There has always been something problematic, if not anomalous, about the political status of the District of Columbia. In theory, the federal government reigns supreme. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution allows Congress to “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” in the territory that houses the seat of government, but it is not clear whether that rules out some measure of popular representation in local government. For Congress to exercise exclusive authority over the capital of the Republic, in denial of the inhabitants' right to govern their own affairs, might seem a stark contradiction of the founding principles of American government. “This, happening at the seat of a nation which boasts of its democratic government,” observed a writer in the Atlantic Monthly in 1909, during a period when the District was subject to direct federal control, “constitutes a solecism of the first magnitude.” Over the 204 years of its residence there, Congress has both allowed and disallowed local representation. For most of its first seventy years, Washington was governed by an elected mayor and councils. (The city of Georgetown and the rural sections of the District, known as Washington County, had their own separate governing arrangements.) The conduct of municipal government in the antebellum period was not dissimilar to that in other cities of comparable size, with the important distinction that Washington, like the rest of the District, was subject to the supreme authority of Congress. That authority, however, was exercised fitfully by a national legislature whose preferred stance toward the District was one of benign neglect. Whatever practical inconvenience might result from this arrangement was not judged sufficient to warrant a serious reconsideration, that is, until the Civil War and its aftermath drastically raised the stakes and altered the significance of governing the District.