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Capital, National

The seat of government of the United States was permanently settled in the city of Washington, D. C., in the summer of 1800. It seemed like transferring it to a wilderness. Only the north wing of the Capitol was finished, and that was fitted up to accommodate both Houses of Congress. The President's house was finished externally, but much had to be done on the inside. There was only one good tavern, and that was insufficient to accommodate half the Congressmen. There was only a path through an alder swamp along the line of Pennsylvania Avenue from the President's house to the Capitol. Mrs. Adams wrote concerning the President's house that it was superb in design, but then dreary beyond endurance. “I could content myself almost anywhere for three months,” she said, “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 public offices had hardly been established in the city when the War-office, a wooden structure, took fire and was burned with many valuable papers.

From time to time there have been movements in favor of removing the seat of government from Washington, D. C. The first of this kind was in 1808. The really miserable situation and condition of the city at that time rendered a removal desirable to most of the members of Congress, and the city of Philadelphia, anxious to win it back to the banks of the Delaware, offered to furnish every accommodation to Congress and the public offices at its own expense. The new Hall of Representatives, by its ill adaptation whether for speakers or hearers, occasioned great dissatisfaction. A motion for removal occasioned much discussion in Congress and great excitement in the District of Columbia, especially among land-owners. The Southern members objected to Philadelphia because they would there be continually pestered [54]

Washington in 1800.

by anti-slavery politicians and other annoyances connected with the subject. A resolution for removal came within a very few votes of passing. It is believed that it would have been carried but for the opposition of the Southern men to Philadelphia. In more recent years there have been agitations favoring removal to St. Louis or some other Western city, on the ground of having it in a more central location geographically. In 1816 Congress, by joint resolution, authorized the President of the United States to procure, for the ornamenting of the new Capitol, then building, four large paintings of Revolutionary scenes from the hand of John Trumbull, a worthy pupil of Benjamin West. He possessed a large number of portraits of the prominent actors in the events of the Revolution, painted by himself, and these he used in his compositions. These pictures are now in the rotunda of the Capitol, under the magnificent dome, and are of peculiar historic value, as they perpetuate correct likenesses of the men whom Americans delight to honor. These paintings represent the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, the Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, and the Resignation of Washington's commission at Annapolis. To these have since been added others, of the same general size-namely, the Landing of Columbus, by John Vanderlyn; the Burial of De Soto, by George Powell; the Baptism of Pocahontas, by J. G. Chapman; the Embarkation of the Pilgrims, by Robert W. Weir; President Lincoln signing the emancipation proclamation, by Frank B. Carpenter, etc. The old Hall of Representatives is now used for a national Hall of Statuary, to which each State has been asked to contribute statues of two of its most distinguished citizens. The Capitol has already become the permanent depository of a large collection of grand paintings and statuary illustrative of the progress of the nation.

The Capitol was made a vast citadel on the arrival of troops there after the close of April, 1861. Its halls and committeerooms were used as barracks for the [55] soldiers; its basement galleries were converted into store-rooms for barrels of pork,

Capitol at Washigton 1814

beef, and other provisions for the army; and the vaults under the broad terrace on the western front of the Capitol were converted into bakeries, where 16,000 loaves of bread were baked every day. The chimneys of the ovens pierced the terrace at the junction of the freestone pavement and the glossy slope of the glacis; and there, for three months, dense volumes of black smoke poured forth.

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