Was New York or Philadelphia ever declared the capital of the United States
Yes when New York became the capital in (1784) and the last time Philadelphia became the capital (July 16, 1790) both were formally declared the capitals of the United States by act of Congress. Only both were named Temporary capitals in congressional acts which tried to set up Federal Districts to become the permanent home of the Federal Government.
Philadelphia was an early capital of the Continental Congress and country before, during and after the Revolutionary War over many iterations. Philadelphia lost the capital during the Philadelphia Mutiny of 1783, where former members of George Washington's Continental Army marched on and ultimately captured Congress. Philadelphia was called upon by Congress to assist them but declined. This failure to respond by local officials outside of Congress’s control forced Congress to prioritize a federal district where its authority would be supreme. Congress's eventual release from these Continental Army veterans was negotiated by a young veteran then politician, Alexander Hamilton who served and distinguished himself as one of Washington's aids and lieutenants during the Revolutionary War.
The first "Federal District" was to be prepared on the banks of the Delaware River, outside of Philidelphia. New York was named the temporary home while this federal district was being prepared.
When congress ultimately did return to Philadelphia, from New York the political landscape had changed and now Philadelphia was named the temporary capital and a more Southern site on the banks of the Potomac was to be the permanent nations Capital. The same Residency Act which made the site on the Potomac(future Washington DC) the permanent home of the Capital, now named Philadelphia as the temporary capital.
New York was voted to be the home of the United States Congress the year after the Philadelphia Mutiny. In 1784 Congress voted to make New York's old city hall it's temporary home as a new Federal District was being prepared on the banks of the Delaware River near Philadelphia.
The first session of Congress held in New York City was Jan. 11, 1785. George Washington took the oath of office in New York City May 1,1789.
New York lost or more accurately, bargained away their claim to host the capital. Moving the capital out of New York city was part of a deal between Thomas Jefferson(Va) and Alexander Hamilton(NY) brokered by George Washington and or James Madison, July 10, 1790. This compromise moved the Capital to the South to lands donated by the States of Maryland and Virginia, in exchange the federal government assuming the Revolutionary War debt of the States. The South needed the sweetener of gaining the capital because unlike the North the South had largely paid their debt prior to the compromise. The act of Congress which codified this move was the Residence Act, July 16, 1790. This act both returned the capital to Philadelphia temporarily and established the banks of the Potomac river as the permanent site for the capital. George Washington was given the honor of selecting the exact site on the Potomac.
Prior to the Philadelphia Mutiny, the United States had about 11 Capitals before during and after the Revolutionary War; some as short as 1 day, others as long as 10 years. The common thread in Congress relocating is fleeing for their personal safety. During the war this meant fleeing from the British which would threaten to capture them, after the war it involved fleeing their own Continental Congress veterans whom congress did not, or could not pay what was owed for their service. Below is a short list of the different capitals, and how long they housed the US Congress; beneath that is a longer more detailed list of dates.
- Philadelphia’s Carpenter’s Hall (1774)
- Philadelphia's Independence Hall (1774)
- Baltimore Maryland (December 20, 1776) - 2 Months
- Lancaster, Pennsylvania (September 27, 1777) - 1 Day
- York, Pennsylvania (September 30, 1777) - 9 months
- Princeton, New Jersey (1783)
- Annapolis, Maryland. (November 26, 1783) - 10 months
- Trenton, New Jersey (November 1, 1784) - 2 months
- New York City (January 1785). - 5 years
- Philadelphia's Independence Hall (1790 and 1800)
- Washington DC (1800 - present)
- 1774 The Continental Congress meets for the first time at Philadelphia’s Carpenter’s Hall
- 1774 Congress moves to the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall)
- July 4, 1776 Continental Congress signs Declaration of Independence
in Philadelphia at Independence Hall.
- December 20, 1776, Due to British Troops, Congress Abandon's Philadelphia in favor of Baltimore Md. ( Henry Fite Tavern, known as Congress Hall )
- March 1, 1781 - first Constitution for the United States is ratified (Articles of Confederation).
- June 21, 1788 - US Constitution is Ratified
- July 9, 1790. - Residence Act which called for a city to be built on the banks of the Potomac River, Washington DC, and the Federal Government with it's 130 officials to move their after it's construction.
- 1790 - 1800. - Residence Act names Philadelphia as the temporary capital of the United States of America while the Potomac site (Washington DC) is being built.
- March 4, 1777. - Congress Returns to Philadelphia's Constitution Hall
- September 27, 1777, After Washington's defeat at the Battle of Brandywine, Congress again abandon's Philadelphia. On this day Congress meets at Lancaster Courthouse about 60 miles south of Philadelphia for 1 day.
- September 30, 1777 Continental Congress convenes at a more secure location 25 miles west of Lancaster across the Susquehanna River, inside the York County Court House and stays there for Nine months. It is from York which Congress approves the first US constitution. (Articles of Confederation isn't ratified by the states until 1781.
- June 1778, The British Leave Philadelphia and so Congress returns.
- 1781 Washington's Victory at Yorktown ends the US Revolutionary War.
- 1783 Congress again flee's Philadelphia due to Continental Army soldiers demanding the back pay, which would not come for several more years.
- 1783 Congress moves to Princeton New Jersey, Princeton University, Nassau Hall for four months.
- receives its first diplomat(Netherlands)
- receives word of formal end of the Revolutionary War (Paris Treaty).
- November 26, 1783, Congress Returns to Annapolis Maryland
- Washington Resigns as Commander of Continental Army.
- January 14, 1784, Congress Ratifies Treaty of Paris
- November 1, 1784 Confederation Congress Moves to Trenton NJ and the French Arms Tavern.
- January 1785 Congress Moves to New York City and stays put for 5 years
- April 30, 1789 Washington takes oath of office in NY, Federal Hall.
Excerpt from Declaration of Independence where the United States acting collectively declared themselves both independent from Great Britain and a new entity, The United States. This date for the Declaration of Independences, July 4th 1776 is the recognized and accepted birthdate of the United States of America, not the ratification of the Constitution which was the second attempt to organize the United States as a collective.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.