Legal status of Texas

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United States Army, First Battalion, First Infantry Regiment soldiers in Texas in 1861.

The legal status of Texas is the standing of Texas as a political entity.

Due to Texas's unique history, United States sovereignty over Texas has been questioned most recently by a movement launched by Richard McLaren. Adherents of that movement claim that American sovereignty is illegal. In disputes over the legal status of Texas, a key issue has been the tension between its de facto and de jure international standing. The boundaries of Texas have also been questioned, since the current U.S. state is not the same as the former Republic of Texas. These claims have not been taken seriously by any court of law.


In 1845, the Republic of Texas was admitted to the Union via a Joint Resolution of Congress. The citizens of Texas approved an annexation ordinance and new constitution on October 13, 1845, formally integrating Texas into the United States on December 29, 1845.[1] On February 23, 1861, citizens of the state voted overwhelmingly to secede from the United States.[2] During the American Civil War, Texas was invaded by Union troops many times including the final major clash of the war which was the Battle of Palmito Ranch. Republic of Texas supporters feel that Texas remains an independent nation and that American actions in the American Civil War have resulted in an illegal military occupation of Texas.

This article deals primarily with theoretical arguments regarding Texas' de jure status under certain interpretations of international law.

Contemporary legal actions[edit]

Colorado case[edit]

In January 2004, Timothy Paul Kootenay, in jail in Aspen, Colorado, claimed that the state of Colorado had no jurisdiction to extradite him to California on a probation warrant, on the grounds that he was a citizen of the Republic of Texas. He claimed that the sliver of land which contains Aspen was a part of the original Republic of Texas and, as such, he was not a citizen of the United States. His claim was rejected by the courts.[3]

Richard McLaren: Petition to the International Court of Justice[edit]

In 1995, a petition was filed with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by Richard L. McLaren asking that the Republic of Texas be declared to still exist. The clerk at the ICJ refused to file the case and wrote back, "I have to inform you, however, that the function of the International Court of Justice is confined to the settling, in accordance with international law, of legal disputes submitted to it by States, and to the rendering of advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies. It follows that neither the Court nor its Members can consider applications from private individuals, or other entities, or provide them with legal advice, or assist them in their relations with the authorities in any country. As a result, no action will be taken on your letter."[4]

A descriptive handbook published by the ICJ in 2004 states that "Only States may be parties to cases before the Court" and the Court will only decide disputes which are "submitted to it by States."[5]

Regarding these types of petitions, the ICJ handbook states:

Hardly a day passes without the Registry receiving written or oral applications from private persons. However heart-rending, however well-founded, such applications may be, the ICJ is unable to entertain them and a standard reply is always sent: 'Under Article 34 of the Statute, only States may be parties in cases before the Court.'[5]

Richard McLaren in U.S. federal court[edit]

Richard McLaren was ultimately unsuccessful in his effort. In a case involving McLaren and his wife Evelyn as plaintiffs, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled, on April 30, 1998: "Despite plaintiffs' argument ..... [i]n 1845, Texas became the 28th state of the United States of America. The Republic of Texas no longer exists."[6]

Historical legal actions[edit]

In 1869, the Supreme Court ruled that secession of Texas from the United States was illegal. The court wrote, "The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States." The court did allow some possibility of the divisibility "through revolution, or through consent of the States."[7][8]
Annexation via a joint resolution of Congress is legal. The Supreme Court wrote, "A treaty made by that power is said to be the supreme law of the land, as efficacious as an act of Congress; and, if subsequent and inconsistent with an act of Congress, repeals it. This must be granted, and also that one of the ordinary incidents of a treaty is the cession of territory, and that the territory thus acquired is acquired as absolutely as if the annexation were made, as in the case of Texas and Hawaii, by an act of Congress."

U.S. Legislation[edit]


  1. ^ Op. cit. Fehrenbach Lone Star, p. 267[citation not found]
  2. ^ Secession, Handbook of Texas Online.
  3. ^ Sheperd, (January 21, 2004). Weird News. The Anchorage Press, Vol. 13, Ed. 2
  4. ^ Brock, R. (1997). The Republic of Texas is No More: An Answer to the Claim that Texas was Unconstitutionally Annexed to the United States. 28 Texas Tech Law Review 679.
  5. ^ a b "International Court of Justice : Fifth Edition" (PDF). 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-01-09. 
  6. ^ McLaren v. United States Incorporated, 2 F. Supp. 2d 48 (D.D.C. 1998), at [1].
  7. ^ Aleksandar Pavković, Peter Radan, Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession, p. 222, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007, ISBN 978-0-7546-7163-3.
  8. ^ Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869) at Cornell University Law School Supreme Court collection.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Republic of Texas independence movement websites[edit]

Terrorism Knowledge Base profile of Republic of Texas[edit]

Texas Convention Pro-Continuation of 1861[edit]