Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Politics & GovernmentGovernment · 1 decade ago

Regarding the territorial cessions of Louisiana, Alaska, the Virgin Islands, etc. who owned the sovereignty?

I have been studying the subject of territorial cessions for over a year now. In the news today, I often hear people say that: "The sovereignty belongs to the people." But, I am wondering if that is true?

Specifically, in regard to the territorial cessions of Louisiana in 1803, Florida in 1819, California in 1848, the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, Alaska in 1867, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines in 1899, the Virgin Islands in 1917, etc. it seems to me that the sovereignty did not belong to the people.

In fact, it seems clear that the sovereignty of these areas belonged to a government, and that "territorial cession" is an action between governments.

So, I am wondering why some people continually make the mistaken statement that "The sovereignty belongs to the people." In regard to territorial cessions, it seems clear that the sovereignty belongs to a government. There is a government which cedes the territory, and a government which receives the territory.

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  • 1 decade ago
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    In speaking of sovereignty issues, there is quite a bit of confusion between “popular sovereignty” and “territorial sovereignty.”

    The central tenet of popular sovereignty is that legitimacy of rule or of law is based on the consent of the governed. Popular sovereignty is thus a basic tenet of most democracies. Therefore, in a democracy, the people have the right to elect their representatives to the legislative branch, to elect their leaders at all levels of government, to not be excluded from voting if they pay taxes, to push for impeachment of those officials unfit to hold office, to conduct referendums, etc. Many people refer to this type of popular sovereignty arrangement by saying that “the sovereignty belongs to the people.”

    However, “territorial sovereignty” (often also called “state sovereignty”) is something quite different. As all examples of territorial cession in the last 250 (or more) years clearly show, “territorial sovereignty” belongs to a government, and "territorial cession" is an action between governments.

    Specifically, in regard to the territorial cessions of Louisiana in 1803, Florida in 1819, California in 1848, the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, Alaska in 1867, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines in 1899, the Virgin Islands in 1917, etc. the territorial sovereignty did not belong to the people.

    After these territories were ceded, the local populace could decide to stay there and accept the new legal arrangements which the new government would put into place, or they could move away. In regard to nationality/citizenship issues, the following provisions of the relevant treaties are noteworthy:

    Louisiana Purchase Treaty, 1803

    Article III.

    The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States and admitted as soon as possible according to the principles of the federal Constitution to the enjoyment of all these rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States, and in the mean time they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the Religion which they profess.

    Treaty with Spain, 1819 [Florida]

    ARTICLE V.

    The inhabitants of the ceded territories shall be secured in the free exercise of their religion, without any restriction; and all those who may desire to remove to the Spanish dominions shall be permitted to sell or export their effects, at any time whatever, without being subject, in either case, to duties.

    ARTICLE VI.

    The inhabitants of the territories which His Catholic Majesty cedes to the United States, by this treaty, shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of all the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States.

    The Treaty of Annexation, 1844 [Texas]

    ARTICLE II.

    The citizens of Texas shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States, maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property and admitted, as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States.

    Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 1848 [California, etc.]

    ARTICLE VIII.

    Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States, as defined by the present treaty, shall be free to continue where they now reside, or to remove at any time to the Mexican Republic, retaining the property which they possess in the said territories, or disposing thereof, and removing the proceeds wherever they please, without their being subjected, on this account, to any contribution, tax, or charge whatever.

    Those who shall prefer to remain in the said territories may either retain the title and rights of Mexican citizens, or acquire those of citizens of the United States. But they shall be under the obligation to make their election within one year from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty; and those who shall remain in the said territories after the expiration of that year, without having declared their intention to retain the character of Mexicans, shall be considered to have elected to become citizens of the United States.

    In the said territories, property of every kind, now belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be inviolably respected. The present owners, the heirs of these, and all Mexicans who may hereafter acquire said property by contract, shall enjoy with respect to it guarantees equally ample as if the same belonged to citizens of the United States.

    ARTICLE IX.

    The Mexicans who, in the territories aforesaid, shall not preserve the character of citizens of the Mexican Republic, conformably with what is stipulated in the preceding article, shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States. and be admitted at the proper time (to be judged of by the Congress of the United States) to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction.

    Gadsden Purchase Treaty, 1853

    ARTICLE V.

    All the provisions of the eighth and ninth, sixteenth and seventeenth articles of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, shall apply to the territory ceded by the Mexican Republic in the first article of the present treaty, and to all the rights of persons and property, both civil and ecclesiastical, within the same, as fully and as effectually as if the said articles were herein again recited and set forth.

    Treaty concerning the Cession of the Russian Possessions in North America, 1867 [Alaska]

    ARTICLE III.

    The inhabitants of the ceded territory, according to their choice, reserving their natural allegiance, may return to Russia within three years; but if they should prefer to remain in the ceded territory, they, with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion. The uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may, from time to time, adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country.

    Treaty of Paris (aka Spanish American Peace Treaty), 1899 [Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, Cuba]

    Article IX.

    Spanish subjects, natives of the Peninsula, residing in the territory over which Spain by the present treaty relinquishes or cedes her sovereignty, may remain in such territory or may remove therefrom, retaining in either event all their rights of property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property or of its proceeds; and they shall also have the right to carry on their industry, commerce and professions, being subject in respect thereof to such laws as are applicable to other foreigners. In case they remain in the territory they may preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain by making, before a court of record, within a year from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty, a declaration of their decision to preserve such allegiance; in default of which declaration they shall be held to have renounced it and to have adopted the nationality of the territory in which they may reside.

    The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby ceded to the United States shall be determined by the Congress.

    Convention between the United States and Denmark for cession of the Danish West Indies, 1917 [Virgin Islands]

    Article 6.

    Danish citizens residing in said islands may remain therein or may remove therefrom at will, retaining in either event all their rights of property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property or its proceeds; in case they remain in the Islands, they shall continue until otherwise provided, to enjoy all the private, municipal and religious rights and liberties secured to them by the laws now in force. If the present laws are altered, the said inhabitants shall not thereby be placed in a less favorable position in respect to the above mentioned rights and liberties than they now enjoy. Those who remain in the islands may preserve their citizenship in Denmark by making before a court of record, within one year from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this convention, a