the bill back. instead, congress adopts a bill that has been in effect for half a century. all business begins anew each session. all spring what congress is doing is debating alexander
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hamilton's proposal to make capitalism the form of economic organization in the united states. stock market, banks, the funded debt with the provision the federal government could not pay off its debt at more than 2% a year because he recognized a funded debt in which the federal government paid the interest was a bond that held the wealthy classes of the country in support of the federal government. everything he wanted passed except for one thing, which was to assume into the federal debt most of the revolutionary war debt from the states. the southerners did not like that. they basically paid off their debt. secondly, that was not true of south carolina. who held all the debt? not southerners.
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they were owned by new yorkers and new englanders who have been speculating. in that part of the united states, the attitude against capitalism was not as strong as in the agrarian south. hamilton needed to get assumption, he was going to resign if he did not get assumption. he ran into thomas jefferson on broad street outside of president washington's home. jefferson was just passing by. i suppose hamilton had been there hours waiting for it to happen. [laughter] he was disheveled, which is unlike someone who was such a strong ladies' man. the rumor, the myth, it is not true, but has to be told anyway, is that at valley forge, martha washington named her tomcat
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hamilton. [laughter] jefferson was shocked at the way hamilton looked. hamilton said i will resign if i cannot get the assumption of state debt. you are part of the administration. i need your support, the president supports it. i don't know very much about money -- which is true. he died in great debt. my friend james madison does. i propose you come to dinner tomorrow and we will try to work something out. the next day, jefferson's enslaved half brother, john hemings, cooked a wonderful french meal for the three men, madison, hamilton, and jefferson. the compromise was worked out. all spring, we are now in late june, 1790, behind-the-scenes negotiations trying to restore
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as they did, the pennsylvania and virginia southern agreement for a temporary philadelphia permanent potomac. madison said to hamilton, of course i can't change my position on assumption since i am the leader of the opposition. but i can tone the rhetoric down and find you the votes you need. you only need three. if before i do that, the president signed into law an act locating the seat of federal government on the potomac river. hamilton went to the new englanders and said the only way we can get assumption is to go to the potomac. don't interfere with the bargain the pennsylvanians and virginians have made. and they didn't. so hamilton facilitated the
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compromise of 1790. the residence act provided for up to 100 square miles of federal government on the potomac river between the anacostia river and conococheague creek up the river about 80 miles. hagerstown, yes. washington was give the authority to appoint the first presidential commission in american history, meaning no senate confirmation necessary, in order to locate the seat of government so that it would be ready in 1800 when the federal government was going to move to the potomac. washington appointed cronies
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his son-in-law, one of the maryland congressmen who had switched his vote on assumption. probably with assurances that the seat of government was not going to be located near hagerstown. washington knew where he wanted it. even though he appointed cronies, he did not trust them enough. he went and made the decision himself. he made a token trip up to hagerstown to look at the various sites but knew exactly where he wanted it. he proposed congress locate it where it is today, but it had to be north of the anacostia. so washington actually asked congress to pass a supplemental act to allow him to include that portion of washington, d.c., that we know as anacostia and the portion of virginia we know
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as alexandria, virginia, washington's hometown. congress would do that after playing hardball with the president for the first time in american political history forcing him to sign the bank act. so at last, the dream is realized. there is going to be a seat of federal government. but immediately, the nightmare begins. [laughter] commissioners could not get along with engineers and artists. l'enfant lasted one year. the plan was brilliant. 6000 acres, larger than london or paris, an immense city. but he quit because the commissioners did not support the plan. they did not support him.
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washington did not fire l'enfant. in fact, washington groveled at l'enfant's feet begging him not to resign. it is a familiar story of politicians overseeing what the artists are doing. they control the money and timetable, if you will. l'enfant quit. others quit. the lots did not sell. there were big speculations. speculators went bankrupt. the buildings were not built. provisions like all buildings have to be brick were struck so that they could build quickly wooden structures to house congress. the capitol building itself, which was to be two wings, house and senate, was downsized to just the senate wing, which was all that was available. not the senate wing we have today, but the area between the senate wing today and the
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rotunda, in which the library of congress was housed. that was going to suffice for many years. washington retires in 1797 as president. his preeminent biographer said if he had nothing else to do but oversee the building of washington, d.c., he could not have devoted more time to it. total micromanager. when he leaves, he keeps an eagle eye on john adams to make sure he is doing the right thing. the commissioners write to washington. then washington dies in the 19th century. perhaps the second worst event in washington, d.c., history occurs. it is the election of thomas jefferson as president.
