Let’s Put Today’s Texas Secession Talk Into Historical Context, Shall We?

The White House says it will review the petition that seeks permission for Texas to break away from the United States. More than 70,000 people — and counting — have added their names to the petition on the White House's website. This latest call for secession is a bit of history repeating itself.


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Jim Paulson is a professor at South Texas College of Law.  He says one could draw parallels between today’s secessionist attitudes and the mood after President Lincoln’s election in 1860.

“And Texas took that as a signal that the United States had broken the deal that Texas had when it joined the Union.  Of course, then, we were complaining about attempts by the federal government to mess with the Texas institution of slavery.”

Paulson says the Civil War settled both the issue of slavery and whether it’s legal for states to secede — it’s not.  Paulson says what’s fueling secession talk this time around is the frustration people feel over Congress’ inability to balance the budget.

“In a way, that’s ironic. Because one reason that Texas joined the union is that we were dead broke.  The government of Texas was basically insolvent, and never had been on a good financial basis up until the point we joined the United States.”

The only way Texas could secede is if it essentially seceded from itself — to be broken up in to as many as five smaller states, each of them still part of the U.S.  Paulson says he’s glad that Governor Perry’s reaction to the petition makes it clear that the governor now understands it is not legally possible for Texas to break away.

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David Pitman

David Pitman


David was HPM’s local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 -- when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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