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Removal of the Seat of Government.
H. OF R.
to the Committee of the Whole on the state of we are able to perceive that it never can be a city, the Union.
if the result of an eight years' experiment brings Mr. VAN RENSSelaer, from the committee no conviction ? If hope be still able to struggle appointed on the ninth ultimo, presented a bill against evidence so irresistible, argument would for the relief of Samuel Whiting; which was be vain. But he begged gentlemen to consider read twice and committed to a Committee of the that there was a point at which even hope should Whole on Monday next.
stop- they had arrived at that point. A gentle· Mr. LOVE submitted the following resolution : man from Virginia (Mr. Lewis) had said that
Resolved, That two other members be added to the fifteen millions of dollars had been expended on committee, called “The Committee of the District of this spot, and therefore Congress should not reColumbia.”
move; therefore they should stay to expend probThe said resolution was read, and ordered to ably fifteen millions more. For where could its lie on the table.
effects be seen ? Had it produced a city ? Had On motion of Mr. POINDEXTER,
it so much as produced accommodations for the Resolved, That the Committee of Ways and members of Congress ? But it had been said that Means be directed to inquire whether any, and if they ou to submit to personal inconveniences. any, what, amendments are necessary in the act, True. No personal inconvenience should be irk. entitled "An act for laying and collecting duties some by which the public good was to be promoon imports and tonnage, within the territories of ted; but it could not be justly demanded of them the United States, by the treaty of the thirtieth to do perpetual penance, to sentence themselves of April, one thousand eight hundred and three, to voluntary martyrdom, for the mere purpose of between the United States and the French Re: tapping, of draining, year after year, ihe public public, and for other purposes."
Treasury, that those who live upon the vitals of REMOVAL OF THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT. sustenance they derived from it, and which, if
the Government may not perish for want of the - The House resumed the consideration of the gentlemen on the other side could be believed, resolution proposed by Mr. Sloan, for the re- was all they depended or could depend upon, moval of the seat of Government of the United Even in this splendid edifice, on which so much States to the city of Philadelphia-Mr. Lewis's had been lavished, but which, after all, was totally motion for indefinite postponement being under unfit for the purpose of debate-in which if memconsideration.
bers wished even to hear what was said, they were Mr. GARDENIER said he was compelled, by the obliged to exercise their earnest, their utmost atcourse which had been taken by those opposed to tention-the miser did not bend more earnestly the resolution, to give his opinion on it without over his darling gold than they were obliged 10 do that information and those lights which he could to catch, amid the ever contending echoes of the have wished. He felt how unpleasant, how pain- Hall, the indistinct sounds of the speaker. Unless ful it was to debate this question in this place. apprized previously of what was to be the subject But, how much soever he might regard the feel of debate, nine-tenths of what was said would ings of those who heard him, his duty would never be heard by nine-tenths of the members. compel bim to say things which might wound So far, the labors of the architect, and the libethem, in spite of all his wishes to the contrary. rality of Congress, have been exercised to no Indeed, there is nothing to cheer me on the way purpose. which 'I must take the course which I have pre- In one word, said Mr. G., is there anything in scribed to myself.
this city which in vites us to stay ? Or, in other That this place was not fit to be the seat of the words, and to place the question in a proper point Government of a great and powerful empire, and of light, if we were in another place, is there anynever could become so, he had long been con- thing here, a view of which would induce us to vinced. There was nothing in its local situation come here? Is there a member on this floor so to recommend it, nothing in what had been done bold as to assert that he would come here, with toward its improvement, and certainly nothing in the knowledge he possessed of this city? If there the increasing expenses with which they were is none, and he would almost venture to say none threatened. The situation of the members was could be found, the arguments to induce us to reextremely inconvenient to them, both personally main should be very convincing, very conclusive and as it regarded the discharge of their official indeed. The considerations to remain in a place duties, for it was impossible to attend their duty to which we ought (as experience had incontesta in the House and to do any business at any of ably proved), never to have come, should be irrethe offices. Their duty at one place or the other sistible. But, were there reasons so strong, so must be sacrificed. The scattered situation of the imperious as to tie them down to this spot withbuildings rendered this inevitable. You have out the permission even to make a struggle to rescarcely been able to form a village capable of move from it? No, sir. We are not tied down accommodating the members of Congress. Yet here by any wizard spell-there is no enchanted gentlemen talked of this city! of checking the castle here, from which, like some of the heroes growth of this city! Yes, sir, a city which, for of knight-errantry, we cannot escape. The charm eight years, has baffled all the liberality, all the is easily broken. profuseness of Goveroment. How long, he ask- Specious as the pretences are, they are but speed, are we to go on through dirt and mire before cious. Two objections are made to the removat.
