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Old 09-20-2019, 04:01 PM
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What would have been the effect of a US capital in St. Louis?


It's my feeling that at the end of the Civil War the USA should have moved the capital from Washington DC, which is on the east coast, to a more central location - St. Louis. I feel the advantages would have been:
1. Allow a more central administration of the country since it was clear we would be across the whole continent.
2. It would have made the capital safer from invaders (remember the British invaded and burned the capital in 1812).
3. It would have helped to bring the country together since Missouri really divides the country north and south and east and west (straddles the Mississippi).

Many countries have capitals located in their center like Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Bejing, Moscow, and others.

Side note - in a way it would also have returned to our ancient roots since St. Louis was the sites of some of the largest native american cities.

What do you all think?
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Old 09-20-2019, 04:08 PM
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Seems like a solution in search of a problem.

We haven't had D.C. invaded since War of 1812 (other than perhaps the Civil War)

Moving the capital is expensive, even a much smaller federal government that we had in 1865.

If you look at where people were living in 1870, you'll see that the vast majority were East of the Mississippi.

How would a St. Louis capital "bring the country together?" It didn't even bring the North and South together despite being not too far from the Mason-Dixon line,.

Would Missouri cede land to the federal government for a "district?"
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Old 09-20-2019, 05:13 PM
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Washington itself was a compromise to bring the North and South together, and it's barely 100 miles from Richmond (easily traveled by rail in those days), so geographical location clearly wasn't a unifier.

And in 1866, the West was pretty much still all frontier. The Transcontinental line was only three years old, and it didn't even pass anywhere near St. Louis. It would have made only slightly less sense to put the capitol in Omaha, and probably much more sense to put it in Chicago. The Mississippi River had been bridged at Rock Island in 1856, and that route went straight to Chicago. St. Louis didn't get a bridge until 1874.

Last edited by Kent Clark; 09-20-2019 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 09-20-2019, 06:39 PM
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I’ve always felt Cincinnati would make sense. Just a geo-historical fantasy of mine.
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Old 09-20-2019, 07:24 PM
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Old 09-20-2019, 07:37 PM
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Washington itself was a compromise to bring the North and South together, and it's barely 100 miles from Richmond (easily traveled by rail in those days)
Not in "those days" in the late 18th century when the capital site was chosen.
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Old 09-20-2019, 08:58 PM
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Not in "those days" in the late 18th century when the capital site was chosen.
In "those days" of May 1861. The upstart Confederate States of America moved its capitol from Birmingham to Richmond, and a railroad between Richmond and the Potomac River (with a steamboat to cross the river to Washington) had existed since 1834.

As I said, the proximity of Washington didn't help to unify the country.
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Old 09-20-2019, 09:34 PM
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Many countries have capitals located in their center like Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Bejing, Moscow, and others.
Berlin is very far from the modern center of Germany, either geographical or the center of population.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 09-20-2019 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 09-20-2019, 09:52 PM
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Well people from Tacoma or Spokane would never have to say "no, the other Washington" so that's a reason...
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Old 09-20-2019, 10:06 PM
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It's already near the fictive north-south line. The Mason-Dixon line defines the northern border of Maryland.
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Old 09-21-2019, 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
Many countries have capitals located in their center like Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Bejing, Moscow, and others.
You have a vxxxxexxxxxrxxxxy wxxxixxxdxxxe concept of "center".

Or haven't looked at a map.
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Old 09-21-2019, 06:27 AM
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Old 09-21-2019, 10:04 AM
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I don't see what advantage 'more central administration' would actually provide; it wouldn't be near the major population centers (which were primarily on the East Coast, and later some on the West Coast), and I don't see what proximity to a lot of open land would do for the capital. I also don't see how it would 'bring the country together' to have the seat of government out there, having DC in the middle of the most populated areas didn't prevent the civil war. And the ability to defend it is utterly pointless - in 1812 the US was weak enough that invasion was a risk (and even then the British weren't able to take and hold the city), but by 1860 the US was a Great Power and was simply not at any realistic risk of invasion.

