Texas into 5 States?

I just did a search, and we have discussed this several times. But always as a subcontext, and never with what I think is a definitive answer.

Now, in 1845 Texas was admitted, and in the resolution admitting it, it seems like it retained the right to split into 5 states (and also seccede from the Union?). However, the US Constitution would overrule such a “resolution”, and it makes clear that a State cannot do so unilaterally.

Also, Texas left the Union, and then was readmitted (Civil war, remember?). When it was re-admited, the right to split did not seem to be re-given.

So dopers? What is the right answer?

The union never recognized the conferate states’ leaving. The states did not get re-admitted.

Here’s an article from a site which has everything you would ever want to know about Texas.


It is interesting, but it fails to answer the question- does Texas still have the right to unilaterally (ie wthout approval from the US Congress, as provided for in the US Constitution) split into five states?

And, bup- the article mentions Texas being “re-admitted” a couple of times. The Union seems to have taken a somewhat inconsistant stand on whether or not the Confederates States did, de facto if not de jure- leave the Union.

Texas never had the right to unilaterally split into 5 states. The act of admission stated that it could do so in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, which require Congressional approval. The wording was included in the act of admission as a statement of “legislative intent”, so that if a future Congress had to consider an application for division it would be clear that the Congress of 1845 recognized that this might be appropriate at a later date.

The issue became largely moot when Texas was scaled down in size (yes, it could have been bigger!) as part of the Compromise of 1850.

Actually, the provision for dividing Texas into five states appears only in the act annexing Texas, not the act admitting it to statehood:

Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States (28th Cong., 2d Sess., Mar. 1, 1845), http://castor.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx/annexation/march1845.html. The Joint Resolution for the Admission of the State of Texas into the Union (29th Cong., 1st Sess., Dec. 29, 1845), http://castor.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx/annexation/dec1845.html, provided only:

But jklann is essentially correct. Whatever right the prospective state of Texas may have enjoyed of organizing itself into multiple states, it did not exercise that right, and entered the Union as a single indivisible state. Organizing new states out of Texas today would require an act of Congress as well as the consent of the Texas Legislature.

Some things to keep in mind about this ever-popular “division of Texas” issue:

  1. The Republic of Texas, during its nine years of existence, claimed all territory between the Rio Grande and the pre-Mexican War boundary between the United States and Mexico. This is an enormous swath of territory including much of what is now New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado. The boundary had never been surveyed, nor agreed to by Mexico, and much of the territory still belonged to American Indians.

  2. In March 1845 Congress annexed this territory to the United States, together with an “enabling act” allowing it to organize itself into a state. Everybody recognized that creating such an enormous state might cause problems:

a. Pro-slavery forces realized that, by creating an enormous slave state, they would be hurting their chances for creating more slave states later.

b. Anti-slavery forces recognized that part of the Texas claim probably lay north of the 36.5-degree line of the Missouri compromise, meaning that its inclusion in Texas would extend slavery north of the line.

c. And just as a matter of simple governance, after this territory was settled, mamaging it all as one giant state might probe problematic.

Rather than resolve these issues in 1845, Congress just passed the “enabling act” to annex and admit Texas as a whole, but added the proviso about later division into as many as four more states.

The phrase “shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution” causes confusion here. It sounds binding. But remember, no Congress can bind a future Congress. Rather, the words should be viewed as a statement of “legislative intent” for the guidance of a future Congress which might have to consider the issue. In other words, if the Congress of 1855 were considering an application for division, they could look at the wording of the resolution of annexation and see at once that the Congress of 1845 didn’t regard the Republic of Texas as an inviolate whole and recognized that division might one day be appropriate.

As it happend, Congress stripped Texas down to its present boundaries in return for a cash settlement as part of the Compromise of 1850. So, in effect, the original Republic of Texas did divide into more states; but they were remanded to territorial status first and agglomerated with other land won in the Mexican War.

As a non-binding statement of legislative intent, however, the language of 1845 remains in effect. It wouldn’t carry much weight today–if the remainder of Texas did seek to divide into two or more states today, I doubt that anybody would much care what Congress thought under the very different circumstances of 1845.

As an aside…

Wouldn’t ANY state have the right to subdivide? The federal government was all over it with West Virginia during the civil war.

So couldn’t say, California just suddenly break into two and have a ‘North CA’ and ‘South CA’ provided it was approved by congress and each had their own state governments and representatives?

It has been done twice before. Maine used to be part of Massachussetts, and West Virginia used to be part of Virginia.

Yes. The Constitution (art. IV, sec. 3) provides that “new states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.” mbh has identified the two instances where Congress and a state legislature have consented to the partition of an existing state (although the partition of West Virginia makes an interesting story: the Virginia Legislature that “consented” to the partition of West Virginia was a pro-Union rump that the Federal government recognized in order to keep open a railroad vital to the Northern economy and the Union war effort).

jklann’s story about the rule of the Compromise of 1850 led me to a link that tells this story:

See http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/earlystate/boundary.html.

You would first need the approval of the existing legislature in Sacramento, representing the entire state. Congress could then agree and pass an “enabling act” laying out the boundary and the transition mechanics (electing new constitutional conventions, dividing state assets, and so forth). After the new state(s) was ready, a final act of admission would bring it into existence and terminate California’s sovereignty over the detached area.

Interesting link, brian–I hadn’t realized the language about dividing Texas was re-endorsed in the Boundary Act of 1850. So it represents the “legislative intent” of at least two Congresses, not just one!

So- to restate. Texas has no special “RIGHT” to be split into 5 (or any other number of States. They can petition Congress, like any othe State, even Rhode Island. However, that Congress, in 1845, gave notice of “legislative intent”, which may or not have been superceded by the Compromise of 1850, or the Civil war.

Thus, there is no “right”. However, Congress should take the “legislative intent” into consideration IF Texas does petition. And I am sure they will argue long & hard whether that intent has been superceded. But it is not legally binding.


Right, except that:

(1) Per brian’s link, the Compromise of 1850 definitely did not supersede the language of 1845; rather, it re-enforced it.

(2) The attempted secession of Texas in 1861 and its readmission to representation in Congress in 1870 had no direct bearing on prospects for later division. Any non-binding statement of legislative intent will lose relevance over time. Since slavery at least partly motivated the language of 1845 and 1850 concerning future division, the abolition of slavery perhaps prompted a greater than usual “loss of relevance” here.

But the language of 1845 and 1850 is still on the statute books, and in the unlikely event that the politicians in Austin decide at some future time that they’d like to cut their state in two, I’m sure it will be cited and debated in Congress. But, again, it will not be binding.