Amendment to The Bill

Amendment to the Bill, "An Act to establish the Seat of Government . . ." on the "banks of the Susquehannah in the State of Pennsylvania," September 26, 1789

National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the U.S. House of Representativess

The choice of a location for the capital of the new republic was hotly contested. The First Congress considered sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. In September 1789 the House passed a bill locating the capital on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. The specific site was not mentioned but most people assumed it would be Wright’s Ferry, recently renamed Columbia in hopes of attracting Congress. In the Senate, Robert Morris of Philadelphia successfully amended the bill, changing the location to the northern suburbs of Philadelphia. The House almost agreed, but just before Congress adjourned, Representative James Madison of Virginia secured a postponement of the matter. In the 1790 session, he and other supporters of a site on the Potomac River prevailed.