Sunday, December 19, 2010

Texas & The Right To Secession

I frequently hear (usually form Texans) that Texas retained the right to secede from the Union as a condition of the treaty that brought Texas into the United States.  This is a plausible claim; unlike other states, Texas is remarkable in having an existence for a number of years as an independent nation.  But when I look through the documents in question, I see no evidence of any such right.

In Texas v. White (1868), the Supreme Court ruled that Texas had no right to secede:
When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.
Okay, going to the Supreme Court for history is not exactly going to the most trustworthy source.  The Congressional joint resolution that annexed Texas has no mention of it.  The Texas Annexation Treaty (1844) makes no mention of such a right.  This treaty was not ratified by the U.S. Senate, so it isn't legally binding, but you would think that if this right to secession was understood at the time, it would have been mentioned in one of these important documents.  There is a right to subdivide Texas into multiple states without Congressional approval--a rather remarkable right indeed--but no mention of secession.

Can anyone enlighten me where this supposed right to secession appears?

8 comments:

JohnJ said...

I think one argument would be that it is an inalienable right. Another possibility would be that any right not specifically given up is retained, therefore any failure to mention it would actually work in favor of the existence and retention of such a right. A third argument might be that the federal government is one of limited powers, and the power to force a state to remain is not one of the powers granted to the federal government. A fourth possibility is the argument that the right to secede is included in the Tenth Amendment.

Just a few possibilities.

JTL said...

Just imagine the political shift if Texas did split into 5 states and thus pick up 4 net senate seats!

Robin said...

JohnJ, the claim is that Texas has a unique right to secede based on an agreement upon its joining the Union after spending time as an independent republic following the war with Mexico.

Bubblehead said...

It exists in the fevered imaginations of Texas Tea Party types. Nowhere else.

Robin said...

Bubblehead, this idea predates the TEA Party by quite a bit.

Justin Unbounded said...

In law, it does not exist. The Civil War pretty much settled that. Having said that, if Texas did secede, who would try to stop it? The current president is no Lincoln.

Bubblehead said...

Yes, the idea predates the TEA Party, but I would venture to say that the vast majority of adherents now subscribe to the TEA Party's beliefs, so my point still holds.
I'd venture to say that the residents of Texas would try to stop it. Much like here in Idaho, the libertarian side of the spectrum thinks they have a lot more popular support than they really do. Mentioning secession in order to pander to those voters, as Gov. Perry did, is a long way from following through.

patrokov said...

Tom Woods notes Texas' unique claim, but also notes that Virgina, New York, and Rhode Island have clauses in their ratification documents allowing them to secede. Virginia actually cited the passage when they seceded. Tom Woods' position is that, as the Constitution is based on equality among the states, if one state has a right to secede, they all do.