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Granting the District of Columbia statehood would resolve the unequal citizenship status that residents have suffered since the inception of the District. I cite the most glaring inequities. Residents of the District did not even gain the right to vote in Presidential elections until 1961, with the adoption of the 23d amendment. District residents are not entitled to a Delegate who may vote on the floor of Congress, although citizens of the District of Columbia have, by popular vote, elected one representative to the House since 1971. And this Representative is only able to vote in committee.
It is obvious that the District residents do not receive the most fundamental right of citizenship upon which this country is based—the right to full representation in Congress.
Furthermore, citizens of the District do not receive representation in Congress. They are subject to the same laws and taxations as citizens who have a voice. How ironic that the Nation's Capital does not afford its citizens the fundamental benefits of democracy.
Not only is statehood desirable for the residents, but statehood would be beneficial to the country as a whole. If the District were a State, Congress would be relieved from overseeing the purely local affairs of the city, which would then free time to spend on crucial national and international matters.
Statehood supports the principle of local government of local affairs embedded in the American legal philosophy under the concept of States rights. Behind the idea of States rights and local self-government lies the conviction that matters of local concern can best be determined and most efficiently managed by those most directly affected.
The people of the District of Columbia wish to become the citizens of the State of New Columbia. They have worked long and hard. We must meet the challenge of statehood. And we must put to rest the concern a colleague described when I asked her what she thought about statehood for the District of Columbia.
She recalled an incident of years earlier in which a fellow judicial law clerk answering the question-Why was the District not a State?-replied simply, "It is too dark."
If it is too dark, it is dark from the rationalizations of narrow constitutional technocrats, dark from the choking tentacles of legislative antiquities, and dark from the fundamentally negative attitudes of many who acquiesce to longstanding racial misconceptions.
Members of the Congress, representatives of the people, it seems to me that you are in a position to move District of Columbia statehood to a reality. I believe that you must and that you will move to complete the simple message and promise of this Republic. Grant the District of Columbia statehood, and let the 51st star of our constellation shine with liberty and justice for all of our citizens.
And thank you so very much.
Mr. FAUNTROY. Thank you so very much, Mr. Cochran. (Applause.]
We have no demonstrations in this hearing. [Laughter.] But let me again indicate that your entire statement will be placed in the record.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cochran follows:]
COMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
U. S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Statehood for the District of Columbia
May 13, 1986
Testimony of Professor J. Otis Cochran University of Tennessee, College of Law DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA STATEHOOD
Honorable Members of the Committee on the District of
Columbia, Ladies and Gentlemen, greetings from East Tennessee. am J. Otis Cochran, a professor of law at the University of
Tennessee, College of Law.
begin my testimony, I would like the opportunity to
tell you how I happen to be here.
Last fall, the members of the
Black Law Students Association at the University of Tennessee
decided that their agenda for the year would include the issue of
District of Columbia statehood.
As their faculty advisor, I was
asked questions about the statehood proposal that I could not
answer; as a teacher I had little choice:
I got started doing
research on the statehood question. Today, I want to ask your indulgence as I briefly review the political history of the District of Columbia and respond to several political and constitutional law questions which continuously surface in
In 1783, four years prior to ratification of the U.S.
Constitution, while the national capital was in Philadelphia, unpaid federal soldiers converged on that city demanding their
The Pennsylvania militia refused to provide
Icochran received his bachelor's degree from Morehouse College, did graduate study at Columbia University and was awarded a J.D. degree from Yale Law School.
protection to the Congress.
In the aftermath, growing
Congressional concern about safety and security led to the idea
of a federally owned capital where the national government would reside. 2
That idea found its way into the Constitution.
The United States Constitution provides, "The Congress shall have power . to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square)
as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of
Congress, become the seat of the government of the United
When Maryland and Virginia ceded land for the capital to the
federal government, the expectation was that Congress would grant District residents some form of local self government. 4
Congress largely fulfilled that expectation until the early
5 1870's. In fact, from 1820 to 1871, the residents of the
district elected their Mayor and City Council.
In 1871, "congress
established a territorial form.of government for the District,
under which the people elected the lower house of the
2Statehood for the District of Columbia: Hearings on H.R. 3861 Before the Subcomm. on Fiscal Affairs of the Comm. on the District of Columbia House of Representatives, 98th Cong., 2nd Sess. 26 (1984) (statement of Hon. Walter E. Fauntroy.) (hereinafter cited as Hearings).
3u.s. Const. art. I, S 8, cl. 17
“The Federalist No. 43, at 280 (J. Madison) (Modern Library ed. 1937).
5p.G. Schrag, Behind the Scenes: The Politics of a Constitutional Convention 10 (1985).
legislature, but the President appointed the upper house, the Governor, and a Board of Public Works. The District also received a non-voting delegate in Congress.
The District was regarded as a good place to live.
even before the civil War,
the District attracted persons of
many backgrounds, including black people. This attraction was due in part to economic opportunity. The growing federal
8 government required an increasing number of employees.' Blacks also found that laws discriminating against them in the District
were generally less severe than in surrounding states.
result of these factors, the district: had an unusually large free
During the Civil War, some 40,000 blacks migrated to
10 Washington, quadrupling the city's black population. Despite the increase in the black population, blacks were still a minority in Washington in the late nineteenth century, and the city Council of the District defeated black suffrage after the white majority expressed its opposition in a referendum in 1865...
Radical Republicans in Congress were determined, however, not to
let the South claim Washington; they mandated black suffrage for
bid. at 10.
7s. Smith, Captive Capital; Colonial Life In Modern Washington 56 (1974).
8schrag, supra note 5 at 11.