District of Columbia Home Rule Act
Approved December 24, 1973
Amended through November 19, 1997
Originally published on-line in February of 1999
Click here to view a PDF as amended to 2008
A Shower of Proclamations: Arlington Heights – The New York Times, May 9, 1861
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This tirade against the State of Virginia was written one month after the American Civil War began. At the end of the article there is the assertion that for the previous 20 years Virginians had been plotting to overthrow the Union and the Retrocession of Alexandria was one step in the process. By obtaining Arlington Heights, present-day Rosslyn, Virginia, the State of Virginia was able to obtain a militarily important piece of land where cannons could fire upon Washington. As I noted before, later in 1861 Abraham Lincoln mentioned this liability in his first State of Union delivered to Congress.
The New York Times, May 9, 1861
Gov. LETCHER has issued a proclamation full of lofty sentences and abounding in big words, calling upon Virginians to “rally in defence of the State,” to “uphold the flag of the Commonwealth,” and “maintain the rights of the South.” All this means a call upon the traitors and disloyal men, of whom he is the chief, in the once patriotic and true old State of Virginia, to arm against the Republic of which her own WASHINGTON was the founder, and against a Constitution which her JEFFERSON, her MADISON and MONROE — names so dear to the American people — aided so largely in framing,
Of all the treason against the Constitution and Union, that of Virginia is the rankest, the most inexcusable and the meanest. The noble and true patriots of her past history are dishonored, and the graves of her wise and true men polluted by it. Of all the States, there is not one so linked to the Union by hallowed memories, by ties which all mankind in all ages have regarded as sacred, as Virginia. Her history bears the names dearest to the American heart — of patriots who labored most, fought most, sacrificed most and suffered most for that Union which her degenerate sons would shiver to-day. Of all the States, she has least cause of complaint. She has enjoyed more of the patronage, more of the offices, and exercised a greater influence in shaping the policy of the Government, than any other State. She has asked nothing that has not been granted — demanded nothing that has not been conceded. And yet hers is the heart that is foulest with treason, the hand that threatens to be reddest with the blood of loyal and true men!
The Governor of South Carolina has issued his proclamation, and though representing the smallest save one of all the seceding States, his tone is the loudest, his boast the largest, and his words the biggest of them all. We can respect Georgia for her real strength, while we execrate her treason. She was among the strong States of the Union, and is strongest among those that have seceded, and might, therefore, speak with something of power; but for little South Carolina, the verriest bantam of the secession brood, to flap its puny wings and crow so defiantly, is one of the jokes of the age. Virginia could put South Carolina in its breeches pocket, and yet South Carolina speaks so patronizingly, so condescendingly, so full of motherly regard for the Old Dominion, that were it not for the census and the map, one would suppose that Virginia was some helpless and oppressed little community, too weak to think even of defending itself. And, then, to see how meekly and humbly Virginia receives her proffers of aid — to see the once proud and haughty Virginia — the mother of Presidents and nursery of heroes — the once chivalrous, self-reliant, noble Virginia, submissively and gratefully receiving nursery pap from a spoon in the hands of South Carolina, is a tableau worth a day’s journey to see.
JEFFERSON DAVIS, too, has issued his proclamation, tendering his aid, and forwarding his starving troops to Virginia. Virginia food is to feed them — Virginia money is to pay them — Virginia soil is to be desecrated, and her social life demoralized by them. The war is transferred to her valleys, and her cities are to be made a camp. And yet Virginia submits. She forgets her former chivalry — her boasted strength. Three months ago she assumed to be the arbiter of the destinies of the nation; to-day she is the protege and follower of South Carolina, and the tool of JEFFERSON DAVIS. She yields a craven deference to the one, and bears submissively the burdens of the other.
And last, though not least. Brig. Gen. COCKE has issued his proclamation. He is in command of the Potomac Border of Virginia. Whether he is a Virginian he does not inform us, and history is silent on the subject. It may be that he is, or it may be that he holds the border as one of the myrmidons of JEFFERSON DAVIS. He, too, like his illustrious compeers, the trio of Governors, uses the language of grandiloquence. Hear him:
“The Capital has never been threatened by us. It is not now threatened. It is beyond and outside the limits of the free and sovereign State of Virginia. The North has not openly, and according to the usage of civilized nations, declared war on us. We make no war on them — but should the soil of Virginia, or the grave of WASHINGTON, be polluted by the tread of a single man in arms from north of the Potomac, it will cause open war.”
According to Brig. Gen. COCKE, we shall have open “war,” then, for, just as sure as that the sun shall rise and set, thousands of men in arms from the north of the Potomac will be in Virginia within a week.
