MOMENTS IN HISTORY
1. FOUNDATION OF THE FEDERAL CITY
The US Constitution, ratified in 1788, provided for “a District (not exceeding ten Miles
square) as may, by Cession of Particular States…, become the Seat of the Government
of the United States.”
2. LAYOUT AND DESIGN
In 1790 George Washington selected Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French engineer, to
lay out the city. The plan was influenced by Versailles and the city of Paris.
3. WAR OF 1812
The United States declared war on Britain in 1812, seeking freedom of marine trade
and the security of US seamen. In 1814 British troops entered the capital and burned
government buildings, including the White House and the Capitol. If it had not
rained, the whole city might have burned.
Thomas Jefferson began western expansion by organizing the Lewis and Clark exped-
ition in 1803. The C&O Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad provided com-
merce through the mountains and a period of prosperity. New states were added to
the Union, and bitter divisions arose connected to the issue of slavery.
5. CIVIL WAR
Conflict between the Union and the seceding southern states began on April 12, 1861,
and plunged Washington and the nation into crisis. Union supporters, joined by thou-
sands of blacks escaping slavery in the South, doubled the city's population in four
years. Although threatened, the city was never taken by Confederate troops, and when
the war ended in 1865, Washington was unharmed.