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Old 11-16-2007, 03:21 PM
Randy Seltzer Randy Seltzer is offline
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Why are so many State capitals NOT the biggest city in the state?

Currently, 33 US State capitals are not the biggest city in their respective states. I understand that many of them WERE at the time they became capitals. But many were not, and the decision to eschew the metropolis, and instead house the capital in some podunk nowhere is baffling. I'm thinking specifically of Harrisburg, PA. Philadelphia was the state capial until 1799, at which time it was the most populous city in the country. Harrisburg wasn't even incorporated until 1791, and as far as I can tell, it was just a couple of huts and a ferry crossing out in the scrubs when the state government decided to make it the capital.

Why would they do this? Why move the government away from the people? Is there some military advantage to having your capital separated from your major popluation center? Really? Or is the government fearing revolution from the city rabble? Or does it just have to do with the governing body wanting its own space?

Pennsylvania isn't the only confusing one.

Jefferson City, MO - State since 1821. Capital since 1826. Why not St Louis, which was the capital from 1812-1826? Jefferson City was just a tiny trading post and it wasn't even incorporated as a city until 1839. St Louis was huge at that time.

Albany, NY - State since 1776 (1788?). Capital since 1797. Why not NYC? It was the capital of the colony, etc. for several hundred years, and was the state capital for much of the 21 years before they moved it to Albany. I understand that Albany has a long important history, but why didn't they keep the capital in the city that was big/important enough to host George Washington's inauguration?

Sacramento, CA - State since 1850. Capital since 1854. Why not San Fransisco? Yes, the gold rush was much closer to Sacramento, but wasn't the population center still closer to the coast?

(In case you're wondering, the states whose largest cities and capitals are not the same are: Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakoda, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virgina, Washington, and Wisconsin)
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:27 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I've wondered about this myself. In the cases where the largest and (by several arguments) most important cities in the states are the capitals, people's reaction is "of course". So with Boston, Massachusetts, or Salt Lake City, Utah, or Providence, Rhode Island. It's hard to imagine any other cities being the capital.


But Springfield, Illinois? My cousin was a state senator there once. He lived up near Chicago, and had to practically go into exile to serve his term at the other end of the state.
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:28 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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We just did this exact question not that long ago.

The basic answer is that your premise is flawed. The largest cities in the state don't have any claim to being the state capital. The reverse is more often true. The capital of New York is Albany largely because it isn't New York city. Geographical issues are also at play especially in the older days. New York City is not even near the bulk of New York State by area and the good people of Upstate New York need someone watching out for them as well. Many states moved their capitals over the years as well due to politics or changing conditions. Some of it is just luck where they ended up.

However, being the largest city in the state is a prime reason why it wouldn't get to be the capital. Designating another city as the capital spreads the wealth so to speak and minimizes the co-mingling of state and city interests.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 11-16-2007 at 03:31 PM..
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:33 PM
jk1245 jk1245 is offline
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Also, many times the capital was chosen with the idea of being centrally located so as to appease the rural constituencies of the legislators, or to try and encourage settlement inward.
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:35 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Baton Rouge is now the largest city in Louisiana in the post-Katrina era. Strike that one from your lists. It illustrates how things can change over time as well.
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:46 PM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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Although Columbus is no longer a small city, it was specifically chosen as a blank spot near the geographic center of the state. It was a balance between the populated areas in the north and south of the state. Neither region wanted the other to have an advantage in influence.
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:49 PM
Spavined Gelding Spavined Gelding is online now
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Think big town--small town / rural hostilities. The state capitol is (generally) designated by the state legislature. When the state leg was not elected on a one-man-one-vote basis, the leg was dominated by rural interests who would be damned if they were going to give any more power to the big city fat cats than they had already.

In my state the capitol moved three times with the advance of the frontier -- from Burlington on the Mississippi where the first settlements were established, to Iowa City (which still has the beautiful Greek Revival “Old Capitol” building), and finally to Des Moines which is more-or-less in the middle of the state and is the largest city -- to some extent by virtue of being the state capitol.