It can hardly have escaped notice, that the Virginia authorities lay very great stress on the inviolability of Virginia soil. Gov. LETCHER and Gen. COCKE both state that Virginia wages no war against the Federal Government, but the moment any United States soldier steps in arms upon the soil of the State, that act will be regarded as a declaration and the actual commencement of war.
This undoubtedly has more than a general meaning. It is intended to prevent the Government from taking possession of Arlington Heights, which command Washington, and which must be held if the Capital is to he saved. These heights are in Alexandria, which used to form part of the District of Columbia, but was ceded back to the State of Virginia by Congress in 1846. Now, these heights are part of the soil of that State, and the occupation of them by the Government will be regarded and resented, as an act of invasion.
It is scarcely necessary to say that it ought to be done, and beyond all question will be done the moment it is necessary, in spite of this menace. The fact that the menace is made proves that Virginia only seeks a pretext for assuming an openly hostile attitude to the Government, — and if she does not get one here, she will find one somewhere else. Loyalty or forbearance that rests on so flimsy a foundation as this, should not have a feather’s weight on the action of the Government. Whenever Gen. SCOTT deems it necessary, as a military precaution, to take possession of those heights, it will undoubtedly be done. The Government has a right to occupy and hold, for military reasons, any part of any State under its jurisdiction.
It is altogether probable that some such contingency as the present was in view, when the leading Virginia politicians urged the secession of that portion of the District of Columbia. They have been plotting the violent overthrow of the Government for twenty years, — and written records remain to show that the leaders of this treasonable plot made provision for every possible contingency. The whole State of Virginia was carefully studied with a view to military operations against the United States Government, more than twenty-five years ago. Nothing is more probable than that reasons of this sort were among the motives for seeking renewed possession by the State of that portion of the District which commands the Capital. The retrocession was granted out of pure good nature, and with that utter blindness to future contingencies which has characterized the action of Northern public men for many years. Not a thought was given to the military importance of the position, because nobody then believed it possible that the State of Virginia would ever be at war with the Federal Government, — while the members of Congress from that State were at that very moment plotting its overthrow, and using the good nature of the North as the means for accomplishing that object.
It was held by many at the time that the retrocession was unconstitutional, and therefore void. Whether this be so or not, we presume the Government will have very little hesitation about making it practically a nullity, whenever the safety of the Capital may render its military possession necessary.
VOTE PLEA TO CONGRESS – Americanize 400,000, Urges D.C. Joint Citizens’ Committee – The Washington Post, February 13, 1918
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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?
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:
“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.
PRESIDENT OPPOSED TO SUFFRAGE IN DISTRICT – The Washington Post, May 9th, 1909
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With great vigor and with that clear insight into the ultimate meaning of the Constitution of the United States which has made him reckoned one of the foremost constitutional lawyers of the country, President Taft defended last night that provision of the Constitution which places the District of Columbia under the Federal government. He declared unequivocally that the whole people of the United States should have in its charge the government of the District, through its representatives in Congress, and that the people of the District must bow to the wisdom of the forefathers who declared in favor of this plan of government for the National Capital. The President stands, therefore, absolutely opposed to granting to the people of the District the right of suffrage.
President Taft made it equally clear that he is inclined to favor a single head for the District government as opposed to the triumvirate form of government which now exists here. He said, indeed, that he has not yet made up his mind just what changes in the form of government for the District he will recommend to Congress next fall. But he declared, in discussing the merits of the single head and the triumvirate, that he was convinced the single head was preferable where the functions of that head were merely executive. If legislative functions were attached to the head of a government, he said, the triumvirate was the better. Inasmuch as the head of the District government is merely executive, without legislative functions, the inference is clear that the President favors “one-man” rule for the District.
The President’s speech was delivered at the banquet tendered him in the New Willard ballroom by the business men of Washington. It was a dramatic finale of what resolved itself into a joint debate between the President of the United States and Justice Stafford, of the Supreme Court of the District. Justice Stafford, in an eloquent speech brought forth round after round of applause and made the blood tingle in the veins of every Washingtonian who heard him, pleaded for a voice in the national government for the people of the District. He pleaded that the 350,000 people of the District be not cut off forever from their birthright of freedom and no taxation without representation.
He asked the people be allowed to elect a senator and two representatives, who should have equal rights with other members of Congress. The people, he declared, are becoming slothful, unmindful of their duties, under the present system, but he predicted that there would come a day when, a million strong, the people of the District would not remain quiescent under the present scheme of government.
When President Taft arose to make the reply to Justice Stafford, who, as spokesman for the people, had voiced his idea of the greatest need of the District, there was the keenest interest evinced in his reply. The several hundred prominent men of affairs of the District were not kept in doubt long. The President, without a moment’s hesitation, launched into a vigorous defense of the Constitution, so far as it relates to the government of the District. He laughed at the argument of Justice Stafford, that the people of Washington were slaves, and declared that they were the envied of the peoples of all other cities of the Union.
