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Morrison's Stranger's Guide for Washington City

Morrison's Stranger's Guide for Washington City

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Excerpt from Morrison's Stranger's Guide for Washington City: Illustrated With Numerous Engravings and Map

Washington, the seat of Government of the United States, is situated upon the Potomac, at the head of tide-water and of navigation, at the confluence of the Anacostia. The Potomac is the broadest river in the Union, and one of the most beautiful. At its mouth it is 7 1/2 miles wide; at Washington its width is 1 3/4 miles; while the Anacostia at its mouth is about as wide as the main stream. A grand natural amphitheatre is formed by a chain of low wooded hills encircling the city on the east, north, and west, the sides and tops of which afford commanding views.

The site is one of the most beautiful in the Union, and admirably adapted to manufactures and commerce. But owing to the immediate vicinity of Baltimore and Alexandria, and the official gifts of the Government, the attention of the inhabitants has never turned toward the great natural advantages of the position for business enterprises. The city is contemporaneous with the Capitol. Prior to the location of the seat of government at this place, there was not even a village where the beautiful city now stretches its broad avenues. The act establishing the seat of government at its present location was passed July 16, 1790; and in 1800 the transfer from Philadelphia took place. The grandeur of the plan of the city, and the distances of the public edifices from each other, with the slender aid afforded by Congress, have retarded its growth and the completion of the original design. But these difficulties are being overcome, and, since 1861, there has been new life infused into the sluggish spirit that made Washington known as "a city of distances." In 1870 the real improvements began in earnest, and Washington, with its lovely parked streets and avenues, its completed and newly-begun public buildings and elegant private residences, is, perhaps, the most beautiful city in the Union. The prosperity and comfort of the city is greatly enhanced by the munificent supply of water through the grand aqueduct recently completed. The consumption of water daily is, at this date, 126,000,000 gallons, the largest quantity proportionately to size of any city in the world.

On the 21st of February, 1871, an Act of Congress was passed, declaring that all that part of the territory of the United States included within the limits of the District of Columbia should be created into a government by the name of the said district, and that the executive power and authority in and over the same should be vested in a Governor, who should be appointed by the President; and the legislative power be vested in a legislative assembly. Under this act the President appointed Henry D. Cook, Governor, who resigned September, 1873, when Alexander K. Shepherd was appointed his successor, and remained in office until June, 1874, when the act of February, 1871, was amended by abolishing the executive and the legislature, and vesting the authority temporarily in three Commissioners.

According to an Act of Congress, approved June 11th, 1878, a permanent form of government for the District of Columbia was established.

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