Talk:Territories of the United States

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Can please someone clarify the inconsistency between this phrase of the first para: "Currently, there are sixteen territories of the United States, six of which are permanently inhabited" and this one which appears later on: "Currently, there are a total of sixteen territories of the United States, five of which are inhabited"? So it's either five or six? Rbruma (talk) 09:48, 4 March 2016 (UTC)


Decumanus, again thanks for clarifying this and organized territory. I think I "get" incorporated now. It means the territory has become a permanent part of the U.S. So, for example, Palmyra Atoll will always be a part of the country, though there is an almost nil possibility of it becoming a state. On the other hand, Puerto Rico being unincorporated could separate itself from the U.S. Excellent work. Bkonrad | Talk 20:22, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)

While looking at the Panama Canal Zone, I saw a link to a publication by the Office of Insular Affairs [1]. It mentions a Supreme Court Case in 1901 about the status of overseas territory (I think it concerned Hawaii). Not sure how (or even if it needs) to fit into this article right now. Just didn't want to lose the reference. Bkonrad | Talk 02:53, 27 Mar 2004 (UTC)

redirects are confusing in this case[edit]

Just reading about this and have to admit that the redirect makes things confusing as to what you're reading.

Incorporated territory From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (Redirected from Unincorporated territory)

Rewording the opening paragraph to make the differences more clear would be helpful if you're using the same page for 2 different things.

Hmmm, well right now the second sentence begins In contrast, an unincorporated territory -- what more would you like to call attention to this -- perhaps flashing as well as bold? (BTW, that was sarcasm, not a serious proposal.) olderwiser 02:16, Mar 14, 2005 (UTC)

yes but since i'm already expecting to be reading about an Unincorporated territory i'm confused from the start.

I'm wondering why Organic Act is redirected to this page; also, there is a link in the article to Organic Act which leads back to the same page.Konamaiki 03:45, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Merger proposed[edit]

The lists in this article go far beyond incorporated territories. There is a large amount of overlap with other small articles, but not really any single place where you can have the whole picture of insular areas explained. I think the various terminology should be explained in one article, with accompanying lists. Why not make that Insular area? -- Beland 02:40, 16 July 2005 (UTC)

Incorporated and unincorporated territories in modern times are all insular areas, but it was not the case. Some incorporated territories obtained statehood, and they are not insular areas. — Instantnood 07:56, September 9, 2005 (UTC)
I think merger would be a really bad idea and there seems to be no consensus to merge, so I'm removing the note — OwenBlacker 00:03, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
The merge note is here again, don't know if someone's replaced it and not discussed it. I've removed it. Iancaddy 11:45, 14 May 2006 (UTC)
Removed 7-year old proposal in agreement with three previous editors. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 12:09, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Edited the first paragraph[edit]

After getting caught up in Talk:United States on the subject of the Palmyra Atoll, I found myself reading [Downes v. Bidwell] (link added to the article), which is apprently credited with the distinction between "incorporated" and "unincorporated." I took the examples of the constitutional protections in both kinds of territories from the opinion:

We suggest, without intending to decide, that there may be a distinction between certain natural rights enforced in the Constitution by prohibitions against interference with them, and what may be termed artificial or remedial rights which are peculiar to our own system of jurisprudence. Of the former class are the rights (...) to freedom of speech and of the press; to free access to courts of justice, to due process of law(.) Of the latter class are the rights to citizenship (...) and to the particular methods of procedure pointed out in the Constitution, which are peculiar to Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence (trial by jury).

The focus of incorporation seems to be what parts of the constitution apply to the individual as opposed to the territory or its government. Other parts of the judgment point out that Congress is still allowed to do things in any kind of territory that are beyond the pale within a state (create judicial positions with limited terms, give preferential treatment to a territorial port, etc.).

I also took out the final sentence mentioning that an incorporated territory is a "permanent part" of the country. You can see my feelings on the above-mentioned Palmyra Atoll discussion, but if nothing else I haven't seen anything definitive one way or the other. More often it seems to be an idea used by, say, Puerto Rican independistas to get a referenda to swing their way, or by estadistas, for the same reason. The idea illicits a strong nationalistic/patriotic reaction, but I'm not seeing a legal basis. David Iwancio 09:07, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Removal of "Associated States" section[edit]

I removed the section listing "associated states" because that misstates the status of the Compact of Free Association nations. Though initially the rest of the world (especially the Communist bloc) treated them as part of the U.S., they are in fact sovereign nations, and after the Cold War ended they were all admitted to the UN as independent nations. (Palau gained its status later than the others due to nuclear weapons issues with the U.S.) Therefore, they should no longer be treated as "territories" of the U.S. However, I retained links to their articles, as well as to the "Compact of Free Association" article (instead of the "associated state" article, which is more about the concept), as they were part of the historic Trust Territory of the Pacific. --RBBrittain 02:44, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

The Associated States may be members of the UN, but so are other territories that are not independent. The association means that they are not sovereign, though they are also not part of the USA. (talk) 07:05, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

Please Be Careful[edit]

Don't give people the misleading idea that Cuba was ever actually considered part of the United States of America officially!CharlesRobertCountofNesselrode 20:52, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

Part of it certainly is: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. BQZip01 talk 17:51, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
Guantanamo is said by the USG to be leased as a naval base from the Cuban government, and Guantanamo is said by the Cuban government to be occupied by the USG. So there is no "certainly" to it. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 06:00, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

The moon=US territory[edit]

I've tagged this with {{dubious}}. I'm not sure we can even get a reliable source on the US claiming the whole thing as a territory, let alone proving that the claim is true. The Evil Spartan 17:29, 11 August 2007 (UTC)

It's patently untrue. Check out Outer Space Treaty, to which the United States is a signatory. I've removed the claim - Thanks for spotting it. MrZaiustalk 17:53, 11 August 2007 (UTC)

Incorporated areas[edit]

From the article:

Once incorporated, an incorporated territory can no longer be de-incorporated; that is, it can never be excluded from the jurisdiction of the United States Constitution (with a few exceptions; some territories belonging to the U.S. have been granted independence or ceded to foreign powers. See Rio Rico, Texas).

I was always of the mindset that not an inch of incorporated territory can be "de-incorporated", so thanks for the Rio Rico reminder. However, I take issue with the other exception listed, that is "some territories ... have been granted independence". While the Philippines and Cuba were both US territories that were later granted independence, were they incorporated territories? I can't find any evidence either way. Other current-day US territories, like Puerto Rico and American Samoa are unincorporated and can declare independence any time they like. But incorporated areas cannot (as the US civil war showed).--Canuckguy 02:16, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Just found the answer later on in this article: the first non-incorporated territories were gained following the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Philippines and Cuba were both gained as a result of that war, which leads me to assume they were unincorporated. Which means they could declare independence any itme they want, unlike an incorporated area. Changing the original text to remove the reference to territories gaining independence as it refers to incorporated area, which none of the later-independent-territories were.) --Canuckguy 02:20, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

About the listing of The Philippines as a territory: How so? Didn't it gain independence in 1946 ?[1] — Preceding unsigned comment added by Livableworld (talkcontribs) 16:20, 10 November 2012 (UTC)

That's why they are listed under the section "Classification of former U.S. territories and administered areas". TDL (talk) 18:59, 10 November 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Some clarification: (1) The Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam were/are unincorporated territories of the U.S., not incorporated territories; (2) Cuba was never a U.S. territory. In the Treaty of Paris (1898), Spain relinquished all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba, but did not cede Cuba to the U.S. as it did the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 23:22, 10 November 2012 (UTC)


Can you guys change the map to one centered on the Pacific, with the edges in the Atlantic? I think it would give a better sense of the location of the Pacific territories. (talk) 02:18, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

Not only that, but the map appears to have at least one error: Palmyra Atoll is described as being more or less due south of Hawaii, but this map shows it to be south of California! Niobrara (talk) 19:50, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

I don't know what map you're referring to, but this one shows it South (and a bit West) of Hawaii. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 02:47, 25 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, and that is correct. But the map to which we refer is the second one on the main article page: it shows Palmyra south of California. Niobrara (talk) 20:23, 27 April 2010 (UTC)

-- Speaking of Hawaii -a state after all- why isn't it illustrated in blue like the lower 48 and Alaska? It should be; right? -- (talk) 17:31, 6 June 2015 (UTC)

It is. - BilCat (talk) 17:50, 6 June 2015 (UTC)

I stand corrected. It was so minuscule I did not see it. -- (talk) 00:52, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Yes, it's very minuscule. :) - BilCat (talk) 01:50, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Other zones[edit]

Following on a recent change, I just added a supporting cite re the Iraq Green Zone. Having done that, I wonder how any of the items mentioned in the Other zones section can properly be described as Territories of the United States. It seems to me that this section should either be deleted or its presence in this article and the "territory" status of the items mentioned therein explained by an introductory text in the section. -- Boracay Bill (talk) 02:54, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Commonwealth of the Philippines[edit]

The article currently says:

with the 1934 date having been recently changed from 1935

The Tydings-McDuffie Act (officially the Philippine Independence Act; Public Law 73-127), approved on March 24, 1934, said, in part:

Section 1. The Philippine Legislature is hereby authorized to provide for the election of delegates to a constitutional convention, which shall meet in the hall of the House of Representatives in the capital of the Philippine Islands, at such time as the Philippine Legislature may fix, but not later than October 1, 1934, to formulate and draft a constitution for the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands, ...[2]

A Constitutional Convention was convened in Manila on July 30, 1934. On February 8, 1935, the 1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, was approved by the convention by a vote of 177 to 1. The constitution was approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 23, 1935 and ratified by popular vote on May 14, 1935. That constitution said, in part:

Article XVI, Transitory Provisions, Section 6. The provisions of this Constitution, except those contained in this article and in Article V, and those which refer to the election and qualifications of officers to be elected under this Constitution, shall not take effect until the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.

The Commonwealth Government was inaugurated on November 15, 1935.

I'll be changing the date in this article back to 1935, and I'll add the above information, with supporting cites, to the Commonwealth of the Philippines article. -- Boracay Bill (talk) 00:32, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

Status of Coastal Waters as Incorporated, Unorganized Territories[edit]

This statement does not seem correct:

There are in addition also "territories" that have the status of being incorporated but that are not organized:

* U.S. coastal waters out to 12 nautical miles, and tidelands of every coastal state except Texas.[4]

Following the Submerged Lands Act in 1953 [3], control of the coastal waters and all tidelands was returned to the states. All states retain control of waters out to 3 nm with the exception of Texas and Florida. Texas has 9 nm of coastal waters while Florida has 9 nm on the Gulf side and 3 nm on the Atlantic side. [4] (Puerto Rico also has 9 nm of coastal waters, but considering that it's not a state, I'm not sure how its coastal waters would be classified.) The US does maintain territorial waters to 12 nm and a contiguous zone to 24 nm so it seems that the status of coastal regions should generally (with the exception of TX and FL) break down as:

  • baseline and tidelands to 3 nm - State waters (therefore not territorial)
  • 3 nm to 12 nm - Incorporated, unorganized territorial waters of the US

Can anyone clear this up? Promethus6 (talk) 21:35, 8 March 2009 (UTC)

Citizenship and rights[edit]

Are recidents of thease areas citizen of US or that area only? Do they receive all the same rights as a US citizen from one of the states? --Nikhil Sanjay Bapat (talk) 08:11, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Please refer to:

Natural born citizen of the United States article, United States nationality law article and to Birthright citizenship in the United States of America article.

--Seablade (talk) 06:29, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

Panama Canal[edit]

Why is there no information about thew Panama Canal listed? It is to my understanding that the United States built, and leased the Panama Canal Zone from the country of Panama for 100 years. Surely, this would classify as a former U.S. Territory. -- (talk) 19:08, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

For the record, it's there now. I have no clue how long it's been there, and I don't care to seach the history to find out. - BilCat (talk) 07:07, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

The law contains one other section of historical note, concerning the Panama Canal Zone and the nation of Panama. In 8 U.S.C. § 1403, the law states that anyone born in the Canal Zone or in Panama itself, on or after February 26, 1904, to a mother and/or father who is a United States citizen, was "declared" to be a United States citizen.

--Seablade (talk) 17:45, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

United States District Court decision[edit]

Please refer to section (iii) and section (iv) pages 24 to 30 of this United States District Court decision. This decision established references about Incorporated and Unincorporated territories.

--Seablade (talk) 07:02, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

What sort of "references" are you talking about? If you mean the differences between incorporated and corporated territories, a much higher court, the U.S. Supreme Court, had already established this in 1922 (the PR district court did not yet exist) in the case of Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 305 (1922). My name is Mercy11 (talk) 10:37, 18 November 2011 (UTC), and I approve this message.

