Some may claim that today is DC’s official birthday, but today is really more like the day that Virginia and Maryland got it on, and nine months later, President Washington selected the official boundaries on March 31st, 1791. Think of it like conception day. The Residence Act, voted in by Congress on this day 220 years ago, required that a federal district, no more than ten miles square, be set up along the Potomac. Until such time as the new capital city was ready, Philadelphia was designated the capital-in-fact for a period of no more than ten years. To this day, their sports fans are still a little bit bitter.
The specific part of the act related to the location of the District reads, “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That a district of territory, not exceeding ten miles square, to be located as here-after directed on the river Potomac, at some place between the mouths of the Eastern Branch and the Connogochegue, be, and the same is hereby accept for the permanent seat of the government of the United States…and be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be authorized to appoint, and by supplying vacancies happening from refusals to act or other causes, to keep in appointment as long as may be necessary, three commissioners, who or any of two of whom, shall, under the direction of the President, survey, and by proper metes and bounds define and limit a district of territory, under the limitations above mentioned; and the district so defined, limited and located, shall be deemed the district accepted by this act, for permanent seat of the government of the United States.”
If that’s not pillow talk, baby, I just don’t know what is.
The Library of Congress has an original sketch of the District done by Thomas Jefferson among its public collection, and a bunch of other sweet documents! Happy Conception Day, DC!