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>What Do You Know About The District of Columbia?

>I was searching for my ancestors and came across the name John Hancock, my eighth grandfather on my mother’s side, Etta White. I thought reprinting it would prove interesting to our readers, so here it is. Information herein relates generally around 1800 while my grandfather lived. Don White

Situation and Extent.

The district of Columbia is a tract of country 10 miles square, on both sides of Potomac River, situated 120 miles from its mouth. It was ceded to the United States by Maryland and Virginia, in 1890; and was accepted by Congress, and in 1800 became the seat of the general government. It is under tlie immediate government of Congress. The area is of course 100 square miles; the largest portion is on the Maryland side of the Potomac.

The climate is assimilated to that of the contiguous parts of Virginia and Maryland. It may be stated briefly, that the summer weather is often very hot, and the winters very cold. The spring is variable, and the autumn pleasant.
Civil Divisions and Population, 1820.
Total 22,615 4048 6376 3S,039
In 1800, the population of this district was 14,093; in 1810, 24,023; and in 1820, 33,039, as exhibited in the above table. Of the population in 1820, 833 were engaged in agriculture, 2184 in manufactures, and 512 in commerce.

Washington city, the metropolis of the United States of America, is pleasantly situated on the Potomac River, at the junction of the eastern branch, three miles below the head of tide water. It is separated from Georgetown on the north-west by Rock Creek, and Tyber Creek passes through the middle of the city. Washington is regularly laid out, in streets running due north and south, intersected by others at right angles. Betide) these streets, which are from 80 to 110 feet wide, there are avenues from ISO to 160 feet broad, which diverge from centres in various parts of the city, crossing the other streets tranversely. The avenues are named after the different states of the union; the streets which run east and west after the letters of the alphabet, and those which run north and south are numbered 1, 2, S, &.c. At the points from which the avenues diverge, are spacious squares. The ground embraced in the plan of the city is very extensive, but only a small portion of it is yet occupied with buildings.

Old Post Office

Principal Public Buildings and Establishments: 

The Capitol, which is finely situated on an eminence, commanding a view of every part of the city, and a considerable portion of the adjacent country. According to the original plan, it is to be composed of a central edifice and two wings; the two wings were in a considerable state of forwardness in 1814, when the British army, under General Ross, gained possession of the city, and destroyed them, together with the president’s house, and other public structures, and an extensive library which had been purchased for the use of Congress. The wings of the capitol are now rebuilt, and the central building has been commenced. The wings are each 100 feet square, and the whole building, when completed, will be a most magnificent edifice, presenting a front of 362 feet: 2. 

The President’s House,
Situated about a mile and a half •west of the capitol, on the avenue leading to Georgetown; it is 170 feet by 85, and two stories high: 3. four spacious brick buildings, erected in the vicinity of the president’s house, for the accommodation of the different departments of the government: 4. a comfortable marine barrack, with a house for the residence of the commandant of the marine corps: 5. an extensive navy yard, situated on the eastern branch, which forms a safe and commodious harbour. Here is an elegant marble monument, erected by American officers to the memory of their brethren who fell before Tripoli: 6. a small fort, which, from the extreme southern point of the land on which the city stands, commands the channel of the Potomac; and 7. the general post-office, a brick edifice, about a mile W. N. W. of the capitol, where the patent office is also kept. 

The style of the architecture of the capitol is Corinthian, and that of the president’s house Ionic; and both buildings are constructed of free-stone. The capitol square is enclosed by a strong and handsome iron railing; and being planted with trees, and otherwise ornamented, affords a delightful walk for the inhabitants and visitors of the city. Similar improvements are making at the president’s square, which will add greatly to its beauty and accommodations.

Besides the buildings and establishments above enumerated, Washington contains a city-hall, a theatre, a penitentiary, a circus, a masonic hall, four banks, including a branch of the United States Bank, a female orphan asylum, a Lancasteriau school, seven printing-offices, an extensive cannon foundry, a paper-mill, a window-glass manufactory, and 12 houses for public worship, three for Presbyterians, two for Episcopalians, two for Baptists, two for Methodists, two for Catholics, and one for Friends.

Adjoining the city is a brick edifice for a college, four stories high, and 117 feet long by 47 wide, situated on elevated ground, nearly north of the president’s house, and commanding an extensive prospect of the city, Georgetown, Alexandria, and the Potomac River. Among the other literary institutions, are a medical society, a botanical society, and the Columbian Institute, which consist of live classes, viz., mathematical sciences, physical science*, moral and political sciences, general literature, and the tine arts. There is a bridge about one mile long over the Potomac, on piles, built over the eastern brauch, and two over Rock Creek: there is also a canal connecting Tiber Creek with the eastern brauch.

The amount expended by the United States on the public buildings, previously to their destruction by the British in August, 1814, was $1,214,291, and there have been appropriated towards rebuilding the same $1,107,788. The value of the lands belonging to the United States within the city on the 51st December, 1800 was estimated at more than $7,000,000, and the lots which had been sold previous to that period had yielded to the national treasury $689,195.