I suspect that Ohio happened from a combination of the two approaches. Columbus is in the middle of the state and it isn’t Cincinnati and it isn’t Cleveland. Springfield may be the capitol of Illinois for the same sort of reasons.
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:54 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Also, sometimes they wanted to do the "fresh start" thing, away from the huge population center so they can't say it controls everything, do a planned city, etc. Columbia here was a planned city, designed as the capitol when Charleston was where it was at. See also: Brazilia.

ETA - geography isn't always obvious - not only is Columbia in the middle of the state, not only was it somewhere with not much there so you could plan it however you liked - it's also by the fall line, which is generally the highest easily navigable point on the river and the point beyond which it's harder to use water power for mills and such.

Last edited by Zsofia; 11-16-2007 at 03:55 PM..
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:55 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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The metro area for New Orleans is still far larger than the metro area for Baton Rouge, and that's crucial in every conceivable way that's important.

Centrality is a huge issue. Large cities overwhelmingly tend to be on a coastline. The Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Pacific, or - inland - on major rivers, which are often boundaries rather than state bisectors. Putting the capital elsewhere almost always made them closer to the bulk of the state's voters.

Don't forget that when the U.S. started, about 95% of the population lived on farms. By the Civil War, that figure was still probably two-thirds. Large cities got all the attention but in only a few states held the bulk of the population. Legislatures were almost universally gerrymandered so that rural districts had a disproportionate share of the representation. They usually hated the big cities, the people who lived there - a much higher percentage of immigrants and other "thems," and the urban industrial/financial forces that had such control over their lives.

We think today that cities are everything, but for most of the 18th and 19th centuries, cities were denounced as sinkholes of iniquity, lacking real American values. Small towns represented America at its finest. The American farmer was an ideal, even if few people elsewhere wanted to do the work themselves.

Besides, large central cities were emblematic of Europe, its royalty, its palaces, its decadence, and the evils that Americans had left behind.

Everything in the culture of the country worked against cities until the 20th century. Now, ironically, people apotheosize cities and demonize suburbs. It's the same cultural trend at work, only in reverse.
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:00 PM
Giles Giles is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spavined Gelding
I suspect that Ohio happened from a combination of the two approaches. Columbus is in the middle of the state and it isn’t Cincinnati and it isn’t Cleveland. Springfield may be the capitol of Illinois for the same sort of reasons.
For most of the history of Ohio, Columbus has not been the largest city, and it's still not the largest metro area (Cleveland is the largest metro area). Columbus has grown in population partly because people have been attracted to the capital, and partly because the City of Columbus has aggressively annexed territory (so that it now stretches into three counties), while Cincinnati and Cleveland have not been able to annex territory in the same way.

And neither Cincinnati nor Cleveland have been the capital: earlier capitals have been Chillicothe and Zanesville, both relatively close to the centre of the state.
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:17 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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An excellent summary of Ohio's capital history, Giles. In the cases of both Columbus and Montpelier, Vt. (which then and now is far from being the biggest city in the state), the city fathers also made an attractive offer to the legislature in terms of free land and subsidizing the construction of a new state capitol building, IIRC.

