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THE

SEAT OF GOVERNMENT

OF

THE UNITED STATES.

A REVIEW OF THE DISCUSSIONS, IN CONGRESS AND ELSEWHERE, ON THE
SITE AND PLANS OF THE FEDERAL CITY ; WITH A SKETCH

OF ITS PRESENT POSITION AND PROSPECTS.

READ (IN PART) BEFORE THE NEW YORK AND MARYLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETIES.

ALSO,

A NOTICE OF THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.

BY JOSEPH B. VARNUM, JR.

NEW YORK:

PRESS OF HUNT'S MERCHANTS' MAGAZINE.

1848.

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PRINTED BY G. W. WOOD, 29 GOLD-ST., NEW YORK.

The following pages comprise an article which was read before the New York Historical Society in January, 1847. It was also read before the Maryland Historical Society, at Baltimore, and an assembly of citizens at Washington. The interest which was manifested on these occasions induced the writer to enlarge the plan, and introduce other matter not strictly coming within the scope of an historical discourse, but believed to be important to a complete view of the subject. He has, however, for the most part, omitted all such details as would more properly belong to a guide-book; or be invested with a local, rather than a general interest. It is believed to be the first attempt which has been made to call attention to the various questions which arise in the selection of a seat of government for a nation. As such, the editor of Hunt's MERCHANTS' MAGAZINE deemed it worthy of insertion in that well-known and valuable periodical; and it is now issued in this form for distribution amongst those friends who have taken an interest in the subject. To Lewis H. Machen, Peter Force, John C. Brent, and Joseph Gales, Esquires, he is under obligations for valuable suggestions and facts. That he may have made some mistakes, is not unlikely; but he will have accomplished his object if he shall succeed in inducing some abler pen to develop the easiest and best way of fulfilling the design proposed in founding the city of Washington.

THE

SEAT OF GOVERNMENT

OF

THE UNITED STATES.

CHAPTER I.

FALSE IMPRESSIONS PREVAILING IN RELATION TO THE CITY OF WASHINGTON-MR. SOUTHARD'S REMARK,

AND ITS APPLICATION-SESSIONS OF CONGRESS, WHERE HELD PRIOR TO 1790-ARTICLE OF THE CONSTI* TUTION PROVIDING FOR A SEAT OF GOVERNMENT-DISCUSSIONS IN RELATION TO THE PLACE TO BE SELECTED-DISADVANTAGES OF A COMMERCIAL CITY-PROPRIETY OF LAYING OUT A CITY EXPRESSLY FOR THIS PURPOSE-POSITION-INFLUENCE OF THE PROPOSITION FOR FUNDING STATE DEBTS-THE GROWTH OF THE WEST ANTICIPATED WHEN THIS QUESTION WAS DECIDED-DR. PATERSON'S CALCULATION-RECENT REMARKS OF SENATORS CALHOUN AND ALLEN ON “A CENTRE OF TERRITORY," AND INFLUENCE OF COMMERCIAL CITIES--CONSTRUCTION OF THE ACT.

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NOTWITHSTANDING the number who annually visit Washington on business or pleasure, there are few who rightly understand the relation in which that city stands to the general government, or appreciate its importance as the only spot where it is practically seen that, for national purposes, we are but one people. There are, it is true, forts, arsenals, and navy-yards scattered over the country, in which all are interested equally, and which awaken our pride, as citizens of the great republic; but each of these is limited to some one object, and a sight of one is a sight of all. It is only at Washington that one sees a whole district of country laid out expressly as a common centre of the nation, and a city planned solely with a view to the gratification of national pride, and for national conve. nience ; the inhabitants of which are under the entire control of Congress, and deprived of the elective franchise, for the express purpose of removing them from the influence of party spirit, and enabling the government to perform its functions without embarrassment or restraint.

Everything that beautifies or adorns it, or in any manner affects its prosperity, should interest, to almost as great a degree, the citizen of the most distant State as the resident on the spot; for there are few who do not, in the course of their lives, expect to reside there for a longer or short. er period.

It is the fashion to speak of Washington as a place of extravagant pre. tensions, never to be realized; of magnificent distances, dusty streets, and poverty-stricken people, without reference to the circumstances under

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