tv American History TV CSPAN September 27, 2014 9:15pm-9:52pm EDT
campaign 2014, more than 100 debates for the control of congress. bowling, george washington university history professor and author of "the "reation of washington, d.c. he spoke about the debate and compromise of the location of the capital at a symposium marking the 200th anniversary of the burning of the capital in the war of 1812. this is about 30 minutes. >> the first speaker this afternoon is kenneth r. bowling. kenneth received his phd from the university of wisconsin. -- specialty is the creation is all about the creation of the federal government during the
revolution. he has been active and interested in researching the location of the seat of government. he has been the author of many books and articles. throughout most of his professional life, he has been the co-editor of the documentary of the history of the first congress. classicis books is a now, published back 1991. ow, that's the creation of washington, d.c., which is published back in 1991. if anybody wants to know about behind the scenes and proceedings and meetings and all the things that went on in terms of the location of national capital, this book is a must read. i'd like you to welcome kenneth [ applause ] >> thank you, bill. rather than thank the individual organizations, i just want to
say i think most of us would agree that this conference just rocks. [ laughter ] >> i would like to thank in particular the editor of our papers for the fine job they are doing. fiona griffin and marsha anderson. [ applause ] one of the i think so i have in common with the next speaker, we tend to edit and precise our talks to about the last minute. so i apologize if suddenly i can't read my own handwriting. >> some water.
this is going to have to sit up here. in late june 1790, james hemings, enslaved half brother of thomas jefferson's deceased wife prepared dinner for secretary of state and two guests. he had invited hamilton and james madison of virginia in an attempt to resolve a stalemate that despite weeks and weeks of off the floor negotiations threatened to break up congress and some thought the union itself. hamilton needed a few southern votes in order to achieve congressional passage of a key component of his plan for funding the federal debt. that is the assumption into it of much of the revolutionary war debt of the states. madison did not achieve any votes to achieve his an george
washington's longtime goal, the location of the seat of federal government on the potomac river. not for the first time he and his southern allies had come to an arrangement by which pennsylvania would provide votes for that location in exchange for a temporary residence in philadelphia. each time such an agreement had been reached, new york congressman succeeded in blocking it by promising pennsylvania to support a permanent location in pennsylvania while remaining at new york. congress had been at new york since 1785. madison needed assurance that new york and new england wouldn't do this again. at dinner hamilton promised to talk to his northern supporters and madison agreed to find
necessary votes for assumption provided a potomac residence act had first been signed by president washington. as a documentary record shows, hamilton was successful. and a month later the president signed such an act. soon thereafter congress agreed to assume $21.5 million in state revolutionary war debt. this has become known as the compromise of 1790, the first of the three great sectional compromises that came like clock work every 30 years and held the union together, except for the last. from the moment the federal government arrived on the potomac river at the end of 1800, residents of washington, d.c. lived under the constant threat that congress would move elsewhere. the concern remained until 1870
when the republican party and best friend washington, d.c. has ever had in the white house, that great american president ulysses s. grant put an end to it. grant believed the 1790 decision to have been of such constitutional magnitude that the question of removal, quote, should go through the same process at least as amendments to the constitution. even if there be a constitutional power to remove it, which is not settled, unquote. his implied threat to veto any unconstitutionality or the absence of a supermajority established the district of columbia at last as the permanent seat of government. after that the republican party
included the physical and symbolic reconstruction of the city as part of its reconstruction of the south only then -- only then did americans outside of washington, d.c. begin to refer to it as the capital of the united states. rather than the seat of federal government. the issue of removal first came before congress in 1805. senator john quincy adams became the first member to argue the constitution did not give congress the power to remove the seat of government. only the power to locate, build, and govern it. his colleague from georgia, james jackson, pointed out that $21.5 assumed state debt had been pledged to the location.
