District of Columbia

     On May 3d, 1802 an Act was passed to incorporate the City of
Washington. (2  Stat. at  L. 195.)   It  invested the  mayor  and
common council  (the latter  being  elected  by  the  white  male
inhabitants) with  all the usual powers of municipal bodies, such
as  the  power  to  pass  by-laws  and  ordinances;    powers  of
administration,  regulation   and  taxation;     amongst   others
specially named, ...  p. 233

     This  general   review  of  the  form  of  government  which
prevailed in  the District of Columbia and the City of Washington
prior to  1871  is  sufficient  to  show  that  it  was  strictly
municipal in its character;  p. 233

     In 1871  an important  modification was  made in the form of
the district  government --  a Legislature  was established, with
all the  apparatus of  a distinct  government.   By  the  Act  of
February 21st,  of that  year, entitled  "An  Act  to  Provide  a
Government for  the District of Columbia (16 Stat. at L. 419), it
was enacted (sec. 1) that all that territory of the United States
included within the limits of the District of Columbia be created
into a  government by  the name  of the  District of  Columbia by
which name  it was  constituted a "a body corporate for municipal
purposes," with power to make contracts, sue and be sued, and "to
exercise  all   other  powers  of  a  municipal  corporation  not
inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.
p 233

     This Constitution  lasted until June 20th, 1874, when an Act
was passed entitled "An Act for the Government of the District of
Columbia, and  for other purposes." (18 Stat. at L. 116)  By this
Act the  government established by the Act of 1871 was abolished.
p 234

     By a  subsequent Act,  approved June 11th, 1878 (20 Stat. at
L. 102),  it was  enacted that  the District  of Columbia  should
"remain and  continue a  municipal corporation,"  as provided  in
section two  of the  Revised Statutes  relating to said District,
and the  appointment of  commissioners was  provided for, to have
and  to  exercise  similar  powers  given  to  the  commissioners
appointed under  the Act  of 1874. All rights of action and suits
for and against the  District were  expressly preserved in status
quo.  p. 234

     All municipal  governments are  but agencies of the superior
power of  the State  or government by which they are constituted,
and are  invested with  only such  subordinate  powers  of  local
legislation and  control as  the superior Legislature sees fit to
confer upon them.  p. 234

     The people are the recognized source of all authority, state
or municipal, and to this authority it must come at last, whether
immediately  or  by  circuitous  route.  Barnes  v.  District  of
Columbia, 91 U.S. 540, 545 [23: 440, 441]. p 234

     Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for this court, in the case
of Hepburn  v. Ellzey,  6 U.S. 2 Cranch, 445 [ 2:332 ], where the
question was  whether a  citizen of the District could sue in the
circuit courts of the United States as a citizen of a State.  The
court did  not deny  that the  District of Columbia is a State in
the sense of being a distinct political community;  but held that
the word  "State" in  the  Constitution,  where  it  extends  the
judicial power to cases between citizens of the several "States,"
refers to  the States  of the Union.  It is undoubtedly true that
the District  of Columbia  is a separate political community in a
certain sense,  and in that sense may be called a State;  but the
sovereign power  of this  qualified State  is not  lodged in  the
corporation of the District of Columbia, but in the government of
the United  States.   Its supreme  legislative body  is Congress.
The subordinate legislative powers of a municipal character which
have been  or may  lodged in  the city  corporations, or  in  the
District of  Columbia, do not make those bodies sovereign. Crimes
committed in  the District  are not  crimes against the District,
but against  the United  States.   Therefore, whilst the District
may, in  a sense,  be called  a State,  it  is  such  in  a  very
qualified sense.   No  more than  this was meant by Chief Justice
Taney, when,  in the Bank of Alexandria v. Dryer, 39 U.S. 14 Pet.
141, 146 [10: 391], he spoke of the District of Columbia as being
formed, by  the Acts  of Congress,  into one  separate  political
community, . . .  p. 234

     We are  clearly of  the opinion  that  the  plaintiff  is  a
municipal corporation,  having a  right to  sue and  be sued, and
subject to  the ordinary  rules that  govern the law of procedure
between private persons.

      [The Metropolitan Railroad Company v. District of Columbia]
                                            [132 U.S. 231 (1889)]

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