A brief history of home rule in the District of Columbia from its founding in 1800 through the end of self-governance in the 1870's, based on my great grandfather's book written in 1916 entitled "Democracy or Despotism in the American Capital." Part II examines the situation of the nation's capital today, arguing that it is ungovernable for basic structural reasons embedded in the Constitution and in the acts of Congress controlling its governance, and because of its unique characteristics which most critics ignore. Eight possible solutions are then briefly analyzed, with a conclusion that territorial status is the only viable solution.
The more things change, the more they stay the
same." That has certainly been true throughout the history of
how the District of Columbia has been governed.
My great grandfather, James Hugh Keeley, Sr. (1857-1932),
wrote a book in 1916 entitled "Democracy or Despotism in
the American Capital." The theme of this historical study is
implicit in the title. It was published posthumously by his
widow, Jessie Lane Keeley, in 1939. From the evidence in
several copies I have borrowed from area university libraries,
this obscure work continues to be consulted occasionally by
students of the issue.
According to oral family tradition which I cannot
confirm otherwise, my grandfather, of Irish descent (though
always Protestant), grew up in the coal-mining counties of
Pennsylvania. He escaped a life in the mines by getting a
good education and learning the trade of journalist. He later
became an editor of small-town newspapers. Seeking elective
political office, he ran unsuccessfully as a
candidate of the Prohibition Party. He went West to Wyoming as
a preacher/missionary promoting Methodism. He was one of
the principal inheritors of Henry George's reformist Single
Tax movement, which he stuck with long after it had faded
into obscurity. Promoting lost causes was one of his favorite
Almost twenty years younger than Mark Twain, James Hugh Keeley, a resident of Washington, D.C. was often mistaken for Twain due to his flowing white hair and mustache. In a feature story in theWashington Post, August 1, 1909 titled "Case of Mistaken Identity" Keeley reported how he had frequently been mistaken for Twain throughout America, England and Portugal. Keeley, a lecturer and journalist who was a former editor of the Franklin (Pa.) Herald was a frequent visitor to the Senate gallery when Congress was in session and was often mistaken for Twain by other Capitol visitors. The Washington Post of July 9, 1912 again featured Keeley in a story "Mark Twain's Double Marries a Third Time" and reported that crowds used to follow Keeley out of curiosity believing he was Mark Twain.
James Hugh Keeley, Sr. (1857-1932)
Journalist and lecturer