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ELEMENTS OF THE PROBLEM
The second phase respected the influence the controversy would have on the ability of Antifederalists to foment further discontent. This was indicated by Washington, Madison, and various others. From Mount Vernon the first wrote: "The delay had already become the source of clamour and might have given advantages to the Anti-fœderalists." 26 Madison was sure that the resulting "eastern proponderancy in the federal system" 27 would give a great handle to those opposed to the new government. A Maine man warned that the "friends of the New Government are alarmed to find Congress so dilatory, . . . for while they are dallying along in this way the Enemy is sowing tares among the Wheat. Anti federalism is a common enemy we ought all to guard against and obstinacy is a ditto." 28 A newsletter in Philadelphia declared: "Every federalist throughout the union laments and deprecates the consequences of delay. Every anti-federalist rejoices in it, as most conducive to the purposes of confusion." 29
There was, however an element here not without irony. The remaining chief design of the Antifederalists was the calling of a second convention, in which movement Clinton of New York and Patrick Henry of Virginia were the leaders. The southern Antifederalists, while desirous of using the New York claim as an excuse for taunts over the lack of eastern equity and partiality, were more than doubtful of Clinton's reception of such slurs. Madison was hopeful that Henry "may be induced by that circumstance not to make irritating reflections." 30
The third phase was a moral one; the effect upon the position of the new government, for which the delay boded no good. The people did not scruple "to attribute it to motives, which is to be hoped do not exist." 31 Samuel Powel wrote from Philadelphia to Washington: "Is not the manner of Proceeding destitute of all Dignity. I confess that as an American I feel mortified at this trifling with the Sensibilities of the Union, which I believe were never more alive than on the present occasion." 32 Washington agreed that "the present Congress by its great indecision in fixing on a place at which the New Congress is to convene, have hung the expectation, and patience of the Union on tenter hooks, Also he considered it "a great misfortune, that local interests should involve themselves with federal concerns at this moment." 34 Madison, in spite of his own participation, was justified in saying that "a certain degree of impartiality or the appearance of it. . . in a federal Republic founded on local distinctions involving local jealousies . . . ought to be attended to with a still more scrupulous exactness." 35 Jay, too, con
sidered that "the Injury it does to the Dignity of Government is not inconsiderable"; 36 while the correspondents of George Thacher, delegate from Massachusetts, were demanding that he "act the part of a true Federal Philosopher," and ask not what the interests of New England were, but "what does the interest of the Union require?" One of them was "mad, that is, politically disordered in mind, to find the Congress so obstinate, as to keep that Government, the People their Constituents have adopted, out of motion . . . when the wheels of Government are as it were stuck in the mud." 37
RIVAL CLAIMS OF THE CITIES
THE NEWSPAPERS of Philadelphia and New York indulged in mutual claims, denials, and sarcasms on the merits of the rival cities. Tench Coxe, as a Philadelphian, was sure that "the execution of the Government, the means of information & our national Consequence in Europe would be benefited" by the choice of his city.38 Philadelphians claimed six times the trade with the South that New York had, and therefore, as the South would import largely, there would be a far better comparative chance of having the revenue drawn from them returned to them by circulation than if the government continued at New York. The expenditure of federal revenue would be mostly adjacent to the capital, and trade and revenue would both suffer if the South was made reluctant to assent to tariff protection and the monopoly of the carrying trade. The cost of living was supposed to be a third less at Philadelphia, which would mean a smaller civil list and less drain on the taxpayers for the purposes of the general government. New York was open to invasion, capture, and destruction of archives.
The New York proponents declared that southern pretenses were not a justifiable reason for further delay; and that the trade of the South was by water with both cities, and New York's advantages were greater, her port, among other things, not being closed by ice in the winter. New York had been the chief sufferer in the war and deserved consideration. The money required to move the capital elsewhere could well be devoted to other purposes. Answering Philadelphian taunts about social conditions, a New York paper replied: "It appears wonderful that men of sense should hesitate in their choice... yet . . . a majority have approved of the one hardly fit for a gentleman, much more a Pennsylvanian to live in." 39
MEANWHILE, the Congress continued to strive for a decision, spurred on by the public denunciation of the delay. On August 26
SUCCESS OF NEW YORK
153 a motion to make Wilmington the place was defeated by 6 to 4, and a similar fate met a readvocacy of New York. On September 2 an oblique approach to New York was made by proposing the seat of government at the first Wednesday in March as the place, but this was turned down, as was also a new offer of Lancaster. On the next day Annapolis was voted down. On September 4, with twelve states present, the South Carolina delegates moved to pass the rest of the ordinance, leaving the place to be decided later, because "after long deliberation . there appears to be a diversity of sentiment . . . which may prevent a speedy and definite decision thereon"; and because "a farther delay of the other essential parts of this business might be productive of much national inconvenience." If no decision was reached before March 4, the place should be where Congress last sat.40 This also was defeated, Pennsylvania voting with the South, South Carolina with the North, Georgia divided, and North Carolina not voting.
