Associate Justice Wlliam Stafford advocated for D.C. Statehood to President William Taft at a dinner in 1909 hosted by the “Citizens of Washington). (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor

As many in the nation’s capital and justice leaders nationwide push for D.C. Statehood, the Council of the District of Columbia took to Twitter to give folks a little history lesson on early 20th century advocacy regarding making the City a state.

On May 8, 1909, President William Taft was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by the “Citizens of Washington.” 

There, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia Wendell Phillips Stafford addressed the diners with a direct message to President Taft- the importance of full Representation in the House and Senate. He said other State leaders had no idea on what was happening in the nation’s capital as it related to quotidian affairs and the City’s residents.

“Here ignorance of District affairs has often shown itself so egregious and glaring that it could excite nothing but laughter, if tears were not often a more fitting recognition of the folly,”Stafford said bluntly.  “What is needed is two men in the Senate and one man in the House; real live men with blood in their arteries and brains in their heads; men who have lived long in the District of Columbia and belong to her; men who know her needs and her capacity, who know the history and condition of her institutions, her charities, her prisons, the views and aspirations of her people; men who are proud of their connection with her, and proud that to her soil has been committed the ark of civil and religious liberty.”

Stafford further emphasized having full voting rights in Congress, versus non-voting delegates, such as longtime leader Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who has the loudest voice fighting for Statehood, but with no true vote.

“What we need is *members* of these bodies, with the prestige that belongs to members; not figureheads, not lobbyists, not delegates, but two members of the Senate and a member of the House, able, enlightened, informed, fit to represent the will and judgment of .”

He then poses a question to President Taft, that current leaders still ask in regards to the more than 700,000 Washingtonians who are taxed without representation.

“When 1,000,000 men are here, when they ask alone can have no part in a republucan form of government, do you imagine they will call it a sufficient answer answer to be told ‘Because you live in Washington?’”

After a partisan vote that showed Democratic Congressmen in favor of making the nation’s capital the 51st state, Republican Senators are working to ensure D.C. Statehood does not pass in the Senate. 

“The Committee is marking up the [For ThePeople] Act today. Republicans have filed an amendment to change the findings in the bill that support to findings that oppose it,” Norton tweeted.  “I am working with our allies in the Senate to defeat this anti-statehood amendment.”

Post reading Stafford’s speech and considering current Republicans’ clear opposition to D.C. Statehood, one Twitter user said that Stafford’s qualifications for proper representation would exclude GOP leaders.

“No wonder the GOP opposes #dcstatehoodnow. People with ‘brains in their heads’ is a clear disqualification for any potential Republican representation for the District.


Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor