Savage pointed out that in many territories, the political capital is not actually the most important city, economically speaking, in the territory. There are several reasons for this phenomenon, which I've outlined below.

  • Many capitals were established when the territories in question took days to cross. Thus, capitals were established roughly in the geographical center of the territory, rather than the largest city. Lansing, MI had a population of 8 when it was established as the capital of Michigan, but it was roughly in the center of the Lower Peninsula.
  • Some national capitals are built from scratch to create a neutral ground. Washington, DC and Brasilia fall into this category; Canberra almost does since it was just a small town before it was chosen as the capital.
  • In theory, the "first city" of a territory could change after the territory is established. This is what happened with Vancouver and Victoria, BC; Vancouver didn't even exist when Victoria was chosen as the capital of British Columbia in 1868.