The electoral college

 In 1824, this led the country to outrage at what most thought to be an underhanded presidential election. Since party nominating conventions were not yet developed, six formidable candidates competed in the general election - New England's John Quincy Adams, Georgia's William H. Crawford, South Carolina's fiery John C. Calhoun, New York's De Witt Clinton, Kentucky's Henry Clay, and Tennessee's Andrew Jackson. Even though Jackson won a plurality of popular votes, no one won a majority of electoral votes (and in six states electors were chosen by legislatures rather than the popular vote), and thus the election was thrown to the House of Representatives. There, powerhouse legislator Henry Clay, though he had the least electoral votes of any, schemed to give them to John Quincy Adams in exchange for a promise to be named Secretary of State, and Adams became President. Legislators and voters fumed.

[Also, note below the strong American desire as late as 1826 to wage war to acquire Canada - a feat that had been unsuccessfully attempted during the War of 1812]:

"The issue that [the new Congress] first addressed was the partisan outrage left over from the disputed presidential election. At issue was a proposed constitutional amendment either to abolish the electoral college outright and provide for a direct popular vote, or to modify the electoral college and require presidential electors to cast their vote for the candidate receiving a plurality in their district. ...

"[As the Senate wrestled with this], new Secretary of State Henry Clay was under assault from Virginia's crusty John Randolph. Clay and Randolph had never seen eye to eye on even the most trivial of issues. In fact, when Clay had set about making the speakership a position of true power upon his first election to that post in 1811, he had unceremoniously ordered Randolph to remove his dog from the House floor - something no previous Speaker had dared to do. On more substantive issues, Randolph vehemently opposed the fixation of Clay and his war hawks on acquiring Canada.

"But now the feud became more personal. Randolph indulged in a rambling discourse that touched on all phases of Clay's perceived follies, but most of all upon his 'corrupt bargain' with John Quincy Adams. No longer able to defend himself verbally as a member of Congress, Clay did the one thing that smacked more of Andrew Jackson than of his benefactor Adams. He promptly challenged Randolph to a duel. Randolph was only too happy to oblige.

"Never mind that by now most states, including Clay's own Ken­tucky, had outlawed dueling, or that many in Congress, and Clay himself, entertained questions about Randolph's sanity. In the end, Clay determined that 'I ought not to be governed by that opinion [of Randolph's insanity] which was opposed by the recent act of my native state electing him to the Senate.'

"So, on April 8, 1826, despite the entreaties of their seconds to postpone or forgo the matter, the secretary of state of the United States and Senator John Randolph of Virginia faced off at ten paces beneath a cluster of trees just across the Potomac River from Wash­ington.

"At the command of 'Fire!' both men took aim and discharged their weapons. The ball from Clay's pistol struck the ground near Randolph; the Senator's own shot hit a stump behind Clay. 'Enough!' cried Senator Thomas Hart Benton,who was witness­ing the exchange and who, as first cousin to Clay's wife, had done his best to avert it. But neither combatant was satisfied. Their weapons were reloaded and again came the command, 'Fire!' Clay's ball struck almost the same spot. Randolph fired into the air.

" 'I do not fire at you, Mr. Clay,' thundered Randolph, as he quickly advanced toward Clay with outstretched hand. Clay met his opponent halfway and shook hands. Benton and the attendant seconds breathed sigh of relief. Two days later, Clay and Randolph exchanged calling cards, a sign that social relations between the two were formally restored. Such was life in Washington in 1826. As for the electoral college, its structure was never changed, and two cen­turies later, it remains as enacted in 1804 by the Twelfth Amendment."