Palmyra Atoll Ownership[edit]

The page on the Palmyra Atoll states that only Cooper Island is owned by Nature Conservancy; the rest is run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This page says that it is wholly owned by N.C., but administered by the Dept. of the Interior. The former seems to be more plausible on the face of things; which is it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:53, 6 May 2010 (UTC)

There are more than a dozen private parcels of land at Palmyra Atoll, and over twenty private owners including the Nature Conservancy, Inc., numerous descendants of Hawaiian Judge Henry E. Cooper, two or more companies, an American bank, a Scottish barony, and dozens of native Hawaiians with lesser interests, all shown in the public Palmyra Island land title record kept at the Clerk's office of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, in Honolulu. The largest private land owner is the Nature Conservancy, both as to acreage and number of parcels. The American government owns the largest acreage, in four land parcels subdivided in the Land Court of the old Territory of Hawaii in the 1940's. The moder village is on the main Nature Conservancy compound on Cooper-Menge Island. Home Island is divided among several owners, and all Palmyra Atoll land, including the4 government land, is burdened by the native interests. (talk) 20:18, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

Washington D.C.[edit]

I assume Washington D.C. is incorporated, but it is not part of a state. Does it have a special status? Chipmunkdavis (talk) 04:08, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

See Washington, D.C.#Government. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:23, 15 December 2010 (UTC)


I came here to understand what defines a territory. I see there are organized and unorganized, as well as incorporated and unincorporated territories... but the article doesn't explain what those are. -- (talk) 21:58, 25 January 2011 (UTC)

Undue weight: 2008 PR District Court[edit]

I am removing text about the 2008 PR Dictrict Court for WP:UNDUE.

Rather than starting a new discussion here, please join the ongoing WP:UNDUE discussion on this same addition at the Puerto Rico talk page (HERE). My name is Mercy11 (talk) 10:37, 18 November 2011 (UTC), and I approve this message.

Merge from "Insular area"[edit]

The difference between an "insular area" and "territory" seems to be almost entirely a question of terminology. I think it would be a lot easier to have a single article that explains the alternate name. Non-territories in free association are also explained on both pages, so a merge would reduce redundancy there as well. -- Beland (talk) 18:42, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

This makes sense. I'd support a merge here, based off the current text in Insular Area. The only difference seems to be that the associated states are currently referred to as insular areas but are no longer territories, which can easily be explained in text. CMD (talk) 08:17, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Actually, CDM, I think you have it backwards: at least in the case of Puerto Rico (officially, The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (in English) and "Free Associated State of Puerto Rico" (in Spanish)), the name Insular area was used in the pre-Commonwealth/pre-associated state years. For example, in 1937, the Insular police attacked the Nationalists at the Ponce Massacre. However, since the 1952 Commonwealth/Associated State status, the use of "Territory" is the predominant one. I personaaly haven't seem the word "insular" used in the press (at least in PR) and (having been to Puerto Rico myself) I have found that using "insular" nowadays appears to be rather offensive to the people (it ceratinly isn't used by the government at all). In particular when you say that "associated states...are no longer territories", this is quite incorrect. The term "territory" (at least in the case of PR)continues to be what defines that "Associated State" and has been used in landmark cases of the US Supreme Court and a huge amount of legal cases depend of just that word (territory). The word insular area receives little attention/use at the USSC. You can look up more but there are two types of territories, incorporated and unincorporated; and "insular area", I believe, originated from the name of the office at the US Dept of the Interior that handled/oversaw/facilitated/etc governmental/political issues related to those areas. Somewhat analogous to the Indians Affairs Bureau if you will. I am neither supporting a merge nor not supporting it; I am just stating some facts. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 18:05, 19 July 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.
The associated states I was referring to were Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. However, your information on Puerto Rico is indeed interesting. If insula has nowadays been superseded, that's another reason a merge would probably be helpful. CMD (talk) 18:22, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Again, I don't care if it is merged or not, what I am pointing out is that (1) Just like you, others may think the two terms are exactly the same - they are not; (2) others may think the two terms have always been the same, - they have not; (3) others may think the two terms apply equally to all "associated states", - they do not; (4) others may think the two terms mean the same thing for the "Associated State of Puerto Rico" as it means to the associated states of the Northern Mariana Islands (both called Commonwealths but only one translated as Associated State) - they do not; (5) others may think the two terms are the same except "that the associated states are currently referred to as insular areas but are no longer territories" - they are not; (6) others may think the 2 terms are the same for reasons other than the one you state above - again, they are not the same for that reason or for the reverse reason; (7) others may think the two terms could be used equally interchangably in every case, for every territory, for every area, for every commonwealth of the US, etc etc. -again, no, no, no, etc, no. In short, the US does not have consistent political, economic, etc., policies towards its territories - each territory cuts its own dealt (with Congress) on a day-by-day basis. Nor does the USA have consistent policies accross the board towards each of its insular areas either. (these could be reasions not to merge) And if you look up Category:Freely associated states of the United States, Category:Insular_areas_of_the_United_States, and Category:Territories of the United States, they all list different things - precisely a reflection fo what I am talking about (these could be more reasosn not to merge). That's what I was driving at. Regards, My name is Mercy11 (talk) 19:36, 19 July 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.
Considering I pointed out the difference between the two, I fail to understand how you think I think the terms are exactly the same. You're also conflating the status of a Freely Associated State (Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands), which are independent countries, with the title of associated state, which doesn't really mean anything. Category:Territories of the United States includes Category:Insular areas of the United States, which includes Category:Freely associated states of the United States, so of course they contain different things. CMD (talk) 04:21, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
I will answer your question but will not get involved any further: You stated in your initial statement above that you supported a merge because the two terms were the same with one exception that was minor enough - was your implication - "which can easily be explained in text" of the new merged article. That's the answer. Good luck,,,,,,,,,, My name is Mercy11 (talk) 16:58, 20 July 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.

Reverted edit in lede[edit]

In the lede I changed

Territories of the United States are one of the four types of political division of the United States, overseen directly by the federal government of the United States and not any part of a U.S. state.


Territories of the United States are one of the four types of highest level political division of the United States (along with states, Indian reservations, and the federal district). They are overseen directly by the federal government of the United States and not a part of any state.

with the edit summary "clearer wording, substantial caveat, and context", but Bkonrad has reverted the edit with the edit summary "undo good faith edit, but the characterization does not seem to accord with the details in Political divisions of the United States".

The only substantive change that I made was to get rid of "one of the four types of political division", which frankly is absurd. The article Political divisions of the United States mentions many more than four types, including counties, townships, and "incorporated cities, towns, villages, and other types of municipalities." Therefore the restoration of the original wording is ill-advised.

Moreover, the article Political divisions of the United States says in paragraph 5:

Outside of the states, other divisions include the federal district, insular areas administered by the Federal government, and American Indian reservations.

in which "insular areas" refers to the territories. How does my edit not accord with that? Duoduoduo (talk) 13:57, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

What does "highest level" mean in this context? Is there a reliable source that defines territories as such? This phrasing introduces a confusing lack of clarity. The previous version more correctly indicated there are four types of divisions which are directly overseen by the federal government -- counties, townships, and incorporated cities, towns, villages, and other types of municipalities are not directly overseen by the federal government, and in fact are not strictly speaking divisions of the United States -- these are political divisions of the various states. olderwiser 21:22, 14 December 2012 (UTC)
Now we're getting somewhere. The presence of the comma in are one of the four types of political division of the United States, overseen directly by the federal government of the United States and not any part of a U.S. state. means that what follows the comma is not modifying what immediately preceded it (four types of political division). I had no clue (and neither will many readers) that four types of political division overseen directly... was what was intended. Punctuation matters. I'll take out the comma.
I wasn't wedded to the wording "highest level". I didn't know you were objecting to that.
When you say that the assertion of four political divisions overseen directly by the federal government of the United States agrees with the Political divisions article, are you referring to military installations, embassies and consulates, and the federal district? That's all I can see in the political divisions article. But I'm not sure whether it's true that military installations (at least domestic ones) are not part of any state. Is it really true that state laws don't apply there? And certainly when the area of the state is included, the military installations are not subtracted out.
Whatever is referred to by "four", we ought to either say what the four are, for context, or don't mention that there are four of them. Is that okay with you? Duoduoduo (talk) 22:20, 14 December 2012 (UTC)
The count of four is less important (and somewhat problematic). I'd be OK with simply stating that territories are a type of political division that is directly overseen by the federal government in contrast to the states, which share sovereignty with the federal government. The only real "primary" division of the U.S. are the states. Territories are something of a transitory rump, or land possessed by the U.S. which is not part of one of the states. It is a little misleading to characterize territories as a division on the same level as the states. As for the other areas of federal jurisdiction, I'm not sure. I think Indian Reservations are also counted as part of the land area of a state, but the state has limited jurisdiction. I think military and other federal posts are similar. olderwiser 22:30, 14 December 2012 (UTC)

21st century territories[edit]

- I added a section on 21st century territories with reliable source, current documents in force, verifiable online references.
- Along with extended direct quotes in notes, links, -- I added a brief reference to the Native Samoan opposition agains U.S. citizenship-at-birth, as expressed in the free press and by secret ballot. The current U.S. delegate has filed an amicus brief supporting defendant Hillary Clinton to dismiss the suit brought this year by Samoan U.S. nationals calling for a court ruling to mandate either U.S. citizenship, or the means to attain it in Samoa -- without residence in another territory or state.
- This gives a concise introduction to the scope of the article in the territories the USG now considers under its jurisdiction.
- In the sections that follow, the general reader can investigate several ways to think about them. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 13:43, 17 December 2012 (UTC)

Palmyra Atoll[edit]

Regarding the recent edits to the section on Palmyra Atoll, in Palmyra Atoll#Palmyra under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy it says "The Cooper family still owns two of the five islands.[6]" Unfortunately the reference is to a deadlink. Duoduoduo (talk) 00:38, 5 January 2013 (UTC)

Also the just-added reference here doesn't say anything to contradict that, as far as I can see. It does say, in the Government section, "partly privately owned", but it doesn't say exclusively by the Nature Conservancy. Duoduoduo (talk) 00:45, 5 January 2013 (UTC)

In the assertion saying, "Cooper family still owns two of the five islands", the word "still" is in the context of the dead link supporting source. This appears to be a WP:DATED problem.
I've dug around a bit more. The dead link page at [5] is said in the Palmyra Island (PA) article have been retrieved on January 6, 2008. An archived version of that page as it existed on October 31, 2007 can be seen at [6]. Various versions of that page archived at various times can be reached via [7] The undated version of this article presently on the DOI website appears to be [8].
Some more info can be seen in "Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge Rat Eradication Project - FINAL Environmental Impact Statement" (PDF). United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 2011.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
I don't really have a dog in this hunt, but it looks to me as if both the PA article and this article need updating according to info in these sources. I'll take a whack at that if you want, but I think that editors more involved with these articles would probably do a better job of it than I, given current sources to work from. In article updates, please try to observe WP:DATED guidelines. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 03:09, 5 January 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the sources. I'm not involved much in this article or the other one either, so I'll just take a minimalist approach in tweaking them. Duoduoduo (talk) 17:11, 5 January 2013 (UTC)

territories and places[edit]

