What would need to happen for a state such as California or Texas to split off and form its own independent nation? Who would need to agree and what would need passing (bills etc.)?

  • 9
    Another War, perhaps? Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 17:39
  • 2
    A (really) large army might help, but how would they deal with the 10 Aircraft Carriers US has? In other words, nothing can help. A country that dares to send their army all the way to afghan surely won't let a state go so easily. Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 5:57
  • The US armed forces, with the exception of the Coast Guard, are forbidden by law to conduct military operations within US borders, save a foreign invasion. No general would order their troops to take action against citizens, and no soldier would follow such an order. There is the national guard, state by state, that can be used as a militia under certain circumstances (like patrolling New Orleans after Katrina). As partisan as things are today, they aren't nearly as divisive as the late 60's, and we survived that. We will get past this, despite panicky news stories about leaving the union.
    – tj1000
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 20:22
  • @tj1000 While your reference of the Possi Comitatus act is sound, please consider the Stafford Act and its impacts on actions related to Defense in Support of Civilian Authorities. Also look into Military Assistance for Civilian Disturbance. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 22:15
  • @tj1000: If a state declares independence, it would then be outside US borders (at least by its own definition). This of course gives rise to an interesting Catch-22: The US would have to recognize the new border in order to be able to send the army in, but then it would be an invasion.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 8:27

3 Answers 3


There is no official mechanism for doing so. As there is no mechanism, President Abraham Lincoln justified his actions in attacking the Confederacy because they were still a part of a single country.

There are occasionally claims that Texas can secede, because it was an independent state before joining the United States, but as this article states, there is no such provision. But in general, there isn't a consensus on the issue.

  • 1
    So there is nothing preventing the state to secede but there is nothing allowing it either?
    – UKB
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 23:57
  • 4
    The supreme court may resolve this issue. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 0:04
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    @AlbertoBonsanto - Typically, a large mass of armies were used to resolve the issue.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 5:33
  • 1
    Interesting discussion on this matter history.stackexchange.com/questions/2056/…
    – Ryan E
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 3:55
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    The Supreme Court ruled, shortly after the civil war, that states did not have the right to secede.
    – Publius
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 20:52

The question of secession was resolved as a practical matter by the American Civil War, and as a matter of law by the Supreme Court decision Texas v. White, in which it was ruled that states cannot unilaterally secede from the Union and did not do so during the Civil War.

The court did leave open the possibility of secession "through consent of the States", which presumably means it would have to be approved by Congress. This is extremely unlikely to ever happen.

  • Yes, Salmon P Chase was anything but ambiguous, "... except through revolution or through consent of the States." It's unlikely that we'd ever see a peaceful succession of a state from the union.
    – Tim Post
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 10:44
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    And obviously a constitutional amendment authorizing a secession would work. Commented Dec 22, 2012 at 5:50
  • Consent of the states doesn't mean Congress. More likely it means the same process that States approve a Constitutional amendment or more unlikely a State brokered Constitutional Convention
    – user9790
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 12:50

PearsonArtPhoto is wrong. All States can secede from the United States. You have to understand that the we Americans use the word "State" incorrectly. Just look into the name: "United States of America.

The name is based off of the 13 colonies coming together under a unified flag. A State in it's proper context is a nation. Germany, France, China, etc are all States. To get a better understanding of what the United States really is, look at the European Union and how they decided to make one currency. The European Union is just a hybrid in structure of the United States. They fall under one flag, but are broken up into individual countries. This is the same as the US. The US is nothing more than a collection of smaller sovereign governments. That is why each has their own State Constitution and also why laws in one State can contradict laws in another State, State budgets, etc just like any other country under the European Union. One countries laws are always the same as the next.

So to answer your question, there are already 50 different countries. But to secede, the people of that State have a very short window to get the proper signatures collected to present to the President. But as we have seen after Obama's second election, Texas did get the proper amount of signatures compiled and sent to the President, but the President ignored it anyway.

So yes, a State can secede, but the real question is "Will the President adhere to it?"

The biggest hurdle / problem is that citizens don't recognize that whatever State they live in, it's really a country of it's own. When the people realize their State of residence is really just a country with it's own flag under a bigger umbrella, then they will have the numbers (and power by means of force) to secede whether peacefully or violently.

  • 1
    "A State in it's proper context is a nation." = uh, that's a proper context. Just as it is in the context of the USA. Word definitions vary by context.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 18:01
  • Also, the signature collection, as far as I know, is not based on any formal secession policy or procedure. It was merely a way to solicit a response from the administration based on the web site this administration set up for the purpose of soliciting responses from the administration. Just because I might be able to get enough signatures to propose we fly a Panda to the Moon, in no way requires the president to take my suggestion seriously.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 18:04

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