in late 1807 philadelphia launched campaign for the city. john adams reminded his dear friend james rush, that pennsylvania must accept responsibility not only for the potomac location but also for the domination of the federal government it had given slave holding south." when it reached house of representatives in february of 1808, opponents of washington, d.c. had nothing, nothing positive to say about a place they considered miserable, sickly, wretched in appearance, totally unfit for the seat of a great and powerful empire. it was badly planned with public buildings, distant from each
other. perhaps the solitary block on george washington's character, in fact, washington, d.c. was one of the greatest evils the people of the united states suffered. it should be destroyed and annihilated. that's all from the house debate. members of both side indicated their awareness that the decision to come south to the potomac had been a matter of barter. a north carolina representative threatened that if the removal bill passed the house, he would immediately call for the repeal of 1790 funding act. after a week of consideration, a motion to continue debate failed 5 1-35. on august 24th, 1814, british
general robert ross burned several buildings in washington. americans at the time, and as pointed out this morning, british after the fact considered it retaliation for the american burning of government buildings at york, canada. perhaps only one government building and perhaps not the american army after all. this provided the burning of the public buildings provided opponents of the location with an opportunity to argue for removal without having to did he mean the city. during the month prior to convening of congress in late september 1814, residents expressed fears that the opponents of the city might prevail.
washington socialite eliz a, granddaughter of washington, went so far as to accuse secretary of war john armstrong, jr., of allowing the british to capture the city in order to give ammunition to those who wished to move from the potomac and win himself political support in what might have been upcoming campaign. the 13th congress reconvened in the patent office on september 19th. while members talked privately about the possibility of an immediate removal, president james madison assured them that the buildings were only -- the burning of the buildings were only a temporary inconvenience. but within a week, representative john fisk of new
york introduced a resolution to appoint a committee to inquire into the expediency of leaving. opponents argued that it was unconstitutional as well as degrading to respond to british predation by fleeing the city and a violation of contracts and public faith with the original proprietors, as well as the states of maryland and virginia, which had provided funds. more broadly, they maintained that the federal convention had given congress the power to create a seat of government that would be permanent in order to harmonize and cement the union that it was the strongest link in the federal chain, that the preservation of the union was at stake and that the debates on the subject and the first federal congress indicated that
its members understood the location to be essential for the perpetuity of the union. some of the most interesting discussion occurred in the press, particularly in washington and georgetown. alexandria, which also had a newspaper, was less interested. many alexandrians having come to the conclusion long by retro session in 1836 that their inclusion in the distribute of colu -- district of columbia had been an sass ter. the day after fisk released it, the national intelligence, there could not be a majority in the house that would vote for such a bill. if there were, quote, we well know there will always be
one-third of congress firm enough to support the excessive tiff in refusing his signature to allow fraud in such dangerous circumstances, unquote. three days later the editors reported they had received many communications from the public regarding removal but would only print two of these until congress finished the debate. the first of these signed "justice" focused on the his and location -- the history of the location and development of washingt washington. the second had been handed three weeks earlier. but a lack of space and disbelief congress would discuss the subject as well as thinking premature prevented article's
insertion at the time. the author laid out several reasons, good, mad, removal of the federal seat of government from potomac. the father of the country had chosen the location. contracts had been made with states and individuals, the binding force of which were guaranteed by constitution. millions of dollars had been invested in the city, the whole of which would be lost if the government left. it would be an international disgrace if great britain or the world came to believe that a mere handful of men could drive the united states from its seat. it would indicate rapid progress towards resubjegation by great britain. it would affect the peace negotiations, and it would lessen united states in the estimation of europe. the atlantic states, author of
the article warned, would have much to fear were congress to set a precedent for removal. because population growth was gaining weekly, daily, monthly and certainly yearly in the west. if the president had been set, the atlantic states as a whole would lose the seat of government. finally, the author asked, was it unreasonable of washington residents to expect their interests to be protected by congress, especially when they had no representation of their own in it. one of the poeople in georgetow paper, so hyperbolic reminiscent of the claims made on behalf of many of the more than 50 places that contended for the seat of government between 1783 and
1790, particularly those written by people who suffered from potomac fever, that dilution inducing obsession with the beauty and commercial potential of the river. george washington being the most famous victim. an article published in the national intelligencia called on petition holders to petition congress on the ground that, quote, national honor and justice for bid destruction of metropolis. only memory to the namesake, readers were probably shocked to read in a letter we printed from a baltimore newspaper that georgetown had offered congress accommodations at the college if it would move the seat of government to the other side of rock creek.