H. OF R.
FEBRUARY, 1808. In the first place, it is contended to be unconstitu- abled them from doing another; as if the power tional. In the second place, it would be a breach to legislate in all cases whatsoever disabled them of the public faith. If either of these positions from passing an act to remove themselves. But be tenable there is an end of the question. These this power is expressly given us. We can legisobjections had been urged with an appearance of late in all cases whatsoever. If it belong excluseriousness, and therefore he should answer them sively to Congress, can they not give it up? Had seriously.
they only power to take the burden on them-inAs to the constitutionality, was there one word capacitated ever to lay it aside, even when the in the Constitution which required Congress to national interest demanded it? No. We have fix a seat of Government, which enabled them to perfect, absolute power over this District. It is fix it? Or, to put the question more broadly and our own, we can do with it what we please. So more strongly, which required, which enabled much so that this city is not represented in any them to fix the seat of Government permanently? legislative body. In short, it has no political He would venture to say not a word in it, could, rights. And it is for this, among other reasons, by the torture of the most rigid interpretation, be that I wish to leave it. Not merely to restore the brought to amount to it. The words " seat of citizens to their francbises, for they seem willing Government,” were, indeed, mentioned in it. But enough to yield them, in consideration of the pefor what purpose ? To fix the Government per- cuniary advantages they derive from being near manently, eternally, to the spot which should be the Government. They have shown us, what it selected ? Nothing like it: for the purpose and grieves me to see, American citizens yielding to the sole purpose of giving to Congress power to the love of money the privileges of freemen. But, exercise" exclusive legislation" over that spot. sir. I do not wish the Representatives of the peoHere Mr. G. read that part of the Constitution ple to see-I am unwilling to trust myself to bewhich relates to this subject:
come familiar with such an exhibition of Amer“ Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive ican debasement. I do not wish foreigners to relegislation, in all cases whatsoever
, over such District mark on the paradox of the seat of Government (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of of a free people, which should be the abode of particular States and the acceptance of Congress, be- liberty, being ihe seat of despotism. I would not, come the seat of Government of the United States." in one word. plant a despotism in the vitals of lib
Was there, in this phraseology, anything to erty. I would not have, in my country, one spot lead the miod to fix on it the idea of permanency? which should not be consecrated to freedom. Where the officers of the Government are, there But if Constitutional, it has been said, and this is the seat of Government. Thus the seat of formed the second objection to the removal, that Government was formerly at New York, after- it would be a breach of the public faith. With ward at Philadelphia, and subsequeatly it has the arguments in support of this position was inbeen at this place, and from this place it may re- terwoven, somewhat naturally, but more artfully, move again with the same Constitutional facility che distress and ruin of those who owned real with which it caine here.