And on a slight tangent... in his 1960 Look magazine alternative-history article "How the South Won the Civil War," Mackinlay Cantor posited that after the Rebs captured Washington, D.C. and a peace treaty was signed, Congress voted to move the national capital to Columbus, which was dubbed the "District of New Columbia," while Cleveland became the state capital. Short of cash because of moving costs, Uncle Sam wasn't able to buy Alaska when the Russians offered it.
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:29 PM
Randy Seltzer Randy Seltzer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty
We just did this exact question not that long ago.
Whoops. I did several searches and didn't come up with anything. Could you provide a link?
Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
But Springfield, Illinois? My cousin was a state senator there once. He lived up near Chicago, and had to practically go into exile to serve his term at the other end of the state.
This is an interesting one. When Springfield was made capital, Chicago had a population under 500. I assume that inertia took over before Chicago was a major transportation hub.
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:36 PM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is offline
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What is up with the state capitals?
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:46 PM
Arnold Winkelried Arnold Winkelried is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Seltzer
Sacramento, CA - State since 1850. Capital since 1854. Why not San Fransisco?
Los Angeles! If Los Angeles were the capital, it would be easy for our gubernator Arnold to still appear in action movies!
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:49 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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We leave it in Juneau in the hopes that one plane crash will kill them all.
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:50 PM
rocking chair rocking chair is offline
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harrisburg is middle-ish of pa. the rose between the thorns of pitts. and phila.

the keystone of the keystone state.
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Old 11-16-2007, 04:55 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Sacramento is the capital of California for a reason. It gives Los Angeles and San Francisco a mutual enemy. Someone they can hate, other than each other.
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Old 11-16-2007, 05:10 PM
Alive At Both Ends Alive At Both Ends is offline
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It's not limited to the USA of course, or to state capitals as opposed to national capitals. Look at Australia, with its capital at Canberra instead of Sydney; or the former West Germany which had its capital in Bonn. (Come to that, what about Washington DC, which was built from scratch to be the US capital and was far smaller than the major US cities for much of its history?)

In all these cases, the idea seems to have been to avoid a concentration of power and wealth in one place. The big cities had the economic clout so the political clout had to be located elsewhere.
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Old 11-16-2007, 05:11 PM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Seltzer
Currently, 33 US State capitals are not the biggest city in their respective states. I understand that many of them WERE at the time they became capitals. But many were not, and the decision to eschew the metropolis, and instead house the capital in some podunk nowhere is baffling...

Why would they do this? Why move the government away from the people? Is there some military advantage to having your capital separated from your major popluation center? Really? Or is the government fearing revolution from the city rabble? Or does it just have to do with the governing body wanting its own space?
If a state has two or more major cities, locating the capital somewhere else can avoid conflict. Canberra was made the capital of Australia to avoid a fight between Melbourne and Sydney for that honor.
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Old 11-16-2007, 05:41 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alive At Both Ends
(Come to that, what about Washington DC, which was built from scratch to be the US capital and was far smaller than the major US cities for much of its history?)
Most importantly, DC is exactly between the North and the South, and not considered part of either. It is not in any state. It doesn't have Congressional voting power (but that may change soon).
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Old 11-16-2007, 05:48 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
Sacramento is the capital of California for a reason. It gives Los Angeles and San Francisco a mutual enemy. Someone they can hate, other than each other.
I assume you're whoosing. The majority of people in L.A. love San Francisco. San Franciscans, however, mostly can't stand L.A., especially those who have never been there.

Sacramento, on the other hand, doesn't mean much to Angelenos other than a place where government things happen. Not being in politics, I can't think of any reason to go there, other than passing from S.F. to Lake Tahoe.
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Old 11-16-2007, 06:36 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Originally Posted by guizot
I assume you're whoosing. The majority of people in L.A. love San Francisco.
As a place to visit. I'm willing to bet less than 5% would ever want to live there, and 90% of those would be Bayers who had to move south because of their jobs.

