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Collection Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789

New York City

Federal Hall, The Seat of Congress. Amos Doolittle (1754-1832). Engraving, 1790. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-333.

The New Capital City

The location of America's new capital city sparked heated debates. As Congressman John Francis Mercer of Maryland remarked, Congress was "always more anxious about where we shall sit, than what we shall do." The capital would be the most important city in the new nation; the new government would bring with it employment, trade, and an active social circuit. Several cities vied to be the new capital. After much debate, New York City was chosen as a temporary capital, until a final decision could be made.

In an effort to convince the new government that New York City should be the permanent capital, the Old City Hall was elaborately redesigned for use by the new federal government; the building was renamed "Federal Hall." George Washington was inaugurated president on the building's balcony, and the House of Representatives and Senate met in two separate chambers inside. Federal Hall also housed a library for use by the congressman -- the first "library of congress."