As government officials, you would think that members of Congress would be required to meet at least some requirements other than being the most popular in their area according to voters and having citizenship. Maybe a completed history class or two would be suitable for starters.
This week makes it abundantly clear that several in office have absolutely no idea what America was founded on, let alone the basic facts of our history.
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of those. She must have slept entirely through history class. However, even that doesn’t excuse her most recent claims. After all, she does live in the 21st century, and as such has adequate access to technology, such as Google, that could prove to be useful, especially when making claims about factual events on social media.
In addition, she is one of the youngest members of Congress, a millennial, and one that prides herself on her ability to be tech-savvy.
And yet, she tweeted on Thursday that the District of Columbia “was the 1st territory in the United States to free the enslaved.” And she continued saying, “It’s where Black Americans fled the tyranny of slavery & towards greater freedom, to DC. Yet today it’s where 2nd class citizenship reigns and the right to vote is denied.”
“It’s time to recognize DC statehood.”
Now the fight for DC to become a nationally recognized state has long been pursued. And AOC is undoubtedly not the first to take up the cause. However, she may be the first utterly daft individual to do so, as every single point made here is factually unsound.
Let’s start from the beginning.
DC did indeed free slaves living in that area. However, they were far from the first in the US to do so, according to both time and space.
Our Constitution was signed in 1787, along with the Northwest Ordinance. This document spelled out the rights of those living within the areas that would become Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
As the following clearly states, slavery was strongly prohibited in the entire area of the Northwest Territory.
It says, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, that any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such as fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.”
Contrast this to the fact that the District of Columbia didn’t free slaves until 1862, during the height of the civil war, according to the area’s website.
The website’s claims, which can be fact-checked on any available search engine, say, “The District of Columbia, which became the nation’s capital in 1791, was by 1862 a city of contrasts: a thriving center for slavery and the slave trade, and a hub of anti-slavery activity among abolitionists of all colors.” And it continues with, “Members of Congress represented states in which slavery was the backbone of the economy and those in which slavery was illegal.”
It states, “One result of the intense struggle over slavery was the DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, passed by the Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The act ended slavery in Washington, DC, freed 3,100 individuals, reimbursed those who had legally owned them and offered the newly freed women and men money to emigrate.”
Note that DC, some 300 miles from the nearest edge of the former Northwest Territory, didn’t free its slaves until 75 years afterward. And when it did so, the Civil War was already in full swing. By then, there were 24 states in the Union, all of which agreed upon the abolishment of slavery. That means 23 states or territories were lawful without slaves before DC.
Furthermore, her claim that DC denies “the right to vote” is incorrect, as well. Citizens of the District can vote for presidential candidates in which the area has been given three electoral votes, as well as city government officials like the mayor.
They don’t have the standard two representatives and two senators like all other states. I guess this is what AOC was referring to.
However, she sure made a fool of herself in the process. Pro Tip: Use Google next time.