When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
June 20, 1790 – During a dinner meeting with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison drafted a bill to move the Federal Capital to a southern state and the assumption of all debt from the Revolutionary War by the Federal Government. As a result of this compromise, the Federal Capital will move to Philadelphia from 1790 to 1800 while the new grand capitol is constructed and the First Bank of the United States will be established.
In a meeting organized by Thomas Jefferson where only he, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton were present the great Compromise of 1790 was said to have been hashed out. The mystery of what happened at the meeting was popularized due to the musical Hamilton with the song “The Room Where It Happens”.
Shortly after the Assumption Bill failed for a second time in the House, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, despairing that his financial plan would be scuttled, appealed to the newly-appointed Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to apply his influence on the matter. According to Jefferson’s account, he arranged the dinner for the two officials at his residence in New York City on or about June 20, 1790. The meeting produced a political settlement on the “assumption” and “residency” crisis. “It ended in Mr. Madison’s acquiescence in a proposition that the question [i.e., assumption of state debts] should be again brought before the house by way of amendment from the Senate, that he would not vote for it, nor entirely withdraw his opposition, yet he would not be strenuous, but leave it to its fate. It was observed, I forget by which of them, that as the pill would be a bitter one to the Southern states, something should be done to soothe them; and the removal of the seat of government to the [Potomac] was a just measure, and would probably be a popular one with them, and would be a proper one to follow the assumption.”
The key provision of Secretary Hamilton’s First Report on the Public Credit won approval with the passage of the Assumption Act, establishing the foundation for public credit. The Residence Act resulted in the permanent U.S. capital being located in the agrarian states of Maryland and Virginia, the demographic center of the country at the time, rather than in a metropolitan and financial center such as New York City or Philadelphia. Jefferson and Madison secured a lucrative debt adjustment for their state of Virginia from Hamilton, as part of the bargain.
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