June 13, 2013 | by Robert Turner
Frederick Douglass and the D.C. Republican Party
Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass by George K. Warren.

On June 19, the statue of Frederick Douglass, representing the ideals and aspirations of residents of the District of Columbia, will take its official place in the United States Capitol, with a welcoming ceremony before the U. S. Congress and invited guests. The District of Columbia Republican Party salutes this occasion with great pride, for Douglass represents the outstanding heritage of the Republican Party in its fight for the abolition of slavery, and for freedom and justice for African-American citizens.  His example was an inspiration to Republicans in his day, and his commitment to freedom and justice for all continues to inspire members of the D.C. Republican Party and its candidates for office.  Douglass fought in his time for voting representation in Congress for District residents, and we, his heirs in the leadership of the D.C. Republican Party, continue that struggle today.

After taking up residence in the District of Columbia in 1870, Frederick Douglass accepted a seat on the 100-member Republican Committee of the District of Columbia, and continued his association with the Committee until his death in 1895. Prior to joining the Committee, however, Douglass served as an adviser to the local Republican Party during the Civil War and helped the party persuade President Lincoln and Congress to pass the 1862 legislation emancipating the 3,000 slaves owned in the District of Columbia. For many years, Douglass and the local Republican Party participated in the annual Emancipation Day Parade held on April 16, the day in 1862 that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Act.

Douglass was a precinct leader for the election district surrounding his residence in the Anacostia neighborhood. His responsibilities included presiding over meetings of local residents to solicit their concerns about government policies and services.

After moving to the District in 1870, Douglass continued his attendance at nominating conventions initiated during his participation in the affairs of the Republican Party of New York. He also continued to stump for Republican Party presidential candidates, as he had since supporting candidate Abraham Lincoln. The D.C. Republican Party has sent voting delegations to every Presidential Nominating Convention since the first convention in 1856.

The D.C. Republican Party is the second-oldest state level Republican Party. Only the Republican Party of Wisconsin is older. At its organization in 1855, the D.C. Republican Party adopted its first issues and principles platform.  The 1855 platform advocated the immediate emancipation of all persons held as slaves in the District of Columbia, noting that Congress had the authority to do this under the District Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The 1876 Platform was drafted by a committee on which Douglass served and proclaimed the local Republican Party’s consistent support of elected local government and voting representation in Congress. In 1874, Congress revoked the electoral rights of District residents, and the 1876 platform announced: “Taxation without representation is tyranny, and … the unjust disenfranchisement of this District is contrary to the spirit of Republican Institutions; a flagrant encroachment upon the inherent rights of citizenship, and an unpardonable violation of the Constitution.”

The current D.C. Republican Party Platform continues to support District voting rights with the following plank: “Congress should enact legislation proposed by Republicans to exempt residents of the District of Columbia from federal income taxation until District residents are granted voting rights in Congress and local budget and legislative autonomy.” The platform also continues to support full equality for all citizens.

Robert Turner is executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. Reach him at robert.turner@dcgop.com or on Twitter at @RobertTurnerDC.

1 Comment
  • You mention that Douglass moved to DC and joined the DC Republican Committee in 1870 (he actually moved here in 1872), and then say, “(p)rior to joining the Committee, however, Douglass served as an adviser to the local Republican Party during the Civil War and helped the party persuade President Lincoln and Congress to pass the 1862 legislation emancipating the 3,000 slaves owned in the District of Columbia.” That implies that Douglass lived here in DC during the Civil War, and that the local party he advised was DC’s. In fact, between 1847 and 1872 Douglass lived in Rochester, NY. It was there that he published his famous newspaper “North Star.” In fact, despite living the last 20+ years of his life in DC, he so considered Rochester his home that he is buried there, not here. If he advised the “local party” during the Civil War that was either Rochester’s local party or he advised DC’s local party long distance. That he advised Lincoln long distance regarding the emancipation of slaves in DC, I have no doubt.

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