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thomas jefferson, a strong supporter of the potomac location for the seat of government, whose plan was to have the seat, the federal city within the 100 square miles, be located approximately the campus between 17th and third streets between what became constitution avenue and virginia avenue. there was to be merely a seat of government, not a capital, not a federal city, not a federal town. jefferson threw l'enfant's plan into the trash and along with it george washington's vision of this grand emporium, this great world capital, the capital of the future greatest empire in the world, commercial city cultural city, political city. no, jefferson said, just a political city.
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build some buildings. plant some trees. don't pave the streets. don't put in a water system. washington, d.c., is controlled as a colony by the congress of the united states. congress does nothing for the city of washington unless the president takes leadership. washington, adams, jefferson jackson was actually a supporter of doing something. the great hero is going to be ulysses s. grant. but in our own times, lady bird johnson, the kennedys, bringing an expanded smithsonian, all the landscaping to the city. only presidential leadership. jefferson provided leadership. the plan is in the trash. that is the way it is going to stay until ulysses s. grant.
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washington is unpaved, dirty. the canal become so polluted methane gas is bubbling out of it. immediately, the new englanders said we only agree to come here, we did not agree we could not leave. in 1804-1809, attempts were made in congress to leave, to go to philadelphia, baltimore, or new jersey. they all failed. but in 1814, the new englanders were handed a wonderful gift by an englishman named robert ross who burned most of the public buildings. one of the most important events in washington history. as people at the time said, it will never be forgotten for such a humiliation. but i say, thank you, general ross! [laughter] immediately, the attempt was made immediately by the new englanders to move.
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the bill did not pass. never again until the end of the civil war was there ever a bill introduced in congress to move the seat of federal government. it was talked about sometimes in the press. the reason it didn't was because of what i can only call is the 9/11 effect of the burning of washington. there was an immediate upwelling, even in new england of support for washington. poor, burned washington. this is our -- let me say even capital. the upwelling of support changed washington almost instantly. things began to develop here cultural institutions. congress was increasingly under
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the control of members who did not support the slave trade for the foreign slave trade was illegal. domestically, slave markets went to capitol hill. southerners knew it would not be long. it was 1850 when congress would pass a law banning the slave trade in the district of columbia which included the largest slave trading city in the south, alexandria. after 50 years of trying, almost 50 years, the virginians succeeded in getting out of the district of columbia. georgetown people are still trying. [laughter] 37 square miles of washington, d.c., was retroceded to virginia
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in 1836. i will tell one other story before i stop and turn things over for questions. i discovered the man who designed washington was a great american, a french-american, named peter l'enfant. i wrote a book that is for sale for $10, well worth it, as a benefit to the first federal congress project. there are leaflets that tell you how you can get a copy if you are interested. l'enfant, what happened to l'enfant? l'enfant became washington d.c.'s first homeless person. he became homeless in part because he was the victim of washington, d.c.'s first
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palimony suit, in which the man he had been living with sued him and produced all the evidence. whereas he had told l'enfant you don't need to keep paper. l'enfant lost his federal city lots, etc. he is eventually taken in by dudley digges in what we know as fort washington, where he resides for many years. when digges dies, the land is inherited by his niece, the daughter of one of the original federal city commissioners. she hated l'enfant and drove him off the land. he went to live with digges' nephew in bladensburg. he welcomed l'enfant.
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i don't how his wife felt. she was the daughter of the man whose house l'enfant took down brick by brick because it was built into one of the circles of his plan of the city. george washington fully supported l'enfant in his decision, though not in his action. you can see the letter washington wrote to daniel carroll in an exhibit opening at george washington university in march at the new albert small museum at the new university museum. two exhibits from albert small's collection, including this letter. l'enfant dies in 1825. he is buried on this plantation in the slave cemetery in an unmarked grave. they were able to find the exact skeleton which they took out of
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the graveyard at the plantation near bladensburg. escorted it in a week or so to the rotunda of the united states capital, where peter l'enfant lay in state and a huge military procession crossed the potomac river to bury him with the best view of washington, d.c., from the front of arlington house in arlington cemetery. i question whether or not the bones there are peter l'enfant. [laughter] i have attempted, and now that i'm going to retire, people say, what are you going to do? well, i'm going to find out whether l'enfant's grave holds the bones of an enslaved african american. thank you very much. [applause]
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>> we do have time for a couple of questions. we are going to do the phil donahue style. raise your hand and i will come around to you with the microphone. >> if l'enfant quit in the commissioners are still there, whose plan is washington built around? >> l'enfant's plan was laid out in the 1790's, the big streets. not to be able to march armies to control the people. people say did l'enfant design washington after paris? the question is whether paris was designed after l'enfant's plan. the paris we know was not designed until the 1850's. the streets and circles, that
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was all on the ground, put no money was appropriated to do anything with the public squares for public things other than minimal. when the a.i.a. gets going -- i'm sorry, when the republican party started appropriating money to build washington, all the great photo journal magazines in the united states in the 1870's started publishing these fabulous photographic essays about the new washington. one of those journalists said this is a planned city. there has to be a plan. you don't need a helicopter to see it. he started exploring and found l'enfant's papers. when l'enfant died, his estate was valued at $5, including surveying telescopes, etc.
