Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 17 of the Constitution of the United States says that the Congress shall have the power “to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever over such District (not to exceed ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States …”
Virginia donated 39 square miles and Maryland contributed the other 61 square miles. And so the District of Columbia was born. In 1791, it was named the City of Washington, in honor of the first President.
In 1801 the so-called Organic Act, organized the District into two counties and officially ended the Maryland and Virginia state citizenship of the inhabitants.
In 1846 the folks on the Virginia side of the Potomac persuaded their legislature and the Congress to undo the deal they made in 1790, and give the 39 square miles back to the Commonwealth. All that was left of the District of Columbia was the 61 square miles donated by Maryland.
Washington always had a largely African American population. In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act that ended slavery in the District. In 1868 Congress voted to give black males the right to vote in City elections.
In the early twentieth century, gains made by blacks in D.C. were reversed. Segregation returned with a vengeance under Woodrow Wilson, a situation that persisted into the 1950’s.
The Twenty-third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1961 gives the residents of the District of Columbia the right to vote for President of the United States. It gave the District 3 votes in the Electoral College, equal to the smallest of the fifty states.
By Act of Congress, the people of Washington are allowed two non-voting members of the House of Representatives. The citizens in the District have no voice in the Senate.
In 1957, Washington became the first major city in America to have a black majority population. In 1963 it witnessed the famed “I have a dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In recent years, the black majority has decreased somewhat, as a multi racial gentry restores some of the older neighborhoods.
In 1978, Congress passed and sent to the states a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given the District senators and congressmen equal to a state. That amendment failed after getting only 19 state ratifications in seven years.
The District of Columbia is an unfortunate anomaly in our federal republic. Like a lump in the mattress, its presence is annoying and not entirely avoidable. The Founders of our nation never intended Americans to be ruled by a coterie of elite managers living in Vaticanesque isolation.
More that 600,000 people live and work inside the beltway. They are the clerks, the staffers, the middle managers, the bureaucrats who run our national government. For them, Uncle Sam is the end all and be all of American political power and authority.
Increasingly, Americans are reawakening to the importance of state sovereignty in matters of domestic governance. Massive, top-down national social programs like affordable health care that is neither affordable nor desirable health care, are causing Americans to look more and more to their state governments for effective answers.
It seems to me that an important first step in dismantling the ubiquitous national nanny would be to eliminate the isolated island of imperial importance that fosters the aura of omnipotence in our nation’s capital.
The 23rd Amendment is hereby repealed, and all lands ceded to the United States for the seat of government are returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland respectively.
The Pentagon is in Virginia. There is no reason why the White House can’t be in Maryland. And no reason why the people of Washington should have more to say about who is President than the citizens in 49 of the 50 States.