Over 230 Years Ago Trenton Was The Capital Of America

Samuel Reason - February 18th, 2020

Nearly 235 years ago there was a great victory during the American Revolution. Victory in the battle of Trenton pretty much turned the tide of the revolution. And as a result, this famous victory meant that Trenton became the seat of America’s government. However, Trenton’s claim to fame as the capital of the United States of America was very short-lived, the city was officially the nation’s capital for just 54 days in late 1784.


It was a very epic time in history, a moment that gave hope to all Americans wishing to be free of British rule. The American Revolution had only just ended fourteen months earlier with the Treaty of Paris. Which caused many revolutionaries to flock to Trenton that had always been a hub and base during the revolution. You found divisive figures of the future such as James Monroe, who later went on to be the fifth president.

There was also John Jay who went on to become the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, and of course, Marquis de Lafayette, the Revolutionary War hero. The new Congress would meet at the French Arms Tavern which at the time was Trenton’s largest building. Trenton was one of the five towns that were the capital from 1781 to 1786.

You see the precursor to the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, named no fixed permanent capital. The New Jersey Legislature attempted to get Trenton named as the permanent capital in 1783 and lobbied the congress with offers of money and land. Trenton was just a small town with a population of 500, so becoming the capital would have greatly helped it grow.

Ultimately though this was not meant to be, the Northern and Southern states came to a compromise to agree that the permanent capital should be located on the Potomac River. In 1790, Trenton has named the capital of New Jersey, which many saw as New Jersey’s consolation prize. Many historians like to joke about how different the US would have been had the culture been deeper entwined with New Jersey, over New York or Philadelphia.

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