BIG DIG: All Men Are Created Equal — Eventually

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BY RICK MORAN In 1789, Congress was charged with the difficult task of locating a Capitol city that would satisfy the concerns of the two sections, north and south. The current Capitol of New York was deemed unacceptable by most ? except New Yorkers for the most part. Congress had earlier carved out some land near Trenton, New Jersey to serve as the Capitol but southerners put their foot down and refused to appropriate any monies to build anything on the site.

The Senate compromised by moving the Capitol to Philadelphia following the second session of the new Congress while the permanent Capitol would be built along the Potomac at the boundary between Virginia and Maryland. So beginning with the legislative session of 1790 until the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, Philadelphia served as our nation?s temporary Capitol.

President Washington, ever mindful of his place in history and enormous popularity, made the journey between New York and Philadelphia something of a whistle stopgeorgewashpresidenthouse5.gif tour. Every town and hamlet he entered with his impressive carriage drawn by 2 beautiful white mares became an occasion those townsfolk were not likely to forget. From miles around, everyone would turn out to see him. He made few speeches, usually some words of thanks for the host and asking people to support the new government.

What the people didn?t see was the rest of Washington?s entourage. It included several wagons of trunks and furniture. It also included the 9 slaves George Washington was bringing with him to Philadelphia.

It was never officially acknowledged that Washington brought slaves with him to the new Capitol. That?s because Philadelphia was the birthplace of the Abolitionist Society and was very touchy about the issue of slavery. Therefore, it came as no surprise that archaeologists, uncovering the remains of the house where George Washington (and John Adams) lived while the Capitol was located in Philadelphia, have unearthed a secret passage used by Washington?s slaves that kept them out of sight of visitors to the Presidential mansion. MORE

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A surprise find! The foundation of George Washington’s Philadelphia home has been dug up. Now that we have the real thing, is the National Park Service’s plan to mark the site with a modern brick structure tracing the outline of the house still needed? We’ll hear from DENNIS REIDENBACH, the Superintendent for Independence National Historical Park, also from JED LEVIN, one of the Park Service’s archaeologists who uncovered Washington’s house, and from HENRY WIENCEK, an Affiliate Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and author of An Imperfect God, George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America.


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