New States of Convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution… —From the Joint Congressional Resolution providing for admission of Texas to the Union, 1845.
Bob Gammage, the freshman state senator from Houston’s south side, sips coffee at his desk in the Bellfort Legal Center and thinks that one over. “The strongest argument in favor of it in my mind,” he says, “is that it would give us a great deal more clout on the national scene. We would automatically increase from two to ten U.S. senators.”
Gammage and his friend Dan Kubiak, a state representative from Rockdale, may introduce a resolution to carve up the state when the legislature meets this month. People have been talking about that for better than a century but obviously nobody has gotten around to making much headway. Gammage and Kubiak lofted a trial balloon during the constitutional convention last summer. Now, the first thing anybody asks when you propose to divide the state is, “which way are you going to divide it?” So Kubiak and Gammage, who are less interested in drawing lines than in kicking the idea around, had to come up with a Plan.
One of their states was called North Texas; it extended from the Dallas-Fort Worth area all the way to the New Mexico border. A Lubbock newspaper immediately opined that being in the same state with Dallas had been bad enough when there was only one state to be in; keeping the two together after a division would add insult to injury. That is the problem with offering your Plan; everybody starts finding things wrong with it and wants to talk about their Plan instead.
That, in a nutshell, has been the problem all along, ever since Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845 under the widespread expectation at home and in Congress that division, as it came to be called, was only a matter of time. If a random Rip Van Winkle among the Texas leaders who approved that Joint Congressional Resolution should suddenly awaken in Austin today, he would be astonished that only one state with one capital existed. Throughout the lifetime of anyone who remembered the War for Texas Independence, division—some time, some way—was simply taken for granted.
Between the 1840s and the 1920s, not a single decade passed without some halfway serious effort in that direction. More than once, division missed by no more than a hairbreadth.
Isaac Van Zandt, a popular Democrat, ran for governor in 1847 on a platform calling for immediate division into four states. He seemed headed for victory, but he died. So did his division plan.
Conflict between East and West Texas simmered throughout the 1850s. The 1852 House considered—and finally defeated, 33-15—Representative Peter Flanagan’s resolution to split the state along the Brazos River.
Flanagan was back again in the constitutional convention of 1866 with another resolution to segregate 38 counties east of the Trinity River into the “State of East Texas.” This time he got no farther than a favorable committee vote, but the Radical Republicans were listening; when they got rid of the Confederate-tainted leaders and began Reconstruction in earnest, division was at the top of their agenda.
Tantalized by the knowledge that five separate states would mean five times as many