There's a common folklore among Texans that Texas was the only state to specifically have it written that Texas may secede, although I've heard that other states have that right as well.

In 2009, Gov Rick Perry of Texas also made that threat at a rally. All politicians know what they are talking about and don't lie, right? As of recently, a petition to secede has appeared, but many critics are claiming that it's simply fiction playing it off as a form of protest. Still, there are many other petitions to secede for other states.

I am not an expert in government research, and all I have been able to find are news articles. Is there proof that Texas can or cannot secede in accordance to US Law?

  • 6
    In international law there's the principle of self-determination - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination
    – Tom77
    Nov 14, 2012 at 13:38
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    The question (and Scalia's answer) seems to be asking "Is Texas granted that right by US law?" But that very law is exactly what a seceding country is saying they are no longer beholden to, making its position moot. I suggest the question be changed to clarify that is what is being asked (as opposed, say, to United Nations policies).
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 14, 2012 at 14:03
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    If US is a democracy, then every of its state has the right to secede following a democratic vote for it. How could a government say no to a majority of people and still claim being democratic?
    – Zonata
    Nov 14, 2012 at 15:37
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    @Zonata - The US is a representative Republic. It is not a democracy.
    – Chad
    Nov 14, 2012 at 16:47
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    As a practical matter, even if Texas originally had the right to secede on paper, the events of 1861-65 saw the claim rendered null and void by force majeure. Nov 14, 2012 at 18:34

4 Answers 4


Regarding the claim that Texas has the right to secede,

as implied by Gov. Rick Perry in 2009:

“When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want.

From FactCheck.org:

[Rick Perry] is wrong when he claims Texas has some unique arrangement that would allow it to secede at will.

Perry's comments suggest the deal was part of the Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States, which was approved March 1, 1845. But the document neither talks about nor conveys any such right to secede.

From Politifact:

Sanford Levinson, a professor at the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin, says that between the Texas Constitution, the U.S. Constitution and the 1845 Joint Resolution Annexing Texas to the United States, there is no explicit right for the state to return to its days as a republic.

Even Texas Secede! acknowledges:

Q: Doesn't the Texas Constitution reserve the right of Texas to secede?

A: This heavily popularized bit of Texas folklore finds no corroboration where it counts: No such provision is found in the current Texas Constitution (adopted in 1876) or the terms of annexation.

Reasons to Secede is also straightforward about this:

Q: Does Texas have the right to secede?

A. No... but yes, not explicitly. There is no verbiage in the Texas Constitution, the US Constitution, or the Texas Annexation Agreement that expressly grants the State of Texas the right to secede from the Union.

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    There supreme court has directly ruled that no state, including Texas, has the right to secede. Take a look at my answer for the excerpt from the majority opinion in the case, Texas v. White.
    – Cruril
    Nov 14, 2012 at 16:13
  • @chris and just a few years earlier that same court issued the Dred Scott decision.
    – Chad
    Nov 15, 2012 at 19:13
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    "no state, including Texas, has the right to secede." There was a whole war fought over that, and the victor was no-secede side. Dec 31, 2019 at 2:11

A good solid answer to this would be found in Texas v. White.

Chief Justice Salmon Chase stated in his majority opinion...

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 union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.

Sources from Texas v. White Wikipedia Article and from Chief Justice Salmon Chase's majority opinion on Cornell's law site.

As you can see, Texas, just like any other state, can only secede though revolution or if both Texas and the remainder of the United States agree on the secession.

  • That's the right answer. Texas did try to secede in 1861 and the Supreme Court ruled that it didn't had that right. Meanwhile, the executive had put an end to the secession by means of the Civil War.
    – Pere
    Apr 14, 2019 at 12:18

Lots of comments above are rather useless. Texas legally renounced the right to secede. It is now law, nothing vague about it. https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx/secession/15march1866.html

March 15, 1866, The Texas Legislature settled the question. If you call Texas Legislative Library, you won't get an update on this.

