Washington, D.C.

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The White House
The U.S. Capitol
The flag of Washington, D.C.
The seal of Washington, D.C.
The reflecting pool and the Washington Monument
Washington, D.C. skyline, with full moon

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States of America. The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country's East Coast. As permitted by the U.S. Constitution, the District is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and is therefore not a part of any U.S. state. The U.S. states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the preexisting settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia and created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the District in 1871.

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If there is one thing that is bipartisan in Washington, it is brazen hypocrisy. ~ Thomas Sowell






  • There is a sort of an unwritten code in Washington, among the underworld and the hustlers and these other guys that I am their friend.
  • Washington is the most intensely parochial city in the world.
  • Before me stands monuments of the greatest and the goodness of our nation— monuments of light and liberty. There is a towering memorial to George Washington. The general who led our revolution, the president who set our nation on its course. There’s a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, whose words about liberty and equality literally changed the world. And across the tidal basin from the Jefferson memorial, there stands Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his arms crossed, his eyes fixed ahead toward the promised land where equality is not only an aspiration but a reality. They help define who we are. Guide what we do. Remind us of the work that history has given us in our own time.
    • Joe Biden, "Declaring Our Independence from a Deadly Virus" 2021. Vital Speeches of the Day 87 (9): 213–14.
  • WASHINGTONIAN, n. A Potomac tribesman who exchanged the privilege of governing himself for the advantage of good government. In justice to him it should be said that he did not want to.
  • The global role of the United States is perhaps the ultimate chapter in that long period of European expansion which had begun in western Europe, and especially on the Atlantic seaboard, during the 15th century. Europe slowly had outgrown its homeland. Its cultural empire eventually formed a long band traversing most of the Northern Hemisphere and dipping far into the Southern. The modern hub of the peoples and ideas of European origin is now New York as much as Paris, or Los Angeles as much as London. In the history of the European peoples the city of Washington is perhaps what Constantinople - the infant city of Emperor Constantine - was to the last phase of the Roman Empire; for it is unlikely that Europeans, a century hence, will continue to stamp the world so decisively with their ideas and inventions.
  • Too small to be a state but too large to be an asylum for the mentally deranged.
    • Anne Gorsuch Burford, characterizing the District of Columbia, remarks to a Colorado state convention of wool growers, Vail, Colorado, July 27, 1984, as reported by The Washington Post, July 29, 1984, p. 1. Burford was a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Her remark is reminiscent of one reportedly made by James L. Petigru during Christmas week, 1860, in Charleston, South Carolina, when he was asked by Robert Barnwell Rhett, a leader of the secessionists, if he were with them: "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum".—Earl Schenck Miers, The Great Rebellion, p. 50 (1958).
  • I'm hopeful. I know there is a lot of ambition in Washington, obviously. But I hope the ambitious realize that they are more likely to succeed with success as opposed to failure.


  • Washington isn’t like everywhere else. The city’s economy is tied directly to the size of the federal budget, which has grown virtually without pause since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The District of Columbia and its surrounding suburbs are now the wealthiest metro region in the country. Washington’s job market is effectively bulletproof. Political figures cycle in and out of government, from lobbying to finance to contracting and back, growing richer at every turn. In Washington, prosperity is all but guaranteed. To the rest of the country, this looks like corruption, because, essentially, it is. But if you live there, it’s all upside. The most interesting effect of uninterrupted economic growth is that the culture of the city remains unusually stable. Even as Washington’s population has grown exponentially over the years, many things about the city haven’t changed at all. Most of the affluent neighborhoods look the same demographically as they did in 1960. Mothers don’t work. Divorce is unusual. Housing prices almost never fall. It’s a cultural time capsule. By voter registration, D.C. is the most Democratic city in America. Yet the instincts of the people who live there are deeply conservative. Washingtonians hate change. More than anything, they hate to be told they’re wrong, or their ideas are stupid, especially when they are.
    • Tucker Carlson, Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018)
  • We have built no national temples but the Capitol; we consult no common oracle but the Constitution.
    • Rufus Choate, "The Importance of Illustrating New-England History by a Series of Romances like the Waverley Novels", a lecture delivered at Salem, Massachusetts (1833).
  • If I wanted to go crazy I would do it in Washington because it would not be noticed.
    • Irwin S. Cobb. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).


  • After much menutial search for an elligible situation, prompted I may say from a fear of being prejudiced in favour of a first opinion I could discover no one so advantageously to greet the congressional building as is that on the west end of Jenkins heights which stand as a pedestal waiting for a monument, and I am confident, were all the wood cleared from the ground no situation could stand in competition with this. some might perhaps require less labour to be rendered agreeable but after all assistance of arts none ever would be made so grand and all other would appear but of secondary nature.
    • Pierre L'Enfant, letter to George Washington (June 22, 1791); Records of the Columbia Historical Society (1899), vol. 2, p. 35. This letter contained a description of Capitol Hill, then called Jenkins Hill.