But you're right about LA not hating SF. Why waste good hate on something so.....insignificant?
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Old 11-16-2007, 07:01 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham
But Springfield, Illinois? My cousin was a state senator there once. He lived up near Chicago, and had to practically go into exile to serve his term at the other end of the state.
Actually, Springfield is closer to Chicago (175 miles) than it is to Cairo (the southern end of the state) (193 miles).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Alive At Both Ends
It's not limited to the USA of course, or to state capitals as opposed to national capitals. Look at Australia, with its capital at Canberra instead of Sydney; or the former West Germany which had its capital in Bonn. (Come to that, what about Washington DC, which was built from scratch to be the US capital and was far smaller than the major US cities for much of its history?)
But, with the exception of recently made capitals in places like Australia, or Canada, or, artificially, Brazil, the vast majority of countries have their seat of government in their most important city (which is often the largest one as well). This is because they were located there as the result of the fortunes of history. Thus, while West Germany artificially placed a capital at Bonn, the capital of Germany was, and is again Berlin. Russia, Moscow; England (and indeed the United Kingdom now), London; Argentina, Buenos Aires; Iraq, Baghdad (even though the country is relatively new, the importance of the city over time as a capital was honored); Greece, Athens; etc.

This explains the pattern in most of the states of the United States. Of the original colonies, the pattern is fairly evenly split between states where the capitol is located in the primary city (Massachussetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Georgia, off the top of my head) and those where it is located somewhere else (New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania (though note that they used to have it in Philly, and moved it later), Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina). But as the states began to be created with artificial boundaries derived much later than the British colonization, the tendency overwhelmingly becomes one of locating the seat of government in a preferably centralized town or city, even if it isn't the largest in the state. Thus, places like Columbus (and before that Zanesville, etc.), Ohio; Lansing, Michigan; Springfield, Illinois; Columbia, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; etc. There are exceptions, and they can be quite notable. Lincoln, Nebraska, for example, is 400 miles away from Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, putting it almost as far away as San Diego is from Sacramento! Imagine if you are a citizen of that city, and need to be in the state's capital? I would imagine you would wonder why the heck someone didn't choose Broken Bow.

Obviously, there is not one all-encompassing answer as to why state capitals don't equate to the primary/largest city in a state (the reason for Sacramento is much the same as for Carson City, but not for Olympia, Washington). But, in general, the main reasons tend to be centrality of location, or desire to avoid having the seat of government in an already large city.
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Old 11-16-2007, 07:05 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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A number of people have mentioned rural vs Urban conflict and I think that is the root of it. When I was at the University of the Illinois in Urbana, the running joke was that when the state was set up, there were three spoils: the state capital, the state prison, and the state university to be divided among Springfield, Kankakee, and Urbana. Urbana lost.
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Old 11-16-2007, 07:36 PM
Governor Quinn Governor Quinn is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus
Sacramento is the capital of California for a reason. It gives Los Angeles and San Francisco a mutual enemy. Someone they can hate, other than each other.
Not really. Los Angeles was a backwater for decades after Sacramento became state capital.

Sacramento became capital for two reasons. First, it made a better offer, in terms of space and facilities, than the other candidates did. Secondly, its' location was fairly convenient for the era, as it was closer to the populations in the northern part of the state (which at that time were very important- the main reason Northern California has so many counties, in fact) than the other, coastal candidates.
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Old 11-16-2007, 07:50 PM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham
But Springfield, Illinois? My cousin was a state senator there once. He lived up near Chicago, and had to practically go into exile to serve his term at the other end of the state.
Please.

The other end of the state is Cairo, a good 250 miles further south.
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:07 PM
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Tallahassee, Florida was chosen because it is roughly midway between Jacksonville and Pensacola, the two largest cities in the state at the time.
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:14 PM
Randy Seltzer Randy Seltzer is offline
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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
...places like Columbus [...], Ohio; Lansing, Michigan; Springfield, Illinois; Columbia, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; etc.
(bolding mine)

[singing]One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just isn't the same.[/singing]
Quote:
But, in general, the main reasons tend to be centrality of location, or desire to avoid having the seat of government in an already large city.
Okay, I'll buy the 'central location' argument, but I'm still unsure about the second idea. Why shouldn't the seat of government be in an already large city? Is it really because of the rural v. urban political pressures suggested upthread?
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:24 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by Randy Seltzer
(bolding mine)
Okay, I'll buy the 'central location' argument, but I'm still unsure about the second idea. Why shouldn't the seat of government be in an already large city? Is it really because of the rural v. urban political pressures suggested upthread?
You haven't made a case why you think it should be in existing city. That is the puzzling part. I am not sure why you are so tied to the idea that an already prominent city should become the capital just because it is already thriving. The reverse is much more true.

