Federal Hall

Old New York City Hall
New York City, NY
January 11, 1785 to November 13, 1788

No Longer Standing
 26 Wall Street 
New York, NY 10005

Old New York City Hall  - January 11, 1785 to November 13, 1788 -  Federal Hall -   March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790
The capitol building that housed the USCA was eighty-five years old in 1785. During the Articles of Confederation period, the United States in Congress Assembled would be presided over by five USCA elected Presidents: Richard Henry Lee, John Hancock, Nathaniel Gorham, Arthur St Clair, and Cyrus Griffin.    

In January, 1698, a committee was appointed to report on the necessity of a new building for New York’s governmental offices.  A new structure was recommended at a site “opposite the upper end of Broad St.” The committee contracted James Evetts and his subsequent design was presented and approved by the colonial government.  To fund the construction, the old city hall, “excluding the bell, the King's arms, and the iron-work belonging to the prison,”[1] were sold at public auction to a merchant, John Hodman, for the sum of £920. The cage, pillory, and stocks, however, remained in front of the old building for a year afterwards while the new structure was being built.  The foundation stone of the building was laid, with some ceremony, in August 1699 as evidenced by a warrant drawn for paying the expense incurred on that occasion.  March 1700 records indicate the Colonial Common Council contracted with William Mumford to carve the King's, Colonial Governor Lord Bellamont’s and Lieutenant-Governor, Captain Nanfan’s arms of the size of the three blank squares left in the front of the City Hall for that purpose.[2] Moldings of stone were required to be made around each coat-of-arms, each to be cut on one stone, unless a stone sufficiently large for the King's arms could not be procured, in which case two stones might be used. The contract called from them to be completed within six months and Mumford was to receive forty-one pounds four shillings.  The building, thus, was completed in late 1700 or early 1701, although the exact date is unknown.

Students and Teachers of US History this is a video of Stanley and Christopher Klos presenting America's Four United Republics Curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. The December 2015 video was an impromptu capture by a member of the audience of Penn students, professors and guests that numbered about 200. - Click Here for more information

In 1703, the cage, pillory, whipping-post, and stocks were removed from Coenties slip[3] and erected in the upper end of Broad Street, a little below the New City Hall.    In 1715, Mr. Stephen Delancy, a “liberal and wealthy merchant”, presented the city with fifty pounds, which he had received as his salary as representative of the city in the General Assembly. He suggested, after being asked, that the funds be used to purchase of a clock, to be placed in the cupola of the City Hall. In 1716 an agreement was accordingly made with clockmaker Joseph Phillips for its construction. It was provided, that the largest wheel of the clock should be nine inches in diameter, and that there should be two dial-plates of red cedar, painted and gilt, each to be six feet square. The price paid was sixty-five pounds. 

It was not until the year 1718 that the balcony called for in the original plans was constructed.  In 1738 it was found that the cupola of this building was ''very rotten and in danger of falling." The old cupola was dismantled and a new one of the same specification was erected in its place. 
First Floor of New York City Hall before it was converted into Federal Hall in 1785. Federal Hall would serve as the capitol of the United States of America from January 11, 1785 to October 6, 1788 and again after renovations for the new tripartite government from March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790.

In 1763, which was a period when improvements, both private and public, were greatly encouraged in the city, the City Hall, now 63 three years old, was altered and improved, at very considerable expense. The colonial committee of the Common Council approved a plan of "alterations and ornaments '' to the building and to defray the computed cost of three thousand pounds, a lottery was established. Among other improvements, the building was made higher, and roofed with copper procured from England. The balcony in the front of the building was extended out to range with the two wings. A cupola of more imposing dimensions was raised upon the building, along with a bell of larger dimensions than the old one.

Second Floor of New York City Hall before it was converted into Federal Hall in 1785. Federal Hall would serve as the capitol of the United States of America from January 11, 1785 to October 6, 1788 and again after renovations for the new tripartite government from March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790.

Third Floor of New York City Hall before it was converted into Federal Hall in 1785. Federal Hall would serve as the capitol of the United States of America from January 11, 1785 to October 6, 1788 and again after renovations for the new tripartite government from March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790.

In January of 1785, the USCA conducted their meetings on the second floor which was once the room of the NY Supreme Court.  A room adjoining the meeting room was still occupied “and the noise of the scholars in their recitations was so annoying as to disturb the debates. Complaint being made of this, the school was discontinued.” [4]  This building would be the site where both the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of 1787 would be hotly debated with the former being enacted and the latter being sent on to the states, unchanged, for ratification.

[1] Willis, Samuel et al, The Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York. New York: Common Council, 1862, p. 538
[2] Ibid.
[3] Coenties Slip was an artificial inlet in the East River for the loading and unloading of ships that was land-filled in 1835. New York's first City Hall once stood at Coenties Alley and Pearl Street, just to the north of Coenties Slip.  In is now a historic pedestrian walkway.
[4] Willis, Samuel et al, NYC Manual, p. 541.