There doesn't seem to be any actual benefit from the idea, and a lot of things to oppose it. Also:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
Many countries have capitals located in their center like Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Bejing, Moscow, and others.
Paris is in the North of France (about 5x as far from the Southern border as the Northern by eyballing it), Berlin is nearly on Germany's eastern border and much more north than south, Mexico city is not all that central now and was very far to the south before the Mexican-American war, Beijing is very much to the east and north in China, and Moscow is in the far west of Russia (and the capital at the time of the USCW was St Petersburg, which is even more off-center). I really don't think any of these are an example of 'central'.

Quote:
Side note - in a way it would also have returned to our ancient roots since St. Louis was the sites of some of the largest native american cities.
Native Americans are a population that was largely eradicated and replaced for European settlers, and whose cultures were actively suppressed in America. They're not the 'ancient roots' of the USA.
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Old 09-21-2019, 10:16 AM
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People would be complaining about the "central elites".
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Old 09-21-2019, 12:29 PM
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Residents would have an even greater sense of superiority (if such a thing is possible).
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Old 09-21-2019, 08:05 PM
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Quote:
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Side note - in a way it would also have returned to our ancient roots since St. Louis was the sites of some of the largest native american cities.

What do you all think?
I think you don't actually know anything about St. Louis.

All of the native peoples were long dead by the time the first mostly French settlers arrived. Imported diseases wiped out the entire Cahokia culture. There are some artifacts you can go look at in a fairly small museum in Cahokia; there is not actually any Native American presence of any significance.

The roots of St. Louis come from the mostly French settlers, but that is mainly in the form of French place names that are mispronounced.

Also, Missouri was bitterly divided in the Civil War, and certainly would not have brought the country together in its aftermath.

There was a brief moment in American history where you might have had some kind of argument based on St. Louis being a rail hub... but Chicago would've been better for that.
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Old 09-22-2019, 06:54 AM
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The US population in the far west did not take off until WWII.

Checking the 1940 census data:

The center of population was near Carlisle, Ind. (It had been near Cincinnati in the 1870 census. In WVa (formerly VA) and MD before that.)

Of the 3 top level regions (North, South, West) the West had about 10% of the total US population. That's the tier from Wyoming west.

In 1940.

Circa 1870, St. Louis was effectively on the edge of the boonies. Not at all close to central anything.
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Old 09-22-2019, 07:05 AM
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Berlin is very far from the modern center of Germany, either geographical or the center of population.
It was much closer to the center when modern Germany was founded in the 19th Century.
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Old 09-22-2019, 07:16 AM
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The 1904 Olympics in St. Louis were ridiculous — https://www.cracked.com/blog/6-ways-...ent-ever-held/
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Old 09-22-2019, 01:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
It's my feeling that at the end of the Civil War the USA should have moved the capital from Washington DC, which is on the east coast, to a more central location - St. Louis. I feel the advantages would have been:
1. Allow a more central administration of the country since it was clear we would be across the whole continent.
2. It would have made the capital safer from invaders (remember the British invaded and burned the capital in 1812).
3. It would have helped to bring the country together since Missouri really divides the country north and south and east and west (straddles the Mississippi).
In 1865 St. Louis was still pretty non-central to the U.S. population.

I'm not sure what advantages you think these bring. The USA was not going to be invaded anytime soon; the country in 1865 was so much more powerful than it had been in 1812 that it's night and day. I also don't know that the center of administration matters.

As to point 3, I dunno. DC, after all, was in its time EXACTLY what you're asking for here - a compromise position between North and South. Didn't prevent the Civil War. Other countries have created capitals for similar purposes, without any particular benefit I am aware of. The foreign capitals you mention have mostly been that way for centuries, and many are not as central as I think you think they are - Moscow is west of 90% of Russia, Beijing is nowhere near the center of China in any sense, and Paris is absolutely not in the center of France.
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Last edited by RickJay; 09-22-2019 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:04 PM
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Yes, the idea that the location of the capital would somehow bring together disagreeing interests is odd. The location of the capital doesn't create or shape American politics. Wherever the capital is, there would be some people coming up with the equivalent of the "elitist Beltway Insider" trope.
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:19 PM
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Wherever the capital is, there would be some people coming up with the equivalent of the "elitist Beltway Insider" trope.
Yup, it would be those damn idiots who live inside of I-270/255 who are responsible for everyone's problems.