The basic case is simple:

1) Most states already had one than one city striving for additional prominence

2) There can only be one capital city

3) The capital is going to induce substantial economic development wherever it is.

4) Why not create a thriving new center of economic and political development just by declaring a more neutral and less thriving place the new capital? It will grow just due to the fact that the government moves there and now there is additional thriving city in the state. No one whether urban or rural is unduly offended because the capital has been moved to a more neutral location.
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:38 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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A combination of rural vs. urban and the need for a central location. Albany, NY was mentioned, but the main reason it's the capital is that the city promised to build a capitol building. NYC was unacceptable to most of upstate, but the actual choice of capital boiled down to who made the best offer.
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:47 PM
Randy Seltzer Randy Seltzer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty
You haven't made a case why you think it should be in existing city. That is the puzzling part.
I wasn't aware there was a debate here.
Quote:
I am not sure why you are so tied to the idea that an already prominent city should become the capital just because it is already thriving.
Because that's what a capital city has been throughout history. See DSYoungEsq's post above. Very few nations have had their seat of government in a city that wasn't the most important or most populous.
Quote:
1) Most states already had one than one city striving for additional prominence
Like New York, for example? Or Pennsylvania? Or California? Which state are you thinking of that had one outstandingly prominent city, but still had other serious contenders for the capital?
Quote:
4) Why not create a thriving new center of economic and political development just by declaring a more neutral and less thriving place the new capital? It will grow just due to the fact that the government moves there and now there is additional thriving city in the state. No one whether urban or rural is unduly offended because the capital has been moved to a more neutral location.
Now this is an interesting, possibly valid argument: they used the government to "seed" a new city, thus creating economic growth within the state. I've not heard this idea before. Is it true?
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:05 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is online now
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When the U.S. acquired Florida, the largest cities were Pensacola and St. Augustine, which served as capitals in alternation. Tallahassee, centrally located in the populated northern tier of the territory (the peninsula south of St. Augustine was sparsely inhabited), was a compromise location.

Quote:
Locating a capital

The founding of Tallahassee was largely a matter of convenience. In 1821, Florida was ceded by Spain to the United States. A territorial government was established, but the impracticalities of alternately meeting in St. Augustine and Pensacola — the two largest cities in the territory at the time — led territorial governor William Pope Duval to appoint two commissioners to establish a more central meeting place.

In October of 1823, John Lee Williams of Pensacola and Dr. William Simmons of St. Augustine selected the former Indian settlement of Tallahassee (roughly midway between the two cities) as a suitable place. Their decision was also based on its location near a beautiful waterfall — now part of Cascades Park — and the old capital of the Apalachee chiefdom. In March of the following year it was formally proclaimed the capital. Florida did not become a state, however, until 1845 (Tebeau:122).
If a new capital were chosen today, and if central location still mattered (electronic communication reduces its importance, of course), and if a major city were desired, the most obvious choice would be either Tampa or Orlando. Naturally, I'd plump for Tampa. (C'mon, give us something, you guys have Disney!)
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:13 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
Of the original colonies, the pattern is fairly evenly split between states where the capitol is located in the primary city (Massachussetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Georgia, off the top of my head) and those where it is located somewhere else (New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania (though note that they used to have it in Philly, and moved it later), Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina).
You're being mislead by subsequent history.

In the 1790 census, Concord was the fourth largest city in New Hampshire, behind Dover and Rochester and less than half as big as Portsmouth.

Atlanta doesn't enter the census until 1850. By far the leading city of the revolutionary days was Savannah.

New Haven was far larger and more important in every way than Hartford through the end of the 19th century.