United States Continental Congress Old New York City Hall Legislation:

January 11, 1785 Reconvenes, five states represented. January 13 Achieves quorum, seven states represented. January 18 Accepts offer of New York City Hall for the use of Congress. January 20 Communicates to states intelligence on the precariousness of United States credit abroad. January 24 Orders preparation of a requisition on the states for 1785. January 25 Elects treasury commissioners; tables L'Enfant plan for establishing a corps of engineers. January 27 Adopts ordinance "for ascertaining the powers and duties of the Secretary at War." January 31 Resolves to appoint minister to Great Britain. February 1 Ratifies terms of a two-million-guilder Dutch loan. February 2 Adopts proclamation urging states to penalize counterfeiting. February 7 Approves lease of public buildings at Carlisle, Pa., to Dickinson College; orders removal of War Office, Post Office, and Treasury offices to New York. February 10 Elects Philip Schuyler commissioner for planning federal capital. February 11 Adopts regulations for the office for foreign affairs, conceding to Secretary Jay's demands. February 18 Limits terms of ministers abroad. February 21 Resolves to send commissioners to the Illinois Settlements. February 24 Appoints John Adams Minister To Great Britain. March 4 Opens debate on western land ordinance. March 7 Authorizes Benjamin Franklin's return to America; resolves to appoint minister to the Netherlands. March 8 Elects Henry Knox Secretary At War. March 10 Elects Thomas Jefferson Minister To France. March 11 Adopts instructions for negotiating with the Barbary states. March 15 Adopts instructions for the southern Indian commissioners. March 16 Rejects motion to limit slavery in the territories. March 17 Imposes 12-month limit for submission of claims against the United States. March 18 Adopts instructions for the western Indian commissioners. March 21 Elects southern Indian commissioners; thanks king of Denmark for offer to ordain American candidates for holy orders. March 28 Receives report on granting Congress commerce powers. March 31 Adopts ordinance for regulating the office of Secretary Of Congress; receives report on 1785 requisition. April 1 Debates Continental military needs. April 7 Authorizes military establishment of 700 troops. April 14 Reads revised Western Land Ordinance. April 18 Accepts Massachusetts western land cession. April 22-28 Debates Western Land Ordinance. April 29 Appeals to states to maintain representation. May 2-6 Debates western land ordinance. May 9-10 Fails to achieve quorum (five states). May 12 Fails to achieve quorum (six states). May 13 Receives coinage report. May 18-19 Debates Western Land Ordinance. May 20 Adopts Western Land Ordinance; appeals to North Carolina to repeat western land cession. May 24 Fails to achieve quorum (four states). May 27 Renews appointment of geographer of the United States; appoints 13 continental surveyors. June 1 Authorizes appointment of federal court to decide South Carolina Georgia boundary dispute. June 3 Publishes treaties with the Indians negotiated at Fort Stanwix and Fort McIntosh. June 6 Authorizes negotiation of an Indian treaty at Vincennes. June 7 Discharges Fort Pitt garrison. June 14 Responds to French announcement of the birth of a second heir to the throne. June 17 Orders John Jay to plan audience for the Spanish plenipotentiary Diego de Gardoqui. June 20 Orders inquiry into the administration of the Late Superintendent Of Finance. June 21 Orders annual inquiry into treasury administration. June 23 Appoints William Livingston minister to the Netherlands (declines). June 29 Asks Virginia to provide military support for Indian commissioners. June 30 Orders a study of mail transportation. July 1 Rejects motion to abolish court of appeals, but terminates salaries of the judges. July 2 Receives Diego de Cardoqui. July 4 Celebrates Independence Day. July 5 Appoints John Rutledge minister to the Netherlands (declines). July 6 Adopts the dollar as the money unit of the United States. July 11 Continues rations for Canadian refugees. July 12 Receives Post Office report. July 13-14 Debates granting Congress commerce power. July 18 Debates 1785 requisition. July 20 Abolishes commissary of military stores. July 22 Debates 1785 requisition. July 25 Abolishes quartermaster department. July 28-29 Debates 1785 requisition. August 1-3 Debates 1785 requisition. August 5 Orders removal of the treasurer's office to New York (by October 1) . August 10-13 Recesses. August 15 Thanks king of Spain for sending Gardoqui mission. August 17 Appoints Samuel Holten chairman in the absence of President Lee (through September 29) for the recovery of his health; Secretary Thomson to report delegate attendance monthly. August 18 Endorses conduct of Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin in controversy with British naval captain Henry Stanhope. August 25 Grants John Jay greater latitude in negotiating with Gardoqui. August 29 Abolishes committee of the week (duties transferred to secretary of Congress. September 2-3 Fails to achieve quorum (five states and two states). September 5 Receives John Jay report on British occupation of northwest posts. September 7 Authorizes John Jay to inspect the mails whenever required by United States "safety or interest"; approves the conveyance of mails by stage carriages. September 13-17 Debates 1785 requisition. September 19-21 Debates appeal of Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming valley. September 22-26 Debates 1785 requisition. September 27 Adopts 1785 requisition. September 29 Authorizes commission to settle Massachusetts New York eastern boundary. October 5 Orders postmaster general to extend system of posts. October 7 Debates threat of western separatism. October 12 Authorizes troops to attend western Indian negotiations; exhorts states to meet fiscal quotas. October 17-18 Mourns death of Virginia delegate Samuel Hardy (age 27). October 20 Receives John Jay report on naval threat of Barbary States. October 21-22 Fails to achieve quorum (six states and one delegate for one state). October 25 Fails to achieve quorum (four states). October 27 Rejects proposal to create consular establishment. October 28 Confers consular powers on ministers abroad. November 2 Postpones convening of court to determine Massachusetts-New York western land claims dispute; suspends recruitment for 700 troop establishment. November 4 Congressional session expires.  November 7 Convenes at New York City, three states represented.

