The Trade That Led to Creation of D.C.

A national capital was not a new idea. Several sites were proposed under the Articles of Confederation, and all were in either NY, NJ, or PA, something the southern states would not accept. Under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress did not have the power to create a national capital, so the issue died until the new Constitution empowered the Federal government to create a home.

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The Powerful Insurrection Act of 1807

When one realizes the Insurrection Act was written in 1807, we had been an independent country for just 24 years. The British still maintained forts on U.S. soil in the Northwest Territories and were instigating the Native Americans against the United States. They were impressing U.S. sailors into the Royal Navy and seizing our ships carrying goods to countries fighting England during the Napoleonic Wars. Our leaders felt the pressure of domestic as well as international threats. President Jefferson and Congress wanted to give the president the power to use military force if necessary to suppress a rebellion.

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Congressional Pay Has Always Been an Issue

Culture, precedent, and history played a role in the debate over how much we the people should pay our legislators. Many of the framers of the Constitution thought that members of the Senate would come from the “upper” or wealthier citizens and the members of the House would come from the masses a.k.a. the common people. This was a holdover from the British Parliament which has an upper house, the House of Lords, made up of members of the nobility, and the lower House of Commons, in which any citizen can run for office.

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America’s First Swiss Banker

Jefferson wanted Gallatin to be his Secretary of the Treasury. When he gave Gallatin a recess appointment on May 14th, 1801, Jefferson is reputed to have said, “He is the only man in the United States who understands, through all the labyrinths Hamilton involved it, the precise state of the Treasury.”

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Napoleon Plays Madison

 Jefferson responded (to Napoleon’s Berlin Decree) with the Non-Importation Act of 1806, which banned imports of any goods from Britain. Besides being unenforceable, it caused the U.S. economy to contract. Still not done, Jefferson forced the Embargo Act of 1807 through Congress, and between the two pieces of legislation, the U.S. economy contracted by about 10%.

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Madison’s Inherited Foreign Policy and National Security Mess

In the U.K., many British political leaders resented the new, upstart nation. They saw the 1783 Treaty of Paris as a humiliation as well as a military defeat. These men resented the fact that the U.S. did not want to be part of the British Commonwealth, not to be confused with the modern Commonwealth of Nations. And, if pressed, they believed that Britain should have never let the U.S. become independent. On the floor of Parliament, some urged the British government to invade the U.S. and force it to again become a British colony.

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The Uneforceable Logan Act of 1799

The French leaders of the new French Republic listened politely but understood the American Constitution well. Jefferson had used it as a basis of the documents he helped the Marquis de Lafayette propose first to King Louis XVI and then later to the leaders of the French Revolution. Logan’s effort came to naught.

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Rejection of the First Recess Appointment

In Article II, Section 2, Clause 3, the Constitution gives the President the power to appoint those allowed in Clause 2 without Senate approval if it is not in session. These are recess appointments, and the appointed individual must be approved by the Senate when it convenes.

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Chain of Command

Essentially, this very long sentence (Article II, Section 1, Clause 6) gives Congress the power to create the chain of command for the U.S. government. In the spring of 1792, the Second U.S. Congress took up this matter and, the House and Senate agreed that the order of succession was to be President, Vice President, President Pro-Tem of the Senate followed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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