Richmond was the largest city in Virginia, true, but not overwhelmingly so. It had 3761 people in 1790. Alexandria had 2748, Norfolk 2959, Petersburg 2828.

Capital cities grew disproportionately in many cases because they were capital cities. You're getting cause and effect reversed.
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:21 PM
Derleth Derleth is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham
But Springfield, Illinois? My cousin was a state senator there once. He lived up near Chicago, and had to practically go into exile to serve his term at the other end of the state.
Springfield isn't at the other end of the state. It's in the middle of the state. I'm from the other end of the state (Du Quoin, near Carbondale and, well, Kentucky).

Helena is another example of a not-very-important city being capital simply because it's centrally-located. Remember that in the 19th Century, travel was slow and expensive and the people who decided these things wanted the pain to be shared equally.
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Last edited by Derleth; 11-16-2007 at 09:22 PM..
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:46 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase
You're being mislead by subsequent history.

In the 1790 census, Concord was the fourth largest city in New Hampshire, behind Dover and Rochester and less than half as big as Portsmouth.

Atlanta doesn't enter the census until 1850. By far the leading city of the revolutionary days was Savannah.

New Haven was far larger and more important in every way than Hartford through the end of the 19th century.

Richmond was the largest city in Virginia, true, but not overwhelmingly so. It had 3761 people in 1790. Alexandria had 2748, Norfolk 2959, Petersburg 2828.

Capital cities grew disproportionately in many cases because they were capital cities. You're getting cause and effect reversed.
And additionally consider third causes - Atlanta, for example, used to be called Terminus because of the railroads.
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:48 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is online now
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No cite, but I read once that in 1865 there was a bill proposed in Congress to move the national capital to St. Louis, MO. That would be a good choice, if central location matters -- St. Louis is not only pretty near the population center of the U.S. (now), it is culturally neither Northern nor Southern, Eastern nor Western, and it's (more or less) on the confluence of two major waterways -- the Mississippi and the Missouri. (See this thread.)

Last edited by BrainGlutton; 11-16-2007 at 09:49 PM..
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  #37  
Old 11-16-2007, 11:15 PM
caveman caveman is offline
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As I understand it, President Mirabeau B Lamar established Austin as the capitol more or less just to annoy the tribes along the frontier.
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  #38  
Old 11-16-2007, 11:25 PM
Civil Guy Civil Guy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnold Winkelried
Los Angeles! If Los Angeles were the capital, it would be easy for our gubernator Arnold to still appear in action movies!
More seriously, we in the big cities tend to forget that California is still major Ag. It is fairly appropriate, seems to me, that the capitol is in the biggest ag city we have - as it was when it was first established as the capitol - and for that, established at a time when LA was still one small pueblo.

Last edited by Civil Guy; 11-16-2007 at 11:26 PM..
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  #39  
Old 11-16-2007, 11:34 PM
BobT BobT is offline
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Once California's capital (with an a, not an o as the other word refers to a building) was established in Sacramento, the state legislature realized that they finally had a good city to work out of. The first three state capitals (San Jose, Vallejo, and Benicia) were not good places to do business.

San Jose was too wild at the time and Vallejo and Benicia were prone to flooding.

Sacramento was eventually a terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad and that didn't hurt. Los Angeles didn't have a population boom until the 1880s when a rail line and a fare war drove the population down south.
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  #40  
Old 11-16-2007, 11:53 PM
straykat23 straykat23 is offline
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I wish the capitol would move elsewhere, even to a Sac suburb. It takes up valuable downtown property that can be used to insert some life into this city. It is a gorgeous building with beautiful well-maintained grounds, but I'd love to see it elsewhere.

The state capitol of California was all over the place:

Quote:
The journey of California's Capitol to its final location in Sacramento took five years.