 November 23 Achieves quorum, seven states represented; elects John Hancock president of the United States in Congress Assembled (in absentia), David Ramsay chairman. November 24 Elects two congressional chaplains. November 25 Receives report on British consul John Temple. November 28-29 Fails to achieve quorum. December 2 Recognizes John Temple as British consul. December 5-26 Fails to achieve quorum December 27 Receives secretary at war reports. January 2, 1786 Receives British complaint on treatment of loyalists. January 4 Receives reports on states' response to appeals to grant Congress authority to raise revenue and regulate trade. January 5 Receives report on Algerian capture of American seamen. January 12 Receives report on settlement of Continental accounts. January 18 Refers Connecticut cession to committee. January 19 Orders report on 1786 fiscal estimates. January 27 Elects Samuel Shaw consul to Canton, China. January 30 Appeals to six unrepresented states to send delegates. February 1 Removes injunction of secrecy on correspondence concerning "the appointment of Commissioners to treat with the Barbary powers." February 3 Debates states' response to congressional fiscal appeals. February 8 Receives report on French loan interest requirements. February 9 Justifies abolishing salaries of court of appeals judges. February 16-24 Fails to achieve quorum. February 25 Receives reports on Franco-American postal plan and on 1786 fiscal estimates. March 3 Repeats call to the states for authority to regulate trade. March 7 Appoints committee to confer with New Jersey Assembly on its refusal to comply with 1786 Continental requisition. March 10 Rejects New York appeal for an extension of time for receiving Continental claims from citizens of the state. March 14 Clarifies form of oaths required for Continental officeholders. March 17-18 Fails to achieve quorum. March 21 Receives report on capital punishment in military courts martial. March 22 Receives report of New Jersey's reversal of opposition to 1786 Continental requisition. March 24 Appoints single commissioner to consolidate settlement of accounts of the five great departments (clothier, commissary, hospital, marine, and quartermaster). March 27 Orders arrest of Major John Wylles for execution of army deserters. March 29 Directs secretary for foreign affairs to report on negotiations for British evacuation of frontier posts. April 5 Receives report on "negotiations, and other measures to be taken with the Barbary powers." April 10 Receives report on Connecticut land cession. April 12 Receives board of treasury report on coinage. April 19 Rejects Massachusetts request for Continental ordnance April 27 Receives translations of French decree on fisheries bounties. May 2 Holds audience with Cornplanter and other Seneca chiefs. May 5 Holds audience with Cornplanter and other Seneca chiefs. May 6 Fails to achieve quorum. May 8 Appoints second commissioner for settlement of accounts of the five great departments. May 9 Directs Continental Geographer to proceed with survey of western territory. May 11 Debates Connecticut cession. May 12 Declares navigable waters in the territories forever free to their inhabitants and to the citizens of the United States. May 15 Elects Nathaniel Gorham chairman of Congress to succeed David Ramsay. May 17 Ratifies Prussian-American treaty of commerce. May 18 Postpones to September meeting of agents for Georgia-South Carolina boundary dispute. May 22-25 Debates Connecticut cession. May 26 Declares conditional acceptance of Connecticut cession. May 29 Fails to achieve quorum. May 31 Amends rules to war; receives John Jay request for a committee to confer with him on negotiations with Diego de Gardoqui. June 5 Receives resignation of President John Hancock; receives report on military establishment.

June 6 Elects Chairman Nathaniel Gorham President of the United States in Congress Assembled. June 13-14 Fails to achieve quorum. June 15 Receives reports on prospects for Indian hostilities and on Continental arsenals and magazines. June 16 Orders Indian commissioners to report on prospects for hostilities June 19-20 Fails to achieve quorum. June 21 Bans acceptance of paper money by post offices. June 22 Orders troop reinforcements "to the rapids of the Ohio." June 27 Directs court of appeals judges to reconvene November 6 and reinstates salaries on per diem basis. June 28 Receives draft ordinance for the Indian department. June 30 Responds to Virginia appeal for protection against western Indians.  July 4 Celebrates anniversary of independence. July 7 Requests revision of Virginia cession to permit creation of "not more than five nor less than three" states from the northwest territory. July 12 Revokes commissions of those appointed to negotiate treaties with the Indians. July 13 Recommits draft territorial plan of government. July 21 Debates Indian affairs ordinance. July 24 Orders second reading of Indian affairs ordinance July 27 Seeks revision of New York act authorizing Continental impost. August 1 Receives report on arsenals and ordnance. August 2 Adopts 1786 requisition. August 3 Authorizes purchase of West Point; confers with secretary for foreign affairs on negotiation of treaty with Spain. August 7 Adopts Indian affairs ordinance. August 8 Adopts coinage standards; orders board of treasury to report an ordinance for establishment of a mint. August 9 Appeals to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia for land cessions. August 10 Debates John Jay's instructions for negotiating Spanish treaty. August 14 Appoints committee to meet with Pennsylvania Assembly on revising act authorizing Continental impost. August 16-23 Debates John Jay's instructions for negotiating Spanish treaty. August 24 Orders relief for displaced Moravian Indians. August 28 Debates John Jay's negotiating instructions. August 29 Repeals John Jays' negotiating instructions by seven-to-five vote (which was contested on the ground that nine votes were constitutionally required). August 30-31 Debates repeal of John Jay's instructions. September 1-2 Debates repeal of John Jay's instructions. September 4 Convenes agents for appointing a court to hear South Carolina-Georgia boundary dispute. September 5 Authorizes settlement of Pennsylvania fiscal claim. September 11 Receives South Carolina appeal for congressional intervention in hearing boundary dispute with Georgia. September 12 Receives John Jay report on consular convention with France. September 13 Selects judges for hearing South Carolina/Georgia boundary dispute. September 14 Accepts Connecticut land cession. September 18 Bars payment of Continental requisitions in paper money. September 20 Receives report on Annapolis Convention; orders postmasters "to receive no other money in payment for postage than specie." September 25 Receives report on conference of congressional committee with Pennsylvania Assembly. September 28 Debates repeal of John Jay's negotiating instructions. September 29 Debates ordinance for territorial government.  October 3 Instructs Thomas Jefferson on renegotiation of consular convention with France. October 4 Debates Northwest ordinance. October 6 Elects James White southern Indian superintendent. October 10 Directs Indian superintendent to confer with southern states. October 13 Adopts ordinance for settlement of the states' Continental accounts; receives report on British response to request for evacuation of frontier posts. October 16 Adopts Ordinance For Establishment Of A Mint. October 18 Receives secretary at war's report on Shays' rebellion. October 21 Increases military establishment - ostensibly for Indian defense but with an eye to the "disorders" in Massachusetts. October 23 Appeals to states for authority to regulate trade; authorizes secretary for foreign affairs to inspect the mails for reasons of national security (excepting the mail of members of Congress). October 26 Orders inquiry into postal service. October 30 Authorizes suspension of interest credits on Rhode Island-held debt in retaliation for state paper money policy. November 1-2 Debates postal reform. November 3 Adjourns - referring "the several matters now before Congress" to the new Congress scheduled to meet "on Monday next" (but which first achieved a quorum January 17, 1787).

