Arguments::Texas v. White


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Arguments Twelve attorneys represented Texas and the various defendants in the case. Arguments before the Supreme Court were made over three days on February 5, 8, and 9, 1869.

State of Texas, Plaintiff

The complaint filed by Texas claimed ownership of the bonds and requested that the defendants turn the bonds over to the state. Texas' attorneys disputed the legitimacy of the Confederate state legislature which had allowed the bonds to be sold. In response to an issue raised by the defendants, Texas differentiated between those acts of the legislature necessary "to preserve the social community from anarchy and to maintain order" (such as marriages and routine criminal and civil matters) and those 'designed to promote the Confederacy or that were in violation of the U.S. Constitution."<ref>Murray pp. 151–152. Sections in quotes are Murray's rather than the state's.</ref>

Texas argued that it was a well established legal principle that if the original transfer to White and Chiles was invalid, then the subsequent transfers were also invalid. Chiles and White might be liable to such purchasers and any purchasers who had successfully redeemed the bonds were liable for a personal judgment in favor of the state for the amount they received.<ref name="Murray p. 152">Murray p. 152</ref>


The attorneys for Chiles first raised the issue of jurisdiction. They claimed that the section of the Constitution granting the Supreme Court original jurisdiction did not apply. Texas' current situation was not that of a state as contemplated by the Founders, but was that of a territory secured by military conquest. Residents of Texas were subject to military rule and had no representation in Congress and no constitutional rights.<ref name="Murray p. 152"/>

Chiles' attorneys also argued that the sale of the bonds itself, even if conducted by a revolutionary government, were not in violation of the Constitution. Their sale was for the benefit of the people of the state, and the people, simply because they now had a different government, could not decide to invalidate the predecessor government's actions. They rejected the notion that the people of the state and the state itself were legally separate entities. As long as the people had chosen to act through representatives it was irrelevant who those representatives were.<ref name="Murray p. 153">Murray p. 153</ref>

James Mandeville Carlisle, the attorney for Hardenburg, argued that since his client had purchased his bonds on the open market in New York he had no way of knowing about any possible questions concerning the validity of his title. Carlisle further stated that the precedents recognizing that the decisions of the "revolutionary" government would be binding on any subsequent governments were "universally admitted in the public law of nations."<ref name="Murray p. 153"/>

White's attorney, P. Phillips, argued that if the bond sales were invalid, then all actions of the state government during the war were null and void. He stated that "civilized government recognizes the necessity of government at all times." Phillips concluded his presentation by stating that if, in fact, Texas had acted illegally during the war then a subsequent government had no right to appeal that illegality to the Supreme Court.<ref>Murray p. 154</ref>

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