On July 16, 1790, the Founding Fathers ensconced the nation’s capital in what History.com described as “a swampy, humid, muddy and mosquito-infested site on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia,” named for George Washington “who saw the area’s potential economic, and accessibility benefits due to the proximity of navigable rivers.”
The French architect, Pierre L Enfant, was tasked with mapping out the city’s layout, and George Hoban worked up the design for the White House, but George Washington would never live there because he died in 1799—a year before it was completed.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Secrets of Our Nation’s Capital: Weird and Wonderful Facts About Washington, DC by Susan Schader Lee.
On July 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln rounded up his cabinet and advisors to divulge his intention to issue an Emancipation Proclamation that would abolish slavery.
“Attempting to stitch together a nation mired in a bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln made a last ditch, but carefully calculated, executive decision regarding the institution of slavery in America. At the time of the meeting with his cabinet, things were not looking good for the Union. The Confederate Army had overcome Union troops in significant battles and Britain and France were set to officially recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation,” History.com reports.
Lincoln, however, waited until September 22, 1862, to release a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all enslaved people in the rebellious states–as of January 1, 1863.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty by Tonya Bolden.
On July 30, 1619, the first legislature was assembled in Jamestown, VA.
According to History.com, “Earlier that year, the London Company, which had established the Jamestown settlement 12 years before, directed Virginia Governor Sir George Yeardley to summon a ‘General Assembly’ elected by the settlers, with every free adult male voting. Twenty-two representatives from the 11 Jamestown boroughs were chosen, and Master John Pory was appointed the assembly’s speaker. On July 30, the House of Burgesses (an English word for “citizens”) convened for the first time. Its first law, which, like all its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends James Horn’s 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.