Today, September 18, 1793; George Washington, Capitol Cornerstone and Mystery of the Silver Plate

From 1759 to 1775, George Washington enjoyed life as a farmer and plantation owner at his Mount Vernon estate.

In 1775, Washington was appointed to be the Commander-in-Chief of the newly formed Continental Army. He reluctantly agreed to accept the appointment by the Continental Congress.

In 1781, Washington defeated British General Cornwallis, effectively ending the fighting of the War for Independence.

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On September 3, 1783, the Revolutionary War with Great Britain officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

On December 23, 1783, Washington addressed the Continental Congress and announced that he was resigning his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and was returning to his life as a plantation owner and farmer. By resigning his commission, Washington was returning power back to the people and was seen as a heroic action among many world leaders at the time.

At the time, the newly formed United States was operating under the Articles of Confederation and Washington, among many others, realized that this document was insufficient to rule the nation.

In 1787, Washington returned to Philadelphia and was instrumental in helping form the Constitutional Convention which met and drafted the Constitution of the United States. His influence is so great that he is elected President of the Constitutional Convention.

On June 21, 1788, the US Constitution is ratified and officially becomes the governing document for the United States of America.

In April 1789, the Electoral College created by the US Constitution unanimously elected George Washington to be the first President of the United States.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States.

In 1790, Congress passed the Residency Act also known as Act for Establishing the Temporary and Permanent Seat of the Government of the United States, in which they gave Washington the authority to select and plan a permanent location for the national capital.

The Residency Act granted the federal government up to and not exceeding 10 miles square of land. Washington chose a sight along the Potomac River about 20 miles southwest of Baltimore. The location was both politically and geographically in the middle of the original 13 states.

Originally, the location was a diamond covering 100 square miles, that stretched to both sides of the Potomac in Maryland and Virginia. (In 1846, the land on the Virginia side of the river was returned to the state of Virginia because of the slave trade.)

Washington chose Pierre Charles L’Enfant to design the national capital. L’Enfant was a Frenchman who had come to America to help fight for freedom from the British. He was tasked with laying out the ideas of Washington and build a national capital in 10 years.

In 1792, the Electoral College again elected Washington to a second term as President. At the time, members of the Electoral College had to cast two votes, one for President and one for Vice President. Whoever received the most votes would be President and whoever finished second would be Vice President. Washington received 132 votes (there were 132 electors) and incumbent Vice President John Adams was elected to a second term also with 77 votes.

On March 4, 1793, Washington was sworn in to his second term as President.

On this day, September 18, 1793, a huge ceremony took place when George Washington laid the cornerstone for the new Capitol Building. The Alexandria Gazette, a newspaper in Virginia described the event of Washington crossing the Potomac River where he was met by two brass bands, an artillery company made up of volunteers and a delegation of Masons. In what is considered to be the first parade held in the new national capital, Washington was led to the sight where the White House was being constructed and then on to the sight where the Capitol Building was to be built.

According to the Gazette, Washington laid an engraved silver plate at the southeast corner sight of the cornerstone that was then covered up with the rest of the construction. To this day, no one has been able to locate the silver plate or where they exact cornerstone laid by Washington is. It is not known if it was at the southeast corner of what is the Senate building, which was the first section completed, or the corner of the entire planned building which would have included the opposite side belonging to the House of Representatives. Experts using metal detectors have tried to locate the exact spot and the engraved silver plate but to date, all attempts have failed. Since the original construction, there have been several additions built onto the Capitol Building to accommodate the increase number of members of Congress and their staff, as new states have been added over the past couple of decades. The mystery of the silver plate remains a mystery to this day.


Sources of the above includes: George Washington Lays the Cornerstone of the Capitol; Washington Lays Capitol Cornerstone, Sept. 18, 1793; The First Cornerstone; Capitol Cornerstone is Laid; Where is the Washington Cornerstone; After 200 Years, Sleuths Seek Capitol Cornerstone; Today in History: George Washington Lays the Cornerstone to the US Capitol in 1793; George Washington Laying the Cornerstone of the United States Capital; George Washington Timeline; Today, May 15, 1800: Federal Government Ordered to Leave Philadelphia


Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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