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The DC Colonist is now officially stock photo
|| 12/8/2009 || 12:10 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Screen grab from Life.com showing a photo of the DC Colonist

When I first came across the photograph in 2006, I knew it would probably be stored somewhere in the photographic databases of Getty Images. After last month’s publication of the photograph in the Washington Post, it looks like the photograph was also republished on the website of Life Magazine. According to wikipedia, Getty Images and Life Magazine joined forces in March of 2009 and now jointly share some of their combined photo collections on Life.com.



My Response To Today’s Washington Post Letter To The Editor By Ann Wass
|| 11/24/2009 || 4:09 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Last night I found that there was a Letter To The Editor about the D.C. Colonist that was going to be published in today’s Washington Post. Below is the text of her letter in italics and my response in bold:


Nikolas Schiller seems to lack a clear understanding of the history of the District of Columbia [“Hats off to D.C. statehood,” the Reliable Source, Nov. 19].

Actually, I think I have a pretty decent understanding of the history of disenfranchisement in the District of Columbia.

He wears “Colonial” garb to make the point that, in his words, “the status of D.C. residents has not changed since Colonial times.” But there was, of course, no District of Columbia in colonial times.

You are correct. There was no District of Columbia in colonial times. However, the Seat of Government, now known as the District of Columbia, was the only territory explicitly defined in the United States Constitution. This important document happens to have been written in “Colonial times,” and needs to be updated, again.

Through the passage of “An Act for establishing the Temporary and Permanent seat of the Government of the United States” on July 16th, 1790, the “district of territory” became the permanent Seat of Government on December 1st, 1800, and Congressional representation was lost shortly thereafter.

Unlike the Maryland license plate, the license plate of the District of Columbia has a phrase that dates back to Colonial times, “Taxation Without Representation.” I don’t know if you’ve sat through a Congressional hearing, but signs are not allowed in hearing rooms. Fortunately, an elaborate costume is allowed. (Except hats, I guess?)

If you were to read my quote differently, “the [present day] status of D.C. residents has not changed since [the Americans in] Colonial times,” you might understand that the residents of the District of Columbia are present-day colonists who have the displeasure of “Taxation Without Representation” through the denial of federal representation, and I’m only dressing up as one to make the point you obviously missed.

There was a city of Georgetown, in Maryland.

In 1800, the year the Seat of government moved to the District of Columbia, this city was called George Town, Maryland. Two Words. You can look it up. The concatenation took place soon after and today those residents lack representation in Congress.

There was another city & county located in the Seat of Government that you left out: Alexandria, Virginia. In 1846 the residents voted to cede back into the Commonwealth of Virginia, but unlike the Georgetown residents of today, the citizens of Alexandria & present-day Alexandria County (Arlington County) have Congressional representation.

Mr. Schiller also needs a new costume consultant. His coat is cut incorrectly, and I hope he doesn’t really wear German lederhosen, as he said, but rather correctly cut knee breeches when he isn’t wearing blue jeans.

This ad hominem argument misses the entire point of my ongoing protest. While you might have “Taxation With Representation” in Riverdale, Maryland, I, a colonist of the District of Columbia, do not. No costume consultant is going to give me Congressional representation, are they? I don’t think so. I’d rather have Congressional representation so I can retire this colonial outfit for good.

But in the meantime, you could always attend the next hearing on the status of this federally administered city-state known as the District of Columbia. Maybe you could come dressed in period clothing as well? There have been suffragists since 1800 working to change this faux-pas of the Founding Fathers. Do you think a Senator or U.S. Representative would ask you to take off a bonnet or headscarf? You won’t know unless you try.

Colonially Yours,
Nikolas Schiller

ps.
The colonial attire was purchased from Backstage in the Barracks Row neighborhood on Capitol Hill. Feel free to contact their costume consultants for further inquiry.





The D.C. Colonist Is The Subject Of A Letter To The Editor In Today’s Washington Post
|| || 1:02 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Screen grab from the WashingtonPost.com website showing the Letter to the Editor
“A D.C. statehood activist’s historical breeches”

Text of the Letter:

A D.C. protester garbles the garb
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nikolas Schiller seems to lack a clear understanding of the history of the District of Columbia [“Hats off to D.C. statehood,” the Reliable Source, Nov. 19]. He wears “Colonial” garb to make the point that, in his words, “the status of D.C. residents has not changed since Colonial times.” But there was, of course, no District of Columbia in colonial times. There was a city of Georgetown, in Maryland.