Monterey
September 9, 1849 - October 13, 1849

Pueblo de San Jose
December 15, 1849 - May 1, 1851

Vallejo
January 5, 1852 - January 12, 1852

Sacramento
January 16, 1852 - November 2, 1853

Vallejo
January 3, 1853 - February 4, 1853

Benicia
February 11, 1853 - February 25, 1854

Sacramento
February 28, 1854 - present day

Even after Sacramento became the permanent seat of California's government in 1854, there were several unsuccessful efforts to relocate the Capitol to Oakland (1858-59), San Jose (1875-78, 1893, 1903), Berkeley (1907), and Monterey (1933-41).
California State Capitol History

guizot
Quote:
Sacramento, on the other hand, doesn't mean much to Angelenos other than a place where government things happen. Not being in politics, I can't think of any reason to go there, other than passing from S.F. to Lake Tahoe.
Word. Doesn't mean much here either.
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  #41  
Old 11-17-2007, 12:15 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Some historical considerations:

1. It was generally considered a good idea, when 25 miles was a good day's journey, to have the capital somewhere near the middle of the state. In many cases, the state's big city or cities are on the coast or a river at or near the edge of the state. Raleigh, for example, was located where it was simply because the law providing for a new state capital required that it be located within 10 miles of Lane's Tavern, a standard meeting place roughly equidistant between the coastal cities and Charlotte. Columbia was likewise equidistant between Charleston and the Low Country on the one hand and the Upper Country around Greenville and Spartansburg on the other.

2. Often the capital was located not in the big city or one of the big cities simply as a compromise between the big city and the rural areas (which were for many years a much higher percentage of nearly all states' populations) -- cf. Albany -- or as a compromise between two big cities, or between them and the politically powerful rural areas. Jefferson City has the advantages of being on the main road between St. Louis and Kansas City and roughly in the middle, minimizing travel times from both big cities and from the north and south of the state.

3. Other historical influences important at the time but no longer so sometimes played an influence. While I know this was the case with several sitings, the only one I'm certain of off the top of my head is Juneau -- and the disputes between Panhandle and Mainland are not something I recall clearly enough to spell out. (After noting a previous post, add Tallahassee as another example -- the southern part of the state being relatively unpopulated and the two large cities being in the north, with the capital equidistant between them.)
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  #42  
Old 11-17-2007, 12:23 AM
MikeS MikeS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derleth
Springfield isn't at the other end of the state. It's in the middle of the state. I'm from the other end of the state (Du Quoin, near Carbondale and, well, Kentucky).
Hey, at least the capital's no longer in Kaskaskia or Vandalia. Those would be just as non-central as Chicago would be, at least geographically...
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  #43  
Old 11-17-2007, 04:34 AM
guizot guizot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnold Winkelried
Los Angeles! If Los Angeles were the capital, it would be easy for our gubernator Arnold to still appear in action movies!
I think he commutes from Santa Monica in his private plane, and outside of his job, he spends as little time in Sacramento as possible. Wouldn't you?

As for action movies, I don't know if he's better doing them than being governor.
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  #44  
Old 11-17-2007, 04:47 AM
Cyberhwk Cyberhwk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by straykat23
Vallejo
January 5, 1852 - January 12, 1852
Little buyers remorse there it looks like.
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  #45  
Old 11-17-2007, 07:26 AM
KGS KGS is offline
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Okay, so far we have:

(1) Capital in centralized location (important during the days when everyone traveled by horseback and the Internet didn't exist.)
(2) A compromise between rural & urban interests.
(3) Stimulating growth in some backwater city, thus giving the state an extra commerce center.
(4) Somebody ponied up the money to build a shiny white building with a domed roof.

How does Juneau, AK fit in here?
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  #46  
Old 11-17-2007, 09:18 AM
yabob yabob is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KGS
Okay, so far we have:

(1) Capital in centralized location (important during the days when everyone traveled by horseback and the Internet didn't exist.)
(2) A compromise between rural & urban interests.
(3) Stimulating growth in some backwater city, thus giving the state an extra commerce center.
(4) Somebody ponied up the money to build a shiny white building with a domed roof.

