You are currently viewing Texas v. White, 1 Wallace (74 U.S.) 700; 19 L. Ed. 227; 1868 U.S. LEXIS 1056 (1869)

Texas v. White, 1 Wallace (74 U.S.) 700; 19 L. Ed. 227; 1868 U.S. LEXIS 1056 (1869)

Texas v. White, 1 Wallace (74 U.S.) 700; 19 L. Ed. 227; 1868 U.S. LEXIS 1056 (1869)

Facts—Texas received certain interest-bearing bonds from the United States in 1850 for settlement of boundary claims. The Confederate government of Texas subsequently sold some of these bonds to White and others during the Civil War. The Reconstruction government of Texas then sought to restrain those bondholders from receiving payment from the national government and was asking for the bonds to be surrendered back to the state. Since this dispute involved a suit initiated by a state against citizens of another state, it appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court as a case of original jurisdiction.


(a) Is Texas still a state capable of pursuing a suit in a federal court?

(b) If so, did Texas divest itself of its bonds when it attempted to transfer them to White and others in exchange for certain supplies?


(a) Yes;

(b) No.

ReasonsC.J. Chase (5–3). The term “state” describes political and geographical entities. It can refer to “people, territory, and government.” Texas became a state in 1845, although it subsequently participated in the Civil War, after which the president appointed a provisional governor, who Congress subsequently replaced with another. The Union of States was designed to be “perpetual.” Moreover, “the preservation of the States, and the maintenance of their governments, are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the National government. The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States.” Texas’s attempt to secede was therefore null, although the state’s rights were suspended during its rebellion, after which the president and Congress had the power to reconstruct it. Those representing this new government represent the state. When Texas attempted to sell its bonds, it was in rebellion and was seeking to further this rebellion. The rebel authorities therefore had no power to divest the state of the bonds. Although the U.S. government apparently redeemed some bonds, it made it clear during the Civil War that it did not regard Texas’s transaction as legal, and subsequent purchasers knew about this ambiguity and took the corresponding risks.

J. Grier argued in dissent that although Texas remained a state as “a legal fiction,” it ceased to be so “as a political fact.” Even if so considered, however, Texas had no right to repudiate its former contracts. In attempting to do so, Texas is claiming that, although it is now a state, it was not one when it entered into the contract, thus assuming the role of a chameleon, assuming “the color of the object to which she adheres.” J. Swayne also denied Texas’s right to bring suit in this case.

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