Mr. Schiller also needs a new costume consultant. His coat is cut incorrectly, and I hope he doesn’t really wear German lederhosen, as he said, but rather correctly cut knee breeches when he isn’t wearing blue jeans.

Ann Wass, Riverdale


I’ll have a reply in the afternoon. In the meantime, the Latin Phrase of the Day is Ad Hominem.



The D.C. Colonist is featured today’s The Reliable Source column in the Style Section of the Washington Post
|| 11/19/2009 || 11:03 pm || 2 Comments Rendered || ||

When I got back home from yesterday’s hearing I wrote my friend at the Washington Post the following e-mail:

+ MORE



WANT 20,000 SIGNERS – The Washington Post, November 16th, 1894
|| 10/20/2009 || 4:01 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

WANT 20,000 SIGNERS


A Monster Petition to Be Circulated in the District.

DISTRICT SUFFRAGISTS ORGANIZE

Congress to Be Asked to Authorize a Special Election to Allow People to Say Whether They Wish the Present System of Municipal Government Continued– A Constitution Adopted and Speeches Made– Labor Unions Taking a Hand.


The Washington Post, November 16th, 1894.

Another organization of those in the District of Columbia who want to be full-fledged citizens with the right to vote and to have a voice in the management of local affairs was formed this evening. The plan of campaign differs in some particulars from that of the labor organizations instituted some weeks ago, but in other respects it is the same. Steps were taken for the circulation of a monster petition and an effort will be made to secure for it 20,000 signatures. This will ask Congress to allow a special election in the District to determine whether the citizens desire to maintain the present form of government.

The of the organization is “The District Suffrage Petition Association.” It grew out of the meeting of citizens which was held a week ago last evening at the John Wesley Church on Connecticut Avenue, between L and M streets. The meeting last evening was at the same place and the temporary organization of a week ago was made permanent. Robert Reyburn, M.D. presided, and was made the president. He is strongly in favor of the movement and spoke earnestly for it.

The Constitution Adopted

Here is the constitution which was adopted:

The object for which this association is founded is the securing of a representative form of government for the citizens of the District of Columbia. All citizens of the District of Columbia who believe in the principles of free government are invited to join, and aid in the movement, by forming branches or auxiliary associations.

The officers of the association shall be a president, two vice presidents, a secretary, and a treasurer. The president shall be a member, by virtue of his office, of all committees. The president and all other officers of the association shall perform all the duties usually appertaining to such offices in other organizations. An executive committee shall be elected by the members of the association (or appointed by the president), to devise such means as in their judgment will further the objects for which the association was founded. They will be called upon for a report upon the progress they have made, at every meeting of the association.

The order of business at the meetings shall be reading of minutes, report of the treasurer, report of the executive committee, and other committees, unfinished business, new business, adjournment.

Regular meetings of the association will be held on the third Tuesday of each month and can be called at any time on the written request of three members to the president, or, in his absence, to the vice president.

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 o’clock. A good number of the persons who had assembled were colored people, many of whom are well known in the District. There were in the neighborhood of a hundred present, of whom three or four were women. Lawyer James H. Smith, who was subsequently elected permanent secretary, took down the minutes of the proceedings. There were brief addresses by Dr. Reyburn, who said he had always felt humiliated that he should have lived so many years in the District without the rights of a citizen which those in the States enjoy. He did not feel contented that his son should be reared without the education in public affairs which an enjoyment of the franchise imposes. Dr. Reyburn also stated briefly the transactions of the previous meeting. Mr. Smith spoke after him urging the necessity of suffrage for the District. Then the constitution was adopted and the election of officers proceeded with. Besides the president and secretary already named W. Calvin Chase, the editor of the Bee, was chosen first vice president; Gustav Augustine, second vice president; E.M. Hewlett corresponding secretary; Mr. Smith having been designated as recording secretary, and Walter Callahan, treasurer.

A Petition Proposed

Dr. Reyburn advanced the idea of circulating petitions, a number of copies of which he had caused to be printed. It was agreed that these should be carried about the friends of the cause and those present added their names. Dr. Reyburn said he proposed to have copies of these petitions in public places throughout the city, where signers could be secured. He believed this would be an effective method of expressing local opinion about suffrage to Congress. The petition reads as follows:

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the United States: We, the undersigned citizens and permanent residents of the District of Columbia, believe the present form of government existing in the District (by Commissioners) to be in direct violation of all the principles on which this republic was founded.