January 1-16 Fails to achieve a quorum January 17 Achieves quorum, seven states represented. January 18-31 Fails to achieve a quorum February 2 Achieves quorum; elects Arthur St. Clair president of the United States in Congress Assembled, Samuel Provost and John Rodgers chaplains. February 3 Reads correspondence received since early November February 5 Orders report on 1787 fiscal estimates. February 6-9 Fails to achieve a quorum. February 12 Adopts report of committee on qualifications; reads accumulated treasury and war office reports. February 14 Nine states represented for first time; reads draft Post Office ordinance. February 15 Authorizes postmaster general to contract for mail delivery. February 19 Elects Lambert Cadwalader chairman in absence of President St. Clair. February 21 Receives report on Annapolis Convention; endorses Philadelphia convention called to "render the federal Constitution adequate to the exegencies of Government and the preservation of the Union." February 22-23 Fails to achieve a quorum February 26 Receives Virginia call for an interstate commercial convention.  March 5-7 Fails to achieve quorum March 8 Reaffirms specie requirement for quota payments. March 9 Receives Massachusetts report on Shays' Rebellion; adopts report on western posts. March 13 Receives report on military stores; authorizes appointment of unsalaried commercial agent at Lisbon. March 23 Adopts reduction of the Continental civil list. March 28 Debates motions on the loan or sale of Continental property. March 30 Receives report of seizure of American property at Natchez.  April 2 Receives 1787 fiscal estimates. April 4 Orders John Jay to report on Spanish negotiations: receives report on the military establishment. April 5 Receives report on land sales plan. April 9 Orders discharge of troops enlisted against Shays' Rebellion except two artillery companies; receives treasury report on copper coinage. April 10 Debates location of federal capital. April 13 Adopts letter to the states recommending repeal of all state acts repugnant to the treaty of peace; receives John Jay reports on Spanish negotiations. April 16-17 Fails to achieve quorum (three and six states attending). April 18 Receives draft ordinance on settlement of state accounts; debates sending commissioner to Spain to negotiate Mississippi question. April 20 Receives John Jay report on sending commissioner to Spain; receives committee report on copper coinage. April 21 Adopts copper coinage plan; adopts western land sales plan. April 23 Extends franking privilege to Philadelphia Convention delegates. April 24 Orders recapture of Fort Vinncennes; receives notification of the settlement of the Massachusetts-New York land dispute April 25 Receives North Carolina protest against federal Indian treaties; receives report on western land ordinance. April 27 Fails to achieve quorum.  May 1 Fails to achieve quorum May 2 Authorizes sale of surplus Continental arms. May 3 Receives British consul Phinease Bond; receives report on the military establishment. May 7 Appoints commissioners for settling departmental accounts; adopts ordinance for settlement of state accounts. May 8 Debates proposal concerning interstate commercial conventions. May 9 Debates Northwest Ordinance. May 10 Debates Northwest Ordinance; debates location of federal capital. May 11 Debates Mississippi negotiations with Spain. May 12-31 Fails to achieve quorum. June 1-29 Fails to achieves quorum.  July 2-3 Fails to achieve quorum. July 4 Achieves quorum; elects William Grayson chairman in absence of President St. Clair; receives report on Spanish negotiations. July 5 Fails to achieve quorum. July 10 Receives report on sale of western lands to land companies. July 11 Reads Northwest Ordinance; receives report on issuance of indents for Continental quotas; receives report on Indian hostilities. July 13, 1787 Adopts Northwest Ordinance. July 14 Orders report on 1787 requisition. July 18 Ratifies commercial treaty with Morrocco; receives report on southern Indian land claims. July 19-21 Debates measures for Indian pacification July 20 Instructs John Adams on a convention with Britain on violations of the treaty of peace. July 23 Approves appointments of commercial agents to Morocco. July 25 Debates measures for pacification of western Indians. July 26 Debates measures for pacification of southern Indians; authorizes postal contracts; receives report on foreign loans. July 27 Orders report on formation of "a Confederacy with the powers of Europe" against the Barbary States; instructs Jefferson on consular convention with France.  August 3 Debates southern Indian affairs. August 6-8 Fails to achieve quorum. August 9 Accepts South Carolina land cession; receives report on northern Indian affairs. August 10-31 Fails to achieve quorum. September 3-19 Fails to achieve quorum September 20 Receives report of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. September 21 Reelects treasury commissioners Arthur Lee, Walter Livingston, and Samuel Osgood; reduces civil list. September 24 Accepts John Adams' retirement (post February 24, 1788); receives report on Netherlands protest. September 26-27 Debates Constitution submitted by Philadelphia Convention.  September 28 Resolves to submit Constitution to the states. September 29 Receives report on prize money received by John Paul Jones; receives report on 1787 requisition. October 2 Receives report on foreign debt. October 3 Sets civil list and military establishment for Northwest Territory. October 5 Elects Arthur St. Clair governor of the Northwest Territory, Winthrop Sargent, secretary; resolves that a treaty be held with the western Indians; receives report on U.W. embassy at London. October 8 terminates federal proceedings in Massachusetts-New York land dispute. October 11 Ratifies John Adams' contract for Dutch loan; authorizes indents for loan office interest in payment of Continental quotas; directs payment of prize monies received by John Paul Jones. October 12 Authorizes ransom of American captives at Algiers; reelects Thomas Jefferson minister to France; receives Postmaster General report. October 13 Orders arrest of Lt. John Sullivan for jeopardizing American-Spanish relations; debates Virginia infringement of U.S. treaty obligations. October 15 Authorizes postal contracts. October 16 Elects John Armstrong, Jr., Samuel Holden Parsons, and James Mitchell Varnum judges of the Northwest Territory, commends John Paul Jones. October 17 Authorizes sale of the Carlisle barracks. October 18-19 Fails to achieve quorum. October 20 Appeals for North Carolina and Georgia land cessions; reduces postal rates. October 21 Authorizes sale of one million acres to the Ohio Company. October 22 Sets aside military bounty lands; authorizes treaty with the western Indians. October 26 Adopts instructions for holding Indian negotiations. October 29-31 Fails to achieve quorum November 1-2 Fails to achieve quorum.

