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one 1851 map of the united States mirrors Texas and the new Mexico, Utah and also Indian Territories. Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, university of Texas

Before john Nance Garner came to be Franklin Roosevelt’s angry president, and also before he claimed the project “isn’t worth a pitcher of warmth spit,” the cow-punching, whiskey-drinking, poker-dealing Texas congressman propelled a arrangement to take even much more clout because that his already enormous state. Across his career, together a turn-of-the century Texas state legislator and in interviews given throughout his time in Congress and on the occasion of his 1932 ascension to speaker of the House, “Cactus Jack” suggested that Texas could, and should, split itself into five states.

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“An area twice as big and rapidly coming to be as populous as brand-new England should have at the very least ten Senators,” Garner called The brand-new York Times in April 1921, “and the only way we can acquire them is come make 5 States, not five tiny States, psychic you, yet five an excellent States.” many thanks to the terms of Texas’ 1845 join to the Union, the argued, the state could separation anytime, without any activity from Congress—a strength no other state has.

Garner’s idea go nowhere. But the congressman native Uvalde, in the Hill country west of san Antonio, was carrying on a long West Texas tradition of do the efforts to turn the Lone Star State right into a constellation. Separating Texas into many small Texases to be seriously taken into consideration at the time Texas became a state and for decades afterward. The idea survives this particular day as a quirk in American law, a remnant the Texas’ brief background as an elevation nation. It’s also a peculiar part of Texas’ identity as a state so big, it could break-up itself up—even despite it loves its own bigness too much to carry out it.

“We’re the just state that can divide ourselves without anybody’s permission,” says Donald W. Whisenhunt, a Texas native and also author the the 1987 publication The 5 States that Texas: an Immodest Proposal. “That’s just the way it is.”

Article IV, section 3, of the U.S. Constitution says that conference must grant any new states. However Texas’ case to an exemption comes right from the 1845 share congressional resolution admitting Texas right into the Union. That reads: “New says of convenient dimension not exceeding 4 in number, in addition to stated State of Texas and having sufficient population, may, hereafter by the consent of claimed State, be created out that the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions that the federal Constitution.” pendant of Texas division say this way that congress pre-approved a breakup.

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This map reflects the borders of the united States, and also Texas, in 1839 Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, college of Texas

Slavery, and also the tense strength balance in between North and also South in the 1840s, describes the clause. When Texas join the United states after nine years together an live independence republic, the claimed even more territory than the 268,580 square miles it covers today. It laid claim to half of present-day brand-new Mexico and a monster stovepipe that land, created in component by the Rio Grande and Arkansas rivers, that got to north to those now central Colorado and bits that Oklahoma, Kansas and even Wyoming. That north tip poked over the 1820 Missouri deteriorate line, which did not permit slavery north of latitude 36 degrees, 30 minutes.

How would such a gigantic piece of the West be divided? In early on 1845, as soon as Congress disputed Texas’ admission, northern congressmen want to divide Texas in half, dividing the state in half diagonally, from the shore east of corpus Christi as much as the state’s northwest corner, v Austin just to the east and also San Antonio come the west. Enslavement would be prohibited in thinly inhabited West Texas, where numerous anti-slavery Germans had currently settled.

But Southerners rejected the proposal as also restrictive that slavery. Instead, Isaac valve Zandt, the Texas republic’s top diplomat in Washington, moved the four-new-states i as a Southern-friendly alternative. “Van Zandt…became really intimate through the Senators and Representatives native the southern states,” composed Weston Joseph McConnell in the 1925 book Social Cleavages in Texas. Van Zandt, choose the Southerners, thought dividing Texas right into a group of claims would give the South an ext power. Texas’ admission to the Union, through the new-states i included, passed conference 120-98. The only concession to the North: enslavement would it is in prohibited in any type of states formed north of the Missouri deteriorate line. 

In 1847, Van Zandt ran for branch of Texas, promise to divide it into as many as 4 states. Separating the state would give Texas more power in Washington, van Zandt argued. He also thought the Texas, with its small settlements thousands of miles apart, couldn’t be administer efficiently. (Making himself governor of a smaller sized state didn’t seem to stroked nerves Van Zandt, evidently.) Texas historians tend to think valve Zandt would certainly likely have won and split increase the state, if the hadn’t passed away of yellow heat a month prior to the election.

