Why Washington, DC isn’t a state

The District of Columbia is the capital of the United States, but Washington, DC isn’t a state and doesn’t belong to a state.

Creating a new capital city was included in the American constitution. The text states that the district will be the home of the American government and that the US Congress would have absolute jurisdiction. There was also specified that the district could not be larger than 10 square miles. According to James Madison a special district would be the best way to make sure that no state would have more power by housing the federal government.

Congress created the federal district in 1790 on land coming from the states of Virginia and Maryland. In 1800 the capital of the USA moved from Philadelphia to what was then known as Washington City. In 1846 the land of Virginia was returned to the state, making Washington, DC 6,8 square miles large. 700.000 people are living on this small surface.

Same duties, less rights

Washington, DC has the same functions as a state and as a city. The citizens of the district have to fulfill the duties of their American citizenship, like paying taxes and vote. But they don’t have the same rights. For more than 200 years the people living in the District of Columbia haven’t got a representative in Congress. The seat in Congress are reserved for the states. Washington, DC does have some representation in Congress by someone who can have a seat in committees, submit legislation and debate about legislation. But he cannot vote over federal legislation.

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Washington, DC, the 51st state?

There is a movement that is trying to pass law that makes a large part of the District of Columbia the 51st state of the USA. If it would come to this, the residential and commercial parts of Washington, DC would become a separate state. The District of Columbia is then only comprised of the regions that are used by the federal government.


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