November 5 New Congress assembles; five delegates attend, two states represented. November 6-30 Fails to achieve quorum. December 3-31 Fails to achieve quorum January 1-19, 1788 Fails to achieve quorum. January 21 Convenes seven states represented. January 22 Elects Cyrus Griffin president of the United States in Congress Assembled. January 23-31 Fails to achieve quorum February 1 Reviews backlog of reports and letters. February 5 Receives report on Massachusetts-New York boundary survey. February 6-9 Fails to achieve quorum. February 12 Authorizes Secretary For Foreign Affairs to issue sea letters. February 14 Sets date for reception of new French minister, Comte de Moustier. February 19 Elects John Cleves Symmes judge of the Northwest Territory. February 25 Debates appointment of Superintendent Of Indian Affairs for the southern department. February 26 Holds audience for Comte de Moustier.  February 28 Receives treasury report on foreign debt. February 29 Appoints Samuel Provost and John Rodgers chaplains of Congress, and Richard Winn Superintendent Of Indian Affairs for the southern department; debates Kentucky statehood motion.  March 4 Debates Kentucky statehood in committee of the whole. March 6 Receives reports on the claims of French settlers in the Illinois country and on the survey of western lands. March 10 - 11 Fails to achieve quorum. March 12 Receives report on military bounty lands. March 18 Receives communications on Indian affairs. March 19 Debates western land ordinance amendment. March 24 - 27 Debates Western Land Ordinance amendment. March 31 Fails to achieve quorum. April 1 - 30 Fails to achieve quorum. May 1 Fails to achieve quorum. May 2 Receives treasury report on proposed new Dutch loan, three war office reports on Indian affairs, and ten communications from the Secretary For Foreign Affairs. May 5 Receives reports on western land issues. May 8 Elects Jonathan Burrall and Benjamin Walker commissioners for settling the accounts of the five wartime departments. May 20 Authorizes fortnightly posts between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. May 21 Receives treasury report on coinage. May 22 Orders institution of suits to collect outstanding Continental accounts. May 26 Receives treasury report on western land contracts and war department report on settler violations of Cherokee treaty rights. May 27-29 Debates western land ordinance amendment. May 30 Debates Kentucky statehood in committee of the whole. June 2 Receives committee of the whole report recommending Kentucky statehood. June 3 Elects grand committee on Kentucky statehood. June 5 Fails to achieve quorum. June 6 Authorizes survey of New York-Pennsylvania boundary preparatory to granting Pennsylvania greater access to Lake Erie. June 9 Directs treasury to submit 1788-89 fiscal estimates. June 12 Receives report on land reserve for French settlers in the Illinois country. June 13 Responds to French protest against Virginia's harboring a French pirate. June 17 Receives war office report on manpower and recruitment. June 18 Receives report opposing state inspection of the mails. June 19 Debates western land ordinance amendment. June 20 Elects Joseph Martin Continental agent to the Cherokees; authorizes negotiation of western land contract with George Morgan associates. June 24 Authorizes three-month extension of Continental claims. June 25 Abolishes office of inspector of Continental troops. June 27 Debates report on Georgia-Creek Indian affairs. July 2 Debates Western Land Ordinance amendment; receives notification of the ratification of the Constitution by the ninth state (New Hampshire); appoints committee "for putting the said constitution into operation." July 3 Postpones action on Kentucky statehood until proceedings shall commence under the new Constitution. July 7-8 Debates Western Land Ordinance amendment.  July 9 Refers fiscal estimates to committee; adopts "supplement" to Western Land Ordinance. July 14 Debates report on implementing the Constitution. July 15 Rejects terms of Georgia's western land cession, but accepts responsibility for southwestern frontier defense. July 17 Directs resumption of western land surveys; rejects proposed Virginia western land reserve for military bounties. July 21 Receives report on Continental Army manpower needs. July 25 Orders deployment of Continental troops to pacify Luzerne County, Pa. July 28 Debates report on implementing the Constitution; rejects motion to establish capital at Philadelphia. July 30 Rejects motion to establish capital at New York. August 1 Extends term of northern superintendent of Indian affairs. August 4 Extends term of southern superintendent of Indian affairs. August 5-6 Debates motions on the location of the capital. August 7 Debates status of delegates from states that have not ratified the Constitution. August 12 Plans mobilization of frontier militia against western Indians. August 13 Debates report on implementing the Constitution. August 20 Adopts 1788 requisition. August 26 Debates report on implementing the Constitution; seeks Spanish cooperation for apprehending fugitive slaves fleeing to Florida. August 28 Revises George Morgan associates western land contract. August 29 Confirms land titles of French settlers in the Illinois country. September 1 Condemns settler encroachments on Cherokee lands. September 2 Debates report on implementing the Constitution. September 3 Reserves Ohio lands of Christian Delaware Indians; rejects motion to establish capital at Annapolis. September 4 Debates report on implementing the Constitution; confirms land contract giving Pennsylvania large tract bordering Lake Erie. September 8 Receives John Jay report on negotiations with Spain concerning the Mississippi question. September 13 Adopts plan for implementing the Constitution "Resolved That the first Wednesday in Jany next be the day for appointing Electors in the several states, which before the said day shall have ratified the said constitution; that the first Wednesday in feby . next be the day for the electors to assemble in their respective states and vote for a president; and that the first Wednesday in March next be the time and the present seat of Congress the place for commencing proceedings under the said constitution." September 16 Recommends that states ban importation of felons; directs suspension of negotiations concerning the Mississippi question. September 18-24 Fails to achieve quorum. September 26-29 Fails to achieve quorum. September 30 Receives report on treasury department inquiry. October 1 Rejects Silas Deane settlement of Beaumarchais' accounts. October 2 Receives report on war department inquiry.  

