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After long discussion Congress, in view of these cessions by Maryland and Virginia, passed an act, approved July 16, 1790, from which the following is an extract : 44
That a district of territory, not exceeding ten miles square, to be located as hereafter directed on the river Potomac, at some place between the mouths of the Eastern Branch and Connogochegue, be, and the same is hereby, accepted for the permanent seat of the government of the United States: Provided, nevertheless, That the operation of the laws of the State within such district shall not be affected by this acceptance until the time fixed for the removal of the Government thereto, and until Congress shall otherwise by law provide.
three commissioners, who, or any two of whom, shall, under the direction of the President, survey, and by proper metes and bounds define and limit, a district of territory, under the limitations above mentioned ; and the district so defined, limited, and located shall be deemed the district accepted by this act for the permanent seat of the Government of the United States.
That on the first Monday in December, in the year 1800, the seat of the Government of the United States shall, by virtue of this act, be transferred to the district and place aforesaid.
In 1791 the foregoing act was amended, in order to include a portion of the Anacostia River (“ Eastern Branch ") and the town of Alexandria within the limits of the District. The following is an extract from the act of amendment, approved March 3, 1791 : 45
That so much of the act entitled "An act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the government of the United States " as requires that the whole of the district of territory, not exceeding ten miles square, to be located on the river Potomac for the permanent seat of the government of the United States, shall be located above the mouth of the Eastern Branch, be, and is hereby, repealed, and that it shall be lawful for the President to make any part of the territory below the said limit and above the mouth of Hunting Creek, a part of the said district, so as to include a convenient part of the Eastern Branch, and of the lands lying on the lower side thereof, and also the town of Alexandria; and the territory so to be included shall form a part of the district not exceeding ten miles square for the permanent seat of the government of the United States, in like manner and to all intents and purposes as if the same had been within the purview of the above recited act: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall authorize the erection of the public buildings otherwise than on the Maryland side of the river Potomac, as required by the aforesaid act.
In pursuance of the acts above cited three commissioners were appointed under whose direction surveys of the territory were to be made, and on March 30, 1791, President Washington issued a proclamation, in which the bounds of the District were defined as follows: 46
Beginning at Jones's Point, being the upper cape of Hunting Creek, in Virginia, and at an angle in the outset of 45 degrees west of the north, and running in a direct line 10 miles for the first line; then beginning again at the same
441 Stat. L. 130. e 1 Stat. L. 214,
46 Bryan, W. B., op. cit., pp. 120, 132, 133.
Jones's Point and running another direct line at a right angle with the first across the Potomac, 10 miles for a second line; then, from the termination of the said first and second lines, running two other direct lines, of ten miles each, the one crossing the Eastern Branch aforesaid, and the other the Potomac, and meeting each other in a point.
In 1800 Congress removed to this District. In 1801 the District was divided into two counties, as follows:
the said district of Columbia shall be formed into two counties; one county shall contain all that part of said district which lies on the east side of the river Potomac, together with the islands therein, and shall be called the county of Washington; the other county shall contain all that part of said district which lies on the west side of said river, and shall be called the county of Alexandria; and the said river, in its whole course through said district, shall be taken and deemed to all intents and purposes to be within both of said counties.
In 1846 Congress passed an act providing for the retrocession to the State of Virginia of that part of the District of Columbia originally ceded to the United States by Virginia. The following is an extract from this act : 48
That with assent of the people of the county and town of Alexandria, to be ascertained as hereinafter prescribed, all of that portion of the District of Columbia ceded to the United States by the State of Virginia, and all the rights and jurisdiction therewith ceded over the same, be, and the same are, hereby ceded and forever relinquished to the State of Virginia in full and absolute right and jurisdiction, as well of soil as of persons residing or to reside thereon.
The method prescribed for ascertaining the assent of the people of Alexandria was by viva voce vote of free white male citizens, to be taken before five commissioners appointed by the President.