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manuscripts he had conservatively, not that conservatively, but at least $500,000 apiece for those letters if they went on sale today. it was this journalist from new york who discovered the l'enfant plan. the a.i.a. picked it up. that is how it will move through the next couple of speakers to what we have today. does that fairly answer your question? good. .>> who was washington's big political enemy? >> thomas mifflin of pennsylvania. he was involved in trying to get washington fired as commander in chief during the war. he was not the only one. but what happened is the
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children, the first generation of the founding generation, when they would see these terrible things their fathers wrote about george washington in their papers, they would burn the letters. there are very few that survived. there were some wonderful cartoons. when he was inaugurated, there was a cartoon of washington riding into new york city on a donkey being led by one of his aides. washington is sitting in the arms of billy lee, his body servant. people are casting palm leaves and the caption reads, "the day shall come to pass when david shall lead an ass." a lot of people did not like washington. no copies survived.
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we only have descriptions. i believe the last known copy was destroyed by an historian, but that is another story. >> you said peter quit. i have read where he was relieved by washington. >> nonsense. washington begged him to stay. nobody ever made washington grovel like l'enfant. >> i heard or read also washington was upset with the grandiose of the plan and l'enfant constantly was begging him to accept the plan. >> i don't want to use four-letter words. [laughter] but total nonsense. it was l'enfant that convinced washington. washington wanted to have a federal city adjacent to georgetown or south capitol street at the anacostia. so the idea is you build on the
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existence of the town. but the rival proprietors, the carrolls in capitol hill, wanted it there. l'enfant put the white house near georgetown, the capital on the hill near the other site washington had in mind. but it was l'enfant who convinced washington he needed the whole 6000 acres. it was not l'enfant's idea. it was the idea of george walker, a merchant in georgetown who dreamed of the idea of this federal city. where it was to be located, how it was to be financed, everything south of florida avenue. florida avenue, as you know, is the only nonlinear diagonal street in the old federal city. that was l'enfant's idea he got from walker. he convinced washington.
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washington's step-son-in-law, commissioner, writes to washington and says the presidential area, the white house or presidential mansion, is too grand, too big, not fitting for a republic. washington wrote him back and always supported l'enfant's vision. even after he quit, even after he was president. incidentally, it was known as the white house because that was the way it was painted in 1800. it was known as that by 1804. it was not because of the burning of washington, d.c. >> since we are only up to 1850 and i want to stay on time, we are going to wrap. a few people came in late and did not get a chance to hear who you are, will you remind people, mr. bowling? >> i am the co-editor of the
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documentary history of the first federal congress of george washington university and adjunct professor of history there. the author of several articles in "washington history" magazine and two books, one called "the creation of washington, d.c.," which goes into all of this in much greater detail and the biography of peter charles l'enfant, which is available for anybody who wishes to learn more about this brilliant, creative individual. >> thank you so much. [applause] >> we're going to take a brief rake. if you are as cold as i am, you might want to get your coat. we have a couple of minutes to
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that before john richardson takes the stage. thank you very much. >> tonight at 6:30 eastern p.m., as to -- espionage historians talk about leasing the atom bomb to the soviets in the 1960's. they will discuss the couple's devotion to the communist cause him of the role of anti-semitism in their prosecution under contract -- and their prosecution and controversial execution. >> next weekend marks the 50th anniversary of what he sunday, when voting rights advocates on a march from selma to montgomery alabama were met with violence from alabama state troopers. american history tv will be live from selma next saturday and sunday, march 7 and eight. each night, we will show highlights of our coverage. here is congressman john lewis, one of the leaders of the march reflec


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