Article reference to "places" is not WP:WEASEL, it is a distinction WITH a difference on four counts. At the most elementary, ( I ) (a) U.S. Territories are "organized". (b) Places are "unorganized".
_ _ ( II ) person's international status _ _ (a) U.S. "Territories" have native-born U.S citizens and in Samoa, native-born nationals and permanent resident U.S. citizens. -- (b) International status in "places" is undetermined unless U.S. status is acquired elsewhere.
_ _ ( III ) statistically, U.S. census reports. _ _ (a) Since 1990, census reports for population, economy and agriculture all treat the five U.S. "territories" statistically the same as states. It does not report "places" in statistically the same way as states.
_ _ ( IV ) incorporation,, congressional organic acts. _ _ (a) U.S. "territories" are irrevocably incorporated into the U.S. -- the Supreme Court has held, "the Constitution cannot be switched on and off". They have local three-branch republican governance, Article III federal courts with more authority than those in DC, representation by locally elected "Members of Congress" just as DC, and U.S. citizenship held "irrevocably" in all five territories by Supreme Court ruling. (b) "places" are administered by the Interior Department without constitutions or permanent residents, rights applied there are a "basic" subset of the Constitution, not explicitly provided for by congressional statute, but determined by jurisprudence.
_ _ Other places omitted _ _ Places not referred to in "21st century territories" include territory contested by Haiti and New Zealand, and rented places under military administration such as Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Should something be said about them? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:58, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
Here, I've reverted a couple of your edits.
One of the reverted edits, not germane to the discussion here, removed a {{mergefrom}} tag dated July 2012 with an explanation saying, "7-year old proposal removed". This needs some clarification, I think.
The other reverted edit concerned the distinction you talked of above between territories and places. Without getting into the meat of a discussion of such a distinction (as I'm in a bit of a rush at present), I'll say that if such a distinction is made it needs to be made consistently. Take the Palmyra Atoll article as an example; its lead sentence says, "Palmyra Atoll (pron.: /pælˈmaɪrə/) is an unoccupied equatorial Northern Pacific atoll administered as an unorganized incorporated territory by the United States federal government." That is inconsistent with its description in the reverted edit as a "place" rather than as a "territory".
Re "other places omitted" mentioned above, do these fall into the category of "a type of political division that is directly overseen by the United States federal government", as explained in the lead sentence of this article? If so, that probably needs item-by-item discussion here. In haste -- Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 12:51, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
My edits changed a self-contradictory article into a self-consistent article. For example, from the version of the article that you restored:
Incorporated unorganized territories
Palmyra Atoll .... Palmyra in 1959...remained an incorporated territory, but received no new organized government.[20]....
Unincorporated unorganized territories
Islands in the Pacific Ocean [followed by a list including Midway Islands, Johnston Atoll, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, and Kingman Reef].
Islands in the Caribbean Sea [followed by a list including Bajo Nuevo Bank, Serranilla Bank, Navassa Island].
Yet the version Virginia Historian restored refers to "the five U.S. territories", which makes that version of the article self-contradictory. Further, your edit summary says ' "territories" are organized'; yet American Samoa is indisputably technically an unorganized territory (despite having a constitution).
So we need to get the article both self-consistent and right. Reference 19, a site of the Dept. of the Interior, says "when Hawaii (excluding Palmyra Atoll) was admitted as one of the several States, Palmyra remained and continues to remain an incorporated U.S. territory." So a territory can be all of unorganized, incorporated, and uninhabited.
You say above "Since 1990, census reports for population, economy and agriculture all treat the five U.S. "territories" statistically the same as states. It does not report "places" in statistically the same way as states." That's because a census of the uninhabited territories would turn up no residents, so there's nothing to report.
You say "U.S. "territories" are irrevocably incorporated into the U.S." No! None of the five inhabited territories is incorporated into the US. That's why most parts of the constitution apply to the five inhabited territories only by act of Congress. You say 'the Supreme Court has held, "the Constitution cannot be switched on and off".' The context of that holding is incorporated territories -- once incorporated and hence constitutionally covered, this status cannot be revoked. But outside the states and DC, nothing but Palmyra right now is incorporated. You say ' incorporation,, congressional organic acts' as one of your paragraph titles above. But these are not the same thing: organic acts make a territory organized, not incorporated. You say 'U.S. citizenship held "irrevocably" in all five territories by Supreme Court ruling'. That refers to people who have US citizenship by having been born in those territories when by act of Congress those territories have birthright citizenship; hypothetically Congress could eliminate territorial birthright citizenship for future newborns in the five inhabited, unincorporated territories. Duoduoduo (talk) 15:37, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
A good Wikipedia article discussing these issues is Unincorporated territories of the United States, along with its references and wikilinks. Duoduoduo (talk) 15:49, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
Comment: Rather than splitting discussion into multiple locations, there is a multi-megabytes long discussion pertaining to these topics at Talk:United States. olderwiser 15:50, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
Multi-megabytes is an understatement! In any event, I think this discussion should stay and continue where it is, since it applies specifically to what should be in this article, whereas very little of what's over there is relevant to this discussion. (For example, what is "the extent of the US", or whether "the US" includes the five organized territories, is not relevant here.) Duoduoduo (talk) 18:27, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
(edit conflict) ::Duoduoduo, your comments above prior to the comment & response appear to be directed to TheVirginiaHistorian, not to me, and appear to concern edits by TheVirginiaHistorian which I reverted. The version of the article after my revert (presently the current version of the article) removed those edits and is identical to the version after your most recent edit (see [9]).
I haven't been following changes to this article edit-by-edit. To clarify, my reversion of changes by TheVirginiaHistorian did the following:
  1. restored the word "inhabited" in "The five inhabited U.S. territories". I take these five inhabited territories to be the five explicitly named in the preceding paragraph: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas Islands, and American Samoa.
  2. removed the word "generally" from "Approximately 4 million islanders are generally U.S. citizens". A person either is or is not a U.S. citizen; inserting the word "generally" there seems to only introduce a possibility of confusion.
  3. restored the word "Inhabited" in "Inhabited United States territories have democratic self-government". They do. Uninhabited territories don't.
  4. Changed "Nine uninhabited places" to "Nine uninhabited territories". This is the part of the reverted edits which had caught my eye and which prompted the reversion. The article is about territories, not about places. I'm not clear on if, or how, the use of the word places was intended to imply some distinction vs. the word territory. The nine are listed individually in the next sentence. All nine have WP articles describing their territorial status (I've just changed "unincorporated U.S. possession" to "unincorporated territory" in the Kingman Reef article). The next sentence uses the word "places" to refer to these nine, and I didn't change that to "territories" -- I don't see a problem in referring to a territory as a "place" -- I do see a problem in inviting an inference that the place in question is something other than a territory.
I'll leave it at that for now. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 19:17, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, Wtmitchell, I thought it was obvious from the context that I was responding to TheVirginiaHistorian, but I see that I should have been clearer about that. Of course I appreciate your restoration of my changes. Duoduoduo (talk) 19:54, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
No worries. I just wanted to be sure there was no confusion. Side-effects of my revisit to this were a useful edit to the Kingman Reef article and addition of some wikilinks to this article. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 22:11, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Is no territory incorporated?[edit]

@Duoduoduo. “None of the five inhabited territories is incorporated into the US.” This assertion is disputed by (1) a scholar in the 2007 “Journal of International Law” published at Univ. of Penn., and (2) a primary source from a 2008 federal district court supporting the scholar. Begin with Puerto Rico.
_ _ Scholar. Juan R. Torruella, |Insular Cases in University of Pennsylvania “Journal of International Law”, (Vol. 29 Iss.2, 2007) p.326, “In light of Rassmussen … citizenship was linked with incorporation, and that incorporation was linked with eventual statehood for the territory; and Congress was cognizant of this when it granted U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans.”
_ _ Ruling. In |Consejo de Salud Playa Ponce, p.28, “The Congressional incorporation of Puerto Rico throughout the past century has extended the entire Constitution to the island ...”
_ _ Do you have a scholarly source in an academic publication or a post-9-11 holding to support the Insular Cases now superseded by congressional statute and overturned in federal court? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 16:10, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
The Torruella article (superceded by the later court ruling) makes my point, not yours: The whole point of the article, which is reiterated again and again, is that "the Supreme Court remains aloof about the repercussions of its actions in deciding the Insular Cases as it did, including the fact that these cases are responsible for the establishment of a regime of de facto political apartheid, which continues in full vigor." (p. 286), and that Torruella thinks that this situation is inappropriate.
The ruling by a US district judge on 10 Nov. 2008 (later than Torruella's 2007 paper) in CONSEJO v. RULLAN says "Let it be clear. The court today is in no way attempting to overrule the Insular Cases as applied to the U.S. territories — only the Supreme Court can. The court, rather, today holds that in the particular case of Puerto Rico, a monumental constitutional evolution based on continued and repeated congressional annexation has taken place. Given the same, the territory has evolved from an unincorporated to an incorporated one. Congress today, thus, must afford Puerto Rico and the 4,000,000 United States citizens residing therein all constitutional guarantees." (p. 28-29)
  • This specifically applies to Puerto Rico only. I wonder if there are similar rulings for the other four inhabited territories.
  • Has the ruling been appealed? I would think so, but maybe not.
  • I'm a bit confused by the ruling saying that, on the one hand, Puerto Rico is an incorporated territory, and on the other hand Congress "must afford Puerto Rico...all constitutional guarantees." The one seems to say that all constitutional guarantees are already in effect, and the other seems to say that they will be in effect when Congress puts them into effect. Do you know which it is? And has Congress taken any action in response to this mandate from the court? Duoduoduo (talk) 17:33, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
The Torruella article supports incorporation of PR, “in light of Rassmussen” which held “unincorporated” Alaska by treaty was judicially “incorporated” when Congress made U.S. citizens, “citizenship was linked with incorporation … and Congress was cognizant of this when it granted U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans” -- to incorporate it. The Consejo v. Rullan case ruling PR incorporated conforms to modern congressional law post-1952, it has stood for five years to my knowledge.
_ _ The Insular Cases used judicial fiat creating “unincorporated” places as a temporary measure authorizing a colonial rule of Philippine Islands akin to Spanish colonial rule. It was said those without “Anglo-Saxon traditions” would not expect u.s. constitutional protections. This gave judicial cover to u.s. army administration during the Filipino Insurrection; the worst atrocities were ended in the civilian administration of Governor Howard Taft, later U.S. Chief Justice.
_ _ Congress has since chosen to "incorporate" places by making U.S. citizens in them and establishing republican forms of government in territorial organic acts, extending the constitution once thought unnecessary for alien peoples. In defining the country, the courts follow statutes of Congress. Courts now do say the constitution is irrevocable. Congress may incorporate territories, but it is forbidden to unincorporate them by court application of the "due process" clause protecting citizens. [Aside: The constitution operates on individuals, not on places or it would bring civil war, see Federalist Paper #10 or #52?]. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:36, 27 January 2013 (UTC)

Government publications[edit]

According to this US Government website (undated but accessed today), "Puerto Rico is a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the Caribbean". Duoduoduo (talk) 19:46, 26 January 2013 (UTC)

