The General Assembly of the State of Maryland authorizes the cession of territory for the seat of government of the United States, “acknowledged to be forever ceded and relinquished to the Congress and Government of the United States, and full and absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, as well of soil as of persons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution… And provided also, That the jurisdiction of the laws of this State over the persons and property of individuals residing within the limits of the cession aforesaid shall not cease or determine until Congress shall, by law, provide for the government thereof, under their jurisdiction, in manner provided by the article of the Constitution before recited.” The Maryland Assembly passes supplementary acts of cession in 1792 and 1793 regarding the validity of deeds and sale of property in the new capital.
Congress accepts the territory ceded by the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia to form the Seat of Government of the United States and declares that on the first Monday in December 1800 the Seat of Government of the United States shall be transferred to such district and authorizes the President to appoint three commissioners to survey and purchase land and prepare it for the new government which is to take up residence on the first Monday in December 1800.
President George Washington issues several presidential proclamations defining and fixing the boundaries of the new District.
Qualified residents of the new District of Columbia continue to vote in elections of federal officers conducted in Maryland and Virginia, including Representatives in Congress, even though Maryland and Virginia ceded the land to the Federal government and the District’s boundaries had been drawn.
The Seat of Government of the United States is transferred to the new District of Columbia.
A lame duck Congress passes the Organic Act of 1801 on Feb. 27, 1801 and divides the District into two counties, the county of Washington (Maryland cession) and the county of Alexandria (Virginia cession). The act creates a circuit court for the District of Columbia, authorizes the appointment of a U.S. Attorney, marshals, justices of the peace, and a register of wills for the District. It also provides that the act shall not “alter, impeach or impair the rights, granted by or derived from the acts of incorporation of Alexandria and Georgetown [incorporated cities in Virginia and Maryland prior to cession]. No longer in a state, D.C. residents lose their state and national representation (Senators were then elected by state legislatures) and their local self-determination to the extent they do not live in the two incorporated cities.
Congress abolishes the board of commissioners and incorporates the City of Washington (formerly in the County of Washington) with a presidentially appointed mayor and a popularly elected council of 12 members with two chambers, one with seven members and the second with five members, the second chamber to be chosen by all the members elected. All acts of the council must be sent to the Mayor for his approval. Suffrage is limited to “free, white male inhabitants of full age, who have resided twelve months in the city and paid taxes therein the year preceding the election’s being held.”
Congress extends the 1802 charter 15 years and provides for the direct election of both houses of the Council, each with nine members.
Congress amends the charter of the City of Washington to enlarge the council, now consisting of an elected board of aldermen (8 members) and an elected board of common council (12 members). The Mayor is to be elected by the two boards in a joint meeting. Congress also expands the corporation’s taxing authority and authority to develop public institutions, although subject to the approval of the President (including the budget) since the Mayor will no longer be a Presidential appointee.
Congress confers certain powers upon a levy court or board of commissioners for the County of Washington (part of Maryland cession not included in the city of Washington) primarily dealing with taxes for public improvements such as roads and bridges. The board has seven members designated by the President from existing magistrates in the county.
Congress repeals the 1802 and 1804 acts and reorganizes the government of the City of Washington by providing for a popularly elected Mayor. Existing elected council continued.
A Committee of Twelve, appointed “pursuant to a resolution of a meeting of the Inhabitants of the City of Washington,” requests from Congress a republican form of government and the right to sue and to have federal representation “equal to citizens who live in States. … 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.
On December 28, a Committee of Thirteen sends a ten-page Memorial to Congress “praying for an amelioration of their civil and political condition” and says that they should be treated at least as well as territories.
