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A Brief History of the Capitals of the
United States
Date
Relevant Event, meeting
or Document
1774
1st Continental Congress
Philadelphia
1775 - 1776 2nd Continental Congress
Philadelphia
1776
Capital
City
Declaration of Independence
1776 - 1783 Revolutionary War
various cities
1781
Articles of Confederation
1783
Treaty of Paris signed
1785
capital moved to…
1787
Constitution written
1789
Constitution ratified
George Washington inaugurated
New York
1790
capital moved to…
Philadelphia
Hamilton’s Financial Plan
Compromise: Congress will
pay off States’ war debts and
move capital to the South
1791
G. Washington directed by
Congress to choose new site
for capital: between MD and VA
1800
capital moved to…
Washington, DC
Why Washington D.C.?




Northern states wanted the capital in a northern state
Southern states wanted the capital in a southern state
Northern states wanted the federal government to
assume their war debt
Southern states didn’t want the federal government to
assume the northern states’ war debt
 Another compromise: 1790, Hamilton’s Financial Plan
 Northern states voted to move the capital to a
southern state (between Maryland and Virginia)
 Southern states voted to let the federal government to
assume the Northern states’ war debt

The United States was $75 million in DEBT
 Creation of the Bank of the United States
 Put tariffs on certain imports (encouraged Americans
to buy American made products)
 Put taxes on certain American goods (i.e. whiskey)
 G. Washington hired French architect Pierre Charles
L’Enfant to design the city
 Wash., DC was designed to look like a European city
 Congress wanted to call the capital “Federal City”
 L’Enfant and a design commission (committee) named
it “The City of Washington” in honor of G.Washington
 “D. C.” stands for District of Columbia
District = place or region
Columbia = Christopher Columbus
 G. Washington never lived in Washington, DC
 G. Washington never lived in the White House
 Government buildings were built using slave labor