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High court rules that Texas can sue in federal courts despite secession

April
15
1869

On this day in 1869, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. White that the state still had the right to sue in the federal courts despite having seceded in 1861. In a suit originally filed by the state in 1867, George Paschal argued on behalf of the state for an injunction preventing defendants George W. White, John Chiles, and others from tranferring bonds they received from the secession-era Texas State Military Board for supplying the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The most historically significant question involved was whether or not Texas, having seceded and not having completed Reconstruction, had status in the Union and therefore the right to sue in the United States Supreme Court. Paschal argued that the Union was indestructible and that the state's status in the Union therefore had been unchanged by the war. The defense argued that Texas, by seceding from the Union and later waging a war against the United States, had lost the status of a state in the Union and therefore had no right to sue in the United States Supreme Court. In its five-to-three decision, read by Chief Justice S. P. Chase, the court held the Union to be indestructible and thus not dissoluble by any act of a state, the government, or the people. The court thus repudiated the doctrine of state sovereignty.

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