That's a tertiary source of sentence fragments and lists, a desktop reference, the lowest form of citation allowable in the wikipedia hierarchy.
_ _ A secondary source from a reliable publisher, the u.s. government printing office, is the official U.S.G. definition of the official U.S.A., Welcome to the United States: a guide for new immigrants Pages 77, 83 and 101. “The United States now consists of 50 states, the District …, the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the commonwealths of the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.”
_ _ "Unincorporated" is a judicial term of art from the 1901-1904 Insular Cases. It does not appear in recent legislation, Congress has not adopted the concept which scholars see as unworkable failed apartheid, superseded beginning with 1952 INA statutes and extended in subsequent territorial organic acts of incorporation. As in Re Ross, “Here we see that the act of incorporation is [now] on the people of the territory, not on the territory per se, by extending the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution to them.” TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:10, 27 January 2013 (UTC)
Well, as Torruella complained in 2007, the apartheid system of both unincorporated and incorporated areas existed as of that writing, and specifically Puerto Rico was unincorporated at that time. The ruling by a lower court in 2008 ordered that status changed for Puerto Rico, but a lower court ruling is not generally the final word on something like that. The US site I mentioned states as of now that Puerto Rico is (still) unincorporated. I still have not seen a government site that says that Puerto Rico is as of now incorporated. The government website you mentioned that says the US consists of 50 states, DC, and 5 inhabited territories doesn't say whether those territories are incorporated or not; it's common for writers to refer to either the US proper or the US broadly defined as "the US".
Until we find something that says "Puerto Rico is an incorporated territory" in so many words, we can't change any the various Wikipedia articles that say Puerto Rico is unincorporated.
As a side comment, I would note that at least the US Virgin Islands has its own import tariffs -- for example, if you ship a car from a US state to the USVI and the car was built outside the US, you have to pay an import tariff. My guess would be that they couldn't do that if they were incorporated. Likewise, if you try to fly from the USVI to the states you have to go through US customs, and at their option they can demand to see your US passport or US visa. Again that is hard to reconcile with the notion that the USVI is incorporated. Duoduoduo (talk) 15:33, 27 January 2013 (UTC)
The district judge who decided Consejo v. Rullan said the following in March/April 2011 in: Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpi, "The Insular Cases: A Comparative Historical Study of Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, and the Philippines", The Federal Lawyer, March/April 2011. :
In light of the [Supreme Court] ruling in Boumediene, in the future the Supreme Court will be called upon to reexamine the Insular Cases doctrine as applied to Puerto Rico and other US territories. [p. 25, left col.]
So that judge himself says that things are still up in the air. That's why the government website still says Puerto Rico is unincorporated -- it is unless and until the Supreme Court declares otherwise (or until Congress explicitly incorporates it). Till then, we have to leave the articles as they are -- reflecting the current status as unincorporated.
In the meantime, I think that the fact of the district court ruling, and the fact that the district judge says it's still up in the air, should be placed into the articles. I'll work on that today. Cheers, Duoduoduo (talk) 15:08, 28 January 2013 (UTC)
Okay, "still up in the air" for Guam by the Consejo v. Rullan case. But while I think district judges assume a modest air about appearing to overturn rulings from the Supreme Court applying nationally across all circuit court of appeals jurisdictions, the ruling by an Article III federal judge stands as law for his district jurisdiction UNTIL overturned. It does not AWAIT endorsement from a higher court before having the force of law in his district.
_ _ The U.S. has an adversary system of justice, someone must be harmed before bringing suit, not just disagree with the way things are going. Someone must contest the ruling before it is appealed. Jurisprudence would be nonsense if nothing were law until subsequently by law disagreed to then properly appealed to be struck down or upheld. As it is, the Supreme Court only hears 10% of the cases appealed there a year, the rest are sent back to circuit courts as sent up, without a full hearing -- and similarly with circuit courts for district rulings. It would be a poor district judge indeed who had 20% of his rulings overturned.
_ _ I am not sure where this line of reasoning takes us. For instance, (a) if all rights and privileges of citizens extend to territories in an equivalent way as states, and (b) there is no harm in the present governance as passed by Congressional organic acts for the territories, then (c) there can be no suit brought by a U.S. citizen against the Congress for not explicitly passing a statute with the word "incorporation" in it, and (d) unless an issue appears in more than one circuit, sometime several, the Supreme Court has not considered the issue "ripe" for undertaking a review of the issue.
_ _ That leaves us with a court-made "fiat" as Judge Gelpi characterized the 1901-1904 rulings, making people and places "unincorporated" without end, regardless of congressional statute, even though the same justices said Congress were to provide governance. The insular cases did not mean territories could never be incorporated, they only demonstrated that the constitution does not necessarily follow the flag. Nor does the mere presence of a military governor in a place appointed under the U.S. flag, incorporate the constitution there. I think. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 07:44, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
A district judge's ruling can be appealed by the losing party. It only stands as the law if the appeals process ends, unless (unusually) the judge refuses to put a hold on his ruling pending the appeals process. Given that the executive branch of the US government does not yet recognize the incorporation according to its website, we can only say in Wikipedia that Puerto Rico is incorporated if (1) we can find proof that the appeals process has been exhausted, by virtue of the losing party giving up on appealing or by the Supreme Court refusing to take the case, (2) we can find proof that the last ruling in the appeals process confirmed the judge's ruling, and (3) most problematic, we can figure out why the government's website says it's still unincorporated.
I would note again that as of 2011, 2 1/2 years after his ruling, the judge said the apartheid is still in place. In particular, on page 25 (third bullet point) of Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpi, "The Insular Cases: A Comparative Historical Study of Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, and the Philippines", The Federal Lawyer, March/April 2011. , he says "The Supreme Court may be called upon to reexamine....several questions may arise that will need to be answered....What is the effect, if any, of the constitutional strengthening of ties between the territory and the United States over the past 110-plus years?" So as of March 2011, the judge himself said in effect that his ruling is not yet the law. Duoduoduo (talk) 16:01, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
I follow. For the your first point, my 1.b is, if there is no appeal, there is no appeals process to be exhausted awaiting the district judge ruling to be finalized, so the first order of business to deny the given source is to find an appeal to follow, not a last ruling. The mark of a successful ruling is not a public result but a private one. The plaintiff is not satisfied with the outcome, but plaintiff’s lawyer reads the reasoning from the judge. Counsel turns to the client and says, “we don’t have a case. I’m always here for you, but for now, it’s ‘better luck on the next one’.”
_ _ Judge Gelpi’s “Federal Lawyer” article aligns with my understanding of the histories of Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines. As in the case of Arizona, discussed in Boston University professor Julian Go in |Levinson , 2005 p.215-6, 225) studying territorial incorporation since the Louisiana Purchase, -- justice delayed is justice denied. Gelpi who says, the time has come for the Court “to revisit and remedy the anachronistic and denigrating judicial predicament”, seems to echo the assertion by former Republican Attorney General Dick Thornburgh in |Puerto Rico’s Future: a time to decide (2007), concludes that if Congress does not enact statehood, judicial action will take the form of declaratory relief, it could happen. (Thornburgh, p. 67).
_ _ On the other hand, a decent respect for the rights of suffrage and self-determination require that the people of a territory request statehood before it is granted. Gary Lawson and Robert D. Sloane, Rico’s Legal status reconsidered Boston College Law Review, 2009, say PR has chosen Commonwealth for its economic advantage, so there is no fault to find with its status without statehood or presidential elector, and the 2012 plebiscite was 4% for “independence” on the ballot. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 19:24, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
Statehood is only one method by which the U.S. can fulfil its obligations to Puerto Rico, the other two are full independence or independence in free association with the U.S. However the U.S. cannot unilaterally incorporate Puerto Rico as a state and fulfil its obligations to respect the right of Puerto Rican self-determination and maintain its image. The district court judge's statements have no bearing on Puerto Rico's political status. Court judgments only set precedents when the issue decided was essential to the outcome of the case, otherwise it is obiter dictum. And of course district court decisions cannot overrule prior Supreme Court decisions but only become settled law once the Supreme Court affirms the new thinking. If he is right though the U.S. cannot cede Puerto Rico except through a constitutional amendment. TFD (talk) 03:18, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
Even Insular Cases say Congress settles incorporation. Lawson and Sloane say that the U.S. can fulfill its obligation to Puerto Rico the ways you mention and by its own constitutional practice of territorial incorporation by "local autonomy" equivalent to states, made since 1805 with the granting of citizenship and a referendum accepting it.
_ _ Two federal courts have not overruled the Supreme Court, they have only observed Congress has constitutionally incorporated Puerto Rico as a state is incorporated under the 13th Amendment and Congress has incorporated Puerto Rico as a state is incorporated under law of Medicaid. U.S. territories have never had all status as states, but they have been incorporated into the federal union by the "legacy of the Northwest Territories" (Sparrow). The federal district court was upheld in circuit court on two counts. On the formula in view after additional information made available SINCE the district hearing, the subject was remanded for further executive-judicial exchange and mutual resolution out of the "confusion".
_ _ Agreed on almost all your statement of law, just not how you apply it. You ARE correct in your reasoning and application here: although a state may theoretically seceded by legal argument, it is settled law that it may not under the existing constitution without amendment, likewise with a territory which has held a referendum to accept the constitution and congressional organic acts making them full citizens -- since 1805, which the five organized territories of 2013 have done. They are incorporated not because of organic act, but because the local populations accept republican government under the constitution and authority of congress, contract theory of government, citizenship by mutual statutes in a federal system, not the monarch's nationality of common law in a unitary state. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 16:07, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
See p. 4 of Thornburgh's book, "The White House report identifies statehood and independence as the non-territorial options historically and current recognized under federal law." TFD (talk) 16:22, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
(after ec) I'm not aware of any situation, theoretical or otherwise, under which a state of the union could secede without disruption to the constitution. That is not the case with any of the current territories. PR might be a bit muddled in that either full statehood or full independence would entail a lot of legislative work and likely many years of disputation. olderwiser 16:26, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
BTW the U.S. has both nationality, derived from English common law, and citizenship, derived from statute. TFD (talk) 17:16, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
TFD, this may be one step forward, two steps back. You give me Thornburgh cite in “the importance of resolving the political status of Puerto Rico”, which is a step forward, acknowledging the issue of incorporation is political of Congress, not constitutional of the courts. And also you quote the good Thornburgh statement in the context of U.S. history and federal law, Puerto may be independent, a territory or a state. And these three choices properly exist in the context of Puerto Rican vote for independence at 4% six or seven times over the last fifty years.
Lawson and Sloane say Puerto Ricans vote status quo Commonwealth territory for economic reasons. Richest of the U.S. territories, Puerto Ricans median income is one-half the poorest state, Mississippi. Many subsidies and preferential economic benefits evaporate on statehood. Both TFD and older≠wiser enjoy speculating on the future of Puerto Rico by Congress alone or by U.N. General Assembly alone, ignoring the Puerto Ricans. But they are competent in a democratic tradition going on a century, they have 80% turnouts, and they have voted to be a U.S. commonwealth, status quo or enhanced, by a large margin as recently as 2012.
Treaty of Ghent starts off with U.S. citizens will be respected on land and sea. We are two-steps-back if you will not concede the War of 1812 happened and free people can lawfully renounce citizenship in one nation, then voluntarily swear allegiance to another without prior leave of their sovereign king or Islam-state dictator in writing. The U.S. has a charter constitution as do the French. While some states but not all assumed English common law at statehood until their legislatures passed statute, U.S. law is not derived from common law in the same way the unwritten British constitutions are. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:09, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
The position of the United States and the United Nations is that Puerto Rico has the right to self-determination. In no way does that statement ignore the Puerto Rican people. Incorporation of a territory into the U.S. is a constitutional matter, although it may be done for political reasons. And the law of nationality derives from common law, hence terms such as "non-citizen nationals." And even the U.S. does not allow people to renounce allegiance without permission. No idea what your 1812 example means. Only one country, the U.S., in the conflict had citizens. How many of them renounced it and swore allegiance to the King? TFD (talk) 14:54, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
Just to introduce a bit of reality here, see the U.S. State Department web page on Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 23:01, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
I stand corrected on that. The link also says that "Persons who wish to renounce U.S. citizenship should be aware of the fact that renunciation of U.S. citizenship may have no affect whatsoever on his or her U.S. tax or military service obligations (contact the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Selective Service for more information)" and that ex-citizens can be deported to the U.S. Any idea if one can renounce one's U.S. nationality? To get back on track, what does the War of 1812 have to do with the U.S. territories? TFD (talk) 05:20, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
Not as far as I know, but I'm not a lawyer. United States nationality law#Nationals who are not citizens may help, as may 8 U.S.C. § 1408. Also, and in apparent contradiction, see Certificate of Loss of Nationality and items linked from there. It seems to me that there is a bit of sloppiness in the usage of the term "nationality" in those various items. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 07:07, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
But Puerto Ricans have certainly chosen to be U.S. citizens, to the extent free and fair elections seven times over fifty years can determine. And they are certainly not "savages" incapable of choosing their own destiny as the "separate but equal" Supreme Court ruled one-hundred years ago.
Wikipedia does not require another Supreme Court ruling to declare Puerto Ricans other than "savages" under U.S. administration, because they are self-governing citizens represented in Congress as territories, and therefore participants in the U.S. federal republic.
Rather, each time an editor describes Puerto Ricans as "savages" or outside the U.S., that contribution should be reverted, without awaiting a Supreme Court ruling. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 09:36, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

What's the status of American military cemeteries in France, the Philippines, and elsewhere?[edit]

What about cemeteries like the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial? Are they considered U.S. territory akin to a leased military base or an embassy? If so, they should be mentioned in the article in the "Extraterritorial jurisdiction" section. --Bruce Hall (talk) 12:58, 4 February 2013 (UTC)

Today the U.S. federal republic includes 50 states, a federal district and five organized territories. Directly federally administered possessions include an additional nine uninhabited places. Its jurisdiction extends variably to extra-territorial embassies, military bases, and cemeteries. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:15, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Meaning-changing conjunction?[edit]

Prior to my recent edit, and again after it was reverted with the edit summary "rv meaning-changing conjunction", the text reads

The five inhabited U.S. territories have local voting rights, protections under U.S. courts, pay some U.S. taxes, and are represented in the U.S. Congress by delegates who can appoint constituents to the....

I changed it to [bolding added here]

The five inhabited U.S. territories have local voting rights and protections under U.S. courts, pay some U.S. taxes, and are represented in the U.S. Congress by delegates who can appoint constituents to the....

The former version without "and" is grammatically unacceptable. "...have voting rights..." starts with a verb; "...protections under U.S. courts..." starts with a noun; " some U.S. taxes..." starts with a verb; and "...are represented in..." starts with a verb. By adding "and", I made it so the first two phrases are combined into one and so that all phrases have parallel construction, each starting with a verb. In addition, I don't think my change alters the meaning intended by the grammatically incorrect version. Another grammatically correct version, again equivalent in meaning, would replace my "and" with a comma followed by another "have", to retain the original four phrases but with four verbs:

The five inhabited U.S. territories have local voting rights, have protections under U.S. courts, pay some U.S. taxes, and are represented in the U.S. Congress by delegates who can appoint constituents to the ....

Duoduoduo (talk) 15:06, 11 March 2013 (UTC)

Agree with both Duoduoduo drafts. First draft emphasis relates to 1) voting in territories acquired since 1805 comes from congress and 2) constitutional protections under courts may come by organic law or expanded by courts based on plaintiff U.S. citizenship. Second Duoduoduo draft emphasis relates to the "legacy of the Northwest Territory" providing all four elements in preparation for statehood. I'm good with whichever he chooses on his next article page edit. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:27, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Clarifications needed re population info in "21st century territories" section[edit]

In the second paragraph of the "21st century territories" section, it reads "Approximately 4 million islanders are U.S. citizens; about 180,000 U.S. nationals live in Samoa." First, re the 4M number, does "islanders" include those who were born in the States and moved to the islands, or just those born and currently living on-island? Does it include diasporic islanders? I have the same questions for the subsequent 180,000 number, with the added concern that the 2010 census lists the total population of American Samoa as 55,519 (I'm assuming the original author mistakenly cited population data about Samoa, which is different from American Samoa, and whose population is 183,900 according to the World Bank). Kokobird (talk) 01:28, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

Good eye. the numbers picked from the primary sources, press release of 2010 population resident in each place -- totals are American Samoa 55,519. Guam 159,358. Northern Marianas 53,883. U.S. Virgin Islands 106,405. Puerto Rico 3,725,789. = 4,100,954.
But it would be nice to have a secondary source do the math for me, as you have so astutely observed. I'll keep an eye out. Somewhere someone said more self-identified "Puerto Ricans" live on the mainland than on island. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:00, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
Re that assertion, see "More Puerto Ricans live in U.S. states than in Puerto Rico". Orlando Sentinel. July 13, 2009. . Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 02:42, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
In any event, the number of self-identified Puerto Ricans is not at issue here and is not reflected in the numbers -- 3.7 million plus or minus is the number of people resident on the island of Puerto Rico. Duoduoduo (talk) 19:48, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

Orphaned unorganized territories[edit]

I may be off base here, but a bit of the lead section caught which has been in the article for quite a while [10] caught my eye today, and bothered me.

