Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791
Next Page
    The Compromise of 1790
Congress Hall and New Theatre, Chesnut St., Philadephia,
by William Russell Birch and Thomas Birch
(Courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia)

"The Congress shall have Power . . . To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States."

Article I, Section 8

The Compromise of 1790 was the first of three great compromises made by the North and South every thirty years in an attempt to keep the Union together and prevent civil war. Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson, with the backing of Washington, arranged the terms which resulted in passage of the Residence Act in July and the Funding Act in August. Central to the compromise was a bargain by which several southerners agreed to change their votes and support assumption if Congress would first pass a bill locating the capital city of the United States on the Potomac River, after a ten year temporary residence at Philadelphia. This carried the strong implication that the North would not raise serious objections to the institution of slavery, since the capital would be located in two slave states, Maryland and Virginia. Although political leaders knew that the differences between North and South would long plague the Union, they hoped they had found an indissoluble bond: a democratic empire, fueled by Northern financial and commercial capitalism, with its capital in the agrarian, slave-holding South. As the turbulent second session closed, congressmen as well as the press urged Americans to support the compromise. During the third session, Congress passed several laws confirming its terms.

Previous Topic
Go to Exhibit Home
First Federal Congress Project
Previous Page Table of Contents
Next Page

Copyright © 1999 First Federal Congress Project. All rights reserved.