The banks of the Potomac River represent an odd place to build a national city, a place that would not only serve as the seat of government for the nation, but also as an economic, cultural, and intellectual hub. Still in 1790, the United States Congress passed the Residence Act and mandated that it would establish a new, permanent capital along the banks of the Potomac River. Why?
Adam Costanzo, a Professional Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi and author of George Washington’s Washington: Visions for the National Capital in the Early American Republic, joins us to consider questions of the national capital’s location and construction.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
Adam Costanzo, a Professional Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi and author of George Washington’s Washington: Visions for the National Capital in the Early American Republic, joins us to consider why and how the United States Congress built the national capital on the banks of the Potomac River.
During our exploration of the national capital’s journey to Washington, D.C., Adam reveals why the national capital of the United States occupied nine different cities and towns between 1774 and 1800 and why Congress felt it needed a new, permanent seat of government; How Congress came to settle upon building the United States’ seat of government along the banks of the Potomac River; And, the ideas, money, and labor needed to build the District of Columbia.
What You’ll Discover
- Capitals of the United States
- Why the capital of the United States moved from city to city early on
- Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution
- How Congress settled upon the Potomac River for the new, permanent capital
- Lobbying efforts and other possible locations for the national capital
- The Residence Act
- The geography and topography for the new capital
- George Washington’s involvement in placing and building the new capital
- Washington’s vision for the new national capital
- Pierre L’Enfant
- Funding and building the new capital
- The Washington Commissioners
- The laborers who built Washington, D.C.
- Moving the national capital from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
- Thomas Jefferson and the new capital
- The War of 1812 and the burning of Washington, D.C.
- Congress thinks about removing and relocating the capital
- When and how Washington, D.C. emerges into the capital we know today
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Adam Costanzo
- Adam on Twitter: @adam_costanzo
- Adam at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi
- George Washington’s Washington website
- George Washington’s Washington: Visions for the National Capital in the Early American Republic
- Kenneth Bowling, The Creation of Washington, D.C.: The Idea and Location of the American Capital
- Episode 016: Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
- Episode 061: Edward Larson, George Washington in Retirement
- Episode 078: Rachel Shelden, Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War
- Episode 098: Gautham Rao, Birth of the American Tax Man
- Episode 113: Brian Murphy, Building the Empire State
In your opinion, what might have happened if Pierre L’Enfant had not quit? If he had seen the building of Washington, D.C. through, how would the look and feel of the District have been different?
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