In the process of organizing and promoting territories to statehood, many unorganized territories were orphaned from the parts of a larger territory wherein the whole was ineligible, usually demographically lacking sufficient development and population densities at the time a vote could be taken petitioning Congress for statehood rights.

From that, I inferred that those orphaned unorganized territories, or at least some of them, ought to still be around -- but they are not. How about changing that snippet to something like the following:

In the process of organizing and promoting territories to statehood, some[which?] unorganized territories demographically lacking sufficient development and population densities were temporarily orphaned from parts of a larger territory at the time a vote was taken petitioning Congress for statehood rights.

That could be improved, I'm sure, but I've pretty much forgotten whatever details I did pick up in school about American territorial development. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 00:41, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

I would remove it. It is not sourced and is confusing. Which territories are we talking about? TFD (talk) 01:13, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
From Missouri Territory:
The remaining portion of the territory, consisting of the present states of Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas; most of Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana; plus parts of Colorado and Minnesota, effectively became unorganized territory after Missouri became a state. In 1834, the portion east of the Missouri River was attached to the Michigan Territory. Over time, various territories were created in whole or in part from its remaining area: Iowa (1838), Minnesota (1849), Kansas and Nebraska (both 1854), Colorado and Dakota (both 1861), Idaho (1863), Montana (1864), and Wyoming (1868).
Duoduoduo (talk) 12:19, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
Also, from Territory of Hawaii:
The Territory of Hawaii or Hawaii Territory[1][2][3] was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 7, 1898, until August 21, 1959, when its territory, with the exception of Johnston Atoll, was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii.
Since then Johnston Atoll has been an unincorporated, unorganized territory. Duoduoduo (talk) 12:29, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

Definition of "organized"[edit]

Currently the lede says

Territories can be classified by whether they are incorporated (part of the United States proper) and whether they have an organized government (through an Organic Act passed by the U.S. Congress, or a territorial constitution and functioning legislature). [bolding added]

But the bolded part seems to conflict with the designation in the section "Unincorporated unorganized territories" of American Samoa as unorganized, despite being:

locally self-governing under a constitution last revised in 1967.

One of these must be wrong. Are we sure that American Samoa counts as unorganized? The article American Samoa doesn't say one way or the other; it just says

The government of American Samoa is defined under the Constitution of American Samoa. As an unincorporated territory, the Ratification Act of 1929 vested all civil, judicial, and military powers in the President of the United States of America, who in turn delegated authority to the Secretary of the Interior in Executive Order 10264, who in turn promulgated the Constitution of American Samoa on June 2, 1967 effective July 1, 1967.

Duoduoduo (talk) 13:30, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

For definitions, see [11]. Am. Samoa is a bit of an anomaly in that it is effectively organized, just not organized in a particular manner. Also see [12] and [13] (under Government). olderwiser 13:54, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
Interestingly, under the OIA definition of unorganized territory, it only applies to unincorporated territory. By that criteria, continental territories would not qualify (but then they were not the concern of the OIA). I'm not sure there was any sort of "official" status of unorganized for most of the 1800s. The term may have been used simply to describe the state of affairs in those areas where an organic act had not been effected. By and large, these were areas that were unavailable for settlement as Native American possession had not been extinguished by treaty. olderwiser 14:01, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

The term "organized" in this usage derives from the legal and legislative term Organic Act. An organized territory is one with that has been the subject of such an act. American Samoa, quite deliberately, doesn't have one; the organized territories, present and historical, do or did. Newyorkbrad (talk) 14:55, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

The DOI calls it "unorganized" under "Political Status Developments and Federal Relations".[14] Should we change or to establishing? Also, since some sources call American Samoa organized, we should explain in the article why it is excluded. TFD (talk) 17:48, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
Out of curiosity, what are some sources that call it organized? Duoduoduo (talk) 19:27, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
I thought I had seen some. In any case, your edits remove the confusion that you identified at the beginning of this discussion thread. TFD (talk) 18:16, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

bajo nuevo bank & serranilla bank[edit]

They were both granted to Columbia on November 19 2012 by the ICJ. Why did you change that? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:26, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

You have your banks confused. That ICJ ruling affirmed Colombia's ownership of Quitasueno Bank and Serrana Bank, not the two that you named. The controversy about that ICJ decision was that it took the waters surrounding those two banks and placed them in the EEZ of Nicaragua, thus transforming those two banks into enclaves.
Jeff in CA (talk) 18:42, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
Clarification: Although the ICJ ruling in a dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua upheld Colombia's claims over Nicaragua's for several island banks, the U.S. was not a party to that case and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ. In 1981, the U.S. had renounced its claims to Quitasueno Bank and Serrana Bank, but its claims to Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank have never been renounced.Jeff in CA (talk) 17:37, 10 June 2017 (UTC)

Tag at Louisiana Purchase[edit]

Tag at Louisiana Purchase calls for a citation needed. It is not clear what is called for or for what purpose. The legal citation is given above in the quotation from Downes v. Bidwell supra at 252, as the passage is now written by a previous editor reflecting a style of legal scholarship.

The historical citation might be -- Levinson, Sanford and Bartholomew H. Sparrow, The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion 1803-1898 p.4-5. At the Louisiana Purchase, the U.S. for the first time explicitly incorporated aliens of different nationality and ethnicity as Americans involuntarily.

The political citation might be -- Carley, Patricia. Self-determination: sovereignty, territorial integrity and the right to secession. U.S. Institute of Peace, U.S. Dept of State Policy Planning Staff. 1996. . p.vii, 4, 8, 17. Secession has not been universally recognized as an international right. The right to self-determination must be separated from the right to secession. Self-determination does not mean every distinctive ethnic or national group has a right to independence unless there is both gross violations of human rights and economic viability.

Is there any elaboration for placing the tag? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 05:29, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

Abductive "Book plug" removal[edit]

Abductive removed a sourced quote from a reliable source of the symposium at the University of Texas -- as a book plug. The vandalism is reverted. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:30, 10 February 2014 (UTC)

I can see how someone might want a clear upfront statement of the meaning, so I rewrote the introductory sentence,
"Territories have always been a part of the United States. “The United States is not a nation of states [only], and never has been,” notes political geographer and historian Bartholomew Sparrow.[2] TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 14:15, 10 February 2014 (UTC)
The quote means nothing. Also, Wikipedia reports consenus, not the opinion of Bartholomew Sparrow. Find a secondary source that explains Sparrow's statement or remove it. Abductive (reasoning) 18:13, 10 February 2014 (UTC)
The quote means territories have always been a part of the United States, it is not only a nation of states alone. Find a source to say what you want. Don't blank the encyclopedia without sources or rationale. "I can't hear you" is not a rationale, it cannot build the consensus you seek. Find a source to support your assumption and try to articulate it. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 20:03, 10 February 2014 (UTC)
The article already points out that some territories and the DC are part of the U.S., so the U.S. is not just the states. No need for this addition. TFD (talk) 21:20, 10 February 2014 (UTC)
The offending text is removed. Sparrow's name is no longer mentioned in the narrative. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:09, 11 February 2014 (UTC)

tag removals for non-readers[edit]

In 'U.S. territories on stamps', the statement The "Manifest Destiny" of a United States from sea to shining sea was secured by war, treaty and purchase from 1846-1853. is tagged as dubious.

It is a simple introductory sentence summarizing the three following sentences in the same paragraph. Bots fail as readers of complete paragraphs. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:01, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

I disagree with the style which would render, Were the reader to read the following three sentences, he would see that the United States "Manifest Destiny" was secured by war, treaty and purchase. It is better written as The final steps of the United States "Manifest Destiny" to acquire territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean was secured by war, negotiation and purchase.
The discussion having been exhausted, the tag will be removed. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:33, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Common knowledge need not be footnoted[edit]

It is common knowledge --points that need not be sourced-- that Native American first nations were not at the negotiating table with the Europeans granting land to the U.S. which they themselves had not conquered. For those lacking an elementary knowledge of European nations or the United States, the linked articles enumerate:

  • a) Treaty of Paris (1783) Peace negotiations [for the Treaty of Paris 1783] began in April of 1782, involving American representatives Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and John Adams. The British representatives present were David Hartley and Richard Oswald.
  • b) Louisiana Purchase, On Saturday, April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed by Robert Livingston, James Monroe, and Barbé Marbois in Paris. and
  • c) Adams-Onis Treaty, The [Adams-Onis] treaty was negotiated by John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State under U.S. President James Monroe, and the Spanish foreign minister Luis de Onís, during the reign of King Ferdinand VII.

No representatives of Native American first nations appear, and that is common knowledge --- even if the names of representatives enumerated may not be recalled, although it is relatively difficult for a good-faith editor to forget the names of the two negotiators of the Adams-Onis Treaty, once the treaty itself is named in the text. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:46, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

If it's common knowledge, we should have no problem finding a source online, but I couldn't find one. Per WP:BURDEN, the burden is on the editor adding the information. Great stamps section otherwise. Mercy11 (talk) 18:44, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
On exclusion of Native American first nations, you may not find the exclusion of Russian or Japanese representatives readily online either. But modern American historiography writes Native Americans out of the narrative less frequently than before, I saw no reason to do so here, since several leaders such as Alexander McGillivray explicitly objected to European treaty provisions which Creeks had not been a party to. See The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities.
The general insight that Europeans made determinations of their armed forces in North America relative to one another over maps they made up without consultation with the warrior inhabitants they had not yet conquered is found in The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America.
I don't think I understand how your wp:burden point relates. All pertinent information found in linked articles need not be repeated in every article. But since you raise the possibility that readers will not read into the links, a note can be supplied providing a complete list of the treaties negotiators here. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:05, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
Why is any mention of the treaties and lack of Native American participation relevant to a section discussing territories on stamps? olderwiser 11:54, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
Historian, I just can see this as neutral or how it matters. It's sort of like WP:Puffery. I know you spent time putting all this stuff together; I just don't see the value unless it can be cited with direct support. It's sort of WP:SYNT. Why don't you just take it out (the Native Indians at the table phrase). WP:WEIGHT seems at play here. Is it really needed? I am with wiser on this. Mercy11 (talk) 15:50, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
"Common knowledge" has limited application and does not apply here. It is not common knowledge who participated in any of these treaties and it requires sourcing. But Bkonrad's comment is more important. One needs to show the relevance of the information in order to include it. Certainly it is relevant to some discussions, but probably not to a section about stamps. TFD (talk) 15:53, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
I see. Limit a section on stamps to philately with its limited historical context. Then we could expand the article sections addressing each territorial expansion to encompass the diplomatic history of each. Much that is written in a law journal style needs to be condensed into an encyclopedic style as well. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 16:47, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
The offending passage is removed as requested. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 16:55, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
The article should not neglect discussion of aboriginal inhabitants - it is an important part of the subject. TFD (talk) 17:01, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Stamps section[edit]

The section on stamps is well written and laid out nicely, but I'm concerned that it's a little too large, as this article is about the 'Territories' of the U.S. Currently the section on stamps takes up about 1/3 the length/space of the page. While the section has excellent narrative content, it is still along the lines of 'Stamps'. I would incorporate the appropriate narrative into the article, have a token sample of territory stamps in its own section and simply take the existing section and make a separate article that links to this page. Look at it from this perspective -- would would most editors say if we used the same approach on the United States page, taking a large segment of that article and filling it up with stamps and related info? I believe a separate article for the stamps is the way to go here. I have a feeling the very large size and content of this section is going to create issues somewhere down the line. Just my opinion. -- Gwillhickers (talk) 17:57, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

I have opened Territories of the United States on stamps and look forward to consolidating the information, then abbreviating the section here. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 18:04, 23 March 2014 (UTC)
I just removed the stamps section after moving a few of the images into the body of the article. A few images and a link in Related Links seem sufficient, unless there are sources that describe how stamps and territories are highly connected. Fitnr 15:21, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

21st century (current) territories[edit]

TFD has without discussion attempted to remove the section I wrote on 21st century territories, claiming they were “random collection of facts used to argue territories are part of U.S.” The section is appropriately sourced.