  • Washington is a city where dwell many of the first men of the land, and the women they married when they were young.
    • Fanny Dixwell Holmes, remark to President Theodore Roosevelt at the reception preceding a dinner at the White House in honor of her husband, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, January 8, 1903. Reported in Catherine Drinker Bowen, Yankee from Olympus, p. 362 (1944). Originally cited in Francis Biddle, "Mr. Justice Holmes", p. 195 (1942).


  • Somebody once said that Washington was a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency.
    • John F. Kennedy, remarks to the trustees and advisory committee of the national cultural center, November 14, 1961. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 719.


  • But it is dreaded that the freed people will swarm forth and cover the whole land. Are they not already in the land? Will liberation make them any more numerous? Equally distributed among the whites of the whole country, and there would be but one colored to seven whites. Could the one in any way greatly disturb the seven? There are many communities now having more than one free colored person to seven whites and this without any apparent consciousness of evil from it. The District of Columbia and the States of Maryland and Delaware are all in this condition. The District has more than one free colored to six whites, and yet in its frequent petitions to Congress I believe it has never presented the presence of free colored persons as one of its grievances. But why should emancipation South send the free people North? People of any color seldom run unless there be something to run from. Hertofore colored people to some extent have fled North from bondage, and now, perhaps, from both bondage and destitution.
  • If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.
    • Abraham Lincoln, remark to John Eaton of Toledo, Ohio (1863), reported in Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln (1939), vol. 2, p. 535 (1939). Sandburg notes that Eaton had spoken to Lincoln of "hoisting the statue of Liberty over the Capitol dome, new marble pillars to be installed on the Senate wing, a massive and richly embellished bronze door being made for the main central portal. People were saying it was an extravagance during wartime".
  • So I came to Washington, where I knew I would be farther away from America than I could be on some foreign shore; not that I do not respect this as a good part of America but in its general routine the heart of America is felt less here than at any place I have ever been.
    • Huey Long, remarks in the Senate, May 17, 1932, Congressional Record, vol. 75, p. 10393.








  • In Washington, the clearer a statement is, the more certain it is to be followed by a "clarification" when people realize what was said.


  • [George] Washington intended this to be a Federal city, and it is a Federal city, and it tingles down to the feet of every man, whether he comes from Washington State, or Los Angeles, or Texas, when he comes and walks these city streets and begins to feel that this is my city; I own a part of this Capital, and I envy for the time being those who are able to spend their time here. I quite admit that there are defects in the system of government by which Congress is bound to look after the government of the District of Columbia. It could not be otherwise under such a system, but I submit to the judgment of history that the result vindicates the foresight of the fathers.
    • William Howard Taft, address at a banquet given in his honor by the Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce of Washington, D.C. (May 8, 1909); Presidential Addresses and State Papers of William Howard Taft (1910), vol. 1, chapter 7, p. 82-83.
  • Now, I am opposed to the franchise in the District [of Columbia]; I am opposed, and not because I yield to any one in my support and belief in the principles of self-government; but principles are applicable generally, and then, unless you make exceptions to the application of these principles, you will find that they will carry you to very illogical and absurd results. This was taken out of the application of the principle of self-government in the very Constitution that was intended to put that in force in every other part of the country, and it was done because it was intended to have the representatives of all the people in the country control this one city, and to prevent its being controlled by the parochial spirit that would necessarily govern men who did not look beyond the city to the grandeur of the nation, and this as the representative of that nation.
    • William Howard Taft, address at a banquet given in his honor by the Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce of Washington, D.C. (May 8, 1909); Presidential Addresses and State Papers of William Howard Taft (1910), vol. 1, chapter 7, p. 83.
  • D.C. you could be the end of me.


  • To my eye, there is more American greatness in a New England town hall than in all of Washington, and more American greatness in an Oregon apple orchard or a Rotary meeting than there is in all the tanks and rockets that ever have been.


  • During the Civil War, one of the nation's leading abolitionists was Republican Senator Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts, who would later serve as vice president during President Grant's second term. In December 1861, Mr. Wilson introduced a bill to abolish slavery in the District. The measure met with parliamentary obstacles from the adamantly pro-slavery Democratic Party, whom Republicans in those days referred to as the 'Slave-ocrats'. Most Democrats in Congress having resigned in order to join the Confederate rebellion, Wilson's measure sailed through the Senate. The abolitionist senator responsible for outmaneuvering Democrat opposition was Ben Wade, the Ohio Republican who six years later would have assumed the presidency had the bitterly racist Democratic President, Andrew Johnson, been convicted during his impeachment trial. In the House of Representatives, Democrats delayed passage with a series of stalling tactics. Finally, the majority leader, Thaddeus Stevens, bulldozed over Democrat opposition by calling the House into a committee of the whole. He stopped all other business in the House until Democrats relented and allowed a vote on the bill. Stevens, of Pennsylvania, is best known for his 'forty acres and a mule' proposal. Overall, 99 percent of Republicans in Congress voted to free the slaves in the District of Columbia, and 83 percent of Democrats voted to keep them in chains.