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$100,000, on condition of the individual responsibility of the Commissioners. The buildings were reported ready for occupation on the 15th of June, 1800, and during that month the public offices were removed from Philadelphia, and Congress commenced its next session in the City of Washington on the 3d Monday of November following.
It was customary at that time for the President to open the sessions of Congress by an address, delivered in person, instead of sending a message. On this occasion the House of Representatives repaired to the Senate Chamber, after the manner of the British Parliament, and President Adams addressed the two Houses as follows:
I congratulate the people of the United States on the assembling of Congress at the permanent seat of their government; and I congratulate you, gentlemen, on the prospect of a residence not to be exchanged. It would be unbecoming the Representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and imploring His blessing. It is with you, gentlemen, to consider whether the local powers over the District of Columbia, vested by the Constitution in the Congress of the United States, shall be immediately exercised. opinion, this important trust ought now to be executed, you cannot fail, while performing it, to take into view the future probable situation of the territory, for the happiness of which you are about to provide. You will consider it as the Capital of a great nation, advancing with unexampled rapidity in arts, in commerce, in wealth, and in population, and possessing within itself those resources which, if not thrown away, or lamentably misdirected, will secure to it a long course of prosperity and selfgovernment.
The Senate, in their reply, said: “We meet you, sir, afd the other branch of the National Legislature, in the city which is honored by the name of our late hero and
If, in your
sage, the illustrious Washington, with sensations and emotions which exceed our power of description.”
The House of Representatives, in reply, said: “The final establishment of the seat of our national government, which has now taken place in the District of Columbia, is an event of no small importance in the political transactions of our country. Nor can we on this occasion omit to express a hope that the spirit which animated the great founder of this city may descend to future generations; and that the wisdom, magnanimity, and steadiness which marked the events of his public life may be imitated in all succeeding ages. A consideration of those powers which have been vested in Congress over the District of Columbia will not escape our attention ; nor shall we forget that, in exercising those powers, a regard must be had to those events which will necessarily attend the Capital of America."
The appearance of the city at this time is thus described by the Hon. John Cotton Smith, of Connecticut :
Our approach to the city was accompanied with sensations not easily described. One wing of the Capitol only had been erected, which, with the President's house, a mile distant from it, both constructed with white sandstone, were shining objects in dismal contrast with the scene around them. Instead of recognizing the avenues and streets portrayed on the plan of the city, not one was visible, unless we except a road, with two buildings on each side of it, called the New Jersey avenue. The Pennsylvania, leading, as laid down on paper, from the Capitol to the Presidential mansion, was then nearly the whole distance a deep morass, covered with alder bushes, which were cut through the width of the intended avenue during the then ensuing Winter. Between the President's house and Georgetown a block of houses had been erected, which then re, and may still bear, the name of the six buildings. There were also two other blocks, consisting of two or three dwelling-houses, in different directions, and now and then an insulated wooden habitation,—the
intervening spaces, and indeed the surface of the city generally, being covered with shrub oak bushes on the higher grounds, and on the marshy soil either trees or some sort of shrubbery. Nor was the desolate aspeot of the place a little augmented by a number of unfinished edifices at Greenleaf's Point, and on an eminence a short distance from it, commenced by an individual whose name they bore, but the state of whose funds compelled him to abandon them, not only unfinished, but in a ruinous condition. There appeared to be but two really comfortable habitations in all respects within the bounds of the city, one of which belonged to Dudley Carroll, Esq., and the other to Notley Young, who were the former proprietors of a large proportion of the land appropriated to the city, but who reserved for their own accommodation ground sufficient for gardens and other useful appurtenances. The roads in every direction were muddy and unimproved. A sidewalk was attempted in one instance by a covering formed of the chips of the stones which had been hewn for the Capitol. It extended but a little way, and was of little value; for in dry weather the sharp fragments cut our shoes, and in wet weather covered them with white mortar. In short, it was a new settlement.” The houses, with two or three exceptions, had been very recently erected, and the operation greatly hurried in view of the approaching transfer of the national government. A laudable desire was manifested, by what few citizens and residents there were, to render our condition as pleasant as circumstances would permit. One of the blocks of buildings already mentioned was situated on the east side of what was intended for the Capitol square, and, being chiefly occupied by an extensive and well-kept hotel, accommodated a goodly number of the Members. Our little party took lodgings with a Mr. Peacock, in one of the ħouses on New Jersey avenue, with the addition of Senators Tracy, of Connecticut, and Chipman and Paine, of Vermont; and Representatives Thomas, of Maryland, and Dana, Edmond, and Griswold, of Connecticut. Speaker Sedgwick was allowed a room to himself,--the rest of us
in pairs. To my excellent friend Davenport and myself was allotted a spacious and decently furnished apartment, with separate beds, on the lower floor. Our diet was various, but always substantial, and we were attended by active and faithful servants. A large proportion of the southern Members took lodgings at Georgetown, which, though of a superior order, were three miles distant from the Capitol, and of course rendered the daily employment of hackney coaches indispensable.