In his inaugural address, President William Henry Harrison says “Amongest the other duties of a delicate character which the President is called upon to perform is the supervision of the government of the Territories of the United States. Those of them which are destined to become members of our great political family are compensated by their rapid progress from infancy to manhood for the partial and temporary deprivation of their political rights. It is in this District only where American citizens are to be found who under a settled policy are deprived of many important political privileges without any inspiring hope as to the future. … Are there, indeed, citizens of any of our States who have dreamed of their subjects in the District of Columbia? … The people of the District of Columbia are not the subjects of the people of the States, but free American citizens. Being in the latter condition when the Constitution was formed, no words used in that instrument could have been intended to deprive them of that character.”
Congress, the Virginia Legislature and the City of Alexandria approve the retrocession of the county and town of Alexandria (what is now Arlington County and the City of Alexandria) back to Virginia, decreasing the size of D.C. by about 40%. The referendum on retrocession passes 763 for to 222 against. Residents of Alexandria City approve the retrocession (734 for to 116 against), while residents of Alexandria County, disapprove it (29 for to 106 against).
Congress reorganizes the government of the City of Washington, approving a new charter that allows voters to elect the Board of Assessors, the Register of Wills, the Collector, and the Surveyor. It abolishes the property qualifications for voting and extends voting rights to all white male voters who pay a one dollar yearly school tax.
Congress ends the slave trade in D.C.
On April 16th, “Emancipation Day,” nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation is issued, Congress abolishes slavery in D.C. and establishes a school system for black residents.
Congress grants the vote to every male person “without any distinction on account of color or race” who is not a pauper or under guardianship, is twenty-one or older, who has not been convicted of any infamous crime and has not voluntarily given “aid and comfort to the rebels in that late rebellion,” and who has resided in the District for one year and three months in his ward. African Americans make up 33% of the District’s population and wield considerable political power.
Congress repeals the charters of the cities of Washington and Georgetown and creates the Territory of the District of Columbia. The Territory will have a Presidentially appointed Governor and Secretary to the District, subject to Senate confirmation, a bicameral legislature with a Presidentially appointed upper house and Board of Public Works, both subject to Senate confirmation, and a popularly elected 22 seat House of Delegates, and a nonvoting Delegate to the House of Representatives. Norton P. Chipman is D.C.’s first nonvoting Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Nevertheless, D.C. voters lose the right to elect their Governor and the upper house of their legislature.
Congress removes all elected Territorial officials, including the nonvoting Delegate in Congress, temporarily replaces the Territorial government with three Presidentially appointed commissioners, and places an officer of the Army Corps of Engineers in charge, under the general supervision and direction of the commissioners, of public works in the District. The First and Second Comptroller of the Treasury are appointed to a board of audit to audit the Board of Public Works and the Territorial Government’s financial affairs.
Congress passes the Organic Act of 1878 which declares that the territory ceded by the State of Maryland to Congress for the permanent seat of government of the United States shall continue to be the District of Columbia and that it shall be organized as a municipal corporation of which the officers shall be three Presidentially appointed commissioners, one of whom shall be an officer of the Army Corps of Engineers. The board of the metropolitan police, the board of school trustees, the offices of the sinking-fund commissioners, and the board of health are abolished and their duties and powers transferred to the Commissioners. The Commissioners’ proposed annual budget must be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury and by Congress. The federal payment is set at fifty percent of the budget Congress approves. Congress must also approve any public works contract over $1,000.
Conservative newspaperman Theodore Noyes of The Washington Star launches campaign for congressional representation and strongly opposes real democracy. Noyes writes, “National representation for the capital community is not in the slightest degree inconsistent with control of the capital by the nation through Congress.” Sen. Henry Blair of New Hampshire introduces the first resolution for a constitutional amendment for D.C. voting rights in Congress and in the Electoral College, which fails to pass.
A political scientist describes the Board of Trade—which supports congressional voting rights only—as providing D.C. with the ideal form of local government through a “representative aristocracy.”
Senator Jacob Gallinger (R-NH), chairman of the Senate District Committee, introduces a resolution to amend the Constitution and make a state out of the District of Columbia.
Congress reduces the federal payment to forty percent. The Board of Trade and the Chamber of Commerce advocate congressional voting rights and oppose home rule.