If there are sourced alternative explanations of U.S. territorial status in the 21st century, they should be included in this article. But sourced contributions should not be removed for a POV that U.S. citizens are not a part of the U.S. though they are “native born” Americans according to the U.S. Census with Members of Congress (Delegates, Commissioners) chosen in U.S. federal elections. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 05:47, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

21st century territories[edit]

I removed the following text and re-named the section "Current territories":
Territories have always been a part of the United States.[15] By Act of Congress, the term ‘United States,’ when used in a geographical sense, means “the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States.”[16] Since political union with the Northern Mariana Islands in 1986, they too are treated as a part of the U.S.[17] An Executive Order in 2007 includes American Samoa as U.S. “geographical extent” duly reflected in U.S. State Department documents.[Executive Order 13423 Sec. 9][18]
The first sentence is sourced to a book that argues the U.S. is not just the republic described in the Constitution, but an empire with overseas colonies. The rest of the paragraph provides examples where both a U.S. law and executive order have been extended to the overseas territories by saying they are to be read as if those territories were part of the U.S. The INA says that the territories are to be considered part of the U.S. for nationality, then later says that only some of them should be considered part of the U.S. for citizenship.
It is settled law that overseas territories are subject to but not part of the U.S. Text that misleadingly represents otherwise should be removed. This is extremely weak evidence anyway. Overseas embassies and bases (even foreign countries' bases that have serving U.S. service men) are considered to be "part of the U.S." for some purposes, such as U.S. mail delivery.
TFD (talk) 07:05, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for the courtesy of discussion. Your rationale for this second edit is "This is misleading original research that does not reflect mainstream opinion". But the research is by Bartholomew Sparrow, not WP editor original research. If you read the article you will see the U.S. is an empire in the 20th century until there is territorial three-branch government (not presidentially appointed governor) under federal courts (not the army or navy) with territorial representation in the Congress (not without federal representation).
There are no reliable sources to exclude 21st century U.S. citizen islanders with Members of Congress chosen in U.S. federal elections. That includes the five major territories. As explained in INS sources, only American Samoa still has the designation "overseas territory"; there are still hereditary supervisors in parts of the territory. That is where there are both U.S. citizens by birth and natural-born nationals. All others are U.S. citizens by birth, natural-born Americans by the soil; American Samoans who are not U.S. citizens by one parent can become "courthouse citizens" at age 18.
The "settled law" is that there is an internal tax regime in the U.S. called "unincorporated territories" applied to sugar producing islands to underwrite the domestic sugar cartel. Regardless, for the 21st century, Lawson and Sloane in the Boston College Law Review, observe, “Regardless of how Puerto Rico looked in 1901 when The Insular Cases were decided or in 1922, today, Puerto Rico seems to be the paradigm of an incorporated territory as modern jurisprudence understands that legal term of art.” [p.1175] Your original research reaching a contrary conclusion is mistaken and unsupported.
  • On the other hand there is for instance, Executive Order 13423, which specifies, ‘‘United States’’ when used in a geographical sense, means the fifty states, the District … Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands." These executive orders to implement U.S. statutory law in homeland security, transportation, environmental protection and others, all support the scholar to include U.S. territories in the United States, for which you have no answering source to exclude in the 21st century. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 14:43, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

Each of the various territories is effectively "part of" the United States for some purposes but not others. Discussion of questions such as "is X territory part of the United States," divorced from a specific context, is almost metaphysical and certainly does not yield a clear and unambiguous answer. Newyorkbrad (talk) 16:40, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

Overseas territories and colonies are always part of the metropolitan state for some purposes, the most obvious being that the executive of the metropolitan state is able to govern there, set laws and establish courts, and usually the legislature of the metropolitan state may legislate for the territories. The Virginia Historian's argument is that the inhabited terrritories became incorporated into the U.S. in the 21st century. The purpose of the paragraph is to argue that point. Do you agree with it? TFD (talk) 18:50, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
So I tried to make a careful sourced explanation how territories are "part of" the U.S. geographically to avoid ambiguity. Whereas TFD objected and reverted a contribution on the grounds that the narrative was a "random collection of facts used to argue territories are part of U.S." It seems there is come confusion relative to territories which are a part of the United States of America. Their borders have almost always been contested throughout U.S. history. They are not constitutionally equivalent to states and never have been, although 21st century territories have more privileges than Alaska and Hawaii as territories because they faced a racism that today's do not. U.S. territories do not have all the privileges of states until territories themselves apply and Congress admits them -- as states.
The article already has considerable text concerning how in the Insular Cases, the U.S. supreme court set up an internal tax regime favoring the domestic sugar cartel against competition from island producers. --- But this "current territories" section would admit a sourced paragraph of how some U.S. territories may not be considered part of the United States due to counter claims by China and Cuba, ongoing U.N. investigations, unacceptable 20th century governance, or illegal 19th century acquisition, as has been asserted without sources elsewhere.
I only ask that a) alternative perspectives be supported with citations from reliable sources, and that b) reasonable narrative explaining a major viewpoint, territories as "part of" the U.S. for specific purposes, not be reverted. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 19:30, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
While it is fine to provide alternative perspectives, they and the arguments for them must be sourced to secondary sources. You cannot provide your own perspective and arguments, and assert it as fact. TFD (talk) 19:42, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
In response to The Four Deuces' question, whether a territory has incorporated status is a legal and political question. As to Puerto Rico, the weight of authority is that it remains unincorporated; there are some court decisions the other way, but they would probably be reversed on appeal if it got that far (that last is a personal opinion on my part). As to the other inhabited territories, I know of no strong argument that they have been incorporated. Whether they should be incorporated is a matter of opinion, as is whether the distinction between incorporated and unincorporated status should exist at all. Moreover, whether a territory is deemed incorporated within the administering power (that's the UN's term for the "mother country), while relevant, does not necessarily control its status for international purposes such as inclusion on the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which is a whole separate kettle of worms. Newyorkbrad (talk) 19:53, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
Do you think that paragraph accurately reflects mainstream consensus? The Virginia Historian has btw accepted my renaming of the section. Regarding U.S. and UN status, all five territories are considered "unincorporated", as it states in the article. American Samoa, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands remain on the list of non-self-governing territories, while Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands were removed and recognized as commonwealths of the U.S. TFD (talk) 20:38, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
Selectively presenting information in order to reflect what is perceived as the "mainstream consensus" is contrary to Wikipedia policy. WP:DUE says, "Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represents all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources."
Also, I don't follow the part of the above paragraph which reads, "Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands were removed and recognized as commonwealths of the U.S." Removed from what, by whom, on what authority, as reported where?
Also, I disagree with the current use in the article of the term "Members of Congress" to refer to Delegates to Congress (the correct term, I believe) elected from a U.S. territory. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:20, 31 October 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Perhaps I should have written, "American Samoa, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands remain on the list of non-self-governing territories, while Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands were removed from the list of non-self-governing territories." The comment was in response to New York Brad's reference to "inclusion on the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories." Territories are removed from the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories by the United Nations on the authority of the United Nations and reported by the United Nations. At all times this [addition to and removal from the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories] has been done at the request of the U.S.

Sorry, but I do not see anything wrong with presenting mainstream consensus as what it is. Certainly there are no mainstream sources that say the U.S. has incorporated its overseas possessions, only one editor's view. And the fact that some laws of the U.S. Congress apply to them, while others do not, is just an argument by an editor.

I agree though that non-voting to Congress are correctly called Delegates.

TFD (talk) 02:28, 31 October 2014 (UTC)

Members of Congress is a conventional style applied to Territorial Delegates and Commissioners, as they are not U.S. Representatives of states. They are titled Congressman (3) and Congresswoman (3) on their own web pages. What is the motive for not calling islanders what they wish to be called themselves? The delegates and resident commissioner “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.”, as reported on the U.S. House website.
“Non-voting delegate” does not reflect their privileges. Delegates do vote in Committees, and in joint committees with Senators. They vote in party caucuses and appoint to the four service academies. Depending on the Congress, they may vote when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole.
Look them up: (1) District’s |Norton, (2) Guam’s |Bordallo, (3) Northern Mariana’s |Sablan, (4) Puerto Rico’s |Pierluisi, (5) Samoa’s |Faleomavaega, (6) Virgin Islands’ |Christensen. -- TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 05:49, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
After setting the search parameter at to Members and searching for territory names, I see that the persons who I had been thinking of as "Territorial Delegates" are listed there with the description "Member". In light of that, I withdraw my disagreement with the use of "Members of Congress" to describe them, though it does seem confusing to me -- I had previously thought of them as "Territorial Delegates". I see that the Delegate (United States Congress) article says, "A delegate to Congress is a non-voting member of the United States House of Representatives, who is elected from a U.S. territory or from Washington, D.C., to a two-year term." Perhaps some harmonizing needs to be done between that article and this one. Also, I see that they are not mentioned at all in Member of Congress#United States; it looks like an update is needed there. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 07:12, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Looking a bit further, I see that they don't seem to be mentioned in the United States Congress or the Structure of the U.S. Congress articles either. The United States Congress article in particular speaks of member in quite a few places, and seems to rely on an implicit presumption that that term describes elected Senators and Representatives. It speaks specifically of "535 voting members", but does not speak of nonvoting members. Perhaps those articles need updating. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 07:35, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
"Congressmen" is an informal term not found in the U.S. Constitution. Clearly delegates are not Members of the House of Representatives as described in Article One, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution. Considering that Congress is a legislative body and delegates have no power to vote for legislation, it is important to distinguish them. TFD (talk) 12:32, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
Okay, only states have U.S. Representatives in the Constitution, though territorial delegates have been present in Congress since before the Constitution. It is important to show how the territorial delegates, commissioners and resident representatives are seen by the 21st century U.S. House of Representatives, as reported on the U.S. House website, they “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.” These powers for territorial Members of Congress include all other voting powers regarding legislation in House committees, Joint committees with the Senate and in their respective party caucuses.
  • What is the textual change you propose to reflect that commonality and distinction? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 14:29, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
It is misleading to say territorial delegates have been present in Congress since before the Constitution. John Sevier is exceptional case in that he was elected to represent a district of North Carolina which subsequently became a territory. While a Representative is constitutionally defined, a Delegate is a legislatively created position and their ability to vote in committees is governed by House rules. olderwiser 15:48, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the assist over at Talk:United States. So I double checked here, and sources for early territorial delegates include the Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status, where we have, "The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which was enacted under the Articles of Confederation in order to establish a government for the territory northwest of the Ohio River, provided for a territorial Delegate." TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 18:20, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
Indeed, the concept of a delegate was in the Northwest Ordinance, although there were no actual delegates from the Northwest Territory until 1799 when William Henry Harrison was elected. I think James White from the Southwest Territory, elected in 1794 was the first person chosen to be a territorial delegate to Congress. olderwiser 19:12, 31 October 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Members of congress were called "delegates" until the new constitution came into effect in 1789. TFD (talk) 19:48, 31 October 2014 (UTC)

proposed language[edit]

How about, Every two years, residents hold federal elections to choose territorial Members of Congress, officially denominated “Delegate”, “Commissioner” or “Permanent Representative”. The Congressman or Congresswoman “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.” TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 18:26, 31 October 2014 (UTC)

The Puerto Rican Commissioner is elected to a four-year term. And the distinction between constitutionally guaranteed powers and those granted by legislative rules is significant. See for example this news item. olderwiser 19:15, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
It is strange wording. Since passing legislation is the purpose of the U.S. legislature, the lack of a right to vote for or against legislation is not a mere exception to their powers as part of Congress. The fact that their presence at all is by the invitation of Congress, rather than constitutional law, is significant too. TFD (talk) 19:32, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
I've been googling around and came up with a CRS paper which may be helpful here: Betsy Palmer (January 6, 2011), Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status (PDF), Congressional Research Service .
I've presently got other fish to fry so I probably won't become very involved in any discussion which develops on this, but in my opinion calling Territorial Delegates "Members of Congress" here accomplishes nothing but the addition of a bit of confusion in this article and between this article and a number of other articles which I have mentioned above. I suggest calling them "Territorial Delegates to Congress" or some close variation of that and wikilinking that to the Delegate (United States Congress) article. It might be useful to provide a clarifying footnote explaining that they are sometimes referred and sometimes refer to themselves as "Members of Congress" -- a term which also describes Senators elected from U.S. States and members of the House of Representatives elected from U.S. congressional districts. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 22:05, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
That is a helpful paper. It is interesting that the position of "Resident Commissioner" was created after 1898 for overseas territories to be represented both to the executive and in Congress. Canada had in 1896 appointed a High Commissioner to the UK government, Donald Smith, who was also appointed to the House of Lords as a Canadian (voting) representative at the request of the Canadian Prime Minister. I wonder to what extent the U.S. followed the UK's example. TFD (talk) 03:35, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
U.S. Virgin Islands has a territorial delegate seated on the floor of the House of Representatives voting in committees, party caucuses and appointing two residents to four military academies each year. U .K. Virgin Islands has no member of Parliament.
We have two editors supplying the same link to Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status for a source. Since TFD has graciously agreed that it is helpful, let me in the same spirit try another proposed text. Going with sources is a good thing. Following TFD and Wtmitchell's comments on using the phrase, "Member of Congress", I propose omitting it in this next draft:
Proposal ii. Territorial residents hold U.S. federal elections to chose delegates to Congress. Their Congressman or Congresswoman “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.” They participate in debate, are assigned offices, money for staff, and appoint constituents from their territories to the four military academies Army, Navy, Air Force and Merchant Marine Academy. REF House Learn About What is a RepresentativeTheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 12:38, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I suggest tweaking that a bit
Proposal iia. Territorial residents hold U.S. federal elections to chose delegates to Congress. Their Congressman or Congresswoman “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.” They participate in debate, are assigned offices, money for staff, and appoint constituents from their territories to the four military academies Army, Navy, Air Force and Merchant Marine Academy.[2][3]
There are three changes there:
  • I changed the first wikilink to distinguish it from the delegates article;
  • I expressed the bit indicated by REF as a footnoted ref;
  • I added a second ref to the CRS paper.
The article currently mixes templated and hand-coded refs pretty freely, and I have not attempted to harmonize the two styles here. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 21:46, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I suggest something like, "Congress allows a Delegate from each of...and a Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico to sit as observers in the House of Representatives. The delegates are elected for 2-year terms while the resident commissioners are elected for 4-year terms. The resident commissioners also act as envoys to the executive, or federal government. While these observers are not allowed to vote, they are allowed onto the floor of the House of Representatives where they may take place in debates and participate in other activities allowed by the House, including participation in committees. They are often referred to as Congressmen and Congresswomen. Since 17XX, there have been delegates from organized incorporated territories and following U.S. acquisition of overseas territories, the privilege has been extended to organized unincorporated territories and American Samoa."