Moreover, we also believe that a large majority of the citizens and permanent residents of the District of Columbia are in favor of a change in this District from the present form to one in harmony with the principles of free government.

We respectfully urge and request, therefore, that a law be passed directing that a special election be held (as soon as practicable) by the citizens of the District of Columbia, to decide the question whether the citizens of this District desire to maintain the present form of government by Commissioners or to return to a representative form of government.

The next meeting will be held at this church next Thursday evening. A vote was taken also that the state monthly meetings should be held the third Thursday evening of each month, and the hour was fixed at 8 o’clock. Mr. Augustine said he had visited the hall of Typographical Temple, where a meeting of the labor organization interested in the suffrage movement was advertised to be held. He said that no one was in attendance. Milford Spohn, the president of that organization, was in the audience, and Dr. Reyburn called upon him to speak.

Co-operation of Labor Unions

Mr. Spohn replied with moderation and outlined the work which the labor men had undertaken to do. A delegate of the Knights of Labor from Washington to the convention in session this week at New Orleans had been instructed to bring the matter to the attention of the body with the request that labor organizations all over the country should ask their representatives in Congress to grant the citizens of the District the right to vote. This was done because of the opinion that Congressmen would respect a petition much more when there a vote behind it. A similar request was to be made before the international convention of the unions of the Federation of Labor. He added that able editorials had been written by the newspapers of the District against local government. The chief objection which these contained was that the government now paid half of the taxes, and that this would involve an undesirable complication. He thought it was not manly to sell one’s birthright for fifty cents on the dollar, and declared that only those in the jails, insane asylums, and the District of Columbia were denied the full right of citizenship in the United States.

At the close of his speech Mr. Augustine spoke dramatically of local affairs, expressing his opinion that an investigation would reveal corruption in police circles far beyond that lately exposed in New York. an enthusiast then said that a reporter for a morning newspaper was unable to attend the meeting and he was making a motion that the secretary be authorized to make out a full report and sent it to the office, but was compelled to sit down by a chorus of laughter, in midst of which the meeting voted to adjourn.


This newspaper article was transcribed from a scan of the original newspaper article. The document was obtained from the Washington Post archives and is in the public domain. It is being republished here in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.



The D.C. Statehood Vote – The Washington Post, November 20th, 1993
|| 10/14/2009 || 10:28 am || + Render A Comment || ||

The D.C. Statehood Vote

The Washington Post, November 20th, 1993

Today the House of Representatives begins debate on whether the District of Columbia should become a state. The deliberation is historic, as will be the vote expected to follow this weekend. The issue is not the fate of statehood legislation this year: Supporters concede they have little chance of winning. It is whether a lopsided defeat will ultimately cost or break political ground for statehood. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton contends that even in defeat, a vote `would give the undemocratic treatment of the District the serious national attention it would never attract in any other way.’ If that is the outcome, the statehood debate will be a milestone.

There is, after all, a historic wrong to be set right. The tax-paying, war-fighting citizens of the District, unlike citizens in the 50 states, have no control over their own governmental affairs. As residents of the nation’s capital, they are denied voting representation in the Congress, final word on the budgets and laws they enact, the ability to appoint their own prosecutors and judges and the ability to work out reciprocal taxing arrangements with neighboring jurisdictions. They are at all times subject to the whims of Congress.

We had hoped a way could be found for citizens here to enjoy the full political participation that is their due and still have their city remain the seat of the national government. But the defeat of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given the District full congressional representation, and congressional inaction on other political reforms, made that outcome impossible. It became apparent that these goals could only be achieved in the context of statehood–but statehood that fulfilled certain clearly understood conditions.

As we said earlier this year, there are critical issues to be faced to make statehood feasible and desirable. We refer to a prenegotiated agreement or understanding with suburban representatives for a limited commuter tax, resolution of the congressionally created unfunded pension liability problem that threatens the District’s financial solvency and a predictable, stable and guaranteed payment to the new state.

Of the three issues, today’s statehood proposal addresses only the payment question. It eliminates the federal payment and replaces it with a payment in lieu of taxes arrangement that mirrors the funding scheme for other states with federal property within their borders. The merits of that alternative, as well as Congress’s role in addressing the other issues that could threaten the new state’s fragile viability, ought to receive a thorough airing this weekend. If a consensus can be reached on how best to approach those outstanding issues, this unprecedented debate, whatever the vote, will take statehood to a new and better place.


