Washington, D. C. formally the District of Columbia and referred to as Washington or D. C. is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father; as the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually; the signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country's East Coast. The U. S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U. S. Congress, the District is therefore not a part of any state; the states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria.
The City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land ceded by Virginia. Washington had an estimated population of 702,455 as of July 2018, making it the 20th most populous city in the United States. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city's daytime population to more than one million during the workweek. Washington's metropolitan area, the country's sixth largest, had a 2017 estimated population of 6.2 million residents. All three branches of the U. S. federal government are centered in the District: Congress and the U. S. Supreme Court. Washington is home to many national monuments, museums situated on or around the National Mall; the city hosts 177 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profit, lobbying groups, professional associations, including the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, AARP, the National Geographic Society, the Human Rights Campaign, the International Finance Corporation, the American Red Cross.
A locally elected mayor and a 13‑member council have governed the District since 1973. However, Congress may overturn local laws. D. C. residents elect a non-voting, at-large congressional delegate to the House of Representatives, but the District has no representation in the Senate. The District receives three electoral votes in presidential elections as permitted by the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1961. Various tribes of the Algonquian-speaking Piscataway people inhabited the lands around the Potomac River when Europeans first visited the area in the early 17th century. One group known as the Nacotchtank maintained settlements around the Anacostia River within the present-day District of Columbia. Conflicts with European colonists and neighboring tribes forced the relocation of the Piscataway people, some of whom established a new settlement in 1699 near Point of Rocks, Maryland. In his Federalist No. 43, published January 23, 1788, James Madison argued that the new federal government would need authority over a national capital to provide for its own maintenance and safety.
Five years earlier, a band of unpaid soldiers besieged Congress while its members were meeting in Philadelphia. Known as the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, the event emphasized the need for the national government not to rely on any state for its own security. Article One, Section Eight, of the Constitution permits the establishment of a "District as may, by cession of particular states, the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States". However, the Constitution does not specify a location for the capital. In what is now known as the Compromise of 1790, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson came to an agreement that the federal government would pay each state's remaining Revolutionary War debts in exchange for establishing the new national capital in the southern United States. On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital on the Potomac River; the exact location was to be selected by President George Washington, who signed the bill into law on July 16.
Formed from land donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, the initial shape of the federal district was a square measuring 10 miles on each side, totaling 100 square miles. Two pre-existing settlements were included in the territory: the port of Georgetown, founded in 1751, the city of Alexandria, founded in 1749. During 1791–92, Andrew Ellicott and several assistants, including a free African American astronomer named Benjamin Banneker, surveyed the borders of the federal district and placed boundary stones at every mile point. Many of the stones are still standing. A new federal city was constructed on the north bank of the Potomac, to the east of Georgetown. On September 9, 1791, the three commissioners overseeing the capital's construction named the city in honor of President Washington; the federal district was named Columbia, a poetic name for the United States in use at that time. Congress held its first session in Washington on November 17, 1800. Congress passed the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 that organized the District and placed the entire territory under the exclusive control of the federal
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the Louisiana territory of New France by the United States from France in 1803. The U. S. paid fifty million francs and a cancellation of debts worth eighteen million francs for a total of sixty-eight million francs. The Louisiana territory included land from fifteen present U. S. states and two Canadian provinces. The territory contained land that forms Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Nebraska, its non-native population was around 60,000 inhabitants. The Kingdom of France controlled the Louisiana territory from 1699 until it was ceded to Spain in 1762. In 1800, Napoleon the First Consul of the French Republic, hoping to re-establish an empire in North America, regained ownership of Louisiana. However, France's failure to put down the revolt in Saint-Domingue, coupled with the prospect of renewed warfare with the United Kingdom, prompted Napoleon to sell Louisiana to the United States to fund his military; the Americans sought to purchase only the port city of New Orleans and its adjacent coastal lands, but accepted the bargain.
The Louisiana Purchase occurred during the term of the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Before the purchase was finalized, the decision faced Federalist Party opposition. Jefferson agreed that the U. S. Constitution did not contain explicit provisions for acquiring territory, but he asserted that his constitutional power to negotiate treaties was sufficient. Throughout the second half of the 18th century, Louisiana was a pawn on the chessboard of European politics, it was controlled by the French, who had a few small settlements along the Mississippi and other main rivers. France ceded the territory to Spain in the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau. Following French defeat in the Seven Years' War, Spain gained control of the territory west of the Mississippi and the British the territory to the east of the river. Following the establishment of the United States, the Americans controlled the area east of the Mississippi and north of New Orleans; the main issue for the Americans was free transit of the Mississippi to the sea.
