Why some Texans claim the state never joined the Union

A handful of Texans believes that Texas never joined the United States of America and treat their state as a sovereign country. Do their claims have any legal grounds? 

Earl Nottingham/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department/AP/File
Texas Rangers escort a strongbox containing an original handwritten Texas Declaration of Independence and other historically significant Republic of Texas documents to the Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, Feb. 28, 2006, in Washington, Texas. Members of the Republic of Texas, a group who does not believe Texas ever legally joined the United States, have caused a stir by sending various legal declarations to state officials. This came to a head on Valentine's Day of this year when law enforcement raided a meeting the group was holding.

This past Valentine's Day, a legal hearing for the Republic of Texas at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall was interrupted by state, local, and federal officials who raided the meeting and detained some of the group's members. 

The meeting had just been called to session, and the wives of the group's members had just received roses from their husbands, the New York Times reported. Though no one was arrested, authorities seized cell phones and briefcases from some members, according to the report.

Many at the meeting were representatives of the Republic of Texas, a group that believes the state never officially joined the United States, according to the Republic's website. The Times reported members carry identification badges and declare to Texas law enforcement officers that they are diplomatic representatives of the nation of Texas, in addition to minting their own gold and silver coins. The monthly meetings are considered to be joint-sessions of Congress, despite the fact that half of the Senate seats are unfilled, and most of the seats in the House of Representative are vacant.

The group's members have grown notorious for hassling public officials with threats of legal action over a variety perceived grievances, according to the New York Times. These grievances often times include "subpoenas" to the Republic's common law court where the Supreme Justice doubles as a chiropractor in Houston suburb. 

Prior to the Valentine's Day raid, authorities were looking into a series of letters sent to a judge in Kerrville, Texas. The judge was starting foreclosure proceedings on one of the Republic's members, and the group sent multiple letters asking the judge to provide, “proof of his authority for executing his claimed powers involving a foreign entity,” according to the New York Times. The letters may have been in violation of a law that prohibits the distribution of letters that mimic official summons or government documents, according the report.

“They’re a harmless, clueless and interesting group of generally nice older guys with too much time on their hands,” Jerry Patterson, a former Texas land commissioner, who had received letters from the Republic calling on him to vacate the office, told the New York Times. “Certainly law enforcement has something else to do. They have never tried to enforce their demands beyond writing amusing letters.”

Members claim that they have a legitimate claim to govern the Republic. Some members are involved with the Texas Secessionist movement, according to the New York Times. 

Is there any legal backing to this group's claims that Texas maintained her independence all along? The short answer is an unequivocal 'no,' Texas has no more of a right to leave the union than the other 49 states, according to FiveThirtyEight. 

However, there is a condition of Texas' 1849 admittance to the union that could have far-reaching effects for the future of the entire country. According to the state's 1845 annexation agreement, Texas may be allowed for to divide into as many as five states without the approval of Congress. 

Over the decades a handful of politicians had come along and tried to change the state's borders dramatically. In the 1930s, before becoming FDR's vice president, House Minority Leader John Nance Garner put forth a plan to split Texas into five states that would shift the balance of power from the northern states to the southern ones, according to Slate. Since Texas was a bastion of the Democratic party in those days, Garner was licking his chops at the opportunity to seat eight new Democrat Senators, but this proposal went nowhere. 

In more contemporary times, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, boasted on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" in 2009, that then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry was accurate in his assessment that Texas had a built-in right to secede. After Matthews pointed out to Delay that Texas did not in fact possess the right to up and leave the union, Delay referenced to the division clause.

As of today, administrators for the Republic of Texas will not be invited back to hold proceedings at the VFW hall. The Republic will now be forced to carry official sessions at Ace Buffet and Grill in Waco, Texas, according the Republic's website. 

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