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December 14, 1799, was a sad day for Washington DC and the rest of the world. Our beloved first President, George Washington passed away. Congress was in session at Philadelphia, and had received President Adam's reminded legislators that under the provisions of the Residence Bill of 1799 Congress should convene in the permanent seat of government on the first Monday in December 1800. Washington's dream would come true.

On May 15, 1800, Congress having adjourned, Adams directed his Cabinet so to arrange their departmental affairs "that the public offices may be opened in the city of Washington... by the 15th of June." This was done, and Philadelphia ceased to be the seat of national government on June 11, 1800. The removal was not a stupendous task; according to Bryan the Government personnel consisted of only 126 persons. Their private effects came by road; the state papers and national archives were shipped by water. President Adams arrived on June 3, staying until the 14th-by which time most of his Cabinet had appeared upon the scene.

Secretary of the Treasury Wolcott painted a doleful picture of local conditions as he found them upon his arrival:

There are few houses in any one place, and most of them small, miserable huts, which present an awful contrast to the public buildings. The people are poor, and as far as I can judge, they live like fishes, by eating each other. You may look in almost any direction, over an extent of ground nearly as large a the city of New York, without seeing a fence or any object except brick-kilns and temporary huts for laborers.

President Adam's wife Abigail, one of the most forceful women of her time and a great letter-writer, came in November, to find the "President's Palace" an unfinished and largely unfurnished building in the midst of brickyards and litter. "We have not the least fence, yard, or other convience without, and the great unfinished audience-room (the present East Room) I make a drying-room of, to hang the clothes in."

The District's first great political excitement was occasioned by the election of 1800, in which President Adams, confident of a second term in office, went down to defeat, and the electoral tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr was decided by the House of Representatives in Jefferson's favor. Bitterly chagrined, old John Adams worked on at the President's house far into the last night of his term, and then drove out of Washington at dawn to avoid attending Jefferson's inauguration. As a Virginia gentleman, a member of George Washington's Cabinet, and Vice President under Adams, Jefferson was invested with a certain degree of respectability in Federalist eyes; but the new party which he headed was regarded by Hamilton and his followers as a rabble certain to lead the country to ruin.

Jefferson and his anti-Federalist friends "had laughed at Adams' couch-and-six and at attempts of Americans to ape the ceremonials of European courts." On the day of his inauguration, March 4, 1801, the President-elect walked to the Capitol from his boarding house, two blocks away, and then strolled back again after the ceremony-not in the least perturbed that he should have to rub shoulders with his fellow boarders for another fortnight, while workmen prepared the President's House for his coming. Upon taking possession of the "great stone house, big enough for two emperors, one pope, and the grand lama into the bargain", as he described it, Jefferson did away with the frequent formal "levees" of his predecessors, and announced that he would receive on New Year's Day and the Fourth of July all who cared to visit him. But there wee still some social occasions which could not be avoided or which could not be handled with Jeffersonian simplicity; and for these Mrs. Madison, wife of his Secretary of State, proved a tower of strength to the widowed President. Long before her husband succeeded Jefferson in 1809, "the incomparable Dolly" had become the acknowledged queen of Washington society; and during the eight years of Madison's regime she overshadowed in some respects her able but personally rather unprepossessing husband.

In 1801, a temporary chamber known as "the Oven" was built on part of the foundations of the south wing of the Capitol. Here the sessions of the House of Representatives were held until 1804. Then "the Oven" was razed and the building of the permanent south wing begun. The latter was ready for occupancy in 1807. It had been and still was in anxious time for Washingtonians. A strong movement to retrocede the District area to Virginia and Maryland developed Many held that it would be far better to move the seat of government at once to some established city and forget this experiment. "All around are premature symptoms of decay", cried one agitator in 1808, "so may houses built, not inhabited, but tumbling into ruins." That last forlorn effort of the bankrupt land speculators, Morris Village (a row of dwellings on South Capitol Street between M and N Streets), was like "the ruins of Palmyra."


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