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Today in history: July 16
In 1790, Congress decided to move America's capital to Washington, D.C.
James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, circa 1809.
James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, circa 1809. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

July 16, 1790: Congress declared that a plot of land on the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland would serve as the new U.S. capital. It would be called "Washington" in the "District of Columbia." One reason the capital was moved: security. Congress, originally located in Philadelphia, had been attacked by citizens in 1783. Prominent officials like James Madison urged that the government to move to a more secure location. Not that the new capital was safe. In 1814, invading British troops easily captured Washington and burned the Capitol and White House to the ground. The president (ironically James Madison) fled after vowing to defend "every inch" of the city against the Redcoats.

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