It would be great to put the Capitol building on St. Louis' version of "the Hill," though. At least the restaurants are better than in DC.
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:39 PM
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Provel cheese and fried ravioli?
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Old 09-22-2019, 09:11 PM
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Yeah, I tried toasted ravioli - really bland. It need mumbo sauce.

I can’t really think of what difference would actually be made, though, except that a different group of Americans treated like second class citizens.
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Old 09-22-2019, 09:15 PM
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Provel cheese and fried ravioli?
Yeah, and plenty of Busch Beer to wash it down with!

And what do you mean "fried" ravioli? It's TOASTED.

In a deep fat fryer.
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Old 09-22-2019, 09:42 PM
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Yeah, I tried toasted ravioli - really bland. It need mumbo sauce.

I can’t really think of what difference would actually be made, though, except that a different group of Americans treated like second class citizens.
Why wouldn’t it be the same group? There’s nothing about the location of the capital that defines advantaged and disadvantaged groups. The people wanting to be near power would just have to move somewhere else. It wouldn’t change any political issues.

It seems to me that the main effect of moving the capital thousands of miles inland in 1865 would be to make it harder for foreign dignitaries to meet with nation officials, thus encumbering one of the principal roles of the national government.
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Old 09-22-2019, 10:20 PM
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I agree moving the capital wouldn't have appealed much to anyone in 1870. And I think the idea is based on a larger anachronism, which is projecting back the current reality of DC as a major power center. Which it really wasn't in peacetime until the federal govt greatly expanded its role in domestic affairs from the 1930's onward.

The Civil War was by far the largest action of the federal govt up to that time. But otherwise the federal govt didn't have anything like the sway it has now in all sort of areas of national life, and Washington's relative important if anything waned after the Civil War. DC as a big power center came later. NY was around 7 times bigger than Washington in 1870, ~16 times bigger by 1920.

The reason for DC in the first place was only secondarily geographic balance. It was to not have the political capital in an otherwise leading city like NY (where the constitutional govt was first based) or Philadelphia (where it moved temporarily in a deal to construct a new capital). As long as it wasn't going to be in a major city it might as well be near the nation's center, which is around where it is based on the population ca. 1790. But just having it in the center of population wasn't the main idea. DC still fulfilled the main idea ca. 1870, to separate the seat of the relatively small federal govt from an existing commercial/economic center of power.
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Old 09-23-2019, 08:53 AM
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Why wouldn’t it be the same group? There’s nothing about the location of the capital that defines advantaged and disadvantaged groups. The people wanting to be near power would just have to move somewhere else. It wouldn’t change any political issues.
88% of the people who live in DC do not work for the Federal government, and yet have no voting representation in Congress; so if the capital were in St. Louis, Chicago, Tucson, or Honolulu, you'd just be stripping other people of their democratic rights who also have nothing to do with "wanting to be near power."
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:51 PM
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The 1904 Olympics in St. Louis were ridiculous — https://www.cracked.com/blog/6-ways-...ent-ever-held/
why are you dumping on St Louis--first Olympics in US by unprepared IOC, has nothing to do with STL. Our World's Fair was success by any measure!
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:53 PM
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Residents would have an even greater sense of superiority (if such a thing is possible).
are you referring to St Louis residents? What "sense of superiority" are you citing?
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:57 PM
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Provel cheese and fried ravioli?
well, it seems there is pizza maker in New Orleans appearing on Diners, Dives who ordered provel shipped to him. so obviously some people don't have the snobbish disdain that you do
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:58 PM
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Yeah, I tried toasted ravioli - really bland. It need mumbo sauce.

I can’t really think of what difference would actually be made, though, except that a different group of Americans treated like second class citizens.
In St Louis? It usually comes with marinara sauce
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Old 09-23-2019, 08:37 PM
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In St Louis? It usually comes with marinara sauce
Whoosh.
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Old 09-24-2019, 08:14 AM
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I think Detroit would have been a better choice. DC and St Louis are both too damn hot to be capitals in my opinion. Before air conditioning, DC was a positively miserable place and St Louis was no better.
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