little help req from stateside

Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 11:44 pm
Hi, the little help I need is for someone to explain two things to me:

1. Washington D.C. What exactly is the District of Columbia?

2. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. What exactly is the commonwealth as used in above.

Regards Kev.
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 12:13 am


At some point in my life, I could have answered your questions. Right now, dementia is slowly setting in, and I am lucky to remember my own name.

Surely, a wiser A2k poster can provide you with the correct answers.

Good luck!
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 06:47 am
The District of Columbia was an area of land setup that is outside the borders of any state. When our Constitution was developed there was a concern that putting the National Capital within the borders of a state would give that state undo power over the other states as well as giving the Federal government a reason to meddle in the affairs of that state.

The end result was to require (within our Constitution itself) that the seat of the Federal Government would reside in an area outside the borders of any state. This non-state is a district, the District of Columbia. If the area were to ever gain state status it would probably become the "State of Columbia".

"Commonwealth" can mean a few different things but it was used by a few of the states in the US (MA being one of them..) to demonstrate that the people of the geographic region were in voluntary political cooperation (as opposed to being forced to do so..) for the purposes of promoting the general welfare of all of the residents which was another bit of a swipe towards the British Monachary and "upper crust".
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 08:01 am
cheers fishin. Very Happy
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 09:32 am
Another tidbit. D.C. is shaped like a diamond, with roads running out from the center like rays of light. It was designed by the same city architect that designed Paris.
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 10:41 am

Thanks for the answers to kev's questions Exclamation
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 12:46 pm
William henry,

The explanation Iv'e been given to my questions seem very familiar to me now, I'm sure in my schooldays I wouldn't have needed to ask them but after 35 years of drinking yorkshire ale the mind isn't what it used to be, Iv'e probably lost about 90% of my brain cells since then. God how I wish I could turn back the clock.

Anyone know a time machine builder?
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 12:55 pm
2nd question first-
Although all 50 states are, in fact, states, the legal name of four of those states is "Commonwealth"- Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky. So officially, it is the "State of New York" but the "Commonwealth of Massachusetts". It really means nothing.

1st question second-
to settle arguments about whether the federal capital should be in a northern state or a southern state, the founding fathers set up the District of Columbia as a tract of 100 square miles that was not part of any state, and as close to the center (of the 13 states) as possible. This 10 x 10 mile square was donated by the states of Maryland and (Commonwealth of) Virginia, straddling the first cataract in the Potomac River. In the 1800's, the portion of the District originally from Virginia was returned to Virginia's control, so the modern D.C. is only the 67 square miles that Maryland donated. The city of Washington and the District of Columbia are coextensive. The Virginia cities of Arlington and Alexandria take up the former Virginia parts of DC. Washington landmark
"The Pentagon" is actually in Virginia.

Since DC wasn't a part of any state, its residents didn't have the same privileges as the true states. DC citizens couldn't vote for President until the 1968 election. DC has been mentioned frequently as a prospect for the 51st state, but hasn't made it yet.
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2003 06:52 pm
Thanks equus,

regards kev.
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2003 07:23 pm
Fishin, thanks! I am also suffering from premature dementia!

I had to know all those questions a long time ago in order to become a citizen!!!
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2003 08:32 pm
L'Enfant's original plan for the District was not fully implemented, but it is an oddly laid out city nonetheless. Georgetown is far more interesting, with steep hillsides which give one storey buildings facing one street, that run back to the next street, on which they are two or three storeys above the pavement.

Congress administers the city directly, through the sham of a mayoralty, which has little real power, and largely serves to administer the District, and often serves as a lightening rod for the effects of Congressional neglect. The city is located on really undesirable land, but then, in those agrarian days, surveyors and those who engaged them were reluctant to put settlements on prime farm land. It's on top of ground which wants to be a swamp. Hot and steamy in summer, and damp and chilly in winter, it is difficult to imagine a more charming locale for the seat of insanity . . . er, of government. (Hard to get the misery of the current administration out of one's mind.)
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2003 08:44 pm
The rhythm of the year in Washington is still dictated by the old days of hot swampland without air conditioning when politicians got the heck out just to save their sanity. "Foggy Bottom" (the old State Department building was pretty much the low point of the swamp). If you meander along the Potomac to the west of DC you can (or you could, don't know if this is still true) get a pretty good notion of what the place was like in the old days.
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2003 08:56 pm
And Pierre L'Enfant's designs, Washington and Paris, reflect an earlier design by Pope Sixtus V (Peretti) in Rome...the goosefoot of three streets radiating from Piazza del Populo, connecting major sites in the jumbled old Roman city....in the late 1500's. A tangent to the main topic...heh heh.
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