Texas v. White

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: August 4, 2020

Texas v. White, a suit of the state of Texas against George W. White, John Chiles, and others, was filed in the United States Supreme Court on February 15, 1867, during the administration of James W. Throckmorton, ad interim Reconstruction governor of Texas, and sought an injunction to restrain the defendants from using Texas Indemnity Bonds paid to them by Texas after secession for supplies for the Confederate States of America and to obtain the restoration of fifty-one of the bonds. The case was argued by George W. Paschal and R. T. Merrick for the state and Philip Philips, Albert Pike, J. W. Carlisle, and J. W. Moore for the defense. 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. The specific legal questions concerned the authority of Paschal, as financial agent of Texas, to represent the Texas government; the validity and enforceability of the contract made by Texas acting as a member of the Confederate States; the right of injunction in the case; and technical questions relating to the transfer of the bonds. The case was argued on all counts, but both the attorneys and the court recognized that the main issue was the status of Texas. This question had a bearing not only on the case in point but involved the legality of all Reconstruction government in the South. Paschal argued that the Union was indestructible and that Texas'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. The court had the opportunity to hand down a ruling on the validity of all acts of the governments of the seceded states, but it limited its decision to the specific issues involved. The five to three decision, read on April 15, 1869, by Chief Justice S. P. Chase, held the Union to be indestructible and, thus, not dissoluble by any act of a state, the government, or the people. The court, therefore, repudiated the doctrine of state sovereignty, but it clearly supported the federal in contradistinction to a consolidated system of government, for the decision continues: "But the perpetuity and indissolubility of the Union, by no means, implies the loss of distinct and individual existence or of the right of self-government by the states." On the remaining points the court recognized Paschal's authority to represent the government of Texas, ruled that the contract between White and Chiles and the Texas State Military Board was unlawful since it furthered the Confederate cause, and held that since White and Chiles were unlawful holders, they could not transfer the bonds. As a result of the decision the proceeds from the transferred bonds were turned over to Paschal as the Texas representative. He claimed all of the proceeds he collected, $47,325, plus $17,577 as his legal fee. Governor E. J. Davis refused the claim and dismissed Paschal as financial agent. Paschal then sued and won his case and was allowed to retain all bonds and moneys as his fee.

Walter T. Chapin, Presidential Reconstruction in Texas, 1865–1867 (M.A. thesis, North Texas State University, 1979). William Whatley Pierson, Jr., "Texas v. White," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 18, 19 (April, July 1915). Jane Lynn Scarborough, George W. Paschal: Texas Unionist and Scalawag Jurisprudent (Ph.D. dissertation, Rice University, 1972). John L. Waller, Colossal Hamilton of Texas (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1968).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Court Cases and Controversies
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Texas v. White,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-v-white.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 4, 2020