Nevertheless, it appears that the President and Justice Stafford did not join issues directly in their debate. For Justice Stafford argued, not for suffrage in municipal government of the country and for a voice in those separate interests which directly concern the people here. The President, on the other hand argued that the framers of the Constitution had precluded all idea of the District of Columbia being governed directly by the people of the District.
Those who sat at the raised table at the west of the room were:
John Joy Edson, chairman of the joint committee; President Taft, Vice President Sherman, J.H. Small, president of the Board of Trade; W.F. Gude, president of the Chamber of Commerce; Speaker Cannon, Postmaster General Hitchcock, Theodore W. Noyes, Charles -J. Bell, Representative J. Van Vechten Olcott, Secretary of Commerce and Labor Nagel, Arthur C. Moses, Scott C. Bone, Representative Samuel W. Smith, Representative Vreeland, James F. Oyster, Allen D. Albert, j.r., Representative Philip Campbell, Commissioner Macfarland, Edward McLean, Representative George A. Pearre, Commissioner West, Charles C. Glover, Representative A. S. Burleson, Commissioner Judson, Clarence F. Norment, D.J. Callahan, Representative Edward L. Taylor, A. Lisner.
Prof. Gregory Favors It – The Washington Post, July 10th, 1883
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The Washington Post, July 10th, 1883
“Yes, I thoroughly believe in suffrage in the District,” said Professor James G. Gregory, of Howard university, to a Post reporter, in answer to the question if he favored the present agitation for giving the citizens votes. “Yes, I am in favor of it,” he repeated. “I think the people would be much more contented if they had suffrage. You can see how the people are anxious to have some part in their own government by the interest they take in the choice of the school trustees. Why, there are sometimes more than a half dozen candidates in a single district and any number of delegations going to the commissioners in favor of this or that man. This one matter serves as a sort of outlet for their political feelings.”
“What do you think is the reason for opposition to suffrage?”
“I think that one reason why many oppose giving the citizens suffrage is that they are afraid of the colored vote. They think the colored man is top ignorant to have anything to do with the District affairs. Now, this is a great mistake. Within the past seven or eight years a great change has taken place. The colored people have been greatly influenced by those of their race who have received an education. In some families, perhaps, where the parents have no had the opportunities of books, their children have, and the influence of those children on the home is very marked. Many have been admitted to the public schools and the night schools. Then many of the colored people have become educated by business. In many cases they have prospered and have become property owners. Oh, no, it is a mistake to say that there is any danger from their ignorance in giving them the franchise.”
“Do you believe in universal suffrage?”
“No, I do not say that suffrage should be without limit. Perhaps it would be well to have some property and educational qualification. That is a very broad question. I believe suffrage should be granted , because of the value it would prove the citizens as a political school. We send out children to school to be educated to become citizens, but there is another education– a political education– that the citizens should receive. As it is now very few of the citizens have much of an idea about the Government. They do not discuss the actions of the commissioners as they discuss in other cities municipal affairs. We pay our taxes and that is the end of it. We do not think. Everything is done by the commissioners merely making suggestions and asking for appropriations. This is not the way to become citizens. How do they do in other cities? Why, they meet, discuss affairs, and vote upon their intelligent and deliberate opinions. Suffrage would educate the people in government, in the finance ad in the duties of citizenship.”
“Do you think the District affairs would be managed as economically under popular government?” inquired the reporter. “Was not the opposite found to be the case when there was suffrage?”
“I think that the state of affairs was more the result of circumstances than the system. Before the war nothing had been done for the city. When I came to Washington it was a mudhole. After the war improvements were projected on a large scale, and what it required many years to do in other cities was done here in a short time. Perhaps Governor Shepherd went rather too fast, but you can see what has been accomplished. There are many who object to giving the poor man the ballot because they are afraid property-holders will suffer. Now, the poor man is interested in having property protected. If he has no property, he hope to acquire some, and this will keep him from making any laws injurious to property rights. I lived in Cleveland for some years, where some of the richest men in the country live, and I never saw anything to cause any alarm.”
“Do you think the citizens would take any more interest in the government, or feel any responsibility in its right management if they could vote?”
“Certainly, they would feel that they had something at stake. Then look at the injustice of the thing– to deprive a man of his highest right as a citizen. If we lived in a State of Territory we would have a vote. Why should we be refused it here?”
“Is not Congress given full control over the District?” the reporter asked.
“Certainly; but I do not believe that power implies a right to take away the citizen’s vote. There is not another city in the Union where the same thing is done.”
“What would be your plan for the government of the District?”
“Well, I believe in having three commissioners as now, and if Congress insisted on the right of representation in return for paying half the District expenses, would give to the President the appointment of the engineer commissioner. The other two should be chosen by the people. I believe something of the kind will soon come, too, for the people generally are favoring it.”