The population of Washington, in 1800, was 3210; in 1810, 8208, of whom 2304 were people of color. In 1820, the population was 13,322: and the number of houses 2141, of which about one-half were of brick.

Chief Towns.
Alexandria is on the west bank of the Potomac, seven miles south of Washington; it has a commodious harbor, sufficiently deep for the largest ships, and is a place of extensive trade, especially in the article of flour. Population in 1810, 7,227; in 1820 it was 8,218.
Georgetown is pleasantly situated on the east side of the Potomac, at the junction of Rock Creek, which separates it from Washington city, three miles west of the capitol Washington, eight north of Alexandria. It contains five houses of public worship, two for Episcopalians, two for Methodists, and one for Presbyterians. The Roman Catholics have a college here, established in 1799, which has two spacious brick edifices, finely situated, with a library of 7,000 volumes, and about 150 students. In 1815, it was raised by Congress to the rank of a university and authorized to confer degrees. Georgetown has considerable trade: the amount of shipping, In 1815 it was 6,795 tons. Population in 1810, 4,948; in 1820, 7,360.
Commerce and Manufactures.
The exports from this district in 1820 amounted to $1,204,915, of which $1,156,468 was domestic produce, and $48,447 foreign produce. The amount of shipping in 1815, was 21,753 tons. The value of the manufactures in 1810, was estimated at $1,000,000.

Congress assumed legislative jurisdiction over the district on the 27th of February, 1801, declaring at the same time that the laws of the two states from which it was taken should be continued in the parts taken from each. The citizens of the district are subject to the immediate and exclusive legislation of the federal government, whose authority, as regards them, is unrestricted. The laws of Maryland and Virginia have been altered in only a few instances. A circuit court, consisting of three judges, is established in the district, and sits alternately at Washington and Alexandria. Appeals and writs of error go from this court directly to the Supreme Court of the United States. A register of wills, a judge of the orphans’ court, and justices of the peace, are appointed for each county, and an attorney and marshal for the district.

The Supreme Court of the United States sits at Washington, on the first Monday of February annually. The city corporation consists of a mayor and eight aldermen, and twelve common council men, divided into two branches, who regulate the affairs of the inhabitants by ordinances. The mayor was formerly appointed by the president; but he is now elected annually by the board of aldermen and common council, and these latter are themselves chosen every year, (with the exception of a portion of the first branch) by the people.

Places remarkable for Battles, Sieges, fyc.
1814, Washington: Taken by the British army, under General Ross, August 24. Alexandria: Surrendered to a British squadron, August 29.
Under the old confederation, by which the states were nominally bound together, the. Congress was dependent upon the several sovereignties for a local habitation, and might have been to many purposes dissolved, by the mere refusal to permit the occupation of public buildings. It seemed becoming to the dignity,
and necessary to the strength and permanence of the federal government, that its legislature should exercise its powers at some spot where it should neither be liable to interruption from a state government nor from a faction, nor likely to favor local views at the expense of the general good. It was probably from this consideration that the framers of the constitution, adopted in 1787, gave in the eighth section of the first article express power to Congress ” to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as might, by cession of particular states and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.” Soon after this constitution went into operation, the states of Virginia and Maryland ceded to the United States their jurisdiction over * district of ten miles square, situated on both sides of the Potomac,. and 120 miles from its mouth.

By an act of Congress passed on the 16th of July, 1790, the government of the United States formally accepted the cession. The same act authorized the president to appoint three commissioners to survey, define, and limit the district; and gave to the commissioners power to purchase or accept such quantity of land on the eastern side of the Potomac, as the president should deem proper, for the use of the United States. It was also enacted, that the commissioners should, prior to the first Monday of December, 1800, provide suitable buildings for the accommodation of Congress and of the president, and for the public offices of the government.

The ground upon which the city of Washington was laid out was at that time the property of individuals who entered into an arrangement with the government, ceding one half to the public, in consideration of the enhanced value of the other by virtue of the cession.

The metropolis of the United States was planned under the direction of General Washington, then president, by Pierre L’Enfant, in 1791. The foundation stone of the north wing of the capitol was laid in the presence of General Washington on the* 16th of September, 1793, and the erection of the other public buildings, and of private houses commenced about the same time. The infant city being in a state of sufficient preparation,

Congress passed an act on the 24th of April, 1800, directing the removal of all the public offices and papers, and providing, that on the first Monday of December following, the seat of government of the United States should be transferred to the district. Accordingly, the requisite arrangements having been made, the Congress convened at Washington city for the first time in December, 1800, and assumed legal jurisdiction over the district on the 27th of February, 1801, declaring at the same time, that the laws of Maryland, as they then existed, should be and continue in force. The superintendence of the public buildings, and the regulation of the city generally, were in the first instance placed in the hands of a board of commissioners. On the first of May, 1802, this board was abolished,

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