As the lands were being settled by a few American migrants, many Americans, including Jefferson, assumed that the territory would be acquired "piece by piece." The risk of another power taking it from a weakened Spain made a "profound reconsideration" of this policy necessary. New Orleans was important for shipping agricultural goods to and from the areas of the United States west of the Appalachian Mountains. Pinckney's Treaty, signed with Spain on October 27, 1795, gave American merchants "right of deposit" in New Orleans, granting them use of the port to store goods for export. Americans used this right to transport products such as flour, pork, lard, cider and cheese; the treaty recognized American rights to navigate the entire Mississippi, which had become vital to the growing trade of the western territories. In 1798, Spain revoked the treaty allowing American use of New Orleans upsetting Americans. In 1801, Spanish Governor Don Juan Manuel de Salcedo took over from the Marquess of Casa Calvo, restored the American right to deposit goods.
However, in 1800 Spain had ceded the Louisiana territory back to France as part of Napoleon's secret Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. The territory nominally remained under Spanish control, until a transfer of power to France on November 30, 1803, just three weeks before the formal cession of the territory to the United States on December 20, 1803. A further ceremony was held in Upper Louisiana regarding the New Orleans formalities; the March 9–10, 1804 event is remembered as Three Flags Day. James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston had traveled to Paris to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans in January 1803, their instructions were to purchase control of New Orleans and its environs. The Louisiana Purchase was by far the largest territorial gain in U. S. history. Stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, the purchase doubled the size of the United States. Before 1803, Louisiana had been under Spanish control for forty years. Although Spain aided the rebels in the American Revolutionary War, the Spanish didn't want the Americans to settle in their territory.
Although the purchase was thought of by some as unjust and unconstitutional, Jefferson determined that his constitutional power to negotiate treaties allowed the purchase of what became fifteen states. In hindsight, the Louisiana Purchase could be considered one of his greatest contributions to the United States. On April 18, 1802, Jefferson penned a letter to United States Ambassador to France Robert Livingston, it was an intentional exhortation to make this mild diplomat warn the French of their perilous course. The letter began: The cession of Louisiana and the Floridas by Spain to France works most sorely on the U. S. On this subject the Secretary of State has written to you fully, yet I cannot forbear recurring to it s
Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, lawyer and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801; the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy and individual rights motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation. Jefferson was of English ancestry and educated in colonial Virginia, he graduated from the College of William & Mary and practiced law, with the largest number of his cases concerning land ownership claims. During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, served as the 2nd Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, during the American Revolutionary War, he became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, subsequently the nation's first secretary of state under President George Washington from 1790 to 1793.
Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the controversial Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, which sought to strengthen states' rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts; as president, Jefferson pursued the nation's shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. He organized the Louisiana Purchase doubling the country's territory; as a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. He was reelected in 1804. Jefferson's second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr. American foreign trade was diminished when Jefferson implemented the Embargo Act of 1807, responding to British threats to U. S. shipping. In 1803, Jefferson began a controversial process of Indian tribe removal to the newly organized Louisiana Territory, he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1807.
Jefferson, while a planter and politician, mastered many disciplines, which ranged from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and mechanics. He was an architect in the classical tradition. Jefferson's keen interest in religion and philosophy led to his presidency of the American Philosophical Society. A philologist, Jefferson knew several languages, he corresponded with many prominent people. His only full-length book is Notes on the State of Virginia, considered the most important American book published before 1800. After retiring from public office, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. Although regarded as a leading spokesman for democracy and republicanism in the era of the Enlightenment, Jefferson's historical legacy is mixed; some modern scholarship has been critical of Jefferson's private life, pointing out the contradiction between his ownership of the large numbers of slaves that worked his plantations and his famous declaration that "all men are created equal." Another point of controversy stems from the evidence that after his wife Martha died in 1782, Jefferson fathered children with Martha's half-sister, Sally Hemings, his slave.