The Virginia Historian, the British Virgin Islands did not have a commissioner to the UK in 1896, Canada was the only overseas territory that did and he was seated in the upper house as a voting member. That is likely the model that the U.S. followed by allowing commissioners from the Philippines and Puerto Rico to sit in the lower non-voting members.

TFD (talk) 22:17, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

I find TFD's language closer to the mark, as it is important to distinguish between constitutionally guaranteed powers and those granted by legislative rules. olderwiser 23:06, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The topic of the article is Territories of the United States. I think this amount of detail has very little topical weight here, and ought to be be treated in WP:Summary Style. This is more suited to appear in the Delegate (United States Congress) article than this one. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 23:42, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

Agree. with Wtmitchell proposal iia. The section in the article on the "Current Territories" ought to convey what it is territorial delegates can do in the 21st century as conveyed by the sources. The draft includes Constitutional distinction between territorial delegate and state representative, Delegates "may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives." to meet TFD and older≠wiser expressed concern.
We have from our consensus CRS source, "Currently, Delegates enjoy powers, rights, and responsibilities identical, in most respects, to those of House Members from the states. and from U.S. House source, territorial Delegates “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.”
Also from CRS: "Delegates can speak and introduce bills and resolutions on the floor of the House, may offer amendments and most motions on the House floor, and can speak and vote in House committees. … Delegates were permitted to vote in the Committee of the Whole in the 103rd Congress, the 110th Congress, and the 111th Congress. The House in the 112th Congress does not allow floor votes by Delegates. This additional material is apropos for the "Current territories", but might not meet Wtmitchell's concern for WP:Summary Style. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:14, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
@The Four Deuces and TFD: Territorial delegates are not “observers” to the House, they "can speak and introduce bills and resolutions on the floor of the House, may offer amendments and most motions on the House floor, and can speak and vote in House committees.” --- In Democratic Congresses of the 103rd, 110th and 112th, they vote in the House sitting as the Committee of the Whole. --- as we see from our CRS source. The U.S. territorial delegates are more akin to those in the French legislature, rather than U.K. territories which are not represented that national legislature. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:32, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
The relevant distinction is that delegates are allowed to exercise most of the same powers as representatives because Congress allows them to do so and could change those rules at any time. Not that doing so wouldn't cause a commotion, but the grant of these powers is entirely dependent on legislation and on House rules. Obscuring this distinction to advance TVH's hobbyhorse project is a no go. olderwiser 12:59, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
@Wtmitchell: Let’s try the Constitutional distinction up front. Following Wtmithchell’s lead, let’s add older≠wiser’s interest:
Proposal iii. Unlike Constitutional provisions for state U.S. Representatives in Congress, territorial Delegates have only privileges assigned in law and by any rules established in each Congress. The territorial residents hold U.S. federal elections to chose delegates to Congress. Their Congressman or Congresswoman “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.” On the House floor, Delegates can speak and introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments and most motions on the House floor. They speak and vote in House committees and they are assigned offices, money for staff, and appoint constituents from their territories to the four military academies. Delegates were permitted to vote in the Committee of the Whole in three Democratic Congresses, but the 112th Congress does not allow floor votes by territorial Delegates.[4][5]
Let’s stay with the sources and work collaboratively to narrate the 21st century practice in the "Current territories" section. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 16:30, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
Again, saying they “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.” Voting is the key function of Congressmen. Imagine if no Congressmen were allowed to vote on legislation. What kind of legislature would that be? Also, they do not "posxess" the power, they are "allowed" the power. That's why we should not use primary sources, such as the U.S. Congress website and should use secondary sources.
Your subtext appears to be that the unincorporated territories have the same rights as other parts of the U.S. In fact they have the same rights to elect members of Congress as if they were incorporated (such as D.C.), in other words, none.
TFD (talk) 02:46, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The quote is a direct quote from a reliable source. The territorial delegates of judicially "unincorporated" places have the same "rights" or "powers" as the DC delegate of a judicially "incorporated" place. There is no difference in the national legislature. Note the source provided by older≠wiser House Delegates stripped of vote, and the response of the DC delegate there. There is no legislative distinction among DC and the territories relative to the judicial incorporated/unincorporated dichotomy, it only exists for an internal tax regime to favor “domestic" sugar producers. “Unincorporated” is an arcane "judicial term of art” as the legal sources say, which has little application in general discourse, and no relevance here in the section "Current territories" of the 21st century, other than what the sources provide.

The quote which applies to DC and the territorial delegates, --- they “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.” --- is from a source, a website of the U.S. House of Representatives. The source, Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status provided by Wtmithell shows additional ways in which all Members of Congress, Representatives and Delegates, share privileges by law and by House resolution, "Congress returned to the concept of Delegate to provide representation to other territories and the District of Columbia...The Delegates enjoy many, but not all, of the powers and privileges of House Members from the states." (p.1) Read the sources provided by myself, older≠wiser and Wtmitchell. The sources refer to the legislative "powers" or "rights" of DC and territorial Delegates as the same, whether their home jurisdictions are judicially "incorporated" or "unincorporated". TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 17:41, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

To summarize the above: Incorporated vs. unincorporated status is not relevant to the rights of delegates to the House. In general, the delegates have rights and privileges similar, though not identical, to the Members elected from the States, except for the right to vote on the floor (the distinction for this purpose between voting in the "full House" and voting in Committee of the Whole has been abolished, though it might be revived if and when the Democrats retake control of the House someday). However, I agree with the comment above that only a general description of the Delegates' rights and roles is needed in this article, as there is a more detailed article that lays the matter out in greater detail. In that article, it should be noted that Delegates' privileges are in general terms greater today than they were when the House included delegates from the former territories that are now states. Newyorkbrad (talk) 22:33, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
A. Re detail about territorial delegates, I reiterate my 1 November observation above:

The topic of the article is Territories of the United States. I think this amount of detail has very little topical weight here, and ought to be be treated in WP:Summary Style. This is more suited to appear in the Delegate (United States Congress) article than this one.

B. I'm not a lawyer, but I think the assertion "Incorporated vs. unincorporated status is not relevant to the rights of delegates" is valid. However, the assertion that the term Unincorporated is an arcane judicial term of art can be taken to imply that the distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territories is of little moment. That distinction has no present relevance only because the U.S. currently has no organized incorporated territories. Incorporation of one of the current organized unincorporated territories would cause its current organic act to be superseded by the U.S. constitution.
C. Please, guys, stop squabbling about details which are better discussed elsewhere. See WP:DETAIL. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 00:29, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
So Wtmitchell would have us use language similar to Newyorkbrad, so as to treat the subject in WP:Summary Style, perhaps:
Proposal iv. Territorial residents hold U.S. federal elections to chose delegates to Congress. Although not identical to the Constitutional powers of state U.S. Representatives in Congress, territorial Delegates have rights and privileges similar to the Members elected from the States. The exception is for the right to vote on the floor during House proceedings. For this purpose, a distinction between voting in the "full House" and voting in Committee of the Whole has been abolished, though it might be revived were the Democrats to retake control of the House.
And the balance of the sourced information should be placed in Delegate (United States Congress). Is this nearing consensus? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 09:15, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
Again, you are mninimizing the "exception", which happens to be the key role of congressmen.. And they do not have "rights", just privileges extended to them. And you are leaving out commissioners. TFD (talk) 15:18, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
Some political scientists suggest writing bill markups in committee is where the real power of Congress is wielded, and territorial Delegates have that power. Nevermind. What is the sourced quote your are working from? To date we have House Learn About What is a Representative, “possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that..." and Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status from NewYorkBrad, "the delegates have rights and privileges similar, though not identical, to the Members elected from the States, except for..."
No one is leaving out commissioners with the term "delegate", see the source you commended to others, Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status, it also uses the term "rights" of territorial delegates. Do you withdraw your agreement to accept Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status as a source? Then please supply an alternate source. "Members of Congress" encompasses both delegates and commissioners, but it is removed at TFD behest. Wtmitchell suggested linking to the Delegate (United States Congress) article at the word "Delegate" to write in a WP:Summary Style. What is the TFD alternate proposed phrasing on removing Wtmitchell's term?
We have contributions of myself, Wtmitchell, NewYorkBrad, older≠wiser and TFD for the emphasis as written in Proposal iv. Your contribution is upfront, the phrase, "Although not identical to the Constitutional powers of state U.S. Representatives in Congress," which is an emphasis that would not appear without your input. Again, what is the sourced quote you are working from, what would be a counter draft proposal look like to meet WP:Summary Style to reflect a third source? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 18:30, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
No, I do not support the language of proposal iv. Most of the detail is entirely irrelevant for this article, per Wtmitchell, NewYorkBrad, and I agree with TFD that the emphasis still obscures the crucial distinction that all of the privileges of a delegate are granted by legislation and house rules rather than constitutional authority. olderwiser 01:06, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
How do the direct quotes from two sources using similar terms "rights" and "powers" for Territorial Delegates obscure the crucial distinction pointed out in the phrase, "Although not identical to the Constitutional powers of state U.S. Representatives in Congress"? What alternative language is proposed in a WP:Summary Style? Is it to be only an unsorced POV to obscure similarities in the current Territorial Delegate duties that older≠wiser accurately describes as called out in legislation and house rules? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:02, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
The alternative language proposed in a WP:Summary Style would be very little language in this article — basically to refer to a detail article such as Delegate (United States Congress) and to push all language about niddling details re the main topic of this article which are less niddling re the main topic of that article down into that article.