while residents of georgetown agreed with washingtonians that the district must be the perm then seat, they mistakenly agreed congress and federal buildings could be situated anywhere in it. actually, the buildings had to be on the east side of the potomac. so georgetown would have been one of the places, whereas alexandria would not have been. georgetown's daily newspaper reported on 10 october that the madison administration, quote, instead of countenancing the plan of running away from the district and, thus, accomplishing the views of the enemy, unquote, intended to call for all the energies of the nation rather than submit to further degradation by the british and had determined at any cost to provide adequate defenses for the city and to see that it rose again. if the influence of the
executive is effective, the paper predicted the public buildings would be more magnificent than the ones burned and become, quote, the pride and boast of a great and increasing empire, unquote. after congress killed the bill, games and seton wrote a piece attempt to remove from washington the city planned by immortal hero and patriot whose name it bears had been put to sleep forever. the matter concerned not only the residents of the district and the surrounding area but also the entire union. quote, the seat of government was solemnly located with a view to its central position. other circumstances intimately connected with certain early acts of the government, which entered into the compact or
compromise in consequence of which the seat of government was settled here in 1790, unquote. at its conclusion, they used the opportunity to clarify the remarks they had made in late september about presidential veto. they had no direct knowledge of madison's sentiments on the bill but claimed because of the role he assumed during the first federal congress and other reasons, quote, we would not doubt but he would reject any bill for removal, which should have passed congress by bare majority only. in 2004, christy's auctioned a 4 1/2 page undated document titled "seat of government, undocumented statement of compromise or arrangement originally made in congress
between the friends of the establishment of the permanent seat of government in the district of columbia and the funding system, unquote. written to influence the outcome of the 1840 residents' debatish the published text and description indicates almost certainly that it was prepared for the massachusetts house delegation probably in an attempt to convince it not to renege on the compromise of 1790. the unsigned document is in the easily recognizable hand of former representative richard bland lee who in the first federal congress represented that part of virginia along the potomac river from harpers ferry to fredericksburg. he was one of the southerners madison persuaded to change his vote on assumption so that the federal government would be seated on that river. he may even have been told that
alexandria would be included in the federal district, because that was george washington's intention. of men most instrumental of bringing about the compromise of 1790, none took greater pride in his role than lee. as he expressed it late in life, quote, i was particularly amongst those few southern members when the angry contentions between various sections of the union threatened the destruction of the constitution, who ventured by general compromise of interests, unquote, to relieve new england of its oppressive state debts, conse consiliate by making philadelphia seat of government and secure potomac for the southern and western states. lee indicated to thomas
jefferson immediately after his vote for assumption in 1790 that he cast it as a willing potential victim in the upcoming second federal election. quote, if the government should be established and prosper because of my vote, i am, as he said, a willing victim of he was not reluctant to use his role as an argument for a federal job in 1815 when he reminded president madison that my agency, in fixing the seat of government at this place is well-known to you. in the end, factors other than congressional and newspaper arguments killed the 1814 removal bill. first, madison administration adamantly opposed it and exerted pressure on republicans. second, it's advocates had
disingenuously argued that the removal would only be temporary, until washington's defenses could be improved and the public buildings rendered capable of accommodating the government. near the end of the bill's second reading on october 15, virginia representative joseph lewis, richard bland lee's representative, incidentally, successfully moved an amendment to the bill appropriating half a million dollars for the reconstruction of the public buildings at washington. with their bluff called, enough supporters of the bill abandoned it and voted with opponents 83-74 not to engross the bill for a third reading. as i mentioned earlier, it would be the last time the issue of
removal came before congress until after the civil war. in part, this was because ironically the outrage over the burnings caused americans to begin at last to take pride in their alternately muddy or dusty seat of federal government. thank you very much. [ applause ] any questions? yes. >> i'm wondering if i could ask you maybe to hypothesize a little with me, especially in the face of those terrible quotations about washington city and how horrible it was. this is the kind of thing that's
so very hard to prove directly unless you're lucky to get a really good source. one of the reasons i thought that removal didn't work in 1814, in spite of itself, washington city was growing into a town by, for, and about politics. and some politicians, senators and congressmen, didn't want to leave washington because they had built networks of influence. my work is about women building beaurocracy next to the official beaurocracy. if they moved to philadelphia or new york, they would not be the only game in town. they would have to cope with local elites. they would have to cope with important families in economic spheres or social spheres but here they had it all in one place. i wondered if you had any thoughts about that? >> my first thought is that really dolly madison saved the
city. >> bless your heart. well, that is for cheap applause but i thank you for it. >> by 1814 or 1815, there was a significant change. comparing washington in 1815 with 1800, there is a significant difference not so much the size but what's happening here. even though there's a network as you describe it, there's a large group of members almost the majority from the north who wanted to get out of here. they would try any means they could. newspapers go on about this, i
didn't mention it. even though the president isn't allowing them to move now, what the congress has the power to do is to block appropriations for recreating the building and thrust forth the president to move. i would like to hear more, if you want to say more about your theory. >> well, since you brought up dolly madison, i find it not a coincidence. it's going take a year to do it, not right at this mom. within a year dolly $0.son and the ladies of washington including marsha vaness have pulled together and started the washington orphan asylum. it was called by the newspaper one of the jewels of washington city. it's gone on, became the louise home after that. but it was a kind of pledge of faith in the city. i see pledges of faith.