Despite this, presidential scholars and historians praise his public achievements, including his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance in Virginia. Jefferson continues to rank among U. S. presidents. Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at the family home in Shadwell in the Colony of Virginia, the third of ten children, he was of English, Welsh and was born a British subject. His father Peter Jefferson was a surveyor who died when Jefferson was fourteen. Peter Jefferson moved his family to Tuckahoe Plantation in 1745 upon the death of William Randolph, the plantation's owner and Jefferson's friend, who in his will had named him guardian of his children; the Jeffersons returned to Shadwell in 1752, where Peter died in 1757. Thomas inherited 5,000 acres of land, including Monticello, he assumed full authority over his property at age 21. Jefferson began his childhood education beside the Randolph children with tutors at Tuckahoe. Thomas' father, was self-taught, regretting not having a formal education, he entered Thomas into an English school early, at age five.
In 1752, at age nine, he began attending a local school run by a Scottish Presbyterian minister and began studying the natural world, for which he grew to love. At this time he began studying Latin and French, while learning to ride horses. Thomas read books from his father's modest library, he was taught from 1758 to 1760 by Reverend James Maury near Gordonsville, where he studied history and the classics while boarding with Maury's family. During this period Jefferson came to know and befriended various American Indians, including the famous Cherokee chief, who stopped at Shadwell to visit, on their way to Williamsburg to trade. During the two years Jefferson was with the Maury family, he traveled to Williamsburg and was a guest of Colonel Dandridge, father of Martha Washington. In Williamsburg the young Jefferson met and came to admire Patrick Henry, eight ye
A consul is an official representative of the government of one state in the territory of another acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, to facilitate trade and friendship between the people of the two countries. A consul is distinguished from an ambassador, the latter being a representative from one head of state to another. There can be only one ambassador from one country to another, representing the first country's head of state to that of the second, his or her duties revolve around diplomatic relations between the two countries. A less common usage is an administrative consul, who takes a governing role and is appointed by a country that has colonised or occupied another. In classical Greece, some of the functions of the modern consul were fulfilled by a proxenos. Unlike the modern position, this was a citizen of the host polity; the proxenos was a wealthy merchant who had socio-economic ties with another city and who helped its citizens when they were in trouble in his own city.
The position of proxenos was hereditary in a particular family. Modern honorary consuls fulfill a function, to a degree similar to that of the ancient Greek institution. Consuls were the highest magistrates of the Roman Roman Empire; the term was revived by the Republic of Genoa, unlike Rome, bestowed it on various state officials, not restricted to the highest. Among these were Genoese officials stationed in various Mediterranean ports, whose role included duties similar to those of the modern consul, i. e. helping Genoese merchants and sailors in difficulties with the local authorities. The consolat de mar was an institution established under the reign of Peter IV of Aragon in the fourteenth century, spread to 47 locations throughout the Mediterranean, it was a judicial body, administering maritime and commercial law as Lex Mercatoria. Although the consolat de mar was established by the Corts General of the Crown of Aragon, the consuls were independent from the King; this distinction between consular and diplomatic functions remains to this day.
Modern consuls retain limited judicial powers to settle disputes on ships from their country. The consulado de mercaderes was set up in 1543 in Seville as a merchant guild to control trade with Latin America; as such, it had branches in the principal cities of the Spanish colonies. The connection of "consul" with trade and commercial law is retained in French. In Francophone countries, a juge consulaire is a non-professional judge elected by the chamber of commerce to settle commercial disputes in the first instance; the office of a consul is a consulate and is subordinate to the state's main representation in the capital of that foreign country an embassy or – between Commonwealth countries – high commission. Like the terms embassy or high commission, consulate may refer not only to the office of consul, but to the building occupied by the consul and his or her staff; the consulate may share premises with the embassy itself. A consul of the highest rank is termed a consul-general, is appointed to a consulate-general.
There are one or more deputy consuls-general, vice-consuls, consular agents working under the consul-general. A country may appoint more than one consul-general to another nation. Consuls of various ranks may have specific legal authority for certain activities, such as notarizing documents; as such, diplomatic personnel with other responsibilities may receive consular letters patent. Aside from those outlined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, there are few formal requirements outlining what a consular official must do. For example, for some countries, consular officials may be responsible for the issue of visas. Nonetheless, consulates proper will be headed by consuls of various ranks if such officials have little or no connection with the more limited sense of consular service. Activities of a consulate include protecting the interests of their citizens temporarily or permanently resident in the host country, issuing passports. However, the principal role of a consulate lies traditionally in promoting trade—assisting companies to invest and to import and export goods and services both inwardly to their home country and outward to their host country.
