The Year Was 1790

The year was 1790 and the young American nation was already feeling the pull of North versus South. Northern states were still facing debt from the Revolutionary War, while southern states had paid off most of their debt. So when Alexander Hamilton proposed that the federal government assume Revolutionary War debts, the South was definitely not on-board. In order to gain support for the legislation, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison worked out a compromise. The agreement would put the capital of the young nation on the banks of the Potomac, surrounded by slave states, in exchange for support of the funding of Revolutionary debt. In the meantime, Philadelphia would be the capital.

The first U.S. census taken that same year counted a total population of 3,939,625, with African Americans making up 19 percent of that number (9 percent free and 10 percent slaves). 90 percent of the African American population lived in the South.

Large families were the norm, with an average of eight children. The white American population would double every twenty-two years.

New York was the largest city in the country with a population of 33,131, while Philadelphia followed in second place with 28,522 citizens. More than two-thirds of that city turned out in April for the funeral of the beloved statesman, Benjamin Franklin.

In London, women breathed a collective sigh of relief as the alleged “London Monster” was arrested. For several years someone had been terrorizing attractive women in that city, accosting them and usually stabbing them in the thigh or posterior, although occasionally he was said to have hidden a knife in a nosegay and stabbed them in the nose. A Welshman named Rynwick Williams was arrested after a victim pointed him out. However, he had a strong alibi for at least one of the crimes, and it was speculated that he was set up to gain a handsome reward that had been offered for the capture of the perpetrator. Regardless, young Rynwick was sentenced to six years in prison.

In northern England the first lifeboat was tested and proved successful. Inspiration for its creation came following a shipwreck tragedy the previous year in which eight men drowned in sight of the shore. The rescue in the stormy sea was thought to be suicidal, so a shore-based rescue boat, the “Original,” was created to avert future tragedies. The “Original” went on to save hundreds of lives and spawned the creation of many more such boats.

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3 thoughts on “The Year Was 1790

  1. I love to read about this time frame, It’s very hard to gain much when doing research before 1790 so the current events of the time are great. I did find that the pensions paid for Civil War were $8 per month, I belive they were also $8 per month for the Rev. War also weren’t they?

  2. I found the Lifeboat article most interesting as I am currently sitting not 2 miles from the oldest suriving Lifeboat in the world. Housed in the RNLI lifeboat museum in Redcar, North Yorkshire, England.

  3. I believe an incorrect conclusion has been drawn from the cited source on the first U.S. census. This article states that of the 19% of the population that was African American “9 percent [were]free and 10 percent[were]slave.”

    The source, however, states that 9% of the African Americans were free, i.e., 9% of the 19% of the population that was African Americans or 1.71% of the general population.

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