Suffrage in the District – The Washington Post, January 24, 1880
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The Washington Post, January 24, 1880
We cannot understand how any man who believes in the fundamental principles of republican government can seriously contend for the continued denial of suffrage to the inhabitants of the District of Columbia.
If it be true that governments derive their just power only from the consent of the governed, what justice is there in ruling this great community– a population equal to that of the State of Nevada– by a system that does not ask consent, and which assumes the right to defy the wishes of the people?
If our fathers of the Revolution were justified in protesting, rebelling, and fighting against taxation without representation, if they were not criminals, rather than heroes, for going to war on such a question, if their memories should be revered and their example held up as worthy of imitation by their descendants, how can taxes be gathered, year after year, from the property-holders of this District, who have no more votes than the negro babies Central Africa, no representation than the mummies in the Smithsonian institution?
We can conceive of no circumstances under which a Democratic Congress can deny the right of suffrage and local self-government to a peaceful, law-abiding community without direct violation of the very essence of the Democratic creed. While it is true that the Constitution devolves on Congress the duty of providing a government for this District, while it is true that the people have no recourse but to accept such provision as Congress makes, it will not be contended by any sane man that Congress has a right to violate the spirit of the Constitution and set up the most detested features of despotic systems of government in the Capital of this Republic.
Here, if anywhere on the continent, we ought to be able to present to all the world a fair illustration of the practicability and advantages of Republican institutions. But we can’t do this in cities that are denied the ballot. And when we say that this great and intelligent community is incapable of self-government and not fit to be trusted with the ballot, we present a strong condemnation of the basis of our whole system; we direct encouragement to the opponents of free institutions.
It is said that suffrage has been abused here. Granted. There isn’t a doubt that it was shamefully abused. There is no question that great wrongs were perpetrated and that numerous evils prevailed under the system that was abolished in 1874. But where is the city, where is the State, in which suffrage has not been abused? Where is the community in which righteousness has always been voted up and iniquity always voted down? Where are the people who have made no mistakes in the selection of officers? Where, on this continent, shall we look for a town, city, county or State in which the ballot has always worked for the greatest good of the greatest number? If suffrage is to be denied to all who fail to use it always with wisdom and justice, let us call in a king and down with the ballot-box.
There is reason to believe that many of the evils of the past will not be repeated here when self-government is re-established. When corruption had its carnival here it was having an equally jolly time in many other places. That era is past. All over the country there has been great improvement in municipal management. Public plunderers have been brought to grief and better men have been put in authority. With the experience of the past as a warning and guide, the people of this District would avoid the reproaches and scandals which caused the last radical change in their government.
But because it is a right; because it is a republican, because it is democratic, because it is in accordance with the great principles on which this Republic stands because no Democrat can consistently deny it, we are compelled to favor the demand that the ballot be restored to this community.
Boston Common Quilt
|| 4/17/2008 || 6:59 pm || Comments Off on Boston Common Quilt || ||
I’ve had a couple geographers contact me asking if I was attending the AAG’s annual meeting in Boston. My answer has been that I’m too busy on various projects to attend. As a former employee and someone who helped facilitate two annual meetings (Denver & Chicago), I realized that the next meeting I plan on attending will be as either an exhibitor or if the trip is paid for by an employer. I would like to give another presentation again or organize a panel discussion, but, as with most things in life, I’m in no hurry.
Since I have not made any maps of downtown Boston since August of 2005, I decided to download the city, in lieu of going to the city. Pleasantly, I was able to download the city at two different spatial scales and from two different years: 2004 & 2005. So far the imagery looks a lot better than the patchwork design that was previously placed into the public domain. Eight different tessellations later, the entire downtown area will be remapped in the next week. Today’s map features the area around Boston Common, which is the oldest public park in America (created in 1634), and the Massachusetts State House. I chose an Octagon Quilt Projection because I liked the way the center creates a compass rose. Up next will be a derivative of today’s map.
Lincoln Nebraska Quilt
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Today’s map is one of my first for the state of Nebraska.
|| 12/19/2005 || 11:43 pm || Comments Off on Providence Quilt || ||
So I am totally on a kick now of making new maps using imagery from outside of DC. Today is Providence, Rhode Island, a city I have yet to visit. Tomorrow will be Houston, Texas, and hopefully the following two will be of Philly & Salt Lake City. So far I’ve only prepared the imagery for Houston and I need to mosaic & square the new imagery I acquired this evening. As for the Providence Quilt, there are a few interesting geographic identifiers that make this rendering all the more exquisite. The capital building is reflected numerous times within the map, but I really like the way the river & roads show up. Lately I’ve been enjoying the ways in which reflected highways make beautiful aspects of the tessellations, and I think the Houston map coming up next will be a great example.