Can Texas Legally Secede from the United States?

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President Obama’s re-election sparked secession petitions. Photo Credit: The White House

Texas v. White: What the U.S. Supreme Court Decided

Texas, like many other states, tried to secede from the union in the 1860s in order to join the Confederated States of America. The legality of the attempt of Texas to secede reached the United States Supreme Court in 1869.

One of the issues in the case of Texas v. White was whether or not Texas had the right to unilaterally leave the union. Writing for the court, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase wrote,

When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final.”

The court went on to say that the union between Texas and the other states was as dissoluble as the union of the original States.

But the court left open the possibility of secession by revolution “or through consent of the States.” Leaving aside the fact that a successful revolution would see Texas leave the United States, the court does leave it open for secession provided it was done with the consent of all the states and presumably the consent of the federal government. But the chances of that happening are extremely unlikely.

Despite the fact that the Internet reveals many people out there who believe if enough people sign these petitions the country will break up, there is no legal basis for secession.

Should Barack Obama do the Hokey Pokey?

So what does the president doing the Hokey Pokey have to do with the secession of Texas and other states? Well, it too is the subject of a petition on We the People.

On November 9, David S. petitioned the United States government to have Obama dance the Hokey Pokey on television during a special presidential address. And the petitioner is asking the government to have the president lead with his right foot to show his support for bipartisanship.

This petition is unlikely to obtain 25,000 signatures within the required 30 day period. But if it did, it would receive the same consideration by White House staff as the petitions that call for the secession of individual states.

While the secession petitions are instructive in showing how some Americans are feel about their country after the November 6 election results became known, they do not constitute a legal basis for a breakup of the United States.

Resources:

White House. We the People. (2012). Accessed November 15, 2012.

Legal Information Institute. Texas v. White. 100 U.S. 1 (1869). Accessed November 15, 2012.

Joseph Marks. How Technology is Changing Government. Accessed November 15, 2012.

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Home / Can Texas Legally Secede from the United States?

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Following the November 6 elections, thousands of residents have signed petitions requesting that their state leave the union following the re-election of Barack Obama.

Texas stands out by the sheer number of supporters who favor an independent country.

But is there a procedure for a state to legally declare its independence and separate from the U.S.?

The White House Website: We the People

Americans have always been able to petition their government. One of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment is the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Unfortunately, drafting a petition and going from door to door seeking signers was time-consuming. But not anymore.

To use a worn out cliché, with today’s technology, people can draft or sign a petition while wearing pajamas and sitting in their parents’ basement. The result is that we find numerous secession petitions on the We the People section of the official website of the White House.

According to its terms, the Obama administration agrees that if a petition garners 25,000 signatures within a period of 30 days, that petition will be sent to appropriate White House staff for an examination. The staff will then send the issue to policy experts who will prepare a response. The administration promises that all petitions that reach the required threshold will be responded to.

But petitions on We the People do not have the force of law, and the promise to follow the procedure set out is just that—a promise. No doubt petitions that receive more than 25,000 signatures within 30 days will receive a response, but the response could consist of “don’t be silly” or “no way.”

Of all the petitions on We the People calling for state secession, Texas has the most votes. At the time of writing, more than 106,000 Americans have signed this particular petition since it was first posted on November 9.

The United States Constitution on Secession

The constitution is completely silent on the issue of a state leaving the union. As many legal documents do, the omission leaves both sides of the argument to say the constitution supports their point of view. Those who favor the secession of a state say that states can decide to separate because the U.S. Constitution does not expressly forbid it. Those opposed to breaking up the country argue that since the constitution does not expressly provide for a state to leave the union, a state has no legal right to secede from the United States.

Despite how horrific Obama’s re-election is to those people who are demanding their state secede from the U.S., this is not the first time states have tried to secede. Texas attempted to leave the union just prior to the Civil War. And as keen observers will note, Texas is still one of the United States of America.

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