Washington, D.C. formally referred to as the District of Columbia, or as DC, is the capital of the United States of America. It is home to all three branches of the federal government of the US – the US Congress, the President’s office, and the Supreme Court. Washington D.C. was founded on July 16, 1790 and is distinct from other cities in the country because it was established after the US Constitution made provisions for the construction of a national capital.
The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. The American Revolutionary War ended in September 1783. By this time, the question of establishing a capital for the newly formed United States of America had come up. The states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York had lobbied extensively to have the capital established in one of their cities. It was also suggested that two capitals be established – one in the North and the other in the South. The first President of the US, George Washington, however, favored a site on the banks of the Potomac. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison negotiated for a long time (in favor of the southern and northern states) and finally it was decided that the Philadelphia would host the capital for a decade. In the meanwhile, a grand capital city would be constructed on the banks of the Potomac and George Washington himself would oversee its construction.
An Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States, informally referred to as the Residence Act of 1790 was passed by the senate on July 1, 1790 and by the House of Representatives on July 9, 1790. The act facilitated the establishment of the new US capital city along the Potomac River and gave the decision constitutional sanction. Washington signed it into a law on July 16, 1790. At the time of the passage of the Residence and Assumption Acts, New York was the capital city. The Congress then moved to Philadelphia on December 1790.
Construction of the capital city began in 1791. Architect James Hoban’s design was selected for the White House and William Thornton’s entry was chosen for the Capitol Building. But it was Charles L’Enfant who designed the city. Based on the European model, he envisioned the wide avenues and public spaces we see today. The first session of the US Congress to be held in the Capitol was on November 17, 1800.
In recent years various political lobbies have demanded statehood for Washington D.C. They claim that the residents of D.C. are required to pay taxes despite being denied voting representation in the national legislature. The US constitution, however, clearly spells out that the lack of statehood of the capital city is an “indispensable necessity.” Thus, statehood continues to elude Washington D.C.