There were 763 votes cast in favor of recession and 222 against it. The President, therefore, by proclamation dated September 7, 1846,49 declared the act "in full force and effect.” The southwestern bound
“ ary of the District of Columbia thus became coincident with that part of the boundary of Maryland prior to December 23, 1788, regarding which the United States Supreme Court stated 50 that upon all the evidence, the charter granted to Lord Baltimore, by Charles I, in 1632, of the territory known as the Province of Maryland, embraced the Potomac River and the soil under it, and the islands therein, to highwater mark on the southern or Virginia shore;
was such grant affected by the subsequent grant to Lord Culpepper.
Congress in the act 51 approving the award of the arbitrators of 1877 for the States of Maryland and Virginia provided that nothing
22 20 Stat. L. 481,
47 2 Stat. L. 105.
49 9 Stat. L. 1000.
therein contained “shall be construed to impair or in any manner affect any rights of jurisdiction of the United States in and over the islands and waters ” [of the Potomac].
Below are given extracts from an opinion by the Attorney General dated January 16, 1912, relating to the high-water line on the south bank of the Potomac as the boundary line between the District of Columbia and the State of Virginia.
In the Potomac River there is a high-water line due to freshets at 13 fect above mean low tide. There is a high-tide line not influenced by freshets or caused by high winds at 8.8 feet above mean low tide. There is a mean high tide at about 5 feet above mean low water, and that is the elevation along which drift, trash, etc., remain as an indication; and there is a mean tide line at 3 feet above low water.
High water mark in a river or stream is “the point to which the water usually rises in an ordinary season of gh water.
High-water mark is to be determined not from human records but from the records which the river makes for itself," and the true line is “ that which the river impressed upon the soil as the limit of its dominion." 68
“ High-water mark is coordinate with the limit of the bed of the water; and that only is to be considered the bed which the water occupies sufficiently long and continuously to wrest it from vegetation and destroy its value for agricultural purposes."
Farnham (Waters and water rights, vol. 2, p. 1461), gives the following as to high-water mark :
“But the definition which best meets all requirements of the case and which has in fact been adopted by the weight of authority is that 'high-water mark is the point below which the pressure and action of the water are so common and usual and so long continued in all ordinary years as to make upon the soil a character distinct from that of the banks with respect to vegetation as well as with respect to the soil itself.'” 88
If the mean high tides at the 5-foot elevation above low-water mark appear to be the most usual line reached under all ordinary circumstances when the river is undisturbed either by freshets, unusual winds, and high tides, or unaffected by droughts, which condition is usually evidenced by drifts and other deposits, and to which line the rise is most constant, the pressure and action of the water upon the soil making the line more definite than at any other point, then the 5-foot mean high-tide line established by the action of the water above mean low water is legally the high-water mark or high-tide line, and consequently the boundary line.
In a Supreme Court decision rendered November 7, 1921,56 involving the question whether the boundary between the District of Columbia and Virginia runs from “headland to headland,” as the Maryland-Virginia boundary does, or follows the meanderings of the river, the latter course was accepted. The court also decided
69 Johnson v. Knott, 13 Oregon 308.
55 The following cases are in harmony with the authorities quoted above : Howard v. Ingersoll, 13 Howard, 415 423; Gould on Waters, 3d ed., 106; Shively v. Bowlby, 152 U. S. 12.
66 Marine Railway and Coal Company v. United States of America : 257 U. S. 47.
that the United States is entitled to the possession of land in the District that has been reclaimed by filling in below low-water line on the Virginia side. Jurisdiction and sovereignty over the tract in dispute in this case, comprising an area of 46.57 acres adjoining Alexandria, were transferred to Virginia by United States act approved February 23, 1927.57
The District Court of Appeals, in a decision rendered November 6, 1922, recognized the claim that high-water mark on the south bank of the Potomac is the boundary between the District of Columbia and Virginia.
