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Winters, heavy teams may cross on the ice. Snow rarely falls in sufficient quantities for sleighing, but sometimes admits of that mode of conveyance during several days. The Winter storms come from the west, and are preceded by a northeast wind. The prevailing wind in Winter is from the west or northwest, and in Summer from a southerly quarter. The amount of rain during a year averages about forty inches, the larger portion falling in the Summer months. The range of the barometer is nearly or quite two inches. Vegetation seems to proceed all Winter, and the migratory birds return about the first of April. Fair days are the rule, foul days form the exception, and the bad weather seems generally to commence at 3 o'clock in the afternoon or 4 in the morning.
The average rate of deaths is about one in fifty; but owing to the fact that the corporation of Washington has no power to originate a penal statute, and as Congress has provided no penalty for failures to record births, marriages, and deaths, statistics upon these matters must necessarily be incomplete and unreliable. Owing to the wide streets and numerous open spaces, as well as to natural salubrity, the city and District are almost entirely exempt from epidemics; the diseases incident to compact and crowded cities are here scarcely known. There are very few deaths from malarious diseases, and the number of these is annually decreasing. A large proportion of the deaths amongst strangers for which the climate of Washington is sometimes held responsible is to be attributed to two causes,—the entire change of diet and mode of life, by which the constitution is weakened and
every lurking disease strengthened, and too frequently the casting away of the moral integrity of home, by which the same result is obtained, and the victim of unusual dissipation is charged to the account of the climate of the seat of government. From the partial returns of the census of 1850, it appears that in a population of 51,687, there were only 846 recorded deaths, which would give the small percentage of 1.64.
From the report of the Commissioner of Health, it appears that during the twelve years commencing July, 1848, and ending July, 1860, the recorded deaths in the City of Washington have been as follows:July 1848 to June 1849,.
.828 Deaths. July 1849 to June 1850,.
.868 July 1850 to June 1851,.
.914 July 1851 to June 1852,.
.1,003 July 1852 to June 1853,.
.1,115 July 1853 to June 1854,.
.1,209 July 1854 to June 1855,.
.937 July 1859 to June 1860,.
The greatest number of deaths seems to occur in the months of July and August, but January, February, and March present formidable bills of mortality, probably owing to the vast influx of strangers during the session of Congress.
It must be borne in mind, in connection with the accompanying table showing the progress of population from 1800 to 1860, that by an act of Congress, dated July 9th, 1846, Alexandria, town and county, was retroceded to Virginia, so that, in computing the progress of population in the District of Columbia up to 1840, the territory including Alexandria (embracing 9,969 inhabitants not since computed) was taken as a basis of calculation.
POPULATION OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860
4.04 23.28 21.45 13.61
HISTORY OF THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT.
The location of the seat of government was determined by Congress with much deliberation. The sessions of the old Congress were held at various places, to meet. the exigencies of the occasion and humor the spirit of rivalry manifested by the different States. The subject of a permanent seat of government was first debated in Congress after the insult offered to that body in Philadelphia, in June, 1783, by a band of mutinous soldiers, who assailed the hall during session, demanding arrearages of pay. A resolution was passed, October 7, 1783, on motion of Elbridge Gerry, to erect buildings for Congress on the Delaware or the Potomac, provided a suitable district could be procured on either of those rivers, for a federal city. This resolution was subsequently modified, providing for the erection of buildings in both locations, and finally repealed, April 26, 1784. Congress met at
. Trenton in the following October, and appointed three commissioners to lay out a district, between two and three miles square, on the Delaware, for a federal town. At the meeting of Congress in New York, in January, 1785, an unsuccessful attempt was made to substitute the Potomac
for the Delaware. Two years later the Constitution was adopted, declaring (Article I., Section 8) "The Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States.” On the 23d of December, 1788, the Legislature of Maryland passed an act authorizing and requiring her members in Congress “to cede
" any district (not exceeding ten miles square) which the Congress may fix upon and accept for the seat of the government of the United States,
In 1789 Congress debated the selection of a location of the "ten miles square," carefully considering the importance of a site in the centre of territory, population, and wealth, easy of access to the west, with a convenient communication with the seaboard.
The northern members were in favor of a site on the Susquehanna, while the south favored the Delaware and Potomac; and the comparative advantages of New York, Philadelphia, Germantown,' Havre de Grace, Wright's Ferry, Baltimore, and Conococheague, now Washington, were warmly discussed. The South Carolinians opposed Philadelphia, because the Quakers favored emancipation. Large towns were objected to on the score of undue influence, while others ridiculed the idea of building palaces in the forest. Instances of European capitals were cited in support of the claims of New York and Philadelphia. The House of Representatives passed a resolution September 5, 1789, "That the permanent seat of the government of the United States ought to be at some convenient place on the banks of the Susquehanna, in the State of Pennsyl