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Capital Ideas: Nineteenth Century Progressives and the Transnational City-Making Movement
Unformatted Document Text:  to pay for improvements it had made to federal property. 145 But these appropriations always fell well short of what local officials claimed Congress owed the District, even if the federal government was regarded as simply another property holder in the District. 146 What the territorial officials and their supporters ultimately sought was formal acknowledgement by Congress that it would oversee the future development of the capital on behalf of the American people. Chipman asked Congress to develop a “well defined theory governing the relationship between the federal government and its capital” 147 and then to implement “ a wise patriotic and consistent, and well defined policy” toward the nation’s capital based on this theory. Chipman, for his part, drafted and introduced such a bill. 148 Nor was Chipman the only voice calling for the U.S. government to assume formal responsibility for the creation of a representative American capital. Zina Fay Pierce, of the Atlantic Monthly, urged Congress to create a “National Board of Public Works” to “take charge of entire surface of the District “ and oversee all improvements from the planting of trees to the paving of streets. Pierce recommended that the costs for this improvement be borne by the “national treasury.” Residents of the District would be financially responsible only for the maintenance of the new city. 149 Congress, not surprisingly, greeted such proposals with little enthusiasm. If, however, Congress remained unwilling to act on behalf of the American public at the capital, territorial officials were confident that the legislative branch would eventually be compelled to accept formal responsibility for the development of the capital. The scale of the work underway in the District virtually ensured that the modernization of the capital would have to be completed even after the territorial government exhausted its own meagre resources. 150 There were also regular efforts to appeal to the patriotism of Congress. The relationship which obtained between the German and French governments and 145 See, for example, the House debate on an appropriating of $1, 241, 920.92 “to pay the expenditures made by the Board of Public Works of the District for paving, roadways, curbing, and grading, sewage and other improvements upon and adjoining property of the U.S.” in Congressional Globe and Chipman’s remarks, “Improvements in the District,” 14 December 1872 (Washington: F and J Rives and George Bailey, 1872) and later debates on this issue in the Sundry Civil Appropriations bill reported in the Star 3 March 1873. 146 See, for example, “Appropriations by Congress” in supplemental index of Report of the Board of Public Works, 1872, p. 8; Report of the Board of Public Works, p. 7; and Norton P. Chipman, “Improvements in the District of Columbia,” 14 December 1872, p. 3. 147 Norton P. Chipman, “Speech of Norton P. Chipman,” p. 29. 148 Ibid., p. 29. See also Chipman’s “Bill to Define the Relationship of the District of Columbia to the United States and other Purposes” reported in the Star 16 March 1874. 149 “The New Washington,” p. 715. 150 Green, Washington: Village to Capital p. 347. Shepherd’s tactic was most clearly reflected in a system of letting contracts in which the contract came into effect as soon as work commenced, not on completion of the work. 39

Authors: Shanahan, Suzanne.
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to pay for improvements it had made to federal property.
But these appropriations always fell well
short of what local officials claimed Congress owed the District, even if the federal government was
regarded as simply another property holder in the District.
What the territorial officials and their supporters ultimately sought was formal acknowledgement
by Congress that it would oversee the future development of the capital on behalf of the American people.
Chipman asked Congress to develop a “well defined theory governing the relationship between the federal
government and its capital”
and then to implement “ a wise patriotic and consistent, and well defined
policy” toward the nation’s capital based on this theory. Chipman, for his part, drafted and introduced
such a bill.
Nor was Chipman the only voice calling for the U.S. government to assume formal
responsibility for the creation of a representative American capital. Zina Fay Pierce, of the Atlantic
Monthly, urged Congress to create a “National Board of Public Works” to “take charge of entire surface of
the District “ and oversee all improvements from the planting of trees to the paving of streets. Pierce
recommended that the costs for this improvement be borne by the “national treasury.” Residents of the
District would be financially responsible only for the maintenance of the new city.
Congress, not
surprisingly, greeted such proposals with little enthusiasm.
If, however, Congress remained unwilling to act on behalf of the American public at the capital,
territorial officials were confident that the legislative branch would eventually be compelled to accept
formal responsibility for the development of the capital. The scale of the work underway in the District
virtually ensured that the modernization of the capital would have to be completed even after the territorial
government exhausted its own meagre resources.
There were also regular efforts to appeal to the
patriotism of Congress. The relationship which obtained between the German and French governments and
145
See, for example, the House debate on an appropriating of $1, 241, 920.92 “to pay the expenditures made by the
Board of Public Works of the District for paving, roadways, curbing, and grading, sewage and other improvements
upon and adjoining property of the U.S.” in Congressional Globe and Chipman’s remarks, “Improvements in the
District,” 14 December 1872 (Washington: F and J Rives and George Bailey, 1872) and later debates on this issue in
the Sundry Civil Appropriations bill reported in the Star 3 March 1873.
146
See, for example, “Appropriations by Congress” in supplemental index of Report of the Board of Public Works,
1872, p. 8; Report of the Board of Public Works, p. 7; and Norton P. Chipman, “Improvements in the District of
Columbia,” 14 December 1872, p. 3.
147
Norton P. Chipman, “Speech of Norton P. Chipman,” p. 29.
148
Ibid., p. 29. See also Chipman’s “Bill to Define the Relationship of the District of Columbia to the United States
and other Purposes” reported in the Star 16 March 1874.
149
“The New Washington,” p. 715.
150
Green, Washington: Village to Capital p. 347. Shepherd’s tactic was most clearly reflected in a system of letting
contracts in which the contract came into effect as soon as work commenced, not on completion of the work.
39


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