property here. While the judgment was attemptThe same powers Congress now had to legis- ed to be addressed, the heart was assailed 100, and late for this District, they might exercise over any on its weakest side. Its compassion was implored, other district which might hereafter be ceded and to save this devoted city from destruction. And accepted. It could not be the intention, because from what cause was this destruction to follow ? it was not the language of the Constitution, lo es. From the removal of the Government! Is it, tablish permanently the seat of Government, but then, indeed so ? Is this, indeed true? Will the merely to give Congress power to legislate in this city perish if Congress remove? Is, then, all its particular case. It is one of the seventeen detail- sustenance derived from the political body ? Has ed cases, in which the powers of Congress to legis- it no energies of its own? Has it no power to late are specially delegated. If gentlemen would preserve, none to protect its existence? If all this read it attentively, they would find it to be very be indeed true, and its friends were entitled to bedifferent from what it had been contended to be lief, with all our liberality, it must continue to To prove this incontestably, it was, in the first drag out its present sickly, miserable existence. place, in the power of Congress to come, or not, And, therefore, the gentleman from Maryland, as they pleased. After coming, it was in their (Mr. Key,) had at least reasoned consistently option to receive the cession, or not, as they pleas- when he assumed it as a position, that Congress ed. If they did not accept that cession, then they should never be convened in a city. Nay, he reacould not have legislated exclusively. It is allow- sons with a sort of prophetic consistency against ed, on all sides, that if they had not accepted the a removal. For, if they were to remain here, they cession, they might have removed from this with might calculate with certainty that they would the same Constitutional propriety with which never be in a city for a century to come. they had removed before, from two other places. But in what, he asked, does the value of the Bui they accepted the cession; in consequence of lots here consist? Is it in the price which may be which they became entitled to legislate; and, be asked for them, or in that which can be obtained cause they may legislate, because they have ac- for them? When they saw ound them all the cepted that which enabled them to legislate in all symptoms of premature decay—so many houses cases, they cannot, it is contended, remove. As already built not in habited, bui tumbling into ruin, if the acceptance of the power to do one thing dis- I who would be so foolish as to purchase lots ? who
H. op R. would think of building new houses on vacant nation; and that, like a good mother, we must lots. when those already built remain untenanted? suckle them forever? Is the public faith pledged The value wbich has been put upon town lots by because some men, who hoped to accumulate unthe owners must be fictitious. If this place is to measurable wealth, have been and must be forever be a city, then we ought to remove, taking the disappointed ? Has the Constitution empowered argument of the gentleman from Maryland, (Mr. Congress to pass a law, depriving their successors KEY.) If cities be so dreadful, we ought not to of the right possessed by the poorest peasant, the give our aid to build up another of these public right of locomotion ? No Congress had the power nuisances. He was not, however, governed by to do it. That the seat of Government should be arguments of this sort. He would go for a differ- permanent is not to be found in that instrument. ent reason, because he was satisfied it could never But, it is introduced in the law of Congress. become what it ought to be. A great personage What did that prove ? That as the Constitutional had, indeed, said, that great cities were great sores. phraseology of this subject would not render the This was an evil never to be apprehended here. Government permanent here, they would by law At present it is neither city nor country. Let us, do as much as they could to make it so. If the said he, restore it to its original purpose~cultiva- language of the Constitution had been strong tion. Then the land might be of some service to enough, that language would have been used in the United States.
the law too. Hence the appearance in the law He could pot conceive that holders of property of the word "permanent." But, he contended could be injured-at least to the extent which that no Congress had a right to legislate for its some seemed to fear. The population is com- successors. They could not pledge the national pletely full and the principal business is the keep- faith in this maiter, because no power to do so ing, boarding-bouses. To those, however, who was given in the Constitution. With whatever bad productive property, houses which brought in views it was done, it was an act of usurpation. a yearly revenue, he was disposed to allow an in- | They had no power to give the pledge, and no dempity. But those who were rich merely in one, of course, had power to receive it. A little city lots that could be of no value till the third or plain sense on this subject
, a correct considerafourth generation, possibly, he could not consent tion of the Constitutional provision, were worth to give anything. And he would give to the all the high wrought theatrical appeals which others, not because he considered Congress bound could be made to the House. to do so, but because he was, and he wished the This brought him back to the gentleman from friends of the resolution were disposed to be, char- Maryland, who had expressed great alarm, lest itable to those whom they should leave under the agricultural interest should suffer by their re. such circumstances.
