The Constitutional Amendment contained in this transcribed newspaper article is quite beautiful. It shows nearly 100 years of compromise and the remains of a civil rights struggle that affects 600,000 American citizens. Only a shred of this original Constitutional Amendment exists today and its in the form of the 23rd Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was ratified 43 years after the publication of this newspaper article in 1961. Unfortunately, the 23rd Amendment only allows the residents of the District of Columbia to obtain Presidential Electors (to be able to vote for the President) on par with the least populous state and provides no representation in Congress. The portion of the Constitutional Amendment below that was not ratified remained unfinished business for another 17 years when in 1978 the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was passed by Congress. After seven years only 16 states of the needed 38 had ratified the amendment and the time window of ratification expired, leaving the residents of the District of Columbia without representation in Congress. There has not been a Constitutional Amendment passed by Congress since and I urge my delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to introduce Constitutional Amendment similar to the one below. If not now, when?
VOTE PLEA TO CONGRESS
Americanize 400,000, Urges D.C. Joint Citizens’ Committee.
NO VOICE ON WAR OR TAXES
Proposed Amendment Would Give Power to Congress to Grant Franchise on President and Fix Representation in Both Houses– Statehood Not Contemplated.
Renewed appeal to Congress to Americanize the 400,000 inhabitants of the Capital by granting them a voice in the national government was made yesterday by the citizens’ joint committee on national representation for the District of Columbia. Every senator and representative was urged to support the constitutional amendment which will empower Congress to give the disfranchised citizens of Washington the right to representation in Congress, and to vote for President and Vice President.
The citizens’ committee mailed to the members of both houses of Congress a copy of the joint resolution providing for amendment of the Federal Constitution as the preliminary step to conferring the vote and representation on the District populace. With the resolution now pending before Congress went two circulars outlining the rights and privileges which its adoption would make possible to the long disfranchised citizens of the nation’s Capital.
One circular explains what the proposed District suffrage amendment would do, and also what it would not do. This leaflet sets forth that by enabling Congress to give the District voting representation in Congress and the electoral college, it will become possible to–
Make Americans of 400,000 people– soon to be 1,000,000- whose present political prospects are less than those of aliens elsewhere in America.
Put in force the principle of “no taxation without representation” at the center of the American republic.
Add representative participation in government to the duty, always borne, of paying taxes and bearing arms.
Remove the present stigma resulting from permanent political impotence of a people more numerous than the population in each of six American States (1910 Census).
Make the heart of our own nation “safe for democracy” while engaged in the world crusade to that end.
Make it possible for the District boys fighting in France to look forward on their return to a voting right in the government they have fought to defend.
Make it no longer possible to say that the American Capital city the only national capital that has no voice in its national government.
Showing the other side of the shield, the circular then sets forth that a constitutional amendment does not propose statehood for the District; does not propose destruction of the “ten mile square” provision of the Constitution or lessen in the slightest degree complete control of the nation over the District; it is not a measure for local self-government, and does not disturb in any way the financial relation of the nation and Capital, either by the abolition or perpetuation of the half-and-half law.
The joint resolution proposing the amendment necessary to the Constitution as a condition precedent to the granting by Congress of District suffrage, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Chamberlain, of Oregon, while in the House it was offered by Representative Austin, of Tennessee. This resolution when passed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate and House and ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the States provides that:
“The Congress shall have power to admit the status of citizens of a State the resident of the District constituting the seat of the government of the United States, created by article 1, section 8, for the purpose of representation in the Congress and among the electors of President and Vice President and for the purpose of suing and being sued in the courts of the United States under the provisions of article 3, section 2.
“When the Congress shall exercise this power the residents of such District shall be entitled to elect one or two senators as determined by the Congress, representatives in the House according to their numbers as determined by the decennial enumeration, and presidential electors equal in number to their aggregate representation in the House and Senate.
“The Congress shall provide by law the qualifications of voters and the time and manner of choosing the senator or senators, the representative or representatives, and the electors herein authorized.
“The Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing power.”
Under the caption “Americanize Washingtonians,” the citizens committee in the other circular sets forth that the 400,000 Americans in the District constitute the only community of intelligent, public-spirited citizens in the United States which is denied representation in the national government.
“As a suitor in the courts of the United States,” runs this appeal for congressional support, “the District resident has, the Supreme Court says, a lower standing than an alien.
“In relation to national laws the sole function of the District resident is to obey. They take no part in making the laws which they must obey.
“In relation to national taxes their sole function is to pay. They have nothing to say, like other taxpayers, concerning the amount and kind of taxes they shall pay and how the tax money shall be spent.
“In relational to national war their sole function is to fight in obedience to command. They have no voice, like other Americans, in the councils which determine war and peace. They have no representation in the government which requires them to fight, to bleed and perhaps to die.
“National representation is a distinctive, basic right of the American citizen- in a government of the people, by the people, for the people- in a government which roots its justice in a consent of the governed- in a representative government which inseparably couples taxation and arms-bearing as a soldier with representation.
“Since the 400,000 Americans of the District pay the national taxes, obey national laws and go to war in the nation’s defense, they are entitled on American principles to be represented in the national government which taxes them, which makes all laws for them and which sends them to war.
“The constitutional amendment which we urge empowers Congress to correct this inequity without disturbing in the slightest national control of the Capital or the present form of municipal government. Congress retains every power in these respects that it now possess. All that happens will be that the District becomes a small fractional part of that Congress, and politically an integral part of the nation which that Congress represents.
“National representation will clothe the Washingtonian with a vital American privilege to which he is undeniably in equity entitled; will cleanse him of the stigma and stain of un-Americanism, and, curing his political impotency, will arm him with a certain power.
“It will relieve that nation of the shame of un-Americanism at its heart and of impotency to cure this evil.
“It will inflict no injury or hardship upon either nation or Capital to counteract these benefits.
“Consistency and justice; national pride and self-respect; the will to efface a shameful blot from the national escutcheon; the spirit of true Americanism and righteous hatred of autocracy in any guise; the patriotic impulse toward full preparedness of the nation as a champion of democracy and representative government everywhere in the world- all combine to make irresistible at this very moment our appeal for the adoption of this amendment.
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.