An ACT for establishing the Temporary and Permanent Seat of the Government of the United States.
BE it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That a district of territory, not exceeding ten miles square, to be located as hereafter directed on the river Potomack, at some place between the mouths of the Eastern-Branch and Connogochegue be, and the same is hereby accepted for the permanent seat of the government of the United States: Provided nevertheless, That the operation of the laws of the state within such district shall not be affected by this acceptance, until the time fixed for the removal of the government thereto, and until Congress shall otherwise by law provide.
And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be authorized to appoint, and by supplying vacancies happening from refusals to act, or other causes, to keep in appointment, as long as may be necessary, three commissioners, who, or any two of whom, shall under the direction of the President, survey, and by proper metes and bounds, define and limit a district of territory, under the limitations above-mentioned; and the district so defined, limited and located, shall be deemed the district accepted by this act, for the permanent seat of the government of the United States.
And be it enacted, That the said commissioners, or any two of them shall have power to purchase or accept such quantity of land on the eastern side of the said river within the said district, as the President shall deem proper for the use of the United States, and according to such plans as the President shall approve, the said commissioners, or any two of them shall, prior to the first Monday in December, in the year one thousand eight hundred, provide suitable buildings for the accommodation of Congress, and of the President, and for the public offices of the government of the United States.
And be it enacted, That for defraying the expence of such purchases and buildings, the President of the United States be authorized and requested to accept grants of money.
And be it enacted, That prior to the first Monday in December next, all offices attached to the seat of the government of the United States, shall be removed to, and until the said first Monday in December, in the year one thousand eight hundred, shall remain at the city of Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania; at which place the session of Congress next ensuing the present, shall be held.
And be it enacted, That on the said first Monday in December, in the year one thousand eight hundred, the seat of the government of the United States, shall, by virtue of this act, be transferred to the district and place aforesaid: And all offices attached to the said seat of government, shall accordingly be removed thereto by their respective holders, and shall, after the said day, cease to be exercised elsewhere; and that the necessary expence of such removal shall be defrayed out of the duties on imposts and tonnage, of which a sufficient sum is hereby appropriated.
FREDERICK AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
JOHN ADAMS, Vice-President of the United States, and President of the Senate.
Approved, July the sixteenth, 1790.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, President of the United States
When using this primary source, consider these questions:
- Read the first paragraph. What is the purpose of the Residence Act of 1790? What is the significance of it?
- What can the President of the United States do with this act?
- Would the offices of the government be moved immediately? When would the move go into effect?
- How do you think people reacted to the capital being moved?
- What were the benefits? Were there any drawbacks?
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This Act officially moved the capital from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. The move was not set to go into affect until ten years after the Act was passed; Philadelphia would stay the capital of the United States until 1800, when the capital would transfer to Washington, D.C. The Act was the result of a compromise between Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson, and later sparked inspiration for the song, "The Room Where it Happens" in the musical Hamilton.