Congress abandons a fixed percentage federal payment and gives the commissioners authority to raise local taxes.
The California legislature passes a resolution recommending Congress amend the Constitution to grant D.C. representation in Congress.
Congress grants District residents the same access to the federal courts as that available to residents of the states (diversity jurisdiction). The Supreme Court, in National Mut. Ins. Co. v. Tidewater Transfer Co., Inc., 337 U.S. 582 (1949), upholds that act.
Board of Trade appears before Senate Committee to support representation in Congress but opposes local self-government.
President Truman transmits Reorganization Plan No. 5 of 1952 to Congress to streamline the District’s government by transferring over 50 boards and commissions to the Commissioners. When transmitting the plan to Congress, he states “I strongly believe that the citizens of the District of Columbia are entitled to self-government. I have repeatedly recommended, and I again recommend, enactment of legislation to provide home rule for the District of Columbia. Local self-government is both the right and the responsibility of free men. The denial of self-government does not befit the National Capital of the world’s largest and most powerful democracy. Not only is the lack of self-government an injustice to the people of the District of Columbia, but it imposes a needless burden on the Congress and it tends to controvert the principles for which this country stands before the world.”
Segregationist Rep. John McMillan favors a D.C. vote for president and vice president, says a struggle for home rule will cripple the campaign for the national vote. McMillan thinks the national vote should “satisfy” DC residents “at least for a while.”
The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. It gives D.C. the same number of electors in the electoral college that it would be entitled to if it were a state, but no more than the least populous state.
D.C. voters vote for President for the first time since the creation of the District in 1800, but only get “three fourths” of a vote since D.C. is limited to three electoral votes regardless of its population, which at the time would have merited two seats in the House.
Thinking he might reduce tensions in D.C. and prevent riots like those occurring in other U.S. cities, President Lyndon Johnson transmits Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967 to Congress. It creates a Presidentially appointed Council of nine members and a Presidentially appointed Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of the District of Columbia (Mayor and Deputy Mayor equivalents), eliminating the office held by an officer of the Corps of Engineers. President Johnson notes that the commissioner form of government was designed for a city of 150,000 people and that “(t)oday Washington has a population of 800,000. … I remain convinced more strongly than ever the Home Rule is still the truest course. We must continue to work toward that day – when the citizens of the District will have the right to frame their own laws, manage their own affairs, and choose their own leaders. Only then can we redeem that historic pledge to give the District of Columbia full membership in the American Union.” He appoints Walter Washington “Mayor” and Thomas Fletcher “Deputy Mayor” and John Hechinger as Council Chairman.
Congress authorizes D.C. to have an elected school board. D.C. citizens vote for school board members, their first vote for any local body since the territorial government was dissolved in 1874.
Congress passes a law authorizing a nonvoting delegate in House of Representatives for D.C. (the first since 1874). The D.C. Statehood Party is formed with Julius Hobson its first candidate for nonvoting Delegate.
D.C. voters elect Walter Fauntroy as their second nonvoting Delegate to House of Representatives.
Congress passes the D.C. Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act (Home Rule Act) providing for an elected Mayor, 13 member Council and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and delegating certain powers to the new government, subject to Congressional oversight and veto. The new government is prohibited from taxing Federal property and nonresident income and from changing the Federal building height limitation, altering the court system or changing the criminal code until 1977. Congress retains a legislative veto over Council actions and must approve the District’s budget. All District judges are Presidential appointees. A “floating” federal payment is retained. Planning and zoning are to be governed by a mixture of District and Federal agencies.
D.C. voters elect Walter Washington as their first elected Mayor since 1870 and their first elected Council, headed by Chairman Sterling Tucker, since 1874.
Congress amends the Home Rule Act to add recall, initiative and referendum provisions and makes a number of changes address the problems of delay and federal intrusions into purely local decisions.
