Residence Act, officially titled "An Act for Establishing
the Temporary and Permanent Seat of the Government of the
United States," was passed on July 16, 1790, and selected
a site on the Potomac River as the permanent capital (Washington,
D.C.), in ten years times. Also, this act designated Philadelphia
as the temporary capital for a period of ten years. The
Residence Act was the result of a compromise reached between
Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison
concerning the permanent location of the Federal capital.
In exchange for locating the new capital on the Potomac
River, Madison agreed not to block legislation mandating
the assumption of the states'
debts by the Federal government.
Congress Web Site | External Web
Sites | Selected
Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other
This collection contains a broadside
of the Residence Act that was printed in
New York in 1790.
Search or browse this collection to find additional
printed ephemera related to the early history of Washington,
Capital and the Bay: Narratives of Washington and the
Chesapeake Bay Region, ca. 1600-1925
District in the XVIIIth Century, a book published
in 1909, provides an overview of life in Washington, D.C.
during the 1790s.
this collection using the phrase "Washington, D.C."
or "District of Columbia" to locate more full-text
books on this subject.
Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation
Senate passed the Residence Act by a vote of 14 to
12 on July 1, 1790. The
House of Representatives passed this act by a vote
of 31 to 29 on July 9, 1790.
in the 1st Congress using the phrase "seat of government"
to find additional Congressional debate and documents
related to this act.
This collection also contains Maclay's
Journal, a diary kept by Senator William Maclay describing
his experiences in the 1st Congress. Because Senate sessions
were closed to the public until 1795, Maclay's
Journal is one of the few accounts of Senate floor
activity in the early Congresses. Search
Maclay's Journal using the
word "residence" to find information on the
Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
This collection consists of approximately
65,000 documents, including a large number on the creation
of a Federal capital in Washington, D.C.
Search Washington's papers to find hundreds of documents related to the creation of Washington, D.C.
The focus of Map Collections is Americana and Cartographic Treasures of the Library of Congress, including eight maps of Pierre-Charles L'Enfant's 1791 plan for the city of Washington.
Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress is organized into ten series, including Series
3. District of Columbia Miscellany. 1790-1808.
This series contains a wide variety of Jefferson's letters, drawings,
maps, and notes that document the building of Washington,
account of the Compromise of 1790 involving the location
of the Federal capital is available in the Introduction
to the "Anas" from February 4, 1818.
"I proposed to him (Hamilton) however to dine with me the next day, and I would invite another friend or two, bring them into conference together, and I thought it impossible that reasonable men, consulting together coolly, could fail, by some mutual sacrifices of opinion, to form a compromise which was to save the union. The discussion took place. I could take no part in it, but an exhortatory one, because I was a stranger to the circumstances which should govern it. But it was finally agreed that, whatever importance had been attached to the rejection of this proposition, the preservation of the union, & of concord among the states was more important, and that therefore it would be better that the vote of rejection should be rescinded, to effect which some members should change their votes. But it was observed that this pill would be peculiarly bitter to the Southern States, and that some concomitant measure should be adopted to sweeten it a little to them. There had before been propositions to fix the seat of government either at Philadelphia, or at Georgetown on the Potomac; and it was thought that by giving it to Philadelphia for ten years, and to Georgetown permanently afterwards, this might, as an anodyne, calm in some degree the ferment which might be excited by the other measure alone. So two of the Potomac members (White & Lee, but White with a revulsion of stomach almost convulsive) agreed to change their votes, & Hamilton undertook to carry the other point."
and Deeds in American History
In 1800, President
John Adams wrote a letter to federal department
heads ordering the relocation of government offices
from Philadelphia to the District of Columbia.
Back in Time: Washington D.C., Became the Capital, July
Back in Time: The Cornerstone Of The White House Was
Laid, October 13, 1792.
Treasures at the Library of Congress - The Nation's Capital
Contains L' Enfant's original plan of Washington,
D.C. and early pictures of the Capitol and the White House.
Creating the United States
This online exhibition offers insights into how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country.
of Liberty: Building a Capitol for a New Nation
Online exhibition of original prints, drawings, and
documents related to the construction of the U.S. Capitol.
D.C., Sights Before 1850
A select list of early images of Washington, D.C. from
the Prints and Photographs Reading Room.
Congress declared the city of Washington in the District
of Columbia the permanent capital of the United States
on July 16, 1790.
The cornerstone of the White House was laid on October
of the Nation: First Federal Congress, 1789-1791: Locating
the United States Capital, George Washington University
Society of Washington, D.C.
Senate Moves to Washington, United States Senate
Residence Act, National Archives and Records
The United States Capitol
DC: A Guide to the Historic Neighborhoods and Monuments
of Our Nation's Capitol, National Park Service
House Historical Society
Arnebeck, Bob. Through a Fiery Trial:
Building Washington, 1790-1800. Lanham: Madison Books, 1991. [Catalog
Bordewich, Fergus M. Washington: The Making of the American Capital. New York: Amistad, 2008.
Bowling, Kenneth R. Creating the
Federal City, 1774-1800: Potomac Fever. Washington, D.C.: American Institute of
Architects Press, 1988. [Catalog
Bowling, Kenneth R. The Creation
of Washington, D.C.: The Idea and Location of the American
Va.: George Mason University Press, 1991. [Catalog
Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers:
The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. [Catalog
Padover, Saul K., ed. Thomas Jefferson and the National Capital: Containing Notes and Correspondence Exchanged Between Jefferson, Washington, L’Enfant, Ellicott, Hallet, Thornton, Latrobe, the Commissioners, and Others, Relating to the Founding, Surveying, Planning, Designing, Constructing, and Administering of the City of Washington, 1783-1818. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1946. [Catalog
Brill, Marlene Targ. Building the
Capital City. New York:
Children's Press, 1996. [Catalog
Curlee, Lynn. Capital. New York: Atheneum Books for Young
Readers, 2003. [Catalog
Hilton, Suzanne. A Capital Capital
City, 1790-1814. New
York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992. [Catalog