moving to a city! A very great proportion of But, to return. It was said that the national the House represented the agricultural interest faith had been pledged that Congress should for- and of those a great proportion were agricultural ever remain here. The gentleman from Mary. men. But there was something in the fascinaland (Mr. KEY) had gone so far as to say, that it tion, the magic of a city, which was to render the was as perfectly pledged to that as it could be Representative of the farmer, himself a farmer, supposed to be for the payment of the national perhaps, insensible not only to the interests of his debi. This was too extravagant a position to be constituents, but even his own! Then, sir, that one moment indulged. To the redemption of the must happen which has never happened yet. national debt the public faith is pledged, and the The age of miracles must return. It had become obligation to discharge it is perhaps perfect with somewhat fashionable to abuse cities. He felt out it. The nation is bound to pay for what it no peculiar inducements to resent this treatment. has actually received. But, in the case before But he would say, that if the agricultural interthem, Congress has removed to this place. They est had led us through the war of the Revolution bad made it the seat of Government; speculators to glory and liberty, he should not be apprehenhad flocked around it; foreigners had pressed into sive of offending them by asserting that that Revibe busy scene--for what, sir ? to enrich or even olution originated in a city, and those measures to serve the nation-for the very pure, and lauda- which had brought the nation, with unexampled ble, and disinterested purpose of accommodating rapidity, to its present prosperity, were contrived Congress? Who will believe it? Who so blind in cities, and, in no inconsiderable degree, by the as not to see a different motive? Wealth was the inhabitants of cities. Boston, though not called object. They speculated; Congress has hitherto a city, was one 10 all practical intents. Boston remained here ; and what has become of these dis was the cradle of the Revolution. There liberty interested, benevolent speculators ? Ruined ; ruin- was born. There was first displayed the spirit ed long ago. We cannot save them if we would, which led us afterwards to independence. In and what is the compassion worth which would Philadelphia the declaration of independence was provide for the safeiy of those already lost? made. In Philadelphia the Constitution of the Grant it, say our adversaries; but the public faith United States, which distinguishes us from all the is pledged. Do gentlemen mean to be understood nations of the globe, was formed-not, indeed, by that we must remain here in despite of all the dis- persons from the cities exclusively-but there you advantages and losses to which we may thereby find that the agricultural members did not forget expose the nation; that we are forever to consider the interests of agriculture, nor of the country. the people about this spot as the children of the The first Congress, under the present Constitú
H. or R.
Removal of the Seat of Government,
tion, convened in New York. Did they there For these reasons, and others, he should vote forget, were they there ever tempted to abandon agaiost the motion to postpone. He could not the interests of the country? In Philadelphia, permit himself to stop the measure at this time. subsequently, has the public welfare been impair- if he was even doubtful, he would vote against ed by the interference or conversation of commer- the motion. However intended, the mode of procial men there? A great deal of eloquent decla- ceeding proposed by the motion, was, to say the mation has been thrown out. But let us have least of it, extremely harsh. It was taking this facts. The inhabitants of cities, exactly like subject out of the ordinary course of legislation. those of the country, are bound by the same ties It was an attempt to fix a stigma on the measure of interest and inclination to promote the com- by slapping it in the face on its first appearance. mon welfare. Your merchants are there; with. Surely there was no necessity of provoking unout cities you would have no merchants, and pleasant feelings, while the House was engaged without merchants the produce of the farmer on a subject of this sort. And this motion was would bring him no profit. The merchant and evidently calculated rather to offend the friends of the farmer are but different parts of the same ma- the measure, than to prevent the adoption of the chinery; if one part, and it is no matter which, measure itself. The latter could be done at any is injured, the whole is stopped. To be satisfied time. But the gentleman from North Carolina that, if the merchant is injured, the farmer must (Mr. Macon) said, that this course of proceeding suffer too, view the operation of the embargo. Its was as proper as any other. He would desire first effects were felt by the merchant, but ulti- that gentleman to read the rules of the House. mately the farmer also has been distressed by it. They gave a different course of proceeding; and If the merchant cannot send out his vessels, the he was more disposed to trust in the wisdom of farmer cannot sell his produce. If
