Volume XIV of this widely acclaimed series takes us to the third session of Congress in December 1790, when for the first time under the new Constitution Congress took up quarters at Philadelphia. House and Senate met in cramped Congress Hall, which, in tacit comment on the fragility of the new federal government, the nearby Pennsylvania State House overshadowed.
During this session Congress debated the federal courts, state militias and the U.S. military, the postal system, navigation bills, and other issues fundamental to the new order—which had already begun to raise suspicions. The Virginia delegation denounced federal assumption of state debts. Congress heatedly discussed Alexander Hamilton's proposed national bank—including whether the Constitution implied federal authority to establish one. Congress followed the secretary of the treasury in placing an excise tax on distilled spirits, a measure that soon led to open rebellion in western Pennsylvania.
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