On September 8 one Rhode Island delegate returned to Congress, strengthening Madison's fear that the state might be "prevailed on" to vote; but as no colleague joined him, participation was not possible. On September 12, with Maryland absent, the South finally gave in. Henry Lee, who stood alone in his delegation in support of the belief of Virginia's greatest citizen, again proposed New York; "longer delay . . . may produce national injury." Carrington and Madison of Virginia now proposed to leave the place blank, but declared that the need of "principles of conciliation and impartial regard to the Interests and accommodation of the several parts of the Union" required a more central place than the present seat of the government. This would also "be more likely to obviate disagreeable and injurious dissensions concerning the place most fit for the seat of federal business until a permanent seat be established as provided for by the new Constitution." 41 This was somewhat ambiguous, especially as to obviating the strife over the permanent seat; at any rate, it did not commend itself to the delegates and was lost by the usual 6 to 4. Delaware then moved to strike out New York from Lee's motion; but the end had come and only Delaware voted for this. At the request of that state the final vote was postponed until the next day, September 13, when New York and the whole ordinance received nine votes, ten states being present and North Carolina not voting.
Madison wrote Randolph on August 22 that "Congress have come to no final decision . . . an adherence to N. York . . . seems to grow stronger & stronger." 42 After the vote he declared to Wash
ington: "The place was the result of the dilemma to which the opponents of N. York were reduced of yielding to its advocates or strangling the Government in its birth. The necessity of yielding, and the impropriety of further delay, had been for some time obvious to me, but others did not view the matter in the same light." 43 Monroe agreed that if a "concession must be made the minority must make it, and when the States south of us yielded all hope was at an end." Also the Pennsylvania delegates reported that the belief "that the organization of the new government could not be longer suspended without risquing consequences more disagreeable than any that could result from the mere circumstance of the place at which the government might be convened" caused the rest of the supporters to yield; and they joined in, being "left to choose between opposing alone and unsuccessfully, or submitting to the predetermined sense of the Union. We did not hesitate in choosing the latter, persuaded that, of the alternatives, this was at once the most dignified and wise." All of which explanations are weakened by the fact that the yielding if it had taken place a month earlier would have been under exactly the same conditions. William Knox's comment on September 14 is more direct: ". . . it was found that as it was time the Ordinance should be finished, and no hope of a majority for Philadelphia, to put the best face upon it and give to the world the appearance of unanimity.
The opposition to New York, it will be observed, yielded all at No explanation is apparent, though evidently there must have been an understanding of some sort reached between the vote on Madison's resolution and that on the Delaware motion. The whole contest was rather an unpropitious omen, which must have made those who had the hope of "a more perfect Union" in their hearts watch somewhat fearfully the further stages of these preparations.
AN ACCOUNT of the contest and final bargain over the location of the permanent seat of the government, which occurred in the First Congress under the Constitution, is beyond the limits of the present study. Attention may, however, be called to the efforts of New York City, and later of Philadelphia, which became the temporary seat, to induce a postponement of the change. Madison, in his letter of August 22, 1788, believed that a decision for New York would keep the capital there until "a permanent seat be established." 46 Pendleton on July 21, 1790, said he had hoped the capital would remain at New York until the permanent seat, because of a recom
INTENDED PRESIDENTIAL MANSIONS
pense for their expenditures, the expense and trouble of removal, and belief in a less favorable attitude at Philadelphia.47
The extensive alteration of the City Hall at New York for the accommodation of Congress will be recounted later. In 1789, and again in March 1790, before the removal to Philadelphia was decided upon by Congress, bills were passed by the New York legislature to reserve the land at Fort George (the Battery) for public use, and to erect on part of the ground a house for the use of the government of the state, "to be applied to the temporary use and accommodation of the president of the United States of America, during such time as the congress of the United States should hold their sessions in the city of New York." 48 The sum of £8000 was voted for the purpose. One member gave notice in the Senate of an intention to offer a bill to suspend the power to construct the house until after the present session of Congress had adjourned, but the precautionary measure was evidently not offered. The mansion was built opposite Bowling Green, although the national capital had moved to Philadelphia before it was finished. It was occupied by governors for some years, later by customs offices, and was removed in 1815.
Later, Pennsylvania took similar measures, which caused President Washington to write on April 1, 1791: "The most superb edifices may be erected, and I shall wish their inhabitants much happiness, and that too very disinterestedly, as I shall never be of the number myself." 49 When he wrote this he contemplated only one term for himself. The Philadelphia mansion was, however, erected while he was still President, but he refused to occupy it, as did also his successor; and it was taken over by the University of Pennsylvania. He was, however, very much alive to the danger which such action had for the Federal District on the Potomac, in the development of which he was so greatly interested; and he warned the commissioners of the District that nothing should occur that would encourage opposition to the development of the permanent site. Then, as now, the national capital was merely a creature of Congress; the same power that located it in one place could move it to another, and as often as Congress might so decree.
WASHINGTON's concern for the District which he had desired, and had himself located, was great. He spent much time in correspondence and consultation on the spot with the commissioners who were managing the development. He made investments, building two brick houses north of the Capitol to accommodate congressmen.