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S.1 – A Bill to Regulate the Elective Franchise in the District of Columbia – 12/04/1865
|| 1/15/2011 || 10:26 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

A little over a year later President Andrew Johnson would veto the final version of this legislation. What I find most interesting about this legislation is that the Senate made this bill their first piece of legislation for the 39th Congress. I would like to see how many other Congresses placed District of Columbia-specific legislation before all other national matters.


Scan of the original legislation from the Library of Congress
Scan of the original legislation from the Library of Congress

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

December 4, 1865.

Mr. Wade asked, and by unanimous consent obtained, leave to bring in the following bill; which was read, passed to a second reading, and ordered to be printed.

A BILL

To regulate the elective franchise in the District of Columbia.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the passage of this act, each and every male person, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, who has not been convicted of any infamous crime or offense, and who is a citizen of the United States, and who shall have resided in the said District for the period of six months previous to any election therein, shall be entitled to the elective franchise and shall be deemed an elector and entitled to vote at any election in said District without any distinction or discrimination on account of color, race, or nationality.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person or persons shall wilfully interrupt or disturb any such elector in the exercise of such franchise, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be fined any sum not to exceed one thousand dollars, or be imprisoned in the cell or dungeon of the jail in said District, and fed on bread and water, only, for a period not to exceed thirty days, or both, at the discretion of the court.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the several courts having criminal jurisdiction in said District to give this act in special charge to the grand jury at the commencement of each term of the court.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That all acts and parts of acts inconsistent with this act be, and the same are hereby, repealed.


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THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA SUFFRAGE BILL – Harper’s Magazine, Monthly Record of Current Events, February, 1867
|| 11/19/2010 || 8:39 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Monthly Record of Current Events - Harper's Magazine, February, 1867

On the 7th the President returned, without his approval, the bill regulating Suffrage in the District. His objections to the bill were essentially these: Congress having the power of legislating for the District ought “to have a like respect for the will and interests of its inhabitants as is entertained by a State Legislature for the wishes and interests of the people for whom they legislate.”

The people of the District, at a special election held in December, 1865, by a vote almost unanimous (7369 to 35) voted against the extension to negroes of the right of Suffrage. In 1860 the population of the District was 60,000 whites and 14,000 people of color; now there are 100,000 whites and 30,000 colored; the augmentation of the colored population is owing mainly to the influx of escaped fugitives from Maryland and Virginia.

Having heretofore been held in slavery “and denied all opportunities for mental culture, we should inquire whether, after so brief a probation, they are, as a class, capable of an intelligent exercise of the right of Suffrage, and qualified to discharge the duties of official position.” The President is clearly of opinion that they are not.

And, moreover, “clothed with the right of Suffrage, their numbers largely in excess of the demand for labor, would soon be increased by an efflux from the surrounding States; and hardly yet capable of forming correct judgments upon the important questions that often make the issues of a political contest, they could readily be made subservient to the purposes of designing persons; and it would be within their power in one year to come into the District in such numbers as to have the supreme control of the white race, and to govern them by their own officers, and by the exercise of all the municipal authority—among the rest, of the right of taxation over property in which they have no interest.”

The President says that this law, “imposed upon an unwilling people, placed by the Constitution under the exclusive legislation of Congress, would be viewed as an arbitrary exercise of power, and as an indication by the country of the purpose of Congress to compel the acceptance of negro suffrage by the States. It would engender a feeling of opposition and hatred between the two races which would prevent them from living together in a state of mutual friendliness.”

He proceeds to argue that the extension to them of the power of suffrage is not necessary to enable persons of color to protect themselves in their rights and interests; and urges that there is great danger in the extension of this right to any new class of the population. He refers to the checks which are interposed in the way of the naturalization of emigrants, who are required, in addition to a residence of five years, to prove good moral character. It can not, he says, be supposed that the negroes, “from their previous condition of servitude are, as a class, as well informed as to the nature of our government as the intelligent foreigner who makes our land the home of his choice.”

The bill was passed notwithstanding the veto of the President (in the Senate, by 29 to 10 — 13 Senators not voting; and in the House by 113 to 38 — 41 members not voting). More than two-thirds of each House voting in its favor; the bill becomes a law.


This newspaper article was transcribed from a scan of the original article found on Google Books. It is being republished here in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.



PRESIDENT OPPOSED TO SUFFRAGE IN DISTRICT – The Washington Post, May 9th, 1909
|| 10/4/2009 || 9:40 am || 2 Comments Rendered || ||

PRESIDENT OPPOSED TO SUFFRAGE IN DISTRICT


Mr. Taft, in Speech at Dinner,
Favors One-Man Rule.


ANSWERS JUSTICE STAFFORD


Jurist Had Made an Eloquent Plea for Votes for Citizens of Washington– Executive Defends Wisdom of Early Statesmen in Denying Right of Ballot to Capital City– Declares That People Here Are Envied by Those of Other Municipalities.



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.

List of Guests

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.



…secondary list was not transcribed…



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.



Prof. Gregory Favors It – The Washington Post, July 10th, 1883
|| 10/3/2009 || 12:37 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Prof. Gregory Favors It.

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.”


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.





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