When congress redrew Texas’ northern and also western boundaries as part of the compromise of 1850, payment Texas $10 million for what became eastern new Mexico and also pieces of 4 other states, the statute included a line that kept the new-states clause. Yet a proposal to break-up Texas right into two claims at the Brazos river failed in the state legislature, 33-15, in 1852. Many of its supporters came from east of the Brazos, an additional example the the extensive grievances between east and also west Texas. Every accused the various other of incompetence and neglect. But that quarrel shed out to Texans’ pride in their mutual history. “Which State would yield the emblem the a solitary star?” request the Texas State Gazette. “Who will give up the blood-stained wall surfaces of the Alamo?”

Texas again came close to breaking up throughout Reconstruction. Radical Republicans, chosen at a time when most former Confederates can not vote, tried come carve up Texas at its constitutional convention that 1868-1869. Their stated aim to be to develop a Union-friendly West Texas that might rejoin the U.S. Previously than the rest of the state; critics argued they were yes, really trying come create more state workplaces for themselves. Pro-division delegates to be a majority at the convention, but they can not agree on a map—a recurring hurdle for Texas divisionism in the beforehand years. “It’s difficult to acquire Texans, cantankerous as they are, come agree ~ above a plan,” Whisenhunt says.

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This 1842 map shows the borders of the Republic that Texas at the time. Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, college of Texas

Stymied Radical Republicans composed a “Constitution of the State that West Texas,” which promised civil rights for blacks if proposing to deny the poll to ex-rebels, Ku Klux Klan members, and also newspaper editors and ministers who’d sustained the Confederacy. (That provocative and potentially unconstitutional idea reflected reconstruction debates around restoring ex-Confederates’ rights and also citizenship.) but public opinion stood in the contrary to their plan. Pro-division meetings attracted couple of people. Virtually every newspaper in the state rubbish the idea. Part mocked the idea of producing a state in sparsely occupied West Texas through suggesting alternate names: “The State of Prickley-Pear (Cactaea),” or “The State that Coyote.”

Thwarted, the radicals appealed to Ulysses S. Grant, president-elect and also commanding basic of the Army, come intercede. He didn’t. “One Texas was amply adequate to have on hand for the present,” give told a reporter.

Texas never ever came close to dividing after that, though West Texas’ coyotes howled about leaving once they feel neglected. They intimidated to rest up the state in April 1921 after branch Pat M. Neff vetoed a invoice to construct a university in West Texas. The very same day as the veto, 5,000 upset West Texans met in the town of Sweetwater and drafted resolutions calling for a breakup uneven the legislative redistricted the state and built the college. Their danger may have actually inspired Garner’s division talk with The brand-new York Times later the month.

“For the following three years west Texans presume a militant perspective both in and out the the legislature,” wrote Ernest Wallace in his 1979 book The Howling the the Coyotes. The legislature established Texas technical College, currently Texas technology University, in Lubbock in 1923. “This token appeasement quieted the division sentiment,” Wallace wrote.

In 1930, Garner carried up department again, out of anger in ~ Congress because that passing the Smoot-Hawley tariff. “Texas would make 220 says the dimension of Rhode Island, 54 the dimension of Connecticut, 6 the dimension of brand-new York,” argued Garner, still hope a split Texas can outvote the Yankees.

Garner was the last influential politician to assistance Texas division, yet the idea still lives on together a what-if in politics junkies’ obsessive blue-red map-gaming. In 2009, Nate silver- of FiveThirtyEight drew increase a fantasy five-way separation that created three Republican mini-Texases, a blue state along the Rio Grande, and also a waver state around Austin. “Let’s Mess through Texas,” a 2004 Texas law Review paper, said that wily Texas Republicans might use the 1845 new-states clause to gerrymander their way to eight much more U.S. Senate seats and also Electoral college votes. A response from Ralph H. Brock, a previous State Bar that Texas director, suggested that the new-states clause would violate the can be fried Court’s equal-footing doctrine.

The idea the Texas can divide and grab eight an ext Senate seat appeals to Texans’ self-image together a unique, sprawling, an effective state. But that very same sense of self will stop Texans from ever before actually make the efforts it.

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“It’s a novel idea the they might like at an initial glance,” Whisenhunt says. Yet 30 years after he composed his book encouraging Texas division, he is now encouraged it’s basically impossible. Just how to division Texas’ oil wealth, which funds its significant state universities? Besides, Whisenhunt, 78, recalls the wound to the Texas psyche when Alaska displaced it as the biggest state in 1959. “There’s a strong amount of proud in gift the biggest, the best, and the first,” he says.