Federal Hall 
New York City, New York

March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790

THE CONNECTICUT COURANT, Hartford, March 30, 1789,  Page 3 Article headed:

Description of the New Building for the Reception of the Federal Congress:

The southern front, towards broad-ferret, is composed of a plain arched basement, which likewise bounds the East and West sides of the building, and forms a flagged walk for the recreation and convenience of the citizens.

Over the basement are Tuscan columns, supporting Darrick pillars, which form a grand balcony with a handform entablature of stairs, etc. etc.

The attic story is composed of ornamental figures, festoons and trophies crowned with a pediment, on which a large eagle, surrounded with a glory, appears bursting from a cloud, and carrying thirteen arrows and the arms of the United States.  A small, though elegant spire, finishes this division of the edifice.

After entering the building through any part of the arched walk, we came to a second spacious hall of area, which runs up to the roof, and is roosted by a glass cupola, throwing a strong light down on the lobby, which is on the first floor, running quite round this center area, and communicating with the Senate-Chamber, Salloon, Audience and Anti-chambers.

The Senate-chamber is about 40 feet square and 15 in height, with convenient fire-places, and is neatly wainscoted; the ceiling plain, except the sun and thirteen stars in the centre.  The Salloon, Audience chamber, etc.. are all equally well contrived, as are the stairs, which lead in them and to the two galleries, erected in the Representative's chamber, for spectators.

The Representatives apartment, which is the master piece of the whole, and most entitled to the name of Federal-Hall; is an oblong room, endosome - what octagonal, in all 70 by 60 feet.  This room comprehends two stairs, a basement and a principal; the basement contains four fire places with oval windows placed alternately between each.  The principal has 6 large windows, 3 to the East, and 3 to the West, with semicircular pediments.  Several Ionick columns and pilasters, fluted and otherwise decorated, are properly arranged throughout this room.  On the South side the two galleries one over the other, for spectators have a fine effect -- and at the North end is the President's chair with a very large table, projecting into the centre of the room, around which are the seats for the 59 Representatives.  On the wainscot of the North end are several trophies and other emblematical fancy-figures, together with the arms of the United States; but as they are not yet completed, is not in our power to give an adequate description of them.

The whole composition is mostly admirably contrived for the purpose for which it is intended.  It is an object which indicates that something more considerable would have been executed, had not the artist been confined to such narrow limits.  The style is bold, simple and regular; the parts few, large and distinct; the transition sudden, and strongly marked and we think the whole has an air of grandeur

On April 30th, 1789, George Washington was escorted to the newly-renovated Federal Hall located at Wall and Nassau Street. The newly remodeled building:
… came richly laden with historical associations, having hosted John Peter Zenger’s trial in 1735, the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 and the Confederation Congress from 1785 to 1788. Starting in September 1788, the French engineer Pierre-Charles L’Enfant had remodeled it into Federal Hall, a suitable home for Congress. L’Enfant introduced a covered arcade at street level and a balcony surmounted by a triangular pediment on the second story. As the people’s chamber, the House of Representatives was accessible to the public, situated in a high-ceilinged octagonal room on the ground floor, while the Senate met in a second-floor room on the Wall Street side, buffering it from popular pressure. From this room Washington would emerge onto the balcony to take the oath of office. In many ways, the first inauguration was a hasty, slapdash affair. As with all theatrical spectacles, rushed preparations and frantic work on the new building continued until a few days before the event. Nervous anticipation spread through the city as to whether the 200 workmen would complete the project on time. Only a few days before the inauguration, an eagle was hoisted onto the pediment, completing the building. The final effect was stately: a white building with a blue and white cupola topped by a weather vane.[1]

There was, as yet, no U.S. Chief Justice so the oath was administered by New York Chancellor Robert R. Livingston on Federal Hall’s second floor balcony, overlooking a crowd assembled in the streets. Mrs. Eliza Susan Morton Quincy, wife of Josiah Quincy, provides this account of the inauguration:
I was on the roof of the first house in Broad Street … and so near to Washington that I could almost hear him speak. The windows and roofs of the houses were crowded; and in the streets the throng was so dense, that it seemed as if one might literally walk on the heads of the people. The balcony of the hall was in full view of this assembled multitude. In the centre of it was placed a table, with a rich covering of red velvet; and upon this, on a crimson velvet cushion, lay a large and elegant Bible. … All eyes were fixed upon the balcony; where, at the appointed hour, Washington entered, accompanied by the Chancellor of the State of New York, who was to administer the oath; by John Adams, the Vice-President; Governor Clinton; and many other distinguished men. … His appearance was most solemn and dignified. Advancing to the front of the balcony, he laid his hand on his heart, bowed several times, and then retired to an arm-chair near the table. The populace appeared to understand that the scene had overcome him, and were at once hushed in profound silence. After a few moments, Washington arose, and came forward. Chancellor Livingston read the oath according to the form prescribed by the Constitution; and Washington repeated it, resting his hand upon the Bible. Mr. Otis, the Secretary of the Senate, then took the Bible to raise it to the lips of Washington; who stooped, and kissed the book. At this moment, a signal was given, by raising a flag upon the cupola of the Hall, for a general discharge of the artillery of the Battery. All the bells in the city rang out a peal of joy, and the assembled multitude sent forth a universal shout. The President again bowed to the people, and then retired from a scene such as the proudest monarch never enjoyed. Many entertainments were given, both public and private; and the city was illuminated in the evening.[2]

