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The remaining topic that demands our inquiries, respecting the legislature, relates to the place of its meeting. The Confederation was a government without a capitol, or a seat; a want which seriously impaired its dignity and its efficiency, and subjected it to great inconveniences; at the same time, it was unable to supply the defect. Its Congress, following the example of their predecessors, had continued to assemble at Philadelphia, until June, 1783; when, as we have already seen, in consequence of a mutiny by some of the federal troops stationed in that neigh
nated," that is to say, to a con-
This view will be sustained by an examination of all the instances in which the votes of "two thirds" in either body are required. Thus, "each house may determine the
rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member." (Art. I. § 5.) The context of the same article defines what is to constitute a "house," and makes it clear that two thirds of a "house" may expel. That this was the intention is also clear from what took place in the Convention. Mr. Madison objected to the provision as it stood on the report of the committee, by which a mere majority of a quorum was empowered to expel, and, on his motion, the words "with the concurrence of two thirds" were inserted. (Elliot, V. 406, 407.) In like manner, the fifth Article of the Constitution empowers Congress, “whenever two thirds of both HOUSES shall deem it necessary," to propose amendments to the Constitution. The term "house" is here used as synonymous with a quorum.
It has been suggested, however, that the use of a positive expres
borhood, against which the local authorities failed to protect them, they left that city, and reassembled at Princeton, in the State of New Jersey, in the halls of a college. There, in the following October, a resolution was passed, directing that buildings for the use of Congress should be erected at some suitable place near the falls of the Delaware; for which the right of soil and an exclusive jurisdiction should be obtained. But this was entirely unsatisfactory to the Southern States. They complained that the place selected was not central, was unfavorable to
sion, in relation to the action of the Senate upon treaties, throws some doubt upon the meaning of the term "two thirds," as used in other parts of the Constitution. A treaty requires the concurrence of "two thirds of the senators present"; and it has been argued that the omission of this term in the other cases shows that two thirds of all the members are required in those cases. But it is to be remembered, that the Constitution makes a general provision as to what shall constitute à house for the transaction of business; that when it means that a particular function shall not be performed by such a house, or quorum, it establishes the exception by a particular provision, as when it requires two thirds of all the States to be present in the House of Representatives on the choice of a President, and makes a majority of all the States necessary to a choice; and that whether the function of the Senate in approving
treaties is or is not a part of the business which under the general provision is required to be done in
"house" or quorum consisting of a majority of all the members, the Constitution does not speak of this function as being done by a "house," but it speaks of the "advice and consent of the Senate," to be given "by two thirds of the senators present." The use of the term "present" was necessary, therefore, in this connection, because no term had preceded it which would guide the construction to the conclusion intended; but in the other cases, the previous use of the term " house," defined to be a majority of all the members, determines the sense in which the term "two thirds" is to be understood, and makes it, as I humbly conceive, two thirds of a constitutional quorum.
1 Ante, Vol. I. 220, note, 226,
2 October 6, 1783, Journals, VIII. 423.
the Union, and unjust to them. They endeavored to procure a reconsideration of the vote, but without success. Several days were then consumed in fruitless efforts to agree on a temporary residence; and at length it became apparent that there was no prospect of a general assent to any one place, either for a temporary or for a permanent seat. The plan of a single residence was then changed, and a resolution was passed, providing for an alternate residence at two places, by directing that buildings for the use of Congress, and a federal town, should also be erected at or near the lower falls of the Potomac, or Georgetown; and that until both places, that on the Delaware and that on the Potomac, were ready for their reception, Congress should sit alternately, for equal periods of not more than one year and not less than six months, at Trenton, the capital of the State of New Jersey, and at Annapolis, the capital of the State of Maryland. The President was thereupon directed to adjourn the Congress, on the 12th of the following November, to meet at Annapolis on the 26th, for the despatch of business. Thither they accordingly repaired, and there they continued to sit until June 3, 1784. A recess followed, during which a committee of the States sat, until Congress reassembled at Trenton, on the 30th of the following October.
At Trenton, the accommodations appear to have been altogether insufficient, and the States of South Carolina and Pennsylvania proposed to adjourn from 1 October 8. Ibid. 424, 425.
that place. The plan of two capitols in different places was then rescinded, and an ordinance was passed, for the appointment of commissioners to establish a seat of government on the banks of the Delaware, at some point within eight miles above or below the lower falls of that river. Until the necessary buildings should be ready for their reception, the ordinance provided that Congress should sit at the city of New York.3 When assembled there in January, 1785, they received and accepted from the corporation an offer of the use of the City Hall; and in that building they continued to hold their sessions until after the adoption of the Constitution.4
It does not appear that any steps were taken under the ordinance of 1784, or under any of the previous resolutions, for the establishment of a federal town and a seat of government at any of the places designated. Whether the Congress felt the want of constitutional power to carry out their project, or whether the want of means, or a difficulty in obtaining a suitable grant of the soil and jurisdiction, was the real impediment, there are now no means of determining. It seems quite probable, however, that, after their removal to the city of New York, they found themselves much better placed than they or their predecessors had ever been elsewhere; and
1 December 10, 11, 1784. Journals, X. 16-18.
2 December 20, 21. Ibid. 23, 24. 3 Passed December 23. Ibid. 29.
4 They removed from it October 2, 1788, on a notice from the Mayor of the city that repairs were to be made.
as the discussions respecting a total revision of the federal system soon afterwards began to agitate the public mind, the plan of establishing a seat for the accommodation of the old government was naturally postponed.
The plan itself, on paper, was a bold and magnificent one. It contemplated a district not less than two and not more than three miles square, with a "federal house" for the use of Congress; suitable buildings for the executive departments; official residences for the president and secretary of Congress, and the secretaries of foreign affairs, of war, of the marine, and the officers of the treasury; besides hotels to be erected and owned by the States as residences for their delegates. But, for this fine scheme of a federal metropolis, an appropriation was made, which, even in those days, one might suppose, would scarcely have paid for the land required. The commissioners who were to purchase the site, lay out the town, and contract for the erection and completion of all the public edifices, — excepting those which were to belong to the States," in an elegant manner," were authorized to draw on the federal treasury for a sum not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars, for the whole of these purposes. If we are to understand it to have been really expected and intended that this sum should defray the cost of this undertaking, we must either be amused by the modest requirements of the Union at that day, or stand amazed at the strides it has since taken in its onward career of prosperity and power.