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Congress Authorizes a Mint, and President Washington Proclaims the Location of the Permanent Seat of Government
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Including two March 3, 1791 Acts of Congress: Resolution to Establish U.S. Mint, and Act that President be requested to report to Congress on “the quantity and situation of lands not claimed by the Indians, nor granted to, nor claimed by any of the citizens of the Unties States within the territory ceded to the United States by the State of North-Carolina, and within the territory of the United States north-west of the river Ohio.” Also the March 30, 1791 Proclamation of Permanent Seat of Government, signed in type by Washington and Jefferson.

GEORGE WASHINGTON. Columbian Centinel, April 23, 1791. Newspaper. Boston: Benjamin Russell. 4 pp. (pp. 45-48), 10¼ x 16¼ in

Inventory #30027.45       Price: $3,250


Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That a mint shall be established under such regulations as shall be directed by law.

“Resolved, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby authorized to cause to be engaged, such principal artists as shall be necessary to carry the preceeding resolution into effect, and to stipulate the terms and conditions of their service, and also to cause to be procured such apparatus as shall be requisite for the same purpose.” March 3, 1791. (p1/c1)

By the President of the United State. A Proclamation. Whereas by a Proclamation bearing date the 24th day of January, of this present year, and in pursuance of certain acts of the states of Maryland and Virginia, and of the Congress of the United States, therein mentioned, certain lines of experiment were directed to be run in the neighbourhood of Georgetown in Maryland, for the purpose of determining the location of a part of the territory of ten miles square for the permanent seat of the Government of the United States....” (p1/c1)

NOW THEREFORE, for the purpose of amending and completing the location of the whole of the said territory of ten miles square, in conformity with the said amendatory act of Congress, I do hereby declare and make known that the whole of the said territory shall be located and included within the four lines following, that is to say—

Beginning at Jones’ point, being the upper Cape of Hunting Creek, in Virginia, and at an angle, in the outset of 45 degrees west of the north, and running in a direct line ten miles for the first line: Then beginning again at the same Jones’ point, and running another direct line at a right angle with the first, across the Patowmac, ten miles, for the second line: Then from the terminations of the said first and second lines, running two other direct lines, of ten miles each, the one crossing the Eastern branch aforesaid, and the other the Patowmac, and meeting each other in a point.” (p1/c2)

Historical Background

In April 1790, Congress asked Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to prepare a plan for establishing a national mint. In January 1791, Hamilton responded with an extensive plan. In his plan, Hamilton quoted approvingly the adage that “The perfection of the Coins is a great safeguard against counterfeits.” On March 3, President George Washington approved this resolution of Congress that a mint be established and that the President engage artists to develop designs for American coins that were difficult to counterfeit.

Congress passed An act establishing a mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States in April 1792 to establish a mint at the seat of government (Philadelphia at the time) with five officers—a director, an assayer, a chief coiner, an engraver, and a treasurer. Washington appointed scientist David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) as the first director of the mint and approved the purchase of land in Philadelphia for the mint. He also appointed clockmaker Henry Voight (1738-1814) as the first chief coiner of the mint. Robert Scot (1745-1823) was chief engraver from 1793 until his death.

In 1788 and 1789, the General Assemblies of Maryland and Virginia passed laws allowing those states to cede land to the federal government for a capital district. In July 1790, Congress narrowly passed An Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States, commonly known as the Residence Act. The act was part of a regional compromise between Alexander Hamilton, who favored the federal assumption of state debts from the Revolutionary War, and James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, who wanted the national capital on a site on the Potomac River. The Residence Act authorized President Washington to decide the exact location of a site up to ten miles square along the Potomac River between Conococheague Creek and the Anacostia River. On March 30, 1791, Washington announced his selection of the southernmost part of this sixty-plus-mile stretch of the Potomac, encompassing Georgetown, Maryland, just below the fall line, straddling the river, and near Washington’s plantation at Mount Vernon.  In 1846, Congress returned the area on the western side of the Potomac ceded by Virginia to that state, leaving the District of Columbia entirely on the Maryland side of the river.

Additional Content

This issue also includes the results of the city elections in Boston (p1/c4); Catherine II of Russia’s refusal to accept British mediation at the end of the Russo-Turkish War (p2/c1); a vivid description of the seizure of the King and Queen of France in October 1789 (p2/c4-p3/c1); a notice that President Washington was at Mount Vernon, prior to his “patriotick journey to the southward” (p3/c1); and a large number of notices and advertisements.

Columbian Centinel (1790-1840) was a semi-weekly newspaper published in Boston by Benjamin Russell. It continued Russell and William Warden’s Massachusetts Centinel (1784-1790) and was the most influential newspaper in Massachusetts after the American Revolution. It was strongly Federalist in outlook and had the largest circulation in Boston until 1800. In 1828, Russell sold the Centinel to Joseph T. Adams and Thomas Hudson, who continued publishing it until 1840, when it merged with several other newspapers.

Condition. Slight stain on page one. Loss in margin well clear of text.

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