, on the other those who formed them than in that of any genhand, you oppress the farmer, so that he cannot tleman whatever. have anything to sell, the nerchant suffers with A gentleman from Kentucky yesterday said him. Why, then, did the gentleman from Mary, that he had been informed that $250,000 could be land speak of the radical hostility between agri- saved to the Treasury annually. This, if true, culture and commerce ?--those handmaids to each was an important fact, and its truth ought to be other-those two sisters, whose existence is so ascertained. This saving, of a single year, would, united that the one cannot live without the other. in that case, pay all the damages of the sufferers. He was surprised, he lamented to hear such doc- He wished also to know what accommodations trines from any one, and particularly from that could be obtained at Philadelphia, and at what gentleman. He contended that the farmer would expense? If they could not remove there withgather new, and what might prove to himself out plunging into the same style of ruinous exvaluable information concerning the commerce pense, which had prevailed here, he would not of his country. He might acquire in a city vote to go. But he had understood that suitable knowledge beneficial to himself, and the diffusion buildings could be obtained there, and at little or of which might be advantageous to his constitu- no expense. He wished this inquired into. He ents. It was in the cities, that, together with wished, also, to know how much this sink of the commerce, the arts and sciences were cultivated nation had swallowed up: how much more it and flourished. It was in the intercourse of men, required, and hence how much of the public treaeither of a commercial or literary character, that sure could be saved. If the fact should turn out men's minds became liberal and enlarged. But, as stated, he would certainly have no further difin this place, nothing could be learned but what ficulty. "The House itself would feel the mandate was taught in this House; and the country mem- of imperative duty, and could not resist it. bers usually returned as wise or as ignorant, ex- Bui, to avoid the necessity of a removal, arising cept upon mere State affairs, as they came. from the very great inconvenience of transacting
What, then, is the result? If, as we are all the business of the nation, an inconvenience felt willing to acknowledge out of doors, we were and acknowledged by all, they were threatened not here, we ought not to come, why should we with a proposition to concentrate the public buildstay? He thought he had shown, that neither the ings. He did not like this patching, there would Constitution nor the public faith could be urged be no end to it. If fifteen millions have done so to prevent a removal. For the public good we little, what could they expect from thirty millions came here. The public good cannot be answered more? He had heard of the omnipotence of Parliaby staying. We have continued here so long, ment. An Emperor of Russia had been able to lest we should be accused of instability. The build a city in a marsh, but the omnipotence of experiment is at length made. It has failed. And, an American Congress is not equal to the task. merely because we came, however our calcula- In fine, he hoped the opponents of the resolutions have been disappointed, we must stay! Be- tion would so far trust themselves as to hear discause we came, the public faith is pledged to re-cussion, and particularly to hear facts. And those, main ! Surely such propositions needed but to be they well knew, could not be obtained without stated, to prove them ridiculous.
the intervention of the House. He hoped, thereHe was willing the removal should be delayed fore, that the resolution would not be postponed until those who really suffered any loss by the indefinitely; that an opportunity would be given measure, were indemnified. He alluded io the to collect such facts as were important to a correct proprietors of houses.
decision of the question.
Removal of the Seat of Government.
H. OF R.
Mr. Eppes, of Virginia, conceived that the ex- of Constantinople, and you will find in Philadelample of the gentleman from New York (Mr. phia a greater destruction of human life. GARDENIER) had shown that there was on the What measure of the Government to assert the present motion ample room for a full discussion. rights of the nation, has not been opposed by the Was it, said he, reserved for the year 1808 to dis- great commercial cipes ? In 1783, Congress, when cover that this is not the best place for the seat of at Philadelphia, were surrounded by armed troops, Government ? Until 1800 the Government was and the Executive of the State refused, on applion wheels; it came here by barter.
