Constitutional Framers Essay

1260 words - 5 pages

The Constitutional Framers envisioned a national government that, like Plato’s cave, would be “at a distance and out of sight” of the everyday affairs and thoughts of ordinary Americans. They had envisioned Washington D.C. to be a cultural mecca on par with the capitals of European nations, both economically and socially. The reality of the Washington Community was a disaster compared to the lofty ambitions of the founding fathers; a desolate purgatory to be endured. The socially and economically barren capital combined Spartan living conditions with isolation. High turnover was prevalent in both the house and senate; a disappointment to the Federalists who had hoped for institutional memory within congress. Instead of creating the new form of “national” and “long term” thinking by men of prominence, congressmen turned to fellow members of boarding houses for a sense of legitimacy and guidance. Boarding houses were organized along regional lines and served to enforce differences between geographical communities; the isolation the founders had hoped would lead to a unique national identity inadvertently strengthened regional ties.
The Framers had to isolate the Washington community; removing congressmen from the outside influence of state politics would protect against corruption. “From this time until the objective was realized, it was never seriously disputed that the government ought to have a home and to wield sole authority over the environs; and when Congress at last reached its permanent abode in Washington, that body showed how dearly it prized its freedom from local interference by refusing the District’s citizenry the right of formal participation in not only national but also state government” (Young, p.96). The Framers had envisioned a prestigious, economically viable, city; a center of culture on par with the capitals of European nations. “The lack of historical precedent for building a governmental center ex nihil did not apparently, generate any misgivings about the bold enterprise” (Young, p. 96). The capital was destined to be a success; so sure of this fact, funds for public buildings were expected to be raised through private land speculation.
Reality was a colossal failure; the founders were so successful at removing congress from the minds of Americans that few thought to invest in the land speculation. The capital was an economic disaster, a backwater community saved only by financial intervention from neighboring states. “For it was states, not citizens, that were revealed to have a proprietary interest in the national establishment, and it was states that came to the rescue when the entire project was threatened with collapse” (Young, p. 99). Even with external funds, the Washington community remained a desolate swamp no one wished to inhabit. Limited buildings, commerce and trade produced an environment of barbaric day to day living conditions for congressmen. “They worked together, daily...

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