The Right Coast

August 22, 2004
Does Size Matter?
By Gail Heriot

Nothing would give me greater joy than to allow Texas to divide itself into five states, thus enabling it to send 10 (mostly conservative) senators to Washington instead of two. I love Texas. I love Texas so much I want to spread the love around.

Such is the tongue-in-cheek (well ... maybe not so tongue-in-cheek) recommendation of Vasan Kesavan and Michael Paulsen in today's OpinionJournal. They point out that Congress already gave its permission for such a move back in 1845 in the Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas passed by Congress and signed into law by President John Tyler. All that remains is for the Texas legislature and governor to follow through. The citizens of Texas have been under-represented in the Senate long enough; it's time to correct the problem.

Alas, the Texans I know are unlikely to go for it. They like the Big Texas symbolism, and nothing is likely to change their minds. Maybe it's all for the best. The process of naming the five new states would be a difficult one. Most Texans are proud to call themselves Texans, so things might get a little ugly in deciding which state had the right to retain the name. They can't imitate the Antilles with Greater Texas, Lesser Texas, etc., since that's just not in the Texas spirit. My guess is they would end up with the bland N. Texas, E.Texas. W.Texas, S. Texas and Austin (that being the only part of Texas where you would find many people who don't want to be called Texan). But I'm sure that better names can be devised.

I'm not from Texas; I'm from California, so I won't get myself involved. But as long as we're on the subject of carving up states, I feel duty bound as a former Virginian to point out the controversy over the legality of West Virginia. As Kesavan and Paulsen show, the Constitution does not allow a state to be made out of an already-existing state without the permission of both the already-existing state and Congress.

West Virginia got the latter, but did it get the former? Here's the story: In 1862, Virginia was in rebellion. But pro-union sentiment in the mountainous western part of the state was strong. A rump session of the Virginia legislature consisting only of westerners met in the west and claimed to be the "true" Virginia legislature, loyal to the union. This group authorized the creation of West Virginia. The same group, calling themselves the West Virginia legislature, then turned around and petitioned for admission to the Union. It was all highly irregular, but, times being what they were, their petition was accepted.

As far as I know, Virginia never challenged this. Maybe Virginians thought they were better off. But it's interesting to think about which politicians might never have been ....