Congress passes a Constitutional amendment to give D.C. full Congressional voting rights (two Senators and Representatives) and full representation in the Electoral College. The states have seven years to ratify it.
An initiative to hold a Statehood Constitutional Convention is filed. Congress rejects the Council’s bill on the location of chanceries, an example of the Federal interference in local land use decisions.
D.C. voters overwhelmingly approve the initiative to hold a Statehood Constitutional Convention.
D.C. voters elect 45 delegates to the Statehood Constitutional Convention. Congress rejects the Council’s revision to the D.C. sexual assault law.
The convention, of which D.C. statehood activist Charles Cassell is elected President, completes its work in three months. In November, D.C. voters approve a statehood constitution for the State of New Columbia and authorize the electing of two “Shadow” Senators and a Representative to promote statehood (this provision is not implemented until 1990).
A petition for statehood, including the 1982 constitution ratified by the voters, is sent to Congress, where no action is taken on it.
The 1978 constitutional voting rights amendment dies after only 16 states ratify it.
The D.C. Council revises the Constitution for the State of New Columbia and transmits it to both Houses of Congress.
D.C. residents elect their first statehood senators and representative. The positions were first authorized in 1982 when the statehood constitution was approved. Eleanor Holmes Norton is elected as the District of Columbia’s third nonvoting delegate, succeeding Walter Fauntroy.
The House of Representatives, with a new Democratic majority, grants a limited vote in the Committee of the Whole to the D.C. Delegate.
The House District Committee favorably reports a statehood bill out of committee; in first full House vote on statehood ever, it fails (153 to 277).
The D.C. Delegate’s vote in the House Committee of the Whole is revoked. Congress authorizes the President to appoint the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (Control Board), which replaces the elected school board with an appointed board. The law also creates the Office of Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia.
Congress strengthens the Control Board by giving it total control over D.C.’s courts, prisons and pension liabilities (much of that $5 billion in unfunded liabilities is from the pre-Home Rule era), increased control over Medicaid and removes nine D.C. agencies from the Mayor’s authority. The Federal Payment provisions are repealed. Locally elected officials can regain authority after four consecutive balanced budgets.
D.C. voters vote on a medical marijuana initiative (Initiative 59), but the Barr Amendment prohibits spending money to even count the ballots. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts rules in 1999 that ballots can be counted (69% of the voters favored the initiative), but Congressional riders prohibit implementing the initiative.
Twenty D.C. citizens (Adams v. Clinton) sue the President, the Clerk and Sergeant At Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Control Board seeking declaratory judgments and injunctions to redress their deprivation of their democratic right (1) to equal protection or “the right to stand on an equal footing with all other citizens of the United States,” (2) to enjoy republican forms of government, (3) to be apportioned into congressional districts and be represented by duly elected representatives and Senators in Congress, and (4) to participate through duly elected representatives in a state government insulated from Congressional interference in matters properly with the exclusive competence of state governments under the 10th Amendment.
Another lawsuit, Alexander v. Daley, is filed by 57 District residents and the District government against the Secretary of Commerce, the Clerk and Sergeant of Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Secretary and Sergeant of Arms of the U.S. Senate alleging violations of their equal protection and due process rights and privileges of citizenship and seeking voting representation in both houses of Congress.
President Bill Clinton vetoes H.R. 2587, the “District of Columbia Appropriations Act, 2000” because it contains numerous riders that “are unwarranted intrusions into local citizens’ decisions about local matters.” Specifically, the bill prohibits (1) the use of Federal AND District funds for petition drives or civil actions for voting representation in Congress; (2) limits access to representation in special education cases; (3) prohibits the use of Federal AND District funds for abortions except where the mother’s life was in danger or in cases of rape or incest; (4) prohibits the use of Federal AND District funds to implement or enforce a Domestic Partners Act; (5) prohibits the use of Federal AND District funds for a needle exchange program and District funding of any entity, public OR private that has a needle exchange program, even if funded privately; (6) prohibits the D.C. Council from legislating regarding controlled substances in a manner that any state could do; and (7) limits the salary that could be paid to D.C. Council Members.
