“This Solemn Temple”

“It was at this moment [on the occasion of President Adams’ first speech in the new Capitol in November 1800] that Washington, D.C., became the nation’s capital in fact, not merely in aspiration. It was the moment for which so many had labored over the past decade, and that had so often seemed beyond reach. The race against time that began ten years earlier in New York had been won. This wishful city that owed itself to this strange amalgam of regional self-interest, George Washington’s idealism, proslavery politics, and greed had become a reality. The nation had its seat of government, and a Capitol far grander than any building that existed in the western hemisphere. The journey to this point had been a much more difficult one than George Washington had imagined when he rode with L’Enfant across the valleys and hills of what was to become the Federal District on that misty morning in 1791, conjuring marble palaces and broad boulevards from oak forests and cornfields…. Only a few years earlier the capital’s prospects looked laughable: now the government was really here. By the end of the year, there would be 3,210 people in the city proper, and more than 14,000 if you counted George Town, Alexandria, and the rural parts of the Federal District. It was a beginning” (254).

Finished reading Fergus M. Bordewich’s Washington: The Making of the American Capital

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