The United States Constitution

"Three delegates refused to sign [the constitution upon its approval by the Constitutional Convention], but at the bottom of the fourth page appear the
signatures of the rest. What was written on parchment was then made public,
printed in newspapers and broadsheets, often with 'We the People' set off in extra-large type. Meanwhile, the secretary of the convention carried the original [from Philadelphia] to New York to present it to [the Continental] Congress, which met, at the time, at City Hall. Without either endorsing or opposing it, Congress agreed to forward the Constitution to the states for ratification. The original Constitution was simply filed away and, later, shuffled from one place to another. When City Hall underwent renovations, the Constitution was transferred to the Department of State. The following year, it moved with Congress to Philadelphia and, in 1800, to Washington, where it was stored at the Treasury Department until it was shifted to the War Office. In 1814, three clerks stuffed it into a linen sack and carried it to a gristmill in Virginia, which was fortunate, because the British burned Washington down. In the eighteen-twenties, when someone asked James Madison where it was, he had no idea.
"In 1875, the Constitution found a home in a tin box in the bottom of a closet
in a new building that housed the Departments of State, War, and in 1894,
it was sealed between glass plates and locked in a safe in the basement. In 1921,
Herbert Putnam, a librarian, drove it across town in his Model T. In 1924, it
was put on display in the Library of Congress, for the first time ever. Before then, no one had thought of that. It spent the Second World War at Fort Knox. In 1952, it was driven in an armored tank under military guard to the National Archives, where it remains, in a shrine in the rotunda, alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. ...
"If you haven't read the Constitution lately, do. Chances are you'll find that
it doesn't exactly explain itself. Consider Article III, Section 3: 'The Congress
shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of
Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of
the Person attainted.' This is simply put - hats off to the committee of style -
but what does it mean? A legal education helps. Lawyers won't stumble over 'attainder,' even if the rest of us will.
Part of the problem might appear to be the
distance between our locution and theirs. 'Corruption of Blood'? The document's learnedness and the changing meaning of words isn't the whole problem, though, because the charge that the Constitution is too difficult for ordinary people to understand - not because of its vocabulary but because of the complexity of its ideas - was brought nearly the minute it was made public.
"Anti-Federalists charged that the Constitution was so difficult to read that it amounted to a conspiracy against the understanding of a plain man, that it was willfully incomprehensible. 'The constitution of a wise and free people, ought to be as evident to simple reason, as the letters of our alphabet,' an Anti-Federalist wrote. 'A constiution ought to be, like a beacon, held up to the public eye, so as to be understood by every man,' Patrick Henry argued. He believed that what was drafted in Philadelphia was 'of such an intricate and complicated nature, that no man on this earth can know its real operation.'

Anti-Federalists had more complaints, too, which is why ratification - a process
wonderfully recounted by Pauline Maier in 'Ratification: The People Debate the
Constitution, 1787-1788' - was touch and go. Rhode Island, the only state to
hold a popular referendum on the Constitution, rejected it. Elsewhere, in state
ratifying conventions, the Constitution passed by the narrowest of margins:
eighty-nine to seventy-nine in Virginia, thirty to twenty-seven in New York, a
hundred and eighty-seven to a hundred and sixty-eight in Massachusetts."...
"[The Constitution has] forty-four hundred words and 'God' is not one of
them, as Benjamin Rush complained to John Adams, hoping for an emendation: 'Perhaps an acknowledgement might be made of his goodness or of his providence in the proposed amendments.' It was not."

Author: Jill LePore
Title: "The Commandments"
Publisher: The New Yorker
Date: January 17, 2011
Pages: 70-73

Attack on DC by Juabl Early

Jubal Early's plan was multifaceted and among other things, he didn't want to attack in the obvious places--from the south of west. After all, who would expect the Southern army to attack from the north? Of the weakly manned DC defenses, those to the north were more vulnerable than others. Early's reconnaissance proved this (at least the day before the battle!)  Also, Early hoped to meet a naval force at Point Lookout, Maryland, where he could liberate and arm thousands of Confederate troops. The path he took would have put him in position to do this.  It's also important to note the Early wasn't "targeting" Fort Stevens in advance. In fact, on the morning on July 11, 1864, Early had scouts probing all along Washington's northernmost defenses, from Fort Reno (which guarded the important roads to Georgetown) out to Fort Lincoln. In the great "Mr. Lincoln's Forts," the authors write that Fort Reno was originally scouted as the site of Early's main attack, but its stout defenses (including a number of howitzers) made Early's scouts head further east, towards Fort Stevens.


