This is a question often asked by people visiting the District of Columbia or trying to understand how the District of Columbia is different from the rest of the United States and why.

The District of Columbia is not a federal state. Washington is a federal district and the federal capital of the United States, but is not part of any other state. It was established by a law of Congress in 1790 to become the seat of the U.S. government and the capital of the United States.

Read on to understand why the District of Columbia is different from the participating countries, how it happened and what it means for the people who live there and for the country as a whole.

How is D.C. different from the state?

The District of Columbia is the only part of the United States that is not a separate state.

This provision was originally enshrined in the United States Constitution, which allowed the establishment of federal districts, directly administered by Congress, without delegating powers or rules to state governments.

It is the only part of the country that is governed exclusively and directly by the federal government and has no state or legislative authority.

While all federal laws remain in force, local laws are passed by the local council and the mayor, and directly by Congress.

All three branches of the United States – legislative, executive and judicial – are located in the District of Columbia because of its unique location, as are all foreign embassies and the headquarters of major international political, trade and other organisations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

Lucky Photographer/

How was direct current formed in the United States?

The District of Columbia was founded by George Washington’s 16. In July 1790, the law on residence was signed. The states of Maryland and Virginia donated part of the land along the Potomac River to form a new district, and the city of Washington was officially founded in 1791.

The donated land also included a settlement called Georgetown on the banks of the Maryland River, which was quickly swallowed up as the District of Washington.

In 1846, land originally donated by Virginia on the western bank of the Potomac River was returned to the state after much of the development was concentrated in central Washington.

The rest of D.C. got a central government from the city in 1871.

Since the legislation transferred final control of the region to Congress, the mayor and the council were not elected until 1973.

Although the Major and the Council enact a number of local laws, Congress retains the right of the highest authority and may veto or repeal all local laws.

When the first phase of construction was completed, Congress eventually moved to Washington, DC, and the District of Columbia held its first session of Congress in November 1800.

Opening day of the U.S. Congress in the district of Columbia.

Mark Reinstein/

How the District of Columbia is governed in relation to the States

The administration of the district of Colombia has been a subject of discussion for centuries and remains controversial. Congress and the President have the highest authority in the state, which means that the local population effectively loses a number of rights and privileges that are granted to all other American citizens.

Unlike in all states, the people of Washington are not sufficiently represented in the houses of Congress. Instead, since 1990, they have chosen one shadow representative and two shadow coordinators for nominal positions.

Although the elections are legal, the U.S. government does not recognize representation, which means that neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate has a representative from the District of Columbia.

Moreover, the District of Columbia does not appoint its own judges, but they are appointed by the President of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Residents of D.C. have long been excluded from participation in presidential elections. This position changed in 1964, after the 23rd congress in 1961. This is the result of the adoption of an amendment giving the residents of the neighbourhood the right to vote. The District of Colombia elects 3 members of the Electoral College of the United States.

Will Washington be a state?

There’s a debate going on about whether DC should become a state. This debate has led to a series of constitutional and legislative changes in the course of the 20th century. The district was first allowed to elect a mayor and its own council and take part in the presidential elections.

For some residents these changes do not go far.

The movement operates under the motto Taxation Without Representation, because although residents pay all federal and local taxes, they still feel that they do not have all the rights granted to states in the United States.

Unlike the United States, where there are also non-voting representatives, such as Guam or Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia is a full member of the United States, and therefore its residents pay all taxes required by law.

The question of whether the District of Colombia should be a state is further complicated by the fact that a number of buildings and areas have to be excluded for legal reasons, including the Capitol and the White House. Moreover, if the movement succeeds, it is not certain that the city will become a full state first or that the rest of the District of Columbia will be returned to the state of Maryland, as happened in Virginia in 1846.

The White House in Washington, D.C.

Andrea Izzotti/

States surrounding the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia is situated on the border of two states that originally donated land for its creation: Virginia and Maryland. Maryland is the only state that shares a common land border with Washington, DC with Virginia, which is connected by several bridges across the Potomac River.

Maryland and Virginia are both part of the 13 colonies that declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States.

It was only after the declaration that the newly established country began to set up the District of Colombia, which would house all the functions of the federal government and the legislature.

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