The American Civil War began in 1861, as many southern states seceded from the Union and declared themselves as part of a confederacy independent from the United States. President Abraham Lincoln vowed to keep the country together. While preventing the spread of slavery was a core goal, Lincoln’s primary objective was to “preserve the Union,” as Wikipedia well encapsulates. The notion that a state can’t simply decide to leave the Union is now entrenched, and was even the subject of a Supreme Court case, Texas v. White, in 1871. But there may be one half-exception to that rule. Texas can’t secede, but it can blow itself up
Figuratively, of course.
Texas is one of the few states which was, at some point, an independent nation in its own right. Texas was originally part of Mexico, but in March of 1835, the region declared independence. By October, Mexico and Texas were at war, and come the next spring, Mexico surrendered. The Republic of Texas, which consisted of the modern-day state of the same name, as well as parts of five other states, came to being in March of 1836 under the terms of the Treaties of Velasco. But the Republic of Texas was saddled with a lot of debt and a hostile neighbor to the south (Mexico’s recognition of Texan independence was not widespread and, in any event, fleeting). In 1845, with the support of a majority of Texan voters, the United States annexed the region and created the state of Texas in the process.
Because of this, Texas’ entry into the Union went through a process requiring a resolution enabling the annexation, available here. The negotiated document has some curious language buried within. It doesn’t allow Texas to secede, but it may allow the state to become five states — and perhaps even without permission from the U.S. government:
[N]ew States of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provision of the Federal constitution
What’s that mean? Basically, that Texas can vote itself into up to five parts, each of which may (depending on one’s interpretation) be instantly admitted into the Union as a state in its own right. Practically, this means that the population of what is currently Texas would receive eight additional Senators (and eight more electoral votes come the subsequent Presidential election), as Slate notes. Assuming all five states echoed the political leanings of the whole area (unlikely), this could have a major impact on American politics. In fact, some Texan politicians believe that the rest of the country would just rather have Texas go back to being an independent republic.
While possible, perhaps, the issue is likely moot. A 2009 poll, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, found that only 18% of Texans wanted to their state to become a country of its own, while three-quarters were outright against it. As the Chronicle further points out, that 18% number is roughly what one gets when you ask a resident of any state if they’d like their state to be an independent nation. Of course, that doesn’t stop the occasional attempt from local politicians.
From the Archives: St. Patrick’s Battalion: A group of Texans who left Texas to fight for Mexico against the United States.
Related: Replica Republic of Texas banknotes. The image on the page is very small, though.