Understanding the history of local government in the District of Columbia is tricky business. The governance structure has changed several times since the city was founded in 1791 and, sometimes, these changes were quite dramatic... which brings us to the 1870s.
The territorial government prescribed by the Organic Act of 1871 gave D.C. a measure of home rule but the experiment would be short-lived. After Governor Alexander â€œBossâ€ Shepherd racked up big bills in an effort to modernize the city, President Grant felt compelled to make a change. What resulted was one of the more bizarre episodes in city history.