When the United States Constitution was adopted on September 15, 1787, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, included language authorizing the establishment of a federal district. This district was not to exceed 10 miles square, under the exclusive legislative authority of Congress. On July 16, 1790, Congress authorized President George Washington to choose a permanent site for the capital city and, on December 1, 1800, the capital was moved from Philadelphia to an area along the Potomac River. The census of 1800 showed that the new capital had a population of 14,103.
The District of Columbia Bicentennial Commission was established to develop plans for the celebration of various anniversary dates in District of Columbia history. The commission is comprised of 39 members with a specified number of commissioners appointed by the mayor, the chairman of the D.C. Council, council members, the District delegate to the House of Representatives, the courts, and the District of Columbia Bar. Among the events celebrated are the 200th anniversary of the Residency Act, which established that there shall be a permanent seat of government on the Potomac River (July 16, 1990); the 200th anniversary of President George Washington's proclamation of the site for the federal district (January 24, 1991); and the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Pierre L'Enfant, Benjamin Banneker and Andrew Ellicott. The commission may designate other bicentennial events for celebration.
There have been several forms of appointed and elected governments in the District of Columbia: an appointed, three-member commission (1790-1802); elected councils and an appointed mayor (1802-1820); elected councils and an elected mayor (1820-1871); an appointed governor, a two-house legislature (one appointed and the other elected), and an elected , non-voting delegate to the Congress (1871-1874); and another appointed, three-member commission (1874-1967). Following the defeat by Congress of a home rule effort in 1967, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson reorganized the District government and created the positions of an appointed mayor/commissioner and an appointed nine-member council.
District residents won the right to vote in a presidential election on March 29, 1961, to elect a board of education in 1968 and, in 1970, to elect a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives. In 1973, Congress approved a bill that provided District residents with an elected form of government with limited home rule authority; as a result, District residents voted for a mayor and a council for the first time in more than 100 years. District residents accepted the home rule charter by referendum vote in 1974. Congress delegated to the District government the authority, functions and powers of a state, with a very important exception: Congress retains control over the District's revenue and expenditures by annually reviewing the entire District government budget. In addition, Congress has repeatedly prohibited the District from imposing a non-resident income tax.
In 1980, District voters approved a statehood initiative by a majority of 60 percent; delegates to a statehood constitutional convention were elected in 1981 and, in 1983, a bill for the admission of the state of New Columbia was introduced in Congress. The "Constitution for the State of New Columbia" is still under congressional consideration and is reintroduced into each new congressional session. Under the specifications of the statehood initiatives, most of the land area of the District of Columbia would become the state of New Columbia; the District of Columbia would continue to exist, albeit reduced in size to an area consisting of the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Mall and federal monuments and government buildings adjacent to the Mall.