This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.



Tax Fairness for D.C. – The New York Times, October 30th, 1993
|| 10/13/2009 || 10:20 am || + Render A Comment || ||

Tax Fairness for D.C.

The New York Times, October 30th, 1993

With a population of nearly 600,000, the District of Columbia has more people than Vermont, Wyoming or Alaska. Yet its Mayor and City Council have limited power. And the District is denied a voting representative in the same Congress that rules on its affairs.

The colonial character of this arrangement was underscored this week when Congress voted on the Washington D.C. budget, and grandstanding politicians from other places tried to deny its citizens the right to spend their own money as they see fit.

The District’s budget totaled $3.7 billion. The $3 billion came from District citizens in taxes; all but a tiny fraction of the rest is what the Federal Government pays for occupying 41 percent of the District’s land, on which it pays no taxes. The Federal payment is a miserly sum, given that the Government presence costs the District $2 billion a year in lost tax revenues.

Still, many in government see the District as a pawn in a political game. George Bush once vetoed the city budget, forcing the District to ban the use of even locally raised tax revenues to furnish abortions for impoverished women. C-Span’s broadcast of the District’s budget vote showed the latest act in this political amateur hour.

Representative Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana, seemed not to have read the budget bill but that didn’t deter him. He questioned the salaries of the District’s City Council members, and condemned District voters who chose to return the former Mayor to office as a Councilman. He picked out random lines in the budget and asked the sponsors to explain them. This nitpicking came at the end of a tortuous 18-month process that the District suffers to get its budget.

Congress as usual? Perhaps. But imagine yourself a citizen of the District, with no voting representative in Congress, watching as Congressmen questioned not just the vote you had cast in your city, but your entitlement to tax dollars that you had paid to local government for local use. How angry would you be?

Mr. Burton rationalized his antics by contending that Federal tax dollars were at stake. But the bulk of the budget is D.C. tax money. The Federal payment that makes up the rest is rent, and skimpy rent at that. Congress oversteps in trying to control how its bargain-basement rent is spent. Mr. Burton was performing for the people back home. But what people in Indiana need to see is that their Congressman is trampling on the rights of citizens just like them, all for a little time on camera. No wonder Congress was besieged by District demonstrators agitating for statehood.

It’s hypocrisy that America champions democracy abroad while refusing fair political treatment to the citizens of its own capital.


This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.



D.C. Statehood – The Washington Post, January 13th, 1993
|| 10/12/2009 || 10:13 am || + Render A Comment || ||

D.C. Statehood

The Washington Post, January 13th, 1993

It is time to right a great historic wrong. Since 1800, the residents of Washington, D.C., have been the only tax paying U.S. citizens denied representation in Congress. With the election of Bill Clinton, it has become politically possible to give them the status that is their due. We believe now is the time to begin defining and then putting in place an arrangement that puts District residents on an equal footing with all Americans.

It has long been our preference to have this city remain the seat of the national government with increased municipal powers, which, taken as whole, would give residents the same democratic rights enjoyed by other citizens. The goals have included full voting representation in the House and the Senate, complete independence from Congress on budget and legislative matters, control over the local court system including the appointment of judges, an automatic and predictable federal payment formula and the ability to negotiate reciprocal income tax arrangements with neighboring jurisdictions. Achieving each, as a strategy was far more important than what the final package ended up being called. As a step toward that end, Congress passed a proposed constitutional amendment 15 years ago that would have given the city full congressional representation. Only 16 of the required 38 states ratified the proposal, mostly for partisan reasons. Republican lawmakers wanted no more democrats in Congress (and, as some suspect, many legislators wanted no more blacks there as well). The only achievable alternative, if citizens here are to enjoy the full political participation that is there due, is statehood.

Denying District residents the right to send people to Congress who can vote on taxes or decide questions of war and peace while at the same time expecting them to shoulder the burdens of citizenship–including the obligation to pay taxes and to fight and die for their country–is wrong. Forcing local officials to perform their duties under today’s restrictive conditions is no better.

Congress at its whim passes laws regulating purely local matters, including the spending of local tax money. Even the city’s own elected delegate to the House of Representatives can’t vote on final passage of any legislation, including District-only matters.

