Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Locating the United States Capital
Political Cartoon
Political Cartoon, July 1790
(Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society)



Sen. Robert Morris of Pennsylvania
Sen. Robert Morris of Pennsylvania
by Robert Edge Pine
(Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Poem, "A New Song"
Poem, "A New Song"
(New York Morning Post, August 4, 1790--Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society)

The Residence Act passed in July 1790 required Congress to move to Philadelphia after its second session. Residents of New York City were furious and castigated Congress in newspaper articles and political cartoons which were hawked on the street. This cartoon shows Federal Hall on the shoulders of Sen. Robert Morris of Pennsylvania as he carries it to Philadelphia. Morris, a Philadelphian, was the focus of much of the citizenry's anger over their loss of status as the seat of federal government.

The anonymous poem is one of many that appeared. Several came from the pen of Philip Freneau, the "Poet of the American Revolution," a freelance poet and essayist for the New York Daily Advertiser. With greater foresight, "A New York Farmer" insisted in the January 1791 issue of the New York Magazine that the value of being the federal capital paled when compared to what lay ahead for New York City once a canal was opened across the state.

But when I turn my eyes westward, and consider what amazing tracts of country surround those prodigious inland seas, for many thousand miles . . . . When I consider what an inexhaustible torrent of trade and of riches will never cease to teem thro' that channel . . . . all this will operate, and be effected thro' the medium of this very city--that the present comparatively small city of New-York will, if we please, be the great emporium of the new world . . . .

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