Article I, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution ("Freedom and Sovereignty of State")

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

Texas is a free and independent State, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, and the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government, unimpaired to all the States.

Editor Comments

The relationship between Texas and the United States of America is governed by the federal constitution and the decisions of the United States Supreme Court interpreting that document. See, e.g., Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700, 724 (1869) ("It is needless to discuss, at length, the question whether the right of a State to withdraw from the Union for any cause, regarded by herself as sufficient, is consistent with the Constitution of the United States.").

As a practical matter, this section, which addresses states' rights, functions as a political statement rather than an enforceable rule of law. Cf. Daniel v. Hutcheson, 22 S.W. 933, 934 (Tex. 1893) ("The Civil War, in fact, ended in May, 1865, if by 'war' be meant . . . but at its close military possession was taken, and a provisional governor was appointed by the president of the United States, by whom state, district, and county officers were appointed.").

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • Texas Mutual Insurance Co. v. PHI Air Medical, LLC, 610 S.W.3d 839, 855 (Tex. 2020) ("If the Federal Government does not like state regulation of a subject that also falls within Congress's enumerated powers . . . . But nowhere in the Constitution did the States give the Federal Government the power to order them to change their own laws, as the Tenth Amendment confirms. See U.S. Const. amend. X ('The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.').")
  • King Street Patriots v. Texas Democratic Party, 521 S.W.3d 729, 742-43 (Tex. 2017) (footnotes omitted) ("Only the Supreme Court has the 'prerogative . . . to overrule one of its precedents.' Thus even if Beaumont's rationale is in doubt, we are bound to follow it unless and until the Supreme Court overrules it. Our unanimous acknowledgment that Beaumont is binding Supreme Court precedent terminates our inquiry. As the Supreme Court has admonished, any further examination is 'wrong,' even querying whether subsequent authority impugns its continued vitality.")

Historic Decisions

  • Eichelberger v. Eichelberger, 582 S.W.2d 395, 397 (Tex. 1979) (citations omitted) ("Article VI, Clause 2, of the Constitution of the United States, known as the Supremacy Clause, provides: '. . . .' Article I, Section 1, of the Constitution of Texas, expressly acknowledges that the State of Texas is subject to the Constitution of the United States. This court must recognize and follow the supreme law of the land. In Emmons we said that this court was controlled in the construction of federal laws by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.")
  • Brown v. City of Galveston, 75 S.W. 488, 495 (Tex. 1903) ("The doctrine contended for is antagonistic to the fundamental principles of our state government, as we understand them. In article 1 of the Constitution of this state it is declared that 'maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depends upon the preservation of the right of local self-government unimpaired to all of the states.' It will be observed that the declaration of the right of local self-government has reference to the people of the state, and not to the people of any portion of it.")
  • Peck v. City of San Antonio, 51 Tex. 490, 493 (1879) ("Although we entertain the very greatest respect for the opinions of [the United States Supreme Court], yet we feel it our duty, upon a question which involves the proper construction of a local statute under the Constitution of Texas, to follow the latest decisions of this court; and particularly when, as in this case, the direct point involved has received our deliberate consideration upon a reexamination of the question. . . . [W]e again reaffirm the unconstitutionality of the section of the act under consideration.")
  • Lee v. King, 21 Tex. 577, 582 (1858) ("We . . . maintain them in Cocke v. Calkin & Co., 1 Tex. 542, but the record of that cause having been taken to the supreme court of the United States, that tribunal decided, that by the acts admitting Texas into the Union, extending over it the laws of the United States, etc., on the 29th December, 1845, the old system of government so far as it conflicted with the federal authority was abrogated, and in substance that the constitution and laws of the United States were in force in Texas immediately upon her admission as a state.")

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