A three judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in the consolidated lawsuit of Adams v. Clinton and Alexander v. Daley, finds it has authority to only rule on the issue of apportionment and representation in the House and holds that inhabitants of the District are not unconstitutionally deprived of their right to vote for voting representation in the House. The court remands the issues of voting representation in the Senate and Adams’ challenge to the existence of the Control Board to the single District Judge with whom the cases were originally filed, and that judge dismisses both claims. Adams’ claim regarding the right to an elected state government insulated from Congressional interference is not directly addressed. In his dissent, Judge Louis Oberdorfer finds the people of the District of Columbia are entitled to elect members of the U.S. House.
A D.C. Superior Court jury finds statehood activists Anise Jenkins and Karen Szulgit not guilty of “Disruption of Congress” when they spoke out on July 29, 1999 in the House of Representatives against passage of the Barr Amendment that prohibited the implementation of D.C. Initiative 59. Ben Armfield was acquitted of a similar charge earlier in the year. Ms. Szulgit reflected on their 7-month ordeal saying: “Freedom isn’t free. I look forward to the day when we stand together — all the D.C. democracy advocates, our locally elected officials, and every member of Congress — and finally address the unfinished business of the civil rights movement.”
On the 40th anniversary of the founding of SNCC, the Unemployment and Poverty Action Committee (UPAC), of which James Foreman is president, petitions Congress to “grant immediate Statehood to the majority part of the District of Columbia.”
The D.C. Democracy 7 are acquitted. They were arrested on July 26, 2000 for “Disruption of Congress” in the House of Representatives Visitors’ Gallery for allegedly chanting “D.C. Votes No! Free D.C.!” during a Congressional vote on the D.C. Appropriations Bill. Their first trial ended in a hung jury and mistrial.
The Control Board officially suspends its operations and transfers home rule authority back to the elected Mayor and Council (although upon certain conditions occurring, the Control Board can be reactivated in the future).
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) rules on a 1993 charge brought by the Statehood Solidarity Committee and finds that the denial to D.C. citizens of equal political participation in their national legislature and the right to equality before the law is a violation of their human rights.
At the Second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the D.C. Statehood Green Party presents a petition calling for statehood, democracy, and full rights under the U.S. Constitution for residents of the District of Columbia.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issues a report finding that the United States Government violates District residents’ rights by denying them participation in their federal legislature.
The demand for D.C. statehood is dropped from the Democratic Party platform at the suggestion of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, vice-chair of the DNC Platform Committee.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) passes a resolution calling on Congress to support equal voting rights legislation for D.C. residents.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia holds in Banner v. United States that in prohibiting a commuter tax on nonresidents working in the District Congress was merely exercising the power that “the legislature of a State might exercise within the State” and did not violate the equal protection or the uniformity clause of the Constitution.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee finds that D.C.’s lack of voting representation in Congress violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified by more than 160 countries, including the United States.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights finds D.C.’s lack of equal congressional voting rights inconsistent with United States’ human rights commitments under the OSCE Charter.
D.C. statehood continues to be missing from the Democratic Party platform.
Congress considers granting D.C. a vote in the House of Representatives. The Senate passes the bill with an extraneous gun rights amendment added by Sen. Ensign (R-NV) that strips the D.C. government of much of its authority to regulate guns. Nevertheless, Congress does not take any action on the Firearms Registration Act of 2008, which the D.C. Council passed in order to bring local gun laws into compliance with the Supreme Court decision in Heller. The House leadership pulls the bill. Despite having a Democratically controlled House and Senate, an amendment that would prohibit the District from providing money to any needle exchange program that operates within 1,000 feet of virtually any location where children gather is added to the House version of its 2010 appropriation bill (though finally deleted from the final bill).