the vaneses go on to build themselves the the largest mansions in the united states. this beautiful mansion, vaness and the ladies start this orphan asylum, which gets covered by the newspapers, which they never cover women's activities. these are all kinds of actions by locals and interested people to say, no, we're here to stay. >> afterwards that's very true. columbian college, george washington university, plug for my employer, there's just a whole long list of institutions. scientific and agriculture and otherwise that are founded between the years 1815, 1822, 1823. there's no question in my mind the burning of the buildings in washington resulted in americ
american -- a certain amount of american commitment to the location. there was still lots of opposition out there. people talked about it but not in congress. >> thank you. >> thank you. any other questions? yes. >> poor old alexandria. alexandria subject to that cartoon where we have enough of your porter, enough of your perry, enough of your dark ale, enough of your pearsi sider, enough of captain perry. great pummel, that cartoon. going through these periods of
shameider, enough of captain perry. great pummel, that cartoon. going through these periods of shamecider, enough of captain perry. great pummel, that cartoon. going through these periods of shame, was alexandria able to exert a voice or cowering in the district of columbia. >> exert a voice. unfortunately one of those voices, one of the two alexandria newspapers, no longers, no copies, extinct. the second one, there are a few copies from the fall of 1814. they don't have much to say. the reason i believe that's the case is because they wouldn't have been unhappy to get back to virginia. they had lost their votes, their representative in congress. for all his political wisdom, george washington, who believed that the location and collusion of alexandria would enrich the
town, how many congressmen from boston, new york, philadelphia, baltimore, charleston, south carolina, and a dozen other places are going to vote federal funds to build wharfs and other facilities in alexandria. so that money is not available. alexandria begins to decline. as a transatlantic commercial center. fortunately it's going to become a railroad center, et cetera. those petitions to retrocede the town or actually all of the district on the virginia side of the river, those pegs started very early. they were never effective until george washington park tried to give up protecting the dream of his grandfather for 100 square miles.
when he signed in 1846, bingo, the legislation flew through congress. in his first, i think, speech to congress, address to congress, president clinton called on congress to take back those 37 square miles and reincorporate them into the district. obviously it didn't happen. yes? >> not mention s word, slavery. of course, washington was probably the largest american slave trading city prior to 1850. how much did slavery influence whether the capital should be relocated? >> i did not see any evidence
during september and october of 1814 that the issue of slavery in any way played a role. i did not see any evidence one way or the other in 1790 that it played a role in the location, but it was the decision to locate here. it was as many historians of the early republic pointed out. it was the bull in the china shop. it was the ching you didn't mention. it very well may have been people, northerners, who were opposed to slavery who saw this as an opportunity. as an opportuni opportunity, but i don't see it actually in the sources. and by the way, since you mentioned washington and george washington, it gives me an opportunity to say because i'm trying to make the case that one of the most important abolitionists in the united states at the time was george washington himself who had
become an abolitionist before he became president of the united stat states. so think about that. okay. anything else? thank you very much. [ applause ] at four :00, we feature the documentary originally produced for the new york world's fair. the film argues modern cities are unhealthy and areas with play are a better option. we highlight archival films that help tell the story of the 20th century. 2015 student cam competition is underway. this nationwide competition will --rd 150 prizes totaling
videos need to include c-span programming, show varying points of view, and must be submitted by january 20, 2015. grab a camera and get started today. >> each week, american history visitserican artifacts places.and historic next, we visit the national archives in college park, maryland, to learn about the kennedy assassination records collection. the warren report was released to the public 50 years ago on september 27, 1964. we will see video recorded by the national archives of many of the well-known artifacts of the investigation including the harvey oswald's rifle, the so-called magic bullet, and he originals up router film -- zapruder film. >> the