Can a Joint Resolution of Congress Grant Statehood?
|The controversy of whether Texas was properly ratified as a state is still prevalent today among "letter of the law" Constitutionals. Many lawsuits have been filed with the US over making Texas a state without following the legal requirement of 2/3 ratification by the Senate. But none have ever reached the Supreme Court for a final ruling. To understand the controversy, one must first study its history.
Texas has one of the most colorful histories of all 50 states. It was formed first as a sovereign nation after settlers went to war with Mexico's dictator, Lopez de Santa Anna. The land included all of what we know now as Texas and parts of Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Because Sam Houston led Texas to victory, it was fitting he became the first president of the Republic of Texas. Because a lot of the financing for the war came from the USA, Houston traded the additional parts for the debt.
Although Texas achieved self-government, Mexico refused to recognize its independence. On March 5, 1842, a Mexican force of over 500 men, led by Rael Vquez, invaded Texas for the first time since the revolution seven years earlier. Texas militia retaliated at the Battle of Salado Creek while simultaneously, a mile and a half away, Mexican soldiers massacred a militia of fifty-three Texas volunteers who had surrendered after a skirmish.
At the request of Sam Houston, on March 1, 1845, the US enacted a congressional joint resolution proposing the annexation of Texas to the United States. Houston was dead-set to have Texas join the Union from day-1. Problem was, most Texans wanted no part of it. Land owners were making huge profits selling cotton and corn to foreign companies and most feared losing their slaves by joining the Union. Houston made 4 attempts to pass a referendum for Texas to join the Union. It was only on the 4th attempt he was successful; however, he had his successor violate the Republic's Constitution by bypassing the peoples' vote and formed a convention of hand-picked supporters instead. The convention passed an Ordinance of Annexation and gave it to Houston to present to the US Congress.
Houston presented the illegally sought resolution to US President James Polk in late 1845 who immediately submitted a request for annexation to Congress. Because Mexico had never accepted Texas' claim of independence, most Congressmen were reluctant to ratify the annexation request in fear of going to war with Mexico. The annexation laws at the time required territorial status for a least a year before a state could enter the Union. President Polk wanted that provision ignored and to immediately take Texas in with full representation in Congress. In December of 1845, while Congress was adjourned, Polk had allies in the House submit and pass a Joint Resolution to immediately annex Texas into the Union. It was never brought before the Senate for consideration before Polk signed the resolution and later announced to the media that Texas had full statehood status. When Congress met for the new session, a new resolution was adopted to prevent Texas from having representatives in Congress until the Senate ratified the annexation properly. To date, that has never taken place. Sam Houston remained in Washington and acted as a Congressman for the state. Like representatives from a territory, Houston and others were allowed to sit in the House but had no voting rights on legislation.
Prior to the Civil War breaking out, Texas still did not have representatives who could cast votes. Houston had returned to Texas and served as governor until he was kicked out of office for not supporting secession. The vast majority of Texans at the time felt Texas was never legally annexed by the Union and still used Republic of Texas currency as legal tender.
On February 1, 1861, a special convention in Texas adopted an ordinance of secession, repealing the Ordinance of Annexation and seceding from the United States (by 95% vote, 166 to 8) and on February 7, the Legislature ordered a public referendum to be held on the ordinance under the direction of the convention. On February 23, 1861, citizens of Texas voted overwhelmingly to secede from the United States, by 75% (46,153 to 14,747).
From 1865 to 1870, Texas was under occupation by Union troops (Reconstruction). Three separate Union appointed governors served with dictatorial power and the state Congress had been abolished. During this period the US had filed a suit against Texas for selling its bonds to fund the war effort. By 1869, and with nothing based on law, the Supreme Court ruled it illegal to sell state held bonds because no state had the right to secede. In March of 1870, Congress passed an act to allow Texas representation in Congress. The provisions of the act required representatives to sign an oath of allegiance, could not have served in the Confederate army, and had to denounce slavery. By the end of 1870, Texas had full representation with voting rights in Congress for the first time.
So, with all that history said, is Texas legally part of the US today? Other than the original 13, Texas is the only state annexed without becoming a territory first. Texas is the first to be annexed by a Joint Resolution of Congress and not ratified by the Senate. The law of the land at the time of annexation did not permit either of these provisions. There have been many lawsuits against the US since 1845 disputing the legal annexation of Texas and a state's right to secede. Those disputing the annexation have never reached the Supreme Court and a few involving secession have. If the Supreme Court was to rule Texas is not legally part of the US, the situation could be easily corrected by having the Senate ratify the original petition. But, if that were to happen now, what about all those taxes paid to the federal government for the past 174 years? What about all the land seized during Reconstruction? The list goes on and on.
Something worth thinking about.