In November 1800 residents of the newly-laid out city of Washington cast their last ballots for senators and congressmen. They voted as citizens of Maryland and Virginia - the two states out of which the new capital of the United States was to be carved.
A month later these very same residents lost their right to vote as Congress took over the exclusive responsibility to run the grandly named District of Columbia.
It took just one year for a drive to win back voting rights for District of Columbia residents to begin. Between 1801 and 1803, a series of articles in the National Intelligencer by Augustus B. Woodward, a follower of then-President Thomas Jefferson, argued that citizens of Washington were enduring the same taxation without representation that led the 13 American colonies to demand their independence from Great Britain.
That drive - which took its greatest leap forward last night when the Senate added its approval to that of the House for a constitutional amendment giving District of Columbia residents full voting representation in Congress - has moved in fits and starts during the past 177 years.
Over the years, racial prodjudice and arguments over congressional privileges have often masked the central issue of restoring the right to vote to a group of Americans who have no voice in their government.
Its greatest advances have been attained only during the past two decades when Congress, as characterized by long-time home rule supporter attorney Joseph L. Rauh Jr., attempted to stave off full voting rights with a series of "buy-offs."
In 1961, for example, District of Columbia residents were given the right to vote for president.Then in 1970, they won a nonvoting seat in the House "when it looked like we were going to get home rule," Rauh said.
"Now," he said, "we have home rule (that was attained in 1974) and Congress had nothing left to give but this."
There is a clear line of historical thought that the framers of the constitution never intended to disenfranchise residents of the federal city when it set up the District of Columbia and gave Congress the exclusive right to govern it.
James Madison, one of the principal architects of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist Paper No. 43 that people living in the District of Columbia "will have their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them."
But once the District of Columbia was created, that right was taken away from its residents.
Woodward's articles stood alone until the middle of the 19th century when residents of that portion of Washington that had originally been of Alexandria won the right from Congress to become once again Virginians entitling them to vote.
In 1888, another newspaperman, Theodore W. Noyes of The Evening Star, took up the cry to give Washingtonians a vote in Congress. The first constitutional amendment that would give D.C. congressional representation was introduced in Congress that year by Sen. Henry W. Blair of New Hampshire. Two more resolutions were introduced the next year, but they both failed to win support of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Election.
It was during this period that voting rights in Congress was used as a foil against home rule for Washington, which, Constance McLaughlin Green has reported in her three-volume history of the city, was opposed by wealthy business interests who feared it would lead to a government "dominated by Negro and propertyless voters."
The push for a voice in Congress then lay domant until 1915, when resolutions calling for constitutional amendments that would allow District of Columbia residents to vote for president and vice president with Congressional representation were introduced in both houses of Congress. They went nowhere, however. Then, between 1917 and 1921, 16 resolutions were introduced. The Senate District Committee held a new round of hearings in 1922 and later supported an amendment that would have allowed Congress, if it wanted, to give voting rights to D.C. That report was reaffirmed in two subsequent Congresses, but the move got no further.
In fact, this year is the first time the issue of full voting rights for the District of Columbia has come to a vote in either house of COngress. However, in 1960, the Senate voted to give D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential elections and to be represented in the House of Representatives - but not the Senate. Needless to say, that amendment failed to pass the House.
Since World War II the move to give the District of Columbia a voice in Congress has had strong bipartisan support - at least from presidential candidates if not members of Congress.
In 1952, for instance, President-elect Eisenhower spoke about the evils of taxing D.C. residents and making them serve in the Armed Forces without letting them vote - some of the same arguments that have been used on the floor of the Senate over the last week.
In 1967, President Johnson proposed a constitutional amendment similar to the one passed by the Senate in 1960 that would have given the District of Columbia a vote in the house and allowed Congress to enlarge D.C. representation in either the House or Senate.
While the Senate did nothing at the time, the House Judiciary Committee changed the proposal so that it would provide Washington full voting rights - two senators and the number of representatives called for by the city's population. But no further action was taken by the House.
That proposal, passed 11 years ago, set the frame work for last night's vote.