Be it ordained by the people of Texas in Convention assembled, That we acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States, and the laws passed in pursuance thereof; and that an Ordinance adopted by a former Convention of the people of Texas on the 1st day of February, A.D. 1861, entitled "An Ordinance to Dissolve the Union between the State of Texas and the other States, united under the compact styled 'Constitution of the United States of America,'" be and the same is hereby declared null and void; and the right heretofore claimed by the State of Texas to secede from the Union, is hereby distinctly renounced. Passed 15th March, 1866.

So, those above who say: "So it really depends on your interpretation of the law," or "A. No... but yes, not explicitly"...are guessing, when they don't have to.

The language above is VERY SPECIFIC - "is hereby distinctly renounced"

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    Texas legislature can equally easily pass a law to nullify this one. The question is what the non-Texas law says.
    – user5341
    Mar 13, 2013 at 18:19

Abraham Lincoln would disagree.

Texas was part of the confederacy during the American Civil War and wasn't spared or allowed to secede.

Gov. Rick Perry have announced that the state of Texas has no such aspirations and will remain within the Union.

Perry spokesperson Catherine Frazier tells CBS News that the governor “shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government,” but “believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it.”

As to the lawfulness side of the matter, it depends on the person interpreting the law, if it's Prof. Eugene Volokh from the UCLA scool of law, then he would say:

But at the same time, surely this must be a judgment based on how we see the world today, not based on what happened 144 years ago. A matter is “settled” by political decision only so long as the political decision commands the adherence of the polity. If in 2065 Alaska, California, Hawaii, or Texas (just to consider some examples) assert a right to secede, the argument that “in 1865, the victorious Union government concluded that no state has a right to secede in opposition to the wishes of the Union, so therefore you lack such a right” will have precisely the weight that the Americans of 2065 will choose to give it — which should be very little.

And beyond that, even if there is some precedent of some sort properly set by the Civil War (and I continue to disagree that there is), any such precedent can’t tell us much about consensual secession. The talk I occasionally hear of secession (again, talk that I think is not really serious) is not about departure in the face of military opposition — it’s about creating a political sentiment in some place in favor of seceding, and a political sentiment in the rest of the country in favor of allowing the secession. The results of a bloody civil war tell us nothing about the propriety of a Velvet Divorce.


But that’s not a “settlement” of the secession question for the centuries. And there can be and should be no such settlement. “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” So the present is different from the past, and the future from the present. Poetic allusions to a peace treaty resolving one particular conflict can’t tell us what is right to do in our country today.

However, Justice Scalia says that (Thanks to Oliver_C for the link):

... principally because I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court. To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, “one Nation, indivisible.”) Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.

(Emphasis is mine)

So it really depends on your interpretation of the law, I however, not being a US citizen or resident, tend to agree with prof. Volokh, because if in the future there will be a situation where a state or a territory will want Independence, and the rest of the USA will be willing to give it to them, then the secession will be preformed peacefully, if the USA will not be willing to grant it, then there probably be some sort of bloodshed.

  • @Chad, The first sentence at the "Texas in the American Civil War" article in Wikipedia: The U.S. state of Texas declared its secession from the United States on February 1, 1861, and joined the Confederate States of America on March 2, 1861
    – SIMEL
    Nov 14, 2012 at 15:14
  • That citation belongs in your answer then.
    – Chad
    Nov 14, 2012 at 15:17
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    But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit. I would like that for myself too ...
    – Stefan
    Nov 14, 2012 at 16:48
  • +1. Texas tried to secede and failed. So clearly it could not then and nothing has changed since then.
    – Henry
    Nov 14, 2012 at 19:20
  • The Pledge of Allegiance has no temporal correlation with the Civil War. Also its wording was changed several times. That's not to say that you shouldn't quote it, it was said by a judge after all. Mar 13, 2013 at 14:45

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