Statehood opponents argue that the voteless status of the District descends directly form the intent of the Framers of the Constitution-from Washington, Madison and their peers. True, the constitution calls for a federal district (and the statehood proposal allows for one, leaving the `federal seat of government’ to consist of the mall, monuments and principal U.S. government buildings). At the same time the government of the United States moved here in 1800, the largest city, New York, had a population of little more than 60,000. What would Washington and Madison say about a voteless city 10 times larger than that? We know what they said in 1776 in behalf of a colonist population only four times larger that today’s Washington, D.C. They wanted to be among those who governed themselves. So do the citizens of Washington today.


This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.



Statehood for the District of Columbia – The Boston Globe, December 2nd, 1992
|| 10/11/2009 || 10:04 am || + Render A Comment || ||

Statehood for the District of Columbia

The Boston Globe, December 2nd, 1992

It has a larger population than three states and is nearly as large as three more. Its citizens pay among the highest federal income taxes in all states. It has no power to tax those who work within its borders but take their pay home to states with which it has no reciprocal tax agreements. It is subject to the legislative-decisions of a body on which it has no voting representation.

It is the nation’s capital, and its citizens want and deserve a better break, one possible only through direct participation in federal government. As the most outspoken champion of statehood for Washington, D.C., Rev. Jesse Jackson plans to hold President-elect Clinton to his promise to make it a state, because only with that status can the district end the worst anomalies of its politically segregated condition.

When the Constitution provided for a federal district, it assigned full legislative control to Congress when few envisioned the capital becoming a major city with a population larger than that of any state at the time.

Congress has long kept the city in a degree of thralldom that suited the convenience of representatives and senators, who legislate matters as trivial as taxicab rules. The problem was exacerbated by longtime bigotry against the city’s large black population from a Congress often dominated by members from the Old South.

Congress has partly acknowledged the inequity by granting citizens of the district a nonvoting member of the House and by allowing D.C. residents to vote in presidential elections. The district has three electoral votes–exactly what it would have if it were a full-fledged state with two senators and a member of the House.

The political question of D.C. statehood has been complicated by its predominantly Democratic voter registration, making the matter unpalatable for Republicans when the balance of power could hinge on just a few votes. That is a weak excuse for perpetuating political inequity in a country launched on a cry of `no taxation without representation.’ Make the district a state.


This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.



The State of Misgovernment – The New York Times, July 21st, 1992
|| 10/10/2009 || 9:58 am || + Render A Comment || ||

The State of Misgovernment

The New York Times, July 21st, 1992

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton’s speech to the Democratic Convention gave fresh evidence of how the Federal Government treats Washington, D.C.: like a plantation.

The District’s elected officials have only token power. They can’t pass a budget or even reschedule garbage collection without groveling before Congress. The District has 608,000 people, more than Alaska, Wyoming or Vermont. Yet Representative Norton is denied a vote in the Congress that runs her city. As she told the Democrats, `It is too late in the century for Americans to accept colonial rule at the very seat of government.’

The remedy is to admit the District as the 51st state, as called for in the Democratic platform. Congress can do its part by passing the New Columbia Statehood Admission Act, which Ms. Norton introduced more than a year ago.

The hardships the District of Columbia endures are evident in the annual budget process. Congress can prevent the District from spending even locally raised revenues in ways that citizens see fit. During budget hearings, members of Congress grandstand on municipal issues and meddle with the city’s finances on behalf of special interests. Extortionate threats to hold up budget passage are common.

The need for autonomy was highlighted in a recent encounter between Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and Representative Thomas J. Bliley of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the House committee that supervises the District. Mr. Bliley berated Mayor Kelly for what he said was foot-dragging on crime.

He is in no position to criticize. He is currently in court challenging a District law intended to reduce the number of weapons on the streets. The law imposes `strict liability’ for semiautomatic rifles and pistols, allowing victims to recover damages from manufacturers and dealers even though they had nothing to do with gun crimes.

Assault weapons are sold legally in Mr. Bliley’s state. And Virginia is a main source of origin for guns confiscated in the District. Mr. Bliley forced the District’s City Council to repeal the law by threatening to block Federal aid. When voters reinstated the law, Mr. Bliley brought his suit. The suit was dismissed; Mr. Bliley has appealed. In essence, this suit argues that Congress’s control supersedes the right to self-government.

The citizens of Washington, D.C., deserve relief from this kind of imperial arrogance. Statehood is the way to provide it.


This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.





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  • thank you,
    come again!