« ZurückWeiter »
Thornton's plan as impracticable, and had reported in favor of Mr. Hallett's, and that the latter would cost but one half that of the former.* Mr. James Hoban, who had been appointed superintendent of the Capitol, was therefore informed that the foundations would be begun upon the plan exhibited by Mr. Hallett, leaving "the recess in the east front open to further consideration.” From this date,– July, 1793, must be reckoned the years of the Capitol. The southeast corner-stone was ready to be laid on the 18th of September, 1793. Great preparations were made for the event. Grenadier and artillery companies were mustered, and civic societies, the mayor and corporation of Georgetown, the surveying department of the city of Washington, and many distinguished citizens were invited.
The 18th dawned fair and cloudless, and at an early hour the open spaces of the embryo city were filled by an expectant multitude. An intelligent eyewitness has thus described the exercises of the day :
Lodge No. 9 and Lodge No. 22 with all their officers and regalia appeared on the southern bank of the grand river Potomack ; one of the finest companies of volunteer artillery parading to receive the President of the United States, who shortly came in sight with his suite, to whom the artillery paid military honors, and His Excellency and suite crossed the river and were received in Maryland by the officers and brethren of No. 22 Vir
* This account is taken from the Washington letters in the State Department, and settles the much controverted point as to the authorship of the plan of the Capitol. Letters of Washington to the District Commissioners, preserved in the War Department, also establish the fact.
ginia, and No. 9 Maryland, whom the President headed, and, preceded by a band of music, with the rear brought up by the Alexandria Volunteer Artillery, with grand solemnity of march proceeded to the President's Square in the city of Washington, where they were met and saluted by Lodge No. 15 of the city in all their elegant regalia, headed by Bro. Joseph Clark, Rt. W. G. M., and conducted to a large lodge prepared for the purpose of their reception. After a short space of time the brotherhood and other bodies were disposed in a second procession, which took place amid a brilliant crowd of spectators of both sexes according to the following arrangement : The surveying department of the city of Washington, Mayor and Corporation of Georgetown, Virginia Artillery, Commissioners of the city of Washington and their attendants, stone cutters, mechanics, two sword bearers, Masons of the First Degree, Bibles, etc., on grand cushions, Deacons with staffs of Office, Masons of the Second Degree, Stewards with Wands, Wardens with truncheons, Secretaries with tools of office, Past Masters with their Regalia, Treasurers with their Jewels, Band of Music, Lodge No. 22 of Virginia disposed in their own order; Corn, Wine, and Oil ; Grand Master P. T.; George Washington, W. M. No. 22 Virginia, ; Grand Sword Bearer. The procession marched two abreast in the greatest solemn dignity, with music playing, drums beating, colors flying, and spectators rejoicing (from the President's Square to the Capitol in the city of Washington, where the Grand Marshal ordered a halt, and directed each file in the procession to incline two steps, one to the right, and one to the left, and face each other, which formed a hollow, oblong square, through which the Grand Sword Bearer led the van, followed by the Grand Master P. T. on the left, the President of the United States in the centre, and the Worshipful Master of No. 22, Virginia on the right). All the other orders that composed the procession advanced in the reverse of their order of march from the President's Square to the southeast corner of the Capitol, and the artillery filed off to a destined ground, to display their manœuvres and discharge their cannon.
“ The President of the United States, the Grand Master, P. T., and the Worshipful Master of No. 22 took their stands to the east of a huge stone, and all the craft forming in a circle westward stood a short time in silent, awful order.
“The artillery discharged a volley. The Grand Marshal delivered the Commissioners a large silver plate with an inscription thereon, which the Commissioners ordered to be read, and which was as follows :
“This Southeast Corner Stone of the Capitol of the United States of America in the city of Washington was laid on the 18th day of September, 1793, in the 13th year of American Independence, in the first year of the second term of the Presidency of George Washington, whose virtues in the civil administration of his country have been as conspicuous and beneficial as his military valor and prudence have been useful in establishing her liberties, and in the year of Masonry 5793, by the President of the United States, in concert with the Grand Lodge of Maryland, several lodges under its jurisdiction, and Lodge No. 22, from Alexandria, Virginia.
“The artillery discharged a volley. The plate was then delivered to the President, who, attended by the Grand Master P. T. and three Most Worshipful Masters, descended to the caisson trench and deposited the plate, and laid it on the corner stone of the Capitol of the United States of America, on which was deposited corn, wine, and oil. Then the whole congregation joined in prayer, which was succeeded by Masonic chanting honors and a volley from the artillery. The President of the United States and his attendant brethren ascended from the caisson to the east of the corner stone, and then the Grand Master, elevated on a triple rostrum, delivered an oration, after which there was more Masonic chanting and a 15th volley from the artillery. The whole company retired to an extensive booth where an ox of 500 lbs. was barbecued, of which the company generally partook, with every abundance of other recreation. The festival concluded with 15 successive volleys from the artillery, and before dark the whole company departed with joyful hopes of the production of their labor.”
The commissioners had before this advertised for plans for a “ President's House,", and a design submitted by James Hoban, an Irish architect, who was now acting as supervising architect of the Capitol, had been accepted. The construction of both
now pushed forward with vigor, the act of Congress creating the district having stipulated that the house for Congress should be ready for occupancy by the year 1800. Brick as a material was wisely discarded, and Virginia sandstone from quarries opened at Acquia Creek for the purpose substituted. From this period until 1800 the city site presented much the appearance of a huge workshop. Long lines of teams drawing blocks of stone from the river landing; Scotch, French, and Italian stone-cutters at work under booths fashioning them ; Italian sculptors modelling classic ornaments; and on Capitol Hill and at the President's house graceful walls surrounded by scaffolding slowly rising toward heaven, were the salient features of the scene. The foreign sculptors and artisans were imported for the purpose, and for laborers the commissioners hired slaves of their owners at so much a week. Indeed labor was much more easy to secure than the funds necessary to pay for it. Congress, as we have seen, had appropriated nothing, in fact had nothing to give. The $120,000 given by Virginia, and the $72,000 voted by Maryland were soon exhausted. Lots were thrown on the market as soon as the city was plotted, and a number were sold, but the money thus secured was but a drop in the
Lotteries were held with but indifferent success, and the commissioners made futile efforts to borrow money of France and Holland. At length the President applied personally to the State of Maryland for a loan of $100,000, which was granted, but so little faith had the State in the credit of the General Government, that she demanded the personal credit of the commissioners—which was given. While the city was yet in embryo-in 1797, -Washington, declining a third term as President, retired to Mount Vernon, and his successor, John Adams, assumed the care of the Federal City. President Adams came from a section openly hostile to the