Washington, D. C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, “the District”, or simply D. C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a special district to serve as the permanent national capital as permitted by the U. S. Constitution. The District is therefore not a part of any U. S. state and is instead directly overseen by the federal government.
The federal district was formed from land along the Potomac River donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia; however, the Virginia portion was returned by Congress in 1846. Within the District, a new capital city named after George Washington was founded in 1791 to the east of a preexisting settlement at Georgetown. The City of Washington, Georgetown, and other outlying areas were consolidated under a single government in 1871, which formed Washington, D. C. as it exists today. The city shares its name with the U. S. state of Washington located on the country’s Pacific coast.
Washington, D. C. has a resident population of 601,723; because of commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs, its population rises to over one million during the workweek. The Washington Metropolitan Area, of which the District is a part, has a population of nearly 5.6 million, the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the country.
The centers of all three branches of the U. S. federal government are located in the District, as are many of the nation’s monuments and museums. Washington, D. C. hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The headquarters of other institutions such as trade unions, lobbying groups, and professional associations are also located in the city.
The District is governed by a mayor and a 13-member city council. However, the United States Congress has supreme authority over the city and may overturn local laws. Residents therefore have less self-governance than residents of the states. The District has a non-voting, at-large Congressional delegate, but no senators. D. C. residents could not vote in presidential elections until the ratification of the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1961.