President Washington, Vice President Adams, and the members of Congress retired to the Senate Chamber. Here the President delivered the first inaugural address that was drafted by James Madison. Washington explained his disinclination to accept the presidency and highlighted his own shortcomings, including “frequent interruptions in health,” “unpractised in the duties of civil administration,” and intellectually “inheriting inferior endowments from nature.” Washington left the presidential prerogative "to recommend to your consideration, such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient” to Congress except for suggesting they consider amendments to the constitution that were proposed by the states’ conventions.

On September 24th, 1789, the United States Congress set the yearly salary of the United States President at $25,000 and the Vice President at $5,000. The 1789 Presidential salary of $25,000 translates to $672,000 in 2012 dollars. Currently the US Presidential salary is $400,000/year, plus a $50,000 non-taxable expense account. The compensation of the President is controlled by law, Compensation of the President: Title 3, Section 102.
After the inauguration, each branch of Congress went about establishing its own rules for conducting the nation’s business. The House and the Senate also established joint committees drawing up conference rules. They dealt with the logistics of communication with the President and between the two legislative bodies. There was much for everyone to do in forming this new republic ranging from immediately raising revenues for funding the federal government to reformulating existing departments and passing laws, including the Northwest Ordinance, that were enacted under the Articles of Confederation. Three important acts would be passed establishing three executive departments under the U.S. Presidency -- after Congress rejected a U.S. Senate Committee’s proposal that the president should be called "His Highness the President, Protector of the Liberties of the United States." The major legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Washington in 1789 included:

