Home Constitution District Clause "Aliens in the District of Columbia" -early efforts by D.C. residents to regain their rights
Feb 03
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Taxation Without Self Government is Subjection. - mlw?
"Aliens in the District of Columbia" -early efforts by D.C. residents to regain their rights E-mail

Draw the Line in themail, February 24, 2002 
Aliens in the District of Columbia
Mark David Richards, Dupont East,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (bolding added)

DC's quest to be treated equal to citizens who live in states has been an intergenerational project. 
Starting just after its formation, DC has requested a republican form of government, described as a 
Territorial government, which it pointed out early and often was guaranteed by the Constitution to 
every State and granted to Territories. This was one of its demands, along with the right to sue and to 
have federal representation, which fell into the larger category of "equal to citizens who live in 
States." At the time, the courts of Virginia had "adopted the broad principle, that the citizens of the 
District of Columbia must be regarded as aliens in relation to every other state of our Union."
These 
issues were outlined in a report prepared by the Citizens of Washington on the 24th October 1822
These manuscripts are protected in the National Archives. In a report prepared by a Committee of 
Twelve
appointed "pursuant to a resolution of a meeting of the Inhabitants of the City of 
Washington," the Committee said it was not "expressing a desire to withdraw from the paternal rule 
of the Congress." However, it wrote, "The committee confess that they can discover but two modes 
in which the desired relief can be afforded, either by the establishment of a territorial government, 
suited to their present condition and population, and restoring them, in every part of the nation to the 
equal rights enjoyed by the citizens of the other portions of the United States, or by a retrocession to 
the states of Virginia and Maryland, of the respective parts of the District which were originally 
ceded by those states to form it."
Washington City residents were not interested in retrocession, 
however.

Three years later on December 28, 1825 a Committee of Thirteen (perhaps the same one with an 
added member, I am not certain) appointed "to take such measures as might appear to them best 
calculated to promote the objects of a Memorial presented to the Congress of the United States on 
behalf of the people of the District of Columbia, praying for an amelioration of their civil and 
political condition," sent a ten-page beautifully scripted Memorial to Congress. Congress at that time 
paid for DC's judicial functions, but DC residents calculated that the revenues lost from federal 
exemptions would be the sum needed to pay for a whole Territorial government, and they felt they 
should be treated at least as well as Territories. Their efforts during the last two sessions of 
Congress, they wrote, had "proved abortive; though a committee of the House of Representatives 
reported a bill in favor of the measure." They explained that Congress had its attention "diverted" 
from everything except "those annual laws which were indispensable to sustain the government in all 
its departments" thanks to "ardent contests springing from the presidential election." And so the 
difficulty of getting Congressional attention on fundamental DC issues was established long ago.

The Committee wrote, "Though it may be said that none of the States tax, (or ask from Congress an 
equivalent for the exemption of any of the property within it, bought by, and improved by, the United 
States for public purposes, it may be observed that almost all this property has been bought, and is 
now occupied and used for military objects, and for the military defense [sic] of the Nation, and that 
each property in comparison with the extent of the smallest State, form but an atom on its surface; 
and that the defense [sic] and protection afforded by these establishments within it, give to such State 
a full equivalent for their exemption from taxation. But this cannot be said with regard to the district 
[sic] of Columbia. . . . [T]he value of the property held by the United States in that small District, in 
comparison with the value of all the land, buildings, and other property within it, cannot be less than 
one fourth of the whole, and it is known that the fourth contributes not one cent to any local object." 
The Memorialists said that General Washington had secured the land from local proprietors for the 
national seat of government without having to bill the national treasury. They also noted that the 
federal government had given the newly acquired territories "one thirty-sixth part of the soil in 
perpetuity for the maintenance of education." They wrote, "It is to be observed that Congress already 
expends annually twenty seven thousand dollars to maintain the present judiciary system in it. Can 
they then hesitate to add to this sum annually thirteen thousand more to give the District a 
government as free as that of Arkansaw [sic]? If that be too free -- then one as free as that of 
Michigan, or of Florida? . . . Mr. Madison has said -- 'that a municipal Legislature derived from their 
own suffrages will, of course, be allowed them.' This committee will conclude with observing that the 
Constitution guarantees to every State 'a republican form of government --' does not this imply that 
Congress ought to give to every territory as far as may be practicable a similar form of 
Government?"
And so the Memorials, and petitions, went. In 2002, though DC has gained the right 
to sue and the right to a limited Home Rule government, DC citizens are some ways still aliens 
indeed. And Congress is still too busy to listen. (Kudos to Ida Brudnick of the Center for 
Legislative Archives of the National Archives for her kind and intelligent assistance in identifying 
original documents for me. She is an excellent example of the way good government functions.)

 
Home Constitution District Clause "Aliens in the District of Columbia" -early efforts by D.C. residents to regain their rights

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