Although it is not admitted publicly, like embassies, may gather intelligence information from the assigned country. Contrary to popular belief, many of the staff of consulates may be career diplomats, but they do not have diplomatic immunity unless they are accredited as such. Immunities and privileges for consuls and accredited staff of consulates are limited to actions undertaken in their official capacity and, with respect to the consulate itself, to those required for official duties. In practice, the extension and application of consular privileges and immunities can differ from country to country. Consulates are more numerous than diplomatic missions, such as embassies. Ambassadors are posted only in a foreign nation'
USS Philadelphia (1799)
USS Philadelphia, a 1240-ton, 36-gun sailing frigate, was the second vessel of the United States Navy to be named for the city of Philadelphia. Named City of Philadelphia, she was built in 1798–1799 for the United States government by the citizens of that city. Funding for her construction was the result of a funding drive which raised $100,000 in one week, in June 1798, she was built by Samuel Humphreys, Nathaniel Hutton and John Delavue. Her carved work was done by William Rush of Philadelphia, she was laid down about November 14, 1798, launched on November 28, 1799, commissioned on April 5, 1800, with Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr. in command. She is best remembered for her burning after being captured in Tripoli. Putting to sea for duty in the West Indies to serve in the Quasi-War with France, she arrived on the Guadeloupe Station in May 1800 and relieved the frigate Constellation. During this cruise she captured five French armed vessels and recaptured six merchant ships that had fallen into French hands.
Returning home in March 1801, she was ordered to prepare for a year's cruise in the Mediterranean in a squadron commanded by Commodore Richard Dale. At his own request, Decatur was relieved of the command of President by Captain Samuel Barron; the squadron arrived at Gibraltar with Commodore Dale in the frigate President. Philadelphia was directed to cruise the Straits and blockade the coast of Tripoli, since in May 1801 the Pasha Yusuf Karamanli had threatened to wage war on the United States by chopping down the flagpole with the American flag before the U. S. consulate. Philadelphia departed Gibraltar for the United States in April 1802. In ordinary until May 21, 1803, when she recommissioned, sailed for the Mediterranean on July 28, 1803, she arrived in Gibraltar on August 24 with Captain William Bainbridge in command, two days recaptured the American brig Celia from the Moroccan ship-of-war Mirboka, brought them both into Gibraltar. During the First Barbary War, Philadelphia cruised off Tripoli until October 31, 1803, while giving chase and firing upon a pirate ship she ran aground on an uncharted reef two miles off Tripoli Harbor.
The captain, William Bainbridge, tried to refloat her, first laying the sails aback, casting off three bow anchors and shifting the guns aftward. But a strong wind and rising waves drove her further aground. Next they jettisoned many of her cannons, barrels of water, other heavy articles overboard in order to make her lighter, but this too failed, they sawed off the foremast in one last desperate attempt to lighten her. All of these attempts failed and Bainbridge, in order not to resupply the pirates, ordered holes drilled in the ship's bottom, gunpowder dampened, sails set afire and all other weapons thrown overboard before surrendering, her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha. Philadelphia, refloated by her captors, was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her; the U. S. had captured the Tripolitan ketch Mastico, renamed her Intrepid, re-rigged the ship with short masts and triangular sails to look like a local ship.
On February 16, 1804, under the cover of night and in the guise of a ship in distress that had lost all anchors in a storm and needed a place to tie up, Intrepid was sailed by a volunteer assaulting party of officers and men under Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr. next to Philadelphia. The assault party boarded Philadelphia, after making sure that she was not seaworthy, burned the ship where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Lord Horatio Nelson, known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this "the most bold and daring act of the Age."Her anchor was returned to the United States on April 7, 1871, when the Bashaw presented it to the captain of the visiting Guerriere. In 1904, Charles Wellington Furlong, an American adventurer went to Tripoli to investigate the sinking of Philadelphia and wrote of it in his book, The Gateway to the Sahara: Observations and Experiences in Tripoli. In this book the following account, based on records from a local synagogue, is given: Yusef Pashaw had equipped a number of corsairs....
His captains, Dghees, Romani and El-Mograbi, set sail from Tripoli and shortly sighted an American vessel. Zurrig left the others and daringly approached the ship, annoying her purposely to decoy her across the shoals, she stranded, but fired on the other vessels until her ammunition gave out, whereupon the Moslems pillaged her. The American Consul was much disheartened and tried to conclude arrangements similar to those made between the Bashaw and the Swedish Consul. Footnote 2: This of course was an erroneous idea, it may have been purposefully circulated through the town among the inhabitants other than Mohammedans. Furlong reports in the same book, that he talked to other Arabs in Tripoli who said that the ship was not burned, but moved to the Lazaretto where it was dressed up as a trophy and its guns used to call the end of Ramadan. According to the detailed account of Hadji-Mohammed Gabroom, an American ketch was able to sneak in, kill some of the 10 guards, cause the others to flee set the ship on fire.
