SHOULD RESIDENTS OF WASHINGTON, DC HAVE VOTING RIGHTS?

by Montgomery Blair Sibley, ©2014, blogging at Amo Probos

(Dec. 4, 2014) — The mess in Ferguson, Missouri put off my meeting with a representative of the NBCSL last week as their focus was obviously on the unfortunate events in that city.  However, I was able to speak by telephone with a low-level member of their staff about my letter.  I can’t say that my proposal to have the NBCSL spearhead a campaign to call an Article V convention was well received, but on the other hand, it wasn’t rejected either.

What I said to her was this:

My great, great grandfather, Montgomery Blair, received a letter on July 4, 1854, from Dred Scott which concluded: 

I have no money to pay anybody at Washington to speak for me.  My fellow-men, can any of you help me in my day of trial?  Will nobody speak for me at Washington, even without hope of other reward than the blessings of a poor black man and his family? I do not know. I can only pray that some good heart will be moved by pity to do that for me which I cannot do for myself; and that if the right is on my side, it may be so declared by the high court to which I have appealed.

By December 30, 1854, when the Supreme Court docketed Dred Scott v. Sandford, no attorney had stepped forward.  Yet Montgomery Blair agreed to take up the case so unpopular that no attorney in D.C. was willing to take it and thereby risk his legal career.  For doing that which others would not, President Buchanan fired Montgomery Blair from his position as Solicitor General causing him great financial hardship.  During the Civil War, his home in present-day Silver Spring, Maryland was burned to the ground by Confederate troops in retaliation for his representation of Dred Scott.  On October 12, 1864, upon the death of Chief Justice Taney, Lincoln had a chance to re-pay Montgomery Blair for his loyalty and fine service as Post Master General. However, bowing to pressures from the Radical Republicans who hated Blair on account of his representation of Dred Scott, Lincoln appointed Salmon Chase as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court instead thereby denying Blair the position he so longed for and richly deserved. 

Why the brief history lesson?  Simply put, I am now a “slave” insomuch as I am a resident of the District of Columbia who has no vote in Congress. Despite the fine thirteen year effort of D.C. Vote and other individuals and organizations to obtain voting rights for District residents, Congress has refused to extend this basic civil right to me and the 600,000 other tax-paying residents of the District.  Each year a few self-appointed Congressmen take it upon themselves to determine the great issues of the day – abortion, needle exchanges, legalizing marijuana – by fiat rather than allow the residents of the District to determine these matters for themselves as residents of other states do.

Hence, to echo Dred Scott’s words to my great, great, grandfather to you: “I can only pray that some good heart will be moved by pity to do that for me which I cannot do for myself.”  And what is that which NBCSL can “do” that “I cannot do for myself”? 

Call a Constitutional Convention pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution to fully enfranchise me and my fellow District of Columbia residents.  Such a call by thirty-four (34) state legislatures would obligate Congress to call such a convention.  I believe the NBCSL is uniquely situated to organize resolutions in the necessary State Legislatures calling for such a Convention. Plainly, who – when faced with that choice – would oppose such a resolution designed to enfranchise the residents of the District? 

I was aware that the staff person was taking copious notes and was somewhat stunned by what I had to say.  I ended by again requesting that I be allowed to raise and expand upon the wisdom and merit of my proposal at the December 10-13, 2014 NBCSL’s 38th Annual Legislative Conference Dallas, TX.  She promised to pass my message along.

What happened next proved that the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways . . .

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