Texas is a state that evokes a unique image in the minds of Americans. Whether it’s the Wild West of cowboys and cattle drives, the state’s independent spirit, or the iconic cuisine and culture, Texas has a distinct identity. This identity is further shaped by the fact that Texas is the only state in the United States that is a commonwealth–but why? Understanding the politics and history behind Texas’ unique status can help to explain why it continues to stand out as a one-of-a-kind state.
Is Texas A Commonwealth State?
No, Texas is a state. A commonwealth is a type of political entity. There are three types of political entities in the world: states, commonwealths, and federal unions.
History Of Texas’ Commonwealth Status
1. Texas Declaration of Independence
Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836. The declaration was a result of growing tension over political, cultural and economic differences between the northern Mexican states and the southern Mexican states. This tension eventually led to the Texas Revolution, which lasted from 1835 to 1836. After defeating the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto, Texas won its independence and established itself as an independent nation.
2. Republic of Texas
After declaring independence from Mexico, Texas became its own republic in 1836. It was a sovereign nation that operated independently of Mexico with its own government and constitution until it joined the United States as a state in 1845.
3. The United States Annexation of Texas
Texas joined the United States in 1845 as a state, but it wasn’t until 1846 that it officially became a state. This is because the annexation of Texas by the United States had to be approved by both the U.S. Congress and the Republic of Texas’ government before it was finalized. The issue of annexation had been debated in the Republic of Texas for several years before it was finally approved in 1845. After approval, Texas officially joined the Union on December 29, 1845, becoming our 28th state.
4. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
After joining the United States as a state, Texas still had to deal with its relationship with Mexico and its border disputes with neighboring states like Oklahoma and New Mexico. In order to resolve these issues and solidify its borders as a state, officials from Texas, Mexico, and the United States signed an agreement called The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The treaty ended the Mexican-American War and gave additional land to the United States. This additional land included parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
5. The Constitution of 1876
In 1876 the Texas legislature drafted a new constitution to replace the one created in 1845 when Texas joined the Union as a state. This new constitution established Texas as a commonwealth in addition to being a state. In this way, Texas is considered both a state and a commonwealth of the United States at the same time.
6. The Texas State Flag
The flag of Texas is the only state flag in the United States to contain an image of the state’s seal. The flag has three main sections: one white, one red, and one blue. In the center of these sections is a lone star with a blue background that contains a cactus and olive branch. A ribbon encircling the star says “Texas One and Indivisible” in white letters. This design was adopted in 1839 by the Republic of Texas and has been used ever since as the official state flag.
7. The Texas State Seal
The seal of Texas is used on official documents from the state government, such as court documents, licenses, birth certificates, and diplomas. The first seal was adopted by the Republic of Texas government in 1841 and contained an image of Liberty that represented freedom from Mexico’s rule and a bald eagle representing strength and courage for defeating Mexico in battle at San Jacinto. These symbols were in the center of an oval shape with a red background and white stars that represented Texas’ status as a republic. This seal was updated in 1845 when Texas became a state and added the words “The Republic of Texas” around the image of Liberty to represent its new status as a state. It also included the date 1845 on the bottom of the seal to represent when it became a state.
Benefits Of Being A Commonwealth State
1. The right to initiate constitutional amendments
In addition to the powers given to state governments by the U.S. Constitution, the states are also allowed to create their own laws and rules. This is called “home rule” and allows state governments to create laws that best suit their citizens. However, if states want to change a U.S. Constitutional law they must petition Congress for an amendment that would allow them to do so. In this way, Commonwealth States have more say in how they govern themselves than non-commonwealth states because they can petition for amendments on their own instead of having to ask Congress for permission first.
2. The right to make treaties with other countries
The U.S. Constitution does not give the states the power to make treaties with foreign nations, but the power to do so is given to Commonwealth States by their constitutions rather than by the U.S. Constitution. This allows Commonwealth States more influence in international relations and places them on an equal footing with other nations.
3. The right to regulate elections
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress power over federal elections and leaves regulation of state elections up to the states themselves, but Commonwealth States have more control over their election processes than non-commonwealth states because they have greater freedom in making laws that regulate these processes and can also decide how they are carried out within their own borders.
4. Representation in Congress
In the United States, a state is represented in the House of Representatives by its own members. These members are elected to represent the interests of people who live in that state. Each state gets at least one representative and it can have as many as it wants, depending on how many people live there. Texas has 36 representatives and two senators who represent its interests in the United States Senate.
5. The Electoral College
The Electoral College is an institution in the United States that was created by the original 13 states of the Union to elect a president for their country. The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors from across the country who vote for president every four years. The candidate that receives a majority of these votes becomes president, while any candidates who receive more than 50 percent but less than 270 votes become vice-presidential candidates with whoever received more votes becoming vice-president. Each state gets as many electors as they have representatives and senators combined, so Texas has 38 electors. The number of electors in each state is based on the population of that state, so Texas gets more electors than a smaller state like Delaware. This system was created so that the smaller states could have more say than the larger states in electing a president through the Electoral College.
Drawbacks Of Being A Commonwealth State
1. The limitations of the federal government
The United States Constitution is a contract between the states that makes them all equal. These states can make any laws they want, but they have to be approved by Congress. This means that a law passed by a Commonwealth State has to be approved not only by its state legislature, but also by Congress. This means that the U.S. Constitution gives more power to Congress than it does to states and can make it harder for Commonwealth States to pass laws that they want because of this restriction.
2. The federal government’s control over trade with other countries
The United States has many trade agreements with other countries like Canada and Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA allows goods and services to be traded across borders without being taxed and lets people travel freely between these three countries without visas or passports and work in any of them if they want to. In order for a country to become part of NAFTA, it has to meet certain standards, like making sure that its workers are paid a decent wage. When the U.S. government signs these trade agreements with other countries, it forces Commonwealth States to meet these standards in order to be part of the agreement. This means that Commonwealth States have to raise their standards for workers and for how much companies can pollute the air and water if they want to be part of NAFTA.
3. The federal government’s control over education
Commonwealth States can make their own laws about how schools are run within their state borders, but the U.S. federal government has control over how schools are run in every state in the country through its power to regulate interstate commerce and through the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in “Brown v Board of Education”. The Supreme Court decided that separate but equal was unconstitutional, so any school not serving children of all races had to admit children of all races or be closed down by the federal government because it was against the law for schools to be separate but equal. This meant that the Commonwealth States had to change their laws to allow children of all races to go to the same schools.
Texas is a state that evokes a unique image in the minds of Americans. Whether it’s the Wild West of cowboys and cattle drives, the state’s independent spirit, or the iconic cuisine and culture, Texas has a distinct identity.