The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
Welcome to Federal Hall
Did you watch the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in January? That ceremony took place at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
But our country’s capital wasn’t always in Washington. George Washington was sworn in to office as our first president on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City.
Let’s learn more about this national landmark.
The original building on Wall Street was built between 1699 and 1703 and named New York City Hall.
After the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, Pierre L’enfant, a French architect who later designed the city plan for Washington, D.C., was hired to build a new government building on the site in New York. The new building was called Federal Hall, and it was where the first Congress, Supreme Court and executive offices were housed.
In 1790, the U.S. government moved to Philadelphia, and L’enfant’s building became a city government building again. It was demolished in 1812.
At Federal Hall, the Congress of the Confederation approved the Northwest Ordinance in 1789. This ordinance, or law, set up what would later become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. It also prohibited slavery in these future states. Congress also:
• authorized the first census of the population.
• set up the laws for the location of the new capital in Washington, D.C.
• set up laws that established the U.S. court system that we still use today.
The Bill of Rights was written in Federal Hall in 1789. At that time, our country had only 13 states and a population of about 3 million. Twenty-six senators and 65 representatives debated about amending the Constitution.
In September 1789, Congress passed 12 amendments.