Most of us will likely never know how the course of history may have been altered as the result of a successful back-room deal being struck. Yet, it happens all the time, in both the private sphere as well as in the public/political realm.
But every so often, the truth comes out and we become privy to the details of such an incredible deal as that which was struck between three of the our most brilliant founders. Had it not been for one intimate dinner party at the small home one of the trio was leasing in New York, our nation may not have survived a crisis in which it found itself in its infancy.
It all began when Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Treasury Secretary, became concerned about the fiscal “health” of our young country. As a result, he authored a plan that involved the Feds “absorbing” the massive war debts of the individual states contingent upon the states “accepting new, interest-paying securities.”
Hamilton believed that this bold move would serve to encourage business development and be a boon to our developing nation’s economy.
The states in the northeast generally favored Hamilton’s proposal as they owed the lion’s share of the Revolutionary War debt whereas the southern states had already paid off a good bit of what was owed and considered the plan unfair to them.
Since each congressional representative is charged with working to best serve the interest of his own constituents, it’s almost a forgone conclusion that the legislature found itself at a standstill regarding Hamilton’s proposal in 1790. James Madison, then a Virginia Representative, led the charge against passage as it not only didn’t appear to benefit his state but seemed rather punitive. He was very successful at stalling the plan.
And when, six months later, Congress was still at loggerheads, the incomparable Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson concocted a brilliant plan that was best served up alongside a groaning board of the finest victuals and spirits one could possibly imagine. After all, no one, absolutely no one, hosted a dinner party quite like Mr. Jefferson!
And so it went, that Jefferson hosted the two rivals, Hamilton and Madison, in the dining room of 57 Maiden Lane wherein, over the most fanciful of delicacies and the finest of wine offerings, the details were ironed out that enabled Hamilton’s bill to become law and perhaps more importantly, established Washington, District of Columbia as the official and permanent capital of the United States of America.
This “deal” was the very definition of a true compromise as both parties left the bargaining table with something of inestimable value. The north had its crushing debt relieved while the south would soon lay claim to the U.S. capital. An absolute win-win!
As for Secretary Hamilton’s plan to firmly establish proper fiscal footing for our burgeoning republic, it was nothing short of a rousing success. And of course, for anyone who has ever visited the nation’s capital, it’s doubtless that he or she could conceive of a more beautiful and fitting place as the seat of our glorious nation.
Thanks to the skilled diplomacy of our first Secretary of State and a splendid meal served in a quaint yet elegant setting, this unparalleled experiment in liberty was off and running. And on this day in 1800, Washington, D.C. was “registered” as the permanent capital of our great land.