  • On June 1st, 1789: An Act to regulate the Time and Manner of administering certain Oaths was the first law passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President George Washington after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Parts of the law still remain on the books;
  • On July 4th, 1789 An Act for laying a Duty on Goods, Wares, and Merchandises imported into the United States was passed to immediately establish the tariff as a regular source of revenue for the federal government and as a protection of domestic manufacture;
  • July 20th., 1789 An Act imposing Duties on Tonnage is passed and laid out various rates of duty on the tonnage of ships and vessels entered in the United States from foreign countries;
  • On July 27th, 1789 An Act for Establishing an Executive Department, to be Denominated The Department of Foreign Affairs was passed. John JayArticles of Confederation Secretary of Foreign Affairs turned down reappointment but agreed to serve as acting Secretary until a Presidential appointment was confirmed. During the enactment of this bill a debate arose as to the power of removal of the Foreign Secretary. One side contended that the power belonged to the President, by virtue of the executive powers of the Government vested in him by the constitution. The other side maintained that the power of removal should be exercised by the President, conjointly with the Senate. The important question was decided by Congress in favor of the President's power to remove the heads of all these Departments, on the ground that they are Executive Departments;
  • On July 31st, 1789 An Act to regulate the Collection of the Duties imposed by law on the tonnage of ships or vessels, and on goods, wares and merchandises imported into the United States was passed establishing ports of entry in each of the eleven states where duties were to be collected. North Carolina and Rhode Island, who had not ratified the new constitution, were subject to same goods’ duties as from foreign countries. Be it therefore further enacted, That all goods, wares and merchandise not of their own growth or manufacture, which shall be imported from either of the said two States of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, or North Carolina, into any other port or place within the limits of the United States, as settled by the late treaty of peace, shall be subject to the like duties, seizures and forfeitures, as goods, wares or merchandise imported from any State or country without the said limits;
  • On August 5th, 1789 An Act for settling the Accounts between the United States and individual States was passed appointing and paying commissioners to carry into effect the May 7th, 1787 ordinance and subsequent resolutions established by the USCA “… for the settlement of accounts between the United States and individual States;”
  • On August 7th, 1789 An Act to establish an Executive Department, to be denominated the Department of War was passed. Former USCA Secretary of War Henry Knox was re-appointed by President Washington and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The Department of War oversaw all military affairs until Congress created a separate Navy Department in 1798. The National Security Act, passed by Congress in 1947, designated departments for the Army, Navy, and the Air Force. A National Military Establishment, renamed the Department of Defense in 1949, administered these departments; 
  • Also on August 7th, 1789 An Act to provide for the Government of the Territory Northwest of the river Ohio was passed. This bill was the reenactment of the Northwest Ordinance passed by the USCA in July 1787 so that “… may continue to have full effect, it is requisite that certain provisions should be made, so as to adapt the same to the present Constitution of the United States.” Former USCA Governor Arthur St. Clair was re-appointed by President Washington and confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • On August 20th, 1789 An Act providing for the Expenses which may attend Negotiations or Treaties with the Indian Tribes, and the appointment of Commissioners for managing the same was passed;
  • On September 1st, 1789 An Act for Registering and Clearing Vessels, Regulating the Coasting Trade, and for other purposes was passed providing for the licensing and enrollment of vessels engaged in navigation and trade;
  • On September 2nd, 1789 An Act to establish the Treasury Department was passed. The act assigns duties to the Secretary, Comptroller, Auditor, Treasurer, Register, and Assistant to the Secretary. It prohibits persons appointed under the act from engaging in specified business transactions and prescribes penalties for so doing. It also provides that if information from a person other than a public prosecutor is the basis for the conviction, that person shall receive half the fine. Alexander Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Washington and was confirmed the same day by the U.S. Senate;
  • On September 11th, 1789 An Act for establishing the Salaries of the Executive Officers of Government, with their Assistants and Clerks was passed; 
  • On September 15th, 1789 An Act to provide for the safe-keeping of the Acts, Records and Seal of the United States, and for other purposes was passed. This law changed the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of State because certain domestic duties were assigned to the agency. These included: Receipt, publication, distribution, and preservation of the laws of the United States; Preparation, sealing, and recording of the commissions of Presidential appointees; Preparation and authentication of copies of records and authentication of copies under the Department's seal; Custody of the Great Seal of the United States; Custody of the records of the former Secretary of the Continental Congress, except for those of the Treasury and War Departments. Thomas Jefferson was appointed by President Washington September 25, 1789 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate the following day. Chief Justice John Jay served as Acting Secretary of State until Secretary Jefferson returned from France. Other domestic duties for which the Department was responsible at various times included issuance of patents on inventions, publication of the census returns, management of the mint, control of copyrights, and regulation of immigration;
  • On September 22nd, 1789 An Act for the temporary establishment of the Post-Office was passed. “That there shall be appointed a Postmaster General; his powers and salary and the compensation to the assistant or clerk and deputies which he may appoint, and the regulations of the post-office shall be the same as they last were under the resolutions and ordinances of the late Congress.” Samuel Osgood was appointed Postmaster General by President Washington on September 26th, 1789 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate the following day;
  • Also on September 22nd, 1789 An Act for allowing Compensation to the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, and to the Officers of both Houses was passed. Unlike the USCA, whose members were paid by their respective states, the congressmen were paid $6.00 a day from the new federal treasury; 
  • On September 23rd, 1789 An Act for allowing certain Compensation to the Judges of the Supreme and other Courts, and to the Attorney General of the United States was passed with salaries ranging from $4,000 for the Chief Justice to $800 for the Delaware Federal District Judge. The Attorney General’s salary was set at $1,500 while Associate Justices of the Supreme Court were paid $3,500;
  • On September 24th, 1789 An Act for allowing a compensation to the President and Vice President of the United States was passed with the salaries of $25,000[3] and $5,000 respectively.
  • On September 24th, 1789 the Judiciary Act was established. The Act calls for the organization of the U.S. federal court system, which had been sketched only in general terms in the U.S. Constitution. The act established a three-part judiciary that was made up of district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court. The act also outlined the structure and jurisdiction of each branch. John Jay was appointed U.S. Chief Justice and Edmond Randolph appointed Attorney General by President Washington on September 24th, 1789 and the two were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 26th. 
  • On September 25th, Congress proposed the Bill of Rights. The amendments were introduced by James Madison as a series of legislative articles. They were adopted by the House of Representatives on August 21, 1789, formally proposed by joint resolution of Congress on September 25, 1789, and came into effect as Constitutional Amendments on December 15, 1791, through the process of ratification by three-fourths of the states. While twelve amendments were proposed by Congress, only ten were originally ratified by the states. Of the remaining two, one was adopted 203 years later as the Twenty-seventh Amendment, and the other technically remains pending before the states.
  • On September 29th, 1789 An Act to regulate Processes in the Courts of the United States was passed authorizing the courts of the United States to issue writs of execution as well as other writs; 
  • On September 29th, 1789 An Act making Appropriations for the Service of the present year was passed. Specifically the bill provided for “a sum not exceeding two hundred and sixteen thousand dollars for defraying the expenses of the civil list, under the late and present government; a sum not exceeding one hundred and thirty-seven thousand dollars for defraying the expenses of the department of war; a sum not exceeding one hundred and ninety thousand dollars for discharging the warrants issued by the late board of treasury, and remaining unsatisfied; and a sum not exceeding ninety-six thousand dollars for paying the pensions to invalids”;
  • On September 29th, 1789 An Act providing for the payment of the Invalid Pensioners of the United States was passed. The act specified “that the military pensions which have been granted and paid by the states respectively, in pursuance of the acts of the United States in Congress assembled, to the invalids who were wounded and disabled during the late war, shall be continued and paid by the United States, from the fourth day of March last, for the space of one year, under such regulations as the President of the United States may direct”;
  • On September 29th, 1789 An Act to recognize and adapt the Constitution of the United States the establishment of the Troops raised under the Resolves of the United States in Congress assembled, and for other purposes therein mentioned was passed. The act specified “that the establishment contained in the resolve of the late Congress of the third day of October, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, except as to the mode of appointing the officers, and also as is herein after provided, be, and the same is hereby recognized to be the establishment for the troops in the service of the United States;”
  • On September 29th, 1789 An Act to alter the Time for the Next Meeting of Congress was passed adjourning the 1st Federal Bicameral Congress until January 5, 1790

The 1789 session of the first congress was also notable for its Amendments to the Constitution of 1787. One of the most important measures that this congress faced was addressing over two hundred amendments to the U.S. Constitution proposed by the states during the ratification process. After eliminating replication, the number stood at nearly 90 with most calling for a reorganization of the federal government’s structure. James Madison was able to push his reluctant colleagues into considering 17 new amendments. Congress would eventually whittle these down to 12 amendments in 1789 which they sent on to the states for ratification in September of 1789. Ten of these amendments were ratified by the states and today they are known as the Bill of Rights. 

Capitals of the United States and Colonies of America

Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
May 10, 1775 to Dec. 12, 1776
Dec. 20, 1776 to Feb. 27, 1777
March 4, 1777 to Sept. 18, 1777
September 27, 1777
Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
June 30, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783
Nov. 26, 1783 to Aug. 19, 1784
Nov. 1, 1784 to Dec. 24, 1784
New York City
Jan. 11, 1785 to Nov. 13, 1788
New York City
Nov. 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790
December 6,1790 to May 14, 1800
Washington DC
November 17,1800 to Present

Capitols of the United States & Colonies of America

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