How the capitol wound up in Washington

Hugh Hewitt:
Jon Meacham's wonderful new biography, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, has within it four pages of particular interest to today's governing class in D.C.

In late April 1790, the new United States was poised on its first fiscal cliff, a massive public debt held by many but not all states, dating from the Revolutionary War. Some states had acted responsibly toward their obligations. Others had not. The former did not want to bail out the latter, and the genius of the young republic's finances, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton despaired of finding some way of persuading the recalcitrant to agree to have the federal government assume the debt and lay on the taxes and tariffs necessary to pay it off responsibly.

Thomas Jefferson, the secretary of state and Hamilton's opponent in theory and soon in practice, met the Treasury secretary in the street and began a conversation on the impasse which led to the grand bargain: federal assumption of the debt in exchange for the placement of the new nation's new capital on the Potomac. (Virginia and Maryland were among the responsible states which resisted transferring the debt to the national government.)

Today's "drama" is so much smaller than that of 1790, as it seems are the leaders and the capacity to see the outlines of the sort of "grand bargain" that would assist the country in righting itself.
Jefferson was a spendthrift who was insolvent at the time of his death.  His heirs in the Democrat party seem bent on leaving the government in the same condition.

One of the other considerations in the placement of DC was to have a place about halfway between the Northern and Southern states so that it would be easier to get there from the various states.  If the same considerations were used today, it might be in Kansas.

As for a grand bargain today, I think it unlikely.  The Democrats don't seem to comprehend how their policies are driving us toward insolvency and they have no plan to deal with the obvious debt crisis.  All they have to offer is demagoguery and claims that the Republicans want to take food from the mouths of babies.


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