Alternative realistic locations for the US capital?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,547
SoCal
What are some alternative realistic locations for the US capital in place of Washington DC? As in, some other sites that the US capital could have realistically been moved to in 1800 instead of Washington DC. Also, what would happen to Washington DC in such a scenario? Would it and its eventual future suburbs have remained malaria-ridden swamps up to the present-day in this scenario?

Any thoughts on all of this?
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,811
Australia
What was the reason for choosing the Washington site in the first place? Ease of access, easily defensible, or was it the result of a compromise between all the states , none of whom wanted the others to host the nations capital?
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,681
Hamilton wanted the federal government to assume the states' debts from the Revolutionary War. This was opposed as expensive, increasing federal power, and because some states such as Virginia had already paid off their debts. Hamilton made an agreement with Jefferson and Madison in the current capital of New York City that the Virginians would agree to the assumption of the debt in exchange for moving the capital southward. The location chosen was between Virginia and Maryland, as it would not have gone over well to move the capital into one state such as Virginia. The new location was more central and allowed the government to built up separate from an existing large city.

Clearly, since the capital had been in Philadelphia and New York City those were realistic alternatives. In fact, without the assumption of debt controversy, it might have remained in NYC.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,986
Dispargum
I have a suspicion that the founders were distrustful of bureaucracy. I know they were suspicious of special interest groups. If I'm right, the reason they wanted a separate city as the national capital was to deny the bureaucrats any voting rights. The founders did not anticipate cars or interstate highways that would allow civil servants to live in Maryland and Virginia and have voting rights. If all of the bureaucrats had lived in Washington DC, they would not be represented in Congress nor, originally, would they have any electoral votes for president. I think it was intentional that the federal government be located in a separate district and not in a state. Can anyone support this theory of mine?
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,681
No, I don't think they expected a large beaurocracy and the decisions were made mostly for political advantage rather than principles.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,986
Dispargum
What is the political advantage of having a separate federal district as opposed to leaving the capital in a pre-existing city? Let's not confuse the decision to put the capital on the Potomac in the 1790s with the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In 1787 they weren't thinking about Hamilton's assumption of state debts. That came later.
 
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Oct 2015
1,004
Virginia
One reason Congress didn't want the capitol located in a major city was that in Philadephia in 1783 they had been besieged by an angry mob of disgruntled Revolutionary War veterans demanding their back pay. When they asked the governor of PA to use the militia to disperse them, he refused as he was in sympathy with the demonstrators, forcing Congress to flee to New Jersey.

Besides avoiding a major city for its own security (see Federalist 43) the choice of location was mainly the North-South-commercial-agricultural-slave-free-debt assumption thing. Washington chose a central location split between Maryland and Virginia (both slave States), at the head of navigation on the Potomac, including two existing small ports.

Why shouldn't "bureaucrats" be allowed to vote?! Even slaves got 3/5th of a vote!

If a different site had been chosen, Georgetown and Alexandria would have developed into quaint, middle sized university or tourist towns - with fewer jerks and a lot less traffic!
 
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Feb 2019
1,134
Serbia
New York City and Philadelphia were capitals before D.C. was built, so they should be the obvious choices. I don't know if there was any plan to move the capital after D.C. was built.

Do we count the Confederacy as a part of this? As in, do their capitals and cities count.
 
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