Notwithstanding the unfavorable aspect which Washington presented on our arrival, I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of its local position. From the Capitol you have a distinct view of its fine, undulating surface, situated at the confluence of the Potomac and its Eastern Branch, the wide expanse of that majestic river to the bend at Mount Vernon, the cities of Alexandria and Georgetown, and the cultivated fields and blue hills of Maryland and Virginia on either side of the river, the whole constituting a prospect of surpassing beauty and grandeur. The city has also the inestimable advantage of delightful water, in many instances flowing from copious springs, and always attainable by digging to a moderate depth; to which may be added the singular fact that such is the due admixture of loam and clay in the soil of a great portion of the city that a house may be built of brick made of the earth dug from the cellar; hence it was not unusual to see the remains of a brick-kiln near the newly-erected dwellinghouse or other edifice. In short, when we consider not only these advantages, but what, in a national point of view, is of superior importance, the location on a fine, navigable river, accessible to the whole maritime frontier of the United States, and yet easily rendered defensible against foreign invasion,-and that, by the facilities of internal navigation and railways, it may be approached by the population of the western States, and indeed of the whole nation, with less inconvenience than any other conceivable situation,--we must acknowledge that its selection by Washington as the permanent seat of the federal government affords a striking exhibition of the discernment, wisdom, and
forecast which characterized that illustrious man. Under this impression, whenever, during the six years of my connection with Congress, the question of removing the seat of government to some other place was agitated—and the proposition was frequently made—I stood almost alone as a northern man in giving my vote in the negative.
President Adams took possession of the new mansion on his arrival in November, and Mrs. Adams, in a letter to her daughter, gave her impressions of the President's house and the city as follows:
The house is upon a grand and superb scale, requir- ing about thirty servants to attend and keep the apartments in proper order, and perform the ordinary business of the house and stables—an establishment very well proportioned to the President's salary. The lighting the apartments, from the kitchen to parlors and chambers, is a tax indeed, and the fires we are obliged to keep to secure us from daily agues is another very cheering comfort. To assist us in this great castle, and render less attendance necessary, bells are wholly wanting, not one single one being hung through the whole house, and promises are all you can obtain. This is so great an inconvenience that I know not what to do or how to do. The ladies from Georgetown and in the city have many of them visited me. Yesterday I returned fifteen visits. But such a place as Georgetown appears! Why, our Milton is beautiful. But no comparisons; if they put me up bells, and let me have wood enough to keep fires, I design to be pleased. But, surrounded with forests, can you believe that wood is not to be had, because people cannot be found to cut and cart it.
We have indeed come into a new country.
The house is made habitable, but there is not a single apartment finished, and all within side, except the plastering, has been done since B. came. We have not the least fence, yard, or convenience without, and the great unfinished audience-room I make a drying-room of, to hang up the