The District of Columbia was planned to be exactly 10 miles square, but it has been found that the northeast side measures 263.1 feet and the southeast side 70.5 feet more than 10 miles. The lines do not bear exactly 45° from the meridian, but the greatest variation is only 134.58 The entire boundary of the District of Columbia was surveyed in 1791 and was marked with sandstone mileposts in 1792. These posts, except those at the four corners, were numbered from 1 to 9, counting clockwise, for each of the four boundary lines. The stone shown in Plate 9, B, after standing 130 years, was in 1922 still in so good condition that the inscription on the side facing the District of Columbia can be read easily in the engraving (from a photograph); the inscription on the opposite side is “ Maryland”; that on the left is the declination of the compass, 0° 18' E.; on the right is the year the stones were placed, 1792. The part of the stone above ground measures 12 by 12 by 24 inches. 59
In 1915–1921 each of the original boundary stones was surrounded by an iron fence, erected by the District of Columbia and Virginia chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
By a bill approved March 3, 1903,60 funds were provided for addi. tional marks on the District of Columbia-Maryland boundary line, to be placed at road crossings and at other prominent points. The work was completed the same year, but without the formal cooperation of any Maryland representative. The new marks are of cut granite, 6 inches square on top, and project 12 inches above ground.
The latitudes and longitudes of the north, east, and south corner stones of the District of Columbia are as follows:
67 44 Stat. L., pt. 2, p. 1176.
58 For data regarding surveys and boundary marks see Baker, Marcus, Nat. Geog. Mag., vol. 6, pp. 149–165, 1894.
69 See Shuster, E. A., Boundary stones of the District of Columbia : Nat. Geog. Mag., vol. 20, p. 356, 1909.
60 32 Stat. L. 961.
These positions are on North American datum.
The south corner stone at Jones Point, below Alexandria, which was the first one established, was set with appropriate ceremonies April 15, 1791.
By act of February 21, 1871,01 the entire area within the boundary of the District was made a distinct government with the title of the District of Columbia and constituted a “body corporate for municipal purposes.” 62
The initial point of several of the original land grants upon which the city of Washington is founded was a mark on a large rock commonly called the “Key of all keys,” which was then at the edge of the Potomac River. According to tradition, Braddock's army landed at this place on its way to Fort Duquesne. This rock has been covered with dirt and the river bed filled in so that the concrete pier and tablet established in 1910 over the mark are now more than 1,000 feet from the river's edge. The new mark is in the Naval Hospital grounds about 300 feet west from the corner of Twentythird and B Streets NW.
The zero milestone, from which public highways of the United States are supposed to radiate, authorized by joint resolution of Congress June 5, 1920,63 and dedicated June 4, 1923, is a granite pier 24 by 24 inches in section mounted on a concrete base and projecting 4 feet above ground, standing on the north edge of the Ellipse 900 feet south of the White House, in latitude 38° 53' 42.32", longitude 77° 02' 12.49". The tablet in the base is 28.65 feet above mean sea level.
VIRGINIA ® In 1606 King James I of England granted the “first charter” of Virginia. The boundaries therein described are as follows: 86 situate, lying, or being all along the Sea Coasts, between four and thirty degrees of Northerly Latitude from the Equinoctial Line and five and forty degrees of the same Latitude, and in the main Land between the same four and thirty and five and forty Degrees and the Islands thereunto adjacent, or within one hundred Miles of the coast thereof.
a 16 Stat. L. 419.
82 See 174 U. S. 196–359 for land history of the area covered by the District of Columbia from the time of the King's grant to Lord Baltimore, June 20, 1632, with reproductions of several old maps. This case gives many references to former decisions relating to riparian rights. 88 41 Stat. L. 1062.
“ The Commonwealth of Virginia " is the full legal name for this State. For a brief history of cessions to Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia and of boundary-line surveys between them from 1606 to 1821, see Haywood, John, The civil and political history of Tennessee, 2d ed., pp. 15–37, Nashville, 1891. For reference to old Virginia charters, abstracts of boundary descriptions, descriptions of boundary marks, etc., see Code of Virginia, vol. 1, pp. 10–22, Richmond, 1919.
* Thorpe, F. N., op. cit., vol. 7, p. 3783.