The D.C. Council creates a new Special Committee on Statehood and Self-Determination chaired by Council Member Michael A. Brown. The Committee begins an extensive series of hearings on statehood and its ramifications. Led by Council Chair Vincent Gray, nine members of the D.C. Council attend the 2009 Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Philadelphia and promote statehood.
The Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives pulls the D.C. Voting Rights Act (with the Ensign Amendment) before a scheduled vote on the floor, effectively killing it for this session of Congress after District residents and some Council Members object to loss of local legislative authority over firearms.
On April 29, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduce a stand alone bill to make it easier to buy guns and ammunition in the District and to repeal local registration and firearm storage requirements.
On January 2, Mayor Vincent Gray endorses D.C. statehood in his inaugural address saying “in many ways, Washington is the greatest symbol of our nation’s democracy. Yet, we as Washingtonians continue to be the only people in our nation that remain shut out of that democracy. … That is why we cannot rest until we achieve true self-determination and become our nation’s 51st state.” He ends his speech with “(t)his is our city. … we won’t stand for disenfranchisement because we aspire to be the best democracy in the world. President Abraham Lincoln once said ‘allow all the governed an equal voice in the government and that, and only that, is self-government.’ My friends, it is then and only then, that we can proclaim this nation’s promise of justice for all finally has arrived in the District of Columbia.”
On January 4, at the first legislative session of the newly elected Council, all Council Members co-introduce a resolution endorsing D.C. statehood and urging D.C.’s Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to introduce a statehood bill.
On January 5, the House of Representatives, now controlled by the Republican Party, strips D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of her vote in the Committee of the Whole.
On January 12, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduces 3 bills, the first of which was H.R. 265, the New Columbia Admission Act.
On January 18, Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court denies a request for a stay in a challenge to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics’ decision that a referendum to repeal the District of Columbia’s Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act and thus can’t be the subject of a referendum. Since Congress had its 30 day period of review and chose not to act on the law, he finds that the Court is unlikely to grant certiorari.
On March 1, the D.C. Council unanimously approves the “Sense of the Council on Calling on Congress to Admit the District of Columbia as the 51st State of Union Resolution of 2011.”
On March 30, on the 50th anniversary of the 23rd amendment to the Constitution, Mayor Gray noted that “No other U.S. jurisdiction is barred from spending its own taxpayer-raised funds as it sees fit. However, the House has passed a continuing resolution that includes harmful anti-home-rule amendments that ban the District from using local funds on needle-exchange programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and for abortions for needy women. The school voucher programs also would be re-established against the will of the city — a move that is unnecessary, as our traditional public schools are improving and charter schools are providing citywide choice. We hope the Senate will counter these regressive and draconian measures and allow the city to govern itself.”
On April 11, 41 D.C. residents (dubbed the “D.C. 41 for 51”), including Mayor Vincent Gray and six members of the D.C. Council, are arrested for sitting down in the street outside the Hart Senate Office Building in an act of civil disobedience to protest Congressional riders on the District budget bill would prohibit the District from using its own funding to pay for abortions and require the District to invest in a school voucher program it does not want.
On April 15, D.C. Emancipation Day, April 18 and May 4, 14 more D.C. residents, including D.C. Senator Michael D. Brown and Council Member Mary Cheh, are arrested in similar demonstrations. The May 4th demonstration at which Council Member Cheh is arrested follows a House of Representatives vote to permanently ban the use of D.C. tax money to pay for abortions of low-income women.
On June 25, twelve more D.C. residents, including Trayon White, the Ward 8 representative on the D.C. State Board of Education, Dr. Dennis Wiley and his wife Christina of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, and former youth mayor Markus Batchelor, are arrested for sitting down in front of the White House to protest D.C.’s lack of rights and demanding that “President Obama, stand up for D.C.” This brings to 73 the number of people arrested in 2011 for protesting the District’s lack of voting rights, Congressional riders on the D.C. budget, and the need for D.C. statehood.