cation made, to remove those troops. In 1797 or Who, inquired Mr. E., gave a hundred guineas 1798, the rogues-march was played by McPherfor a plan of the Capitol ? who arranged the pub- son's Blues at the doors of gentlemen in the milic buildings, and determined their respective sites? nority, some of whom are now members of this The gentleman from New York (Mr. GARDENIER) House. ought to have been better versed in the secrets Boston was, indeed, the cradle of liberty, and of bis party before he undertook to condemn this Mr. E. regretted that the same blood did not flow arrangement. It was the object of General Wash- in the veins of the inhabitants of that place as in INGTON to accommodate all the proprietors of the beginning of the Revolution. He concluded, public lots, by giving to some the Capitol, to with expressing a hope that the House would not others the President's house and offices, and to agree to put the Government on wheels, and others the navy yard.
travel about the country like pedlers. Complaints are made of the distance of the Mr. Bacon, of Massachusetts, spoke half an public offices. But what have to do with the hour in favor of removing the Government. The offices? When in Philadelphia they were, he gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Eppes) admits that uoderstood, lounging places for idle members. Our coming here was a matter of bargain and sale. Mr. E. had never had occasion but once to go to It is now sixteen years since this place was seany of the Treasury offices, and then it was in lected for the seat of Government, and the locabehalf of a man who had attended Chase's trial tion made. So far, it has been unprofitable to the as a witness,
nation; it has been a constant drain on the TreaMr. E. went into the Constitutional argument, this subject, and most of them had been antici
sury. He had but few observations to submit on and contended that a removal of the Government was prohibited by that instrument. Would Vir- pated in a much better manner by the gentleman ginia and Maryland have consented to disfran
from New York, (Mr. GARDENIER.) chise, for ever, a number of their citizens, unless
The gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Key) the seat of Government had been supposed to be agrees that there is no such thing in the Constifixed here permanently? Would those States tution as a permanent seat of Government. But, have treated their citizens as a capricious wo- contends that it necessarily follows, it must be
having once established a seat of Government, he man treats her lover? This city was a favorite scheme of Federalism, and intended to perpet- the Constitutional argument, and insisted that the
permanent. He here went' at some length into uate the name of a favorite idol. It was accepted Constitution, neither by express provision, nor by by an act of Congress as the permanent seat of Goveroment. From their journals, it appears establish a post road, and to fix the seat of Gov
implication, precluded a removal. The right to that a motion was made to strike out the word permanent, and negatived. He defied the advo- ernment, rested on the same basis; and the one cates of the resolution to show any difference be might be changed on the same Constitutional tween this act and that for establishing the fund- bound to continue the one as the other, and no
They were as much ing system. If one might be repealed, the other might also with equal justice. The gentleman from New York (Mr. GARDE- centre of population and wealth, as these circum
If the object is to place the Government in the NIER) said something about the liitle value of stances vary, successive Legislatures must posproperty in this city. This language must have sess the right of transferring the Government. It been in the spirit of prophecy. Look at the crowd was at first limited to Philadelphia for a number in the gallery, and observe their anxiety. It de- of years, and, after the expiration of that term, pends on your vote whether they go out of this it was established in this place permanently; House rich men or poor. It is said Washington or, in other words, it was established here withdoes not flourish. The reason is found in the out limitation. All laws which are not limited fact that, every session, the people are pelted with in express words, or by the nature of their prosome measure of removal.
visions, are as permanent as this law. They are It is said that everything is cheaper at Phila- obligatory until they are repealed. There is no delphia, from a spike to a mast. In reply to this charm in this word permanent. If it was the inlanguage, he stated that repairs of vessels had tention of Congress to fix the Government here been made here as cheap, or cheaper, than at permanently, and preclude the right of a future Philadelpbia.
Legislature to make a change, the act was beyond Much had been said on the subject of health. their authority, and consequently void. How long has it been discovered that Philadel- The gentleman from Maryland (Mr. KEY) bad phia is the Montpelier of America ? Let her bills said, that the Government ought not to be in a of mortality, since 1793, be compared with those I great city. That argument had been noticed with