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Washington, DC is unique among American cities because it was established by the Constitution of the United States to serve as the nation's capital. From the beginning it has been embroiled in political maneuvering, sectional conflicts, issues of race, national identity, compromise and, of course, power.

The choice of Washington's site along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers resulted from a compromise between Alexander Hamilton and northern states who wanted the new Federal government to assume Revolutionary War debts and Thomas Jefferson and southern states who wanted the capital placed in a location friendly to slave-holding agricultural interests.

George Washington, the first president and namesake of the city, chose the site and appointed three commissioners to help prepare for the arrival of the new government in 1800. In its 200+ years as the nation's capital Washington has developed as a complex and layered city with multiple personalities. As home to the federal government, it has attracted a diverse mix of government workers, members of Congress from every state, foreign emissaries, lobbyists, petitioners and protestors.


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