List of sailing frigates of the United States Navy List of ships captured in the 19th century Bibliography of early American naval history This article incorporates text from the public domain Diction
Alexander Hamilton was an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influential interpreter and promoter of the U. S. Constitution, as well as the founder of the nation's financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, the New York Post newspaper; as the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the main author of the economic policies of George Washington's administration. He took the lead in the Federal government's funding of the states' debts, as well as establishing a national bank, a system of tariffs, friendly trade relations with Britain, his vision included a strong central government led by a vigorous executive branch, a strong commercial economy, a national bank and support for manufacturing, a strong military. Thomas Jefferson was his leading opponent, arguing for smaller government. Hamilton was born out of wedlock in Nevis, he was taken in by a prosperous merchant. When he reached his teens, he was sent to New York to pursue his education.
He took an early role in the militia. In 1777, he became a senior aide to General Washington in running the new Continental Army. After the war, he was elected as a representative from New York to the Congress of the Confederation, he founded the Bank of New York. Hamilton was a leader in seeking to replace the weak national government under the Articles of Confederation, he helped ratify the Constitution by writing 51 of the 85 installments of The Federalist Papers, which are still used as one of the most important references for Constitutional interpretation. Hamilton led the Treasury Department as a trusted member of President Washington's first Cabinet. Hamilton argued that the implied powers of the Constitution provided the legal authority to fund the national debt, to assume states' debts, to create the government-backed Bank of the United States; these programs were funded by a tariff on imports, by a controversial whiskey tax. He mobilized a nationwide network of friends of the government bankers and businessmen, which became the Federalist Party.
A major issue in the emergence of the American two-party system was the Jay Treaty designed by Hamilton in 1794. It established friendly trade relations with Britain, to the chagrin of France and supporters of the French Revolution. Hamilton played a central role in the Federalist party, which dominated national and state politics until it lost the election of 1800 to Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. In 1795, he returned to the practice of law in New York, he called for mobilization against the French First Republic in 1798–99 under President John Adams, became Commanding General of the disbanded U. S. Army, which he reconstituted and readied for war; the army did not see combat in the Quasi-War, Hamilton was outraged by Adams' diplomatic success in resolving the crisis with France. His opposition to Adams' re-election helped cause the Federalist party defeat in 1800. Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied for the presidency in the electoral college in 1801, Hamilton helped to defeat Burr, whom he found unprincipled, to elect Jefferson despite philosophical differences.
Hamilton continued his legal and business activities in New York City, was active in ending the legality of the international slave trade. Vice President Burr ran for governor of New York State in 1804, Hamilton campaigned against him as unworthy. Taking offense, Burr challenged him to a duel on July 11, 1804, in which Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton, who died the following day. Alexander Hamilton was born and spent part of his childhood in Charlestown, the capital of the island of Nevis in the Leeward Islands. Hamilton and his older brother James Jr. were born out of wedlock to Rachel Faucette, a married woman of half-British and half-French Huguenot descent, James A. Hamilton, a Scotsman, the fourth son of Laird Alexander Hamilton of Grange, Ayrshire. Speculation that Hamilton's mother was of mixed race, though persistent, is not substantiated by verifiable evidence, she was listed as white on tax rolls. It is not certain whether the year of Hamilton's birth was in 1755 or 1757. Most historical evidence, after Hamilton's arrival in North America, supports the idea that he was born in 1757, including Hamilton's own writings.
Hamilton listed his birth year as 1757 when he first arrived in the Thirteen Colonies, celebrated his birthday on January 11. In life, he tended to give his age only in round figures. Historians accepted 1757 as his birth year until about 1930, when additional documentation of his early life in the Caribbean was published in Danish. A probate paper from St. Croix in 1768, drafted after the death of Hamilton's mother, listed him as 13 years old, which has caused some historians since the 1930s to favor a birth year of 1755. Historians have speculated on possible reasons for two different years of birth to have appeared in historical documents. If 1755 is correct, Hamilton might have been trying to appear younger than his college classmates, or wished to avoid standing out as older. If 1757 is correct, the single probate document indicating a birth year of 1755 may have included an error, or Hamilton might once have given his age as 13 after his mother's death in an attempt to appear older and more employable.