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────It is obscured by excessive detail and by not mentioning the basis for the powers. olderwiser 11:30, 5 November 2014 (UTC)oy

@Wtmitchell, Newyorkbrad, Bkonrad, and The Four Deuces: Here is another rewording, additional language from TFD, and re-emphasis at the behest of Bkonrad. I am interested in the response of Wtmitchell and Newyorkbrad to additional cuts here. We can turn to additional cuts elsewhere. The section "Incorporated and unincorporated territories" should be edited down to be as short as the Current Territories, removing duplicate material mirrored on the main article Insular Cases to achieve a WP:Summary Style. There is no rationale for extensive direct quotation passages from court decisions, in general it is not encyclopedic. Quotes should be short and inline for the most part. ---
TFD Proposal. "Congress allows a Delegate from each of...and a Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico to sit as observers in the House of Representatives. The delegates are elected for 2-year terms while the resident commissioners are elected for 4-year terms. The resident commissioners also act as envoys to the executive, or federal government. While these observers are not allowed to vote, they are allowed onto the floor of the House of Representatives where they may take place in debates and participate in other activities allowed by the House, including participation in committees. They are often referred to as Congressmen and Congresswomen. Since 17XX, there have been delegates from organized incorporated territories and following U.S. acquisition of overseas territories, the privilege has been extended to organized unincorporated territories and American Samoa."
Proposal iv. Territorial residents hold U.S. federal elections to chose delegates to Congress. Although not identical to the Constitutional powers of state U.S. Representatives in Congress, territorial Delegates have rights and privileges similar to the Members elected from the States. The exception is for the right to vote on the floor during House proceedings. For this purpose, a distinction between voting in the "full House" and voting in Committee of the Whole has been abolished, though it might be revived were the Democrats to retake control of the House.
Proposal v. Territorial residents hold U.S. federal elections to chose delegates to Congress. Although not identical to the Constitutional powers of state U.S. Representatives in Congress, territorial Delegates have rights and privileges based in law and House rules similar to the other Members elected from the States. The exception is for the power to vote on the floor during House proceedings, but they are allowed full membership in committees and onto the floor of the House of Representatives where they may participate in debates make motions, and participate in other activities allowed by the House. --- TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 13:02, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
Picking a nit without doing any research, I am unsure about the "based in law" assertion; what law? My objection, though, is that this amount of detail ought to be in a detail article -- that it does not have sufficient topical weight to appear in this article. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 13:31, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
The source referenced the law which gives a certain persistence to the delegate privileges beyond the session-by-session rules adopted by the majority of the House. Amazingly Wtmitchell has found an area where older≠wiser and I agree, it is important to note the privileges are based on law and House rules, not Constitutionally. Other wise we are left with the impression that state Representatives and territorial Delegates are the same Constitutionally, and they are not, as TFD has pointed out. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 06:16, 7 November 2014 (UTC)
TheVirginiaHistorian, would you be happy if your district's congressman had all the rights of other congressmen, except to vote on legislation? Why or why not? If the voting rights of Southern congressmen were removed, then the recent election would have provided a majority for the Democrats. TFD (talk) 07:25, 7 November 2014 (UTC)
I don’t understand the purpose of the question, but I will reply — I would not be happy if my state were made into the constitutional status of a Territory. I would participate in the proportional representation for territories in both major party conventions, which all five enjoy now. I would want an organic act of three-branch self-government, under federal court jurisdiction with territorial representation in Congress as it is now for the others. Were Virginia a territory, I would argue for more Delegate privileges, such as voting in the House floor in the Committee of the Whole.
I would argue to parallel the non-state District of Columbia, that the three Pacific territories should have three Electoral College votes, and that the two Caribbean territories should have three Electoral College votes. OR, I would argue Puerto Rico become a state with seven electoral college votes and five U.S. representatives, (with readjustment in apportionment nationally at the following census), with three electoral votes going for the remaining four territories. The organic acts should provide for a U.S. representative, because the U.S. requires allegiance of all territorial U.S. citizens and nationals, and government by consent is a fundamental principle of American governance.
The Virginia U.S. Senator won as a Democrat in a free election, that is my preference, free elections for representation in the national legislature. Virginia's House delegation is split geographically as usual between the Richmond-rural core and the urban periphery, with suburbs closely contested. — Would you be happy as a U.K. Virgin Islander in the 21st century with no representation at all in Parliament when U.S. Virgin Islands has a territorial Member of Congress? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 00:19, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

Incorrect counting[edit]

There's a section that says:

Currently, there are a total of sixteen territories of the United States, five of which are inhabited [...] The 10 uninhabited Territories are...

I don't know which part is correct. (talk) 18:07, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

The federal district is a territory, Washington DC. The five major insular territories are American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
The nine smaller island areas without permanent populations are Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, Wake Island, and Navassa Island.
U.S. sovereignty over Serranilla Bank and Bajo Nuevo (Petrel Island) is disputed. See U.S. General Accounting Office Report, U.S. Insular Areas: application of the U.S. Constitution, November 1997, pp. 1, 6, 39n. viewed April 6, 2016.
Apparently the number "sixteen" comes from adding insular territories, five populated, nine unchallenged uninhabited, and two disputed uninhabited. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 00:13, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
D.C. is not a territory. TFD (talk) 03:21, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
DC is not a state. What source claims DC is not territory of the United States? The Encyclopedia Britannica lists DC as a non-state jurisdiction along with insular territories. DC is not listed among the insular territories. Does not the number 16 include all insular territories claimed by the USG? It does. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 05:03, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
 Done. Bajo Nuevo was omitted in the list, the 11 uninhabited territories... TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 05:14, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
I do not need a source that says D.C. is not a territory, you need a source that says it is. Similarly if you want to say Ontario is a territory of the U.S., I do not need to provide a source that it is not - you need to provide a source that says it is. That's the way rs works - if you want to say something, you need a source. We do not add misinformation and require other editors to provide sources saying it is wrong. TFD (talk) 05:19, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
More contentious disruption of a talk page. You can't just make up stuff on your own. Take advantage of the research of other editors at WP, don't rely on your own snap judgment. See Washington, D.C.#Growth and redevelopment. Congress passed the Organic Act of 1871, which established a new "territorial government" for the whole District of Columbia. Delos Franklin Wilcox, “Great Cities in America, 1910 p.27, viewed June 2, 2025. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 06:09, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
You need a source that says D.C. is a territory. The Wikipedia link you give provides no source, the external source you provide does not say it is a territory. TFD (talk) 06:44, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
Every sentence need not be footnoted, read the paragraph. Good faith requires that you read the citation provided and acknowledge its existence. "Territorial government" means government of a territory. You have no source saying that the constitutional status of DC is outside the plenary powers of Congress as a state. DC is within them as a territory. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:19, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── To return to the stated purpose of a talk page concerning the article, the introduction has an overlong section enumerating the insular territories which is provided in the body of the article. Something more abbreviated would be more appropriate. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 06:09, 2 June 2015 (UTC)


lead sentence[edit]

In the lead sentence, I have added the second sentence,

The territories of the United States are directly overseen by the United States federal government, in contrast to the states, which share sovereignty with the federal government. The five major territories are self-governing with elective governors, legislatures and delegate Members of Congress.[1][2]

  1. ^ US General Accounting Office, U.S. Insular Areas: Application of the U.S. Constitution, November 1997, pp. 8, 14, 27, viewed September 3, 2015.
  2. ^ US State Department, Common Core Document of the United States of America, report to the UN Committee on Human Rights, December 30, 2011, sec. 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, viewed September 3, 2015. American Samoa, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands appear on the UN non-self-governing territories list, viewed September 3, 2015.

American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Northern Mariana Islands are self governing under locally adopted constitutions, and all five major territories have “pursued greater self-government” including electing their own governor, territorial legislature and delegate Members of Congress. American Samoa, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands appear on the UN non-self-governing territories list, and they are noted as such. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 06:46, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

I think the phrasing is confusing. If they “pursued greater self-government,” they are not self-governing and the U.S. claims that three of the territories are "non-self-governing." Like the states, there are areas where government is carried out by the U.S. government, including defense, foreign affairs and currency. The actual status is that they have constitutions which are acts of Congress and allow them self-government over some matters. Also, members should not be capitalized. Just say that they each elect a non-voting Delegate to Congress. TFD (talk) 23:57, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
There is no confusion, there is no counter reference to support article and Talk disruption on the matter of territory “greater self government” over the twentieth century. Territories of the Union with U.S. citizens are indeed not self-governing independent international States any more than the states of the Union are.
But the U.S. Government asserts — in the cited GAO report on Insular Areas and the US Common Core Document to the United Nations, — that DC and the five major territories are self governing within its federal constitutional system with locally elective governors, legislatures and delegate Members of Congress — within the U.S. constitutional structure as a part of its sovereign territory -- as referenced. Members of Congress may be Representatives or Delegates from DC and the five major territories; that is a matter of insubstantial style and easily accommodated if that is the point of TFDs post.
Acts of Congress allow states and territories self-government over some matters, but Acts of Congress are the Supreme Law of the Land in its states and territories (U.S. Constitution, Article VI), confirmed as settled law for the United States in the American Civil War and subsequent Supreme Court decisions in states and territories. TFD may not POV wiki-secede the U.S. states or territories by misrepresenting a federal system of government in the U.S. states and territories, nor having demonstrated that they are a part of the Union, can TFD now assert without references that they are they no longer “self governing” — within the U.S. constitutional system. They are federally self-governing with locally elected governors, legislatures and delegates to Congress -- as sourced, without any counter citation in contradiction. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 01:53, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
TheVirginiaHistorian, I have read through this post several times and I do not follow the point you are making. Could you please restate it more simply?
If the point in controversy is whether the territories are "self-governing" or not, the answer is that they are for some purposes and not others, or to a partial degree but not a total degree. To say that they either are self-governing, or are not self-governing, would be an oversimplification. Newyorkbrad (talk) 02:20, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
I realize that self-governing can have different meanings, but that is a reason not to use it. Would one say that the American colonies were self-governing from their founding or that the United States became self-governing as a result of the Declaration of Independence? They did after all have councils, municipal corporations and local courts and at one time elected governors. TFD (talk) 03:02, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
I have followed up on TFDs suggestion that the second sentence of the lead paragraph needed copy editing. It now reads, "Each also elects a non-voting delegate (or resident commissioner) with all the other floor, committee, appointive and staffing privileges of any Member of Congress." — so as not to mislead readers to believe a U.S. territorial Delegate is merely an observer as is a non-voting British territorial representative in the UK Parliament. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 08:00, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
@Newyorkbrad: The lead sentence begins, “Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions directly overseen by the United States federal government.” There is no confusion as to whether the U.S. territories are recognized as independent sovereign nations. They are not. Within the context of the United Nations “Common Core” document referenced as submitted by the U.S., all of its territories are locally “self governing” as are its constituent states in a federal system — with locally elected governors, territorial legislatures and Congressional Delegates.
Three of those territories are still on a contradictory list published by a UN which is also duly footnoted at the lead paragraph. It is not the case as TFD alleges without cited references, "the U.S. claims that three of the territories are "non-self-governing.” It is the U.N. committee of Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran which asserts their colonial status even after local referendums to join the United States as territories under the U.S. Constitution as their Supreme Law of the Land, a status re-confirmed in their local Territorial Constitutions establishing local self-government. There were no such referendums or locally written constitutions in the British Empire of the 1700s; Territorial Constitutions are not merely one-sided Acts of Congress.
See, US General Accounting Office, U.S. Insular Areas: Application of the U.S. Constitution, November 1997, pp. 8, 14, 27, and US State Department, Common Core Document of the United States of America, report to the UN Committee on Human Rights, December 30, 2011, sec. 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 08:36, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
VirginiaHistorian, I do not feel that a discussion of privileges will clarify the matter for most readers. I have however changed the description from "delegate" to "member", which is in line with the title of the linked article and provides a clearer and simpler distinction for the reader. CMD (talk) 08:44, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
Incidentally, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear an appeal in Tuaua v. United States, confirming that the unincorporated territories are not "sub-national units" as normally understood. I suppose though that one could argue that their citizens' status as nationals makes them part of the nation.
I do not mind referring to the Delegates as "non-voting members," since it uses generally understood language instead of jargon. Just that it should not be capitalized because it is not an official term as used in some legislatures, e.g., "Member of Parliament." There is no confusion with British Overseas representatives, since the term member means they are part of Congress with of course the significant exception that they cannot vote. So we do not need to mention all the various privileges they do enjoy. Of course voting on legislation is not trivial, it is the reason Congress exists.
TFD (talk) 15:16, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
Territorial delegate voting on legislation in committee, strategy in political caucus, and in the Committee of the Whole as each Congress may allow is not trivial, nor is the yearly appointment of two cadets or midshipmen to each of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard Academies.
“Non-voting” is misleading as a partial truth for the introduction, it is an obscure usage since territorial delegates seated in Congress do in fact vote in several Congressional venues to qualify as "most of the authority" of others in the body and in committees. "In most respects, Delegates and the Resident Commissioner have most of the authority that Members have. On the House Floor, they can speak, introduce bills, and offer amendments. They can serve on House Committees and possess most of the authority that other Committee members have.” Member FAQs #2. The encyclopedic article on Territories of the US should convey information about the Territories, not obscure it. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 23:52, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
Details of appointment rights and so on is obscuring the subject, especially in the lead of all places. "Non-voting member" is a common description in other sources (eg.), and I do not see it as misleading or a partial truth. CMD (talk) 08:49, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
Very well, since it is not confusing, let's use your source and go with "Each also elects a non-voting member (or resident commissioner) to the U.S. House of Representatives who vote in committees."footnote.
Or, "Each also elects a non-voting member (or resident commissioner) to the U.S. House of Representatives who have most privileges of a state Representative." footnoteTheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 08:42, 16 June 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I think it is clear that "non-voting" refers to legislation. Certainly non-voting members have some rights and/or privileges enjoyred by voting members, but the lead is not the place to get into details. Certainly it is even more important that all their rights and privileges derive from Congress, but I am willing to omit that fact for brevity. There are lots of other aspects to the relationship of territories to the U.S., some of them controversial, that are better explained in the rest of the article. TFD (talk) 11:28, 16 June 2016 (UTC)

Okay. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 03:25, 17 June 2016 (UTC)


Why is the expression "sub-national administrative divisions directly overseen by the United States federal government" used? This reads like a euphemism for colony. (talk) 07:02, 5 September 2017 (UTC)