Adams Papers

[Notes of Debates in the Senate on the Residence Bill] Sept. 22. 1789.
[from the Diary of John Adams]

[Notes of Debates in the Senate on the Residence Bill] Sept. 22. 1789.

Permanent Seat.1

Mr. Grayson. No Census yet taken, by which the Center of Population—

We have Markets, Archives, Houses, Lodgings.—Extreamly hurt at what has passed in the House of Rep[resentative]s. The Money. Is your Army paid? Virginia offered £100,000. towards the federal Buildings. The Buildings may be erected without Expence to the Union. Lands may be granted—these Lands laid out in Lots and sold to Adventurers.

Mr. Butler. . . .2 The recent Instance in France shews that an Attempt to establish a Government vs. Justice and the Will of the People is vain, idle, and chimerical.

1After warm debates the House of Representatives sent to the Senate this day a bill to establish the seat of national government at a site ten miles square, to be chosen by commissioners who were to be appointed by the President, “at some convenient place on the banks of the river Susquehannah, in the state of Pennsylvania” ( Penna. Packet, 28 Sept. 1789). The Pennsylvania delegation in the House, which had carried its objective against a strong Southern bloc that favored a site on the Potomac, had in mind the area surrounding the village of Wright’s Ferry, now Columbia, Penna. Thanks to the determination and skill of Senator Robert Morris, the proposed Susquehanna site and an amendment substituting a site on the Potomac were both defeated, and the new site agreed on by the Senate was Germantown and the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, Vice-President Adams casting the deciding vote. The fullest record of the debate in the Senate, including the bargaining maneuvers that accompanied it and incorporating the usual severities on JA’s conduct as presiding officer, is in William Maclay’s Journal description begins Journal of William Maclay, United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789–1791, ed. Edgar S. Maclay, New York, 1890. description ends , 1890, p. 158–165; see also Rufus King’s notes in King, Life and Corr., 1:370–375; U.S. Senate, Jour., 1st Cong., 1st sess., under 22–24 Sept.; Bryan,Hist, of the National Capital, 1:27–35; McMaster, History, 1:555–563. Congress adjourned before agreement could be reached between the two houses, and the Residence Act that eventually passed in July 1790 placed the capital at Philadelphia for ten years and then permanently on the Potomac.

2Suspension points in MS.

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