Fact Check: 'Act Of 1871' Did NOT Establish The United States As A Corporation That Owns Its Residents

Fact Check

  • by: Dana Ford
Fact Check: 'Act Of 1871' Did NOT Establish The United States As A Corporation That Owns Its Residents Not A Corp

Did the "Act of 1871" establish the United States as a corporation? No, that's not true: The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 established a new, unified government for Washington, D.C. It "incorporated" that city, a common legal term by which areas are organized for governance by a single entity. In this case, two cities and a county were merged into the District of Columbia. It made no changes in the nation as a whole and is not the basis for a restoration of Donald Trump's powers.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) published by "The Marshall Report" on January 20, 2021. Titled "TRUMP ODE TO THE CORPORATION!", the post opened:

D.C. is fenced off and the President is never going back to the White House. But not for reasons you may be thinking. Fear not, there will be a new capitol built and an end to income taxes paid to the tax collectors of the Corporation that is now in the hands of a new administration. They went to all the trouble to steal a corporation whose assetts are in the process of being seized. Most did not see this coming for they did not even know their nation was a Corporation. But, it is indeed but now, no more are the states subject to it. Please read on to understand the nature of the battle we are in.

Users on social media saw this title, description and thumbnail:

TRUMP ODE TO THE CORPORATION!

D.C. is fenced off and the President is never going back to the White House. But not for reasons you may be thinking. Fear not, there will be a new capitol built and an end to income taxes paid to...

The post continued:

In 1871 a sedious act was performed by the Government. A coup was made to rewrite the constitution and put WE THE PEOPLE in all capitals, under a new corporate contract transferring the United States of America into the new Corporation of the United States of America which transferred the power of We The People and the constitution over to the new corporation. When they did that, it placed the citizens in the United States as property of the Corporation which was centered in Washington D.C.. This action made Washington D.C. a FOREIGN ENTITY on American soil of sovereign states. It was established through a loan from the Vatican when D.C. was transferred into a city-state, and this corporate entity then ruled over the people. Citizens rights were taken from them in this process. No one realized this.

Although the post does not state what act it is referring to, it's clearly talking about the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, which is a real piece of legislation. The post is wrong on almost everything else.

Let's start by looking at the actual act, which can be seen here. It opened:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all that part of the territory of the United States included within the limits of the District of Columbia be, and the same is hereby, created into a government by the name of the District of Columbia, by which name it is hereby constituted a body corporate for municipal purposes, and may contract and be contracted with, sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, have a seal, and exercise all other powers of a municipal corporation not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and the provisions of this act.

The intent of the legislation is clear: it sought to establish a new, unified government for the District of Columbia. Jane Levey, the historian at the DC History Center, explained the act as follows:

In 1871, Washington, D.C., the city, was reorganized, and that's what an organic act is about. It's about the organization of an entity.

The city was only "incorporated" in the sense that it became a single entity. It did not become a business. Cities and towns are often incorporated.

Tom Lewis, author of "Washington: A History of Our National City", wrote about the act in his book, explaining that it united Georgetown, Washington City, and Washington County, and set up a new system of governance. Here's Lewis:

In 1871, Congress decided to make the District of Columbia into a territory, as it had done with so much of the land in the nation's western expansion. It was usual for residents of the territories to elect a governor and representatives to a bicameral legislature, as well as a single nonvoting delegate to Congress, and such was the proposed bill for the District. But in a sausage-like approval process, legislators decided to strip Washington's residents of the limited self-government they had enjoyed since 1802. The resulting Organic Act, as it was called, gave the president the power to appoint a governor, a seventeen-member council, a Board of Health, and a Board of Public Works; the citizens still enjoyed universal suffrage, but could elect only a house of delegates and a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives.

Note that the act was just about the District of Columbia. It had nothing to do with the nation as a whole, as the post claimed.

It's also important to note that subsequent legislation has superseded the structure of government described in the act. The District of Columbia is now governed by an elected mayor and a small council, with oversight by Congress. The experiment of 1871 was short-lived.

Lastly, it's worth pointing out that one of the sources cited by the post is clearly not credible. The post linked to a page on "Papal States," which are supposedly the territories on the East Coast under the rule of the pope. The page is on Alternate History Wiki, a website that describes itself as a place where people can imagine what the world would look like if history had unfolded differently. Its timelines are not meant to be taken as real; they are imagined. The post appeared to miss that point.

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  Dana Ford

Dana Ford is an Atlanta-based reporter and editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at Atlanta Magazine Custom Media and as a writer/ editor for CNN Digital. Ford has more than a decade of news experience, including several years spent working in Latin America.

Read more about or contact Dana Ford

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