Historians have pointed out that the probate document contained other proven inaccuracies, demonstrating it was not re
Burning of Washington
The Burning of Washington was a British invasion of Washington, D. C. the capital of the United States, during the Battle of Bladensburg in the War of 1812. On August 24, 1814, after defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross burned down multiple buildings, including the White House, the Capitol building, as well as other facilities of the U. S. government. The attack was in part a retaliation for the recent American destruction of Port Dover in Upper Canada; the Burning of Washington marks the only time since the American Revolutionary War that a foreign power has captured and occupied the United States capital. President James Madison, military officials, his government fled the city in the wake of the British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg, they found refuge for the night in Brookeville, a small town in Montgomery County, known today as the "United States Capital for a Day". President Madison spent the night in the house of Caleb Bentley, a Quaker who lived and worked in Brookeville.
Bentley's house, known today as the Madison House, still stands in Brookeville. Less than a day after the attack began, a sudden heavy thunderstorm—possibly a hurricane—put out the fires, it spun off a tornado that passed through the center of the capital, setting down on Constitution Avenue and lifting two cannons before dropping them several yards away, killing British troops and American civilians alike. Following the storm, the British returned to their ships; the occupation of Washington lasted only about 26 hours and is debated whether the British sought to raze the city. After "The Storm that Saved Washington", as it soon came to be called, which served to do more damage to the city, the Americans returned; the British government at war with Napoleonic France, adopted a defensive strategy against the United States when the Americans declared war in 1812. Reinforcements were held back from Canada and reliance was instead made on local militias and native allies to bolster the British Army in Canada.
However, after the defeat and exile of Napoleon Bonaparte in April 1814, Britain was able to use its now available troops and ships to prosecute its war with the United States. In addition to reinforcements sent to Canada, the Earl of Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, dispatched an army brigade and additional naval vessels to Bermuda, from where a blockade of the US coast and the occupation of some coastal islands had been overseen throughout the war, it was decided to use these forces in raids along the Atlantic seaboard to draw American forces away from Canada. The commanders were under strict orders, not to carry out operations far inland, or to attempt to hold territory. Early in 1814, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy's North America and West Indies Station, controlling naval forces based at the new Bermuda dockyard and the Halifax Naval Yard which were used to blockade US Atlantic ports throughout the war.
He planned to carry the war into the United States against New Orleans. Rear Admiral George Cockburn had commanded the squadron in Chesapeake Bay since the previous year. On June 25, he wrote to Cochrane stressing that the defenses there were weak, he felt that several major cities were vulnerable to attack. Cochrane suggested attacking Baltimore and Philadelphia. On July 17, Cockburn recommended Washington as the target, because of the comparative ease of attacking the national capital and "the greater political effect to result". General Ross commanded a 4,500-man army, composed of the 4th Light, 21st Royal North British Fusiliers, 44th Regiment of Foot, 85th Regiment of Foot. An added motive was retaliation for what Britain saw as the "wanton destruction of private property along the north shores of Lake Erie" by American forces under Col. John Campbell in May 1814, the most notable being the Raid on Port Dover. On June 2, 1814, Sir George Prévost, Governor General of The Canadas, wrote to Cochrane at Admiralty House, in Bailey's Bay, calling for a retaliation against the American destruction of private property in violation of the laws of war.
Prévost argued that... in consequence of the late disgraceful conduct of the American troops in the wanton destruction of private property on the north shores of Lake Erie, in order that if the war with the United States continues you may, should you judge it advisable, assist in inflicting that measure of retaliation which shall deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages. On July 18, Cochrane ordered Cockburn to "deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages... You are hereby required and directed to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts as you may find assailable". Cochrane instructed, "You will spare the lives of the unarmed inhabitants of the United States". Ross and Cockburn surveyed the torching of the President's Mansion, during which time a great storm arose unexpectedly out of the southeast, they were confronted a number of times while on horseback by older women from around Washington City and elderly clergymen, with women and children, hiding in homes and churches.
They requested protection from abuse and robbery by enlisted personnel from the British Expeditionary Forces whom they accused of having tried to ransack private homes and other buildings. Major-General Ross had two British soldiers put in chains for violation of his general order. Throughout the events of that day, a severe storm blew into the city, worsening on the night of August 24, 1814. President