In April 1861 at the start of the war, the D.C. area was a hub of activity. Virginia militia was gathering in Arlington Heights - a prime location since it overlooked the Capitol. Petworth was still farmland with Union encampments springing up nearby. Construction was beginning on the ring of forts that would soon surround the city. Lincoln's cottage retreat -- the precursor to Camp David -- was nearby at the Old Soldiers' Home. And 16th Street didn't exist yet; the main road around town was Georgia Ave.


Charles Burr writes in the 1920 records of the Columbia Historical Society:
Uniontown was between the fork created by the Upper Marborough road and the Piscataway road. To the thoroughfare eastward a part of the Marlborough road, was given the name Harrison Street and to the thoroughfare southward a part of the Piscataway road was given the name Monroe Street. The other streets of Uniontown were named in honor of the Presidents.
Uniontown was bounded by Monroe Street (Nichols Avenue, now Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue) on the west, Harrison Street (Good Hope Road) on the north, Taylor Street (16th Street) on the east, and Jefferson Street (W Street) on the south. The other streets were also named after presidents: Fillmore Street (13th Street), Pierce Street (14th Street), Adams Street (15th Street), Jackson Street (U Street), and Washington Street (V Street).

Anacostia's old street names reveal little-known history

The streets of historic Anacostia have a hidden history that reveals insights into its unique character and place in the larger narrative of the city and even the nation.

After mortally wounding President Lincoln on the evening of April 18 14, 1865 at Ford's Theatre in downtown Washington, John Wilkes Booth escaped on horseback, crossing the Navy Yard Bridge, now the 11th Street Bridge, where he came to Harrison Street, now Good Hope Road.

Booth galloped through what was then known as the new subdivision of Uniontown up Harrison Street to the intersection with Marlboro Road, now Naylor Road. He then rode one and a third miles east on Marlboro Road into Maryland, where he would continue his escape into Virginia.

FOX 5 History

FOX 5 began operating on May 19, 1945

ALLEN B. DUMONT, FOUNDER OF CHANNEL 5 IN 1938: "A good start in TV broadcasting can be made for as little as $25,000. And that figure can be shaved if need be.

Watching FOX 5, you may not realize how much of a pioneer the station has been. WTTG was one of the first television stations in the world. FOX 5 began operating on May 19, 1945, as the first station in Washington DC and the second station of the now-defunct DuMont Television Network.The station was known as W3XWT: "W" meant North America, "3" was the region of the country, "X" meant experimental and "WT" were the station's call letters. DuMont Labs, manufacturer of TV sets and transmission equipment, owned the station. Founder Allen DuMont saw the television station as a prime way to sell more DuMont brand TV sets. "

In addition to being the first television station in Washington, DC, WTTG was:

• First station to broadcast live a presidential inauguration (Harry S. Truman - 1945)
• First station to televise live before a studio audience (1946)
• First television station to sign on early in the morning in Washington, DC (typically, television started in the afternoon)
• Originating television station for national coverage of the McCarthy Hearings (1954)
• Originating television station for national coverage of the Hoffa/Kennedy Hearings (1957)
• First station to have videotape facilities (1959)
• First station to become fully automated (1966)
• First primetime newscast in the country (1966)

Old Washington

                                           Church of the Covenant 8th and N street NW
                                      The Marine Hospital between B and New Jersey SE
                                                Corner of NEw Hampshire and P Streets
                            Baltimore Sun Building on F street NW between 13th and 14th
                                                          The British Ligation on Connecticut
                                       Levi Morton House, Rhode Island and 15th 

The Washington Loan and Trust Building on 9th and F streets NW