How does Juneau, AK fit in here?
I'll add another from the last time this went around:

Desire to avoid conflict of interest by making the capital have no significant business other than government. Sometimes accomplished for national capitals by simply building a new city to be the capital. Such as Washington, DC. Which was also located in its own federal district so that it wouldn't be in any of the states.

The 50 state capitals came about for 50 different, varied reasons. I wouldn't be surprised if the "create an isolated government enclave" thinking played into a couple of them.

Juneau, AK was a logical choice as territorial capital in an era when most of Alaska's commerce with the rest of the world was by ship. Particularly since cabotage laws tied the territory to Seattle, WA. By the time it was made a state, Juneau was established.

Last edited by yabob; 11-17-2007 at 09:20 AM..
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  #47  
Old 11-17-2007, 09:37 AM
jimmmy jimmmy is offline
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Some of these reasons go way back.

Sure Richmond's central location of provided better routes for commerce as the population moved away from the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries - but I think the (a? this being GQ) big reason for the move THEN is that it isolated the State Government better from attacks by the English (1) and it says to the World that humptey dumpty is never being put back together again - because remember that it was established as a Capital by a revolutionary government in rebellion against the royal Governor in Williamsburg (appropos of little it was a Government established when the Governor flees in 1775 after the state explodes when he issues a proclamation that promises freedom to Slaves who leave Patriot masters and join Crown forces).

Cool as Annapolis is, it was pretty much chosen and built up like D.C." i.e. renamed pre-existing communities were joined, a city was totally planned out on top of what was there, Government in a central place built for political reasons comes to be - just it happens in 1695 abit more than 100 years before D.C. follows the same pattern (2)
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  #48  
Old 11-17-2007, 09:51 AM
yabob yabob is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyberhwk
Little buyers remorse there it looks like.
(concerning CA capitals)

During that era, the CA legislature was being called "the legislature on wheels". Possibly more dignified than "the legislature of 1000 drinks", which was a name attached to it while it was in San Jose:

http://www.sanjose.com/underbelly/un...za/plaza5.html
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  #49  
Old 11-17-2007, 09:57 AM
Tully Mars Tully Mars is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caveman
As I understand it, President Mirabeau B Lamar established Austin as the capitol more or less just to annoy the tribes along the frontier.
And to get away from the damned mosquitoes in Harrisburg (Houston). The legislature stayed sick with malaria.
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  #50  
Old 11-17-2007, 10:28 AM
flurb flurb is online now
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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
Actually, Springfield is closer to Chicago (175 miles) than it is to Cairo (the southern end of the state) (193 miles).


But, with the exception of recently made capitals in places like Australia, or Canada, or, artificially, Brazil, the vast majority of countries have their seat of government in their most important city (which is often the largest one as well). This is because they were located there as the result of the fortunes of history. Thus, while West Germany artificially placed a capital at Bonn, the capital of Germany was, and is again Berlin. Russia, Moscow; England (and indeed the United Kingdom now), London; Argentina, Buenos Aires; Iraq, Baghdad (even though the country is relatively new, the importance of the city over time as a capital was honored); Greece, Athens; etc.
The big difference between state capitols and national capitols is that, in many cases, the capitol city predated the nation by centuries, if not millennia. London, Paris, Baghdad, Athens, etc. were culturally and politically dominant in their regions long before the concept of the nation state became the norm. Particularly in Europe, the nation states were consolidated by civil authorities in these cities, and it was natural for these cities to remain the epicenter of power in the newly created states.

US states have a quite different history. Rather than being the product of centuries of cultural and political consolidation around a central city, they were created by fiat through royal grants, territorial ordinances, etc. Even where there was a dominant city, the civil authorities were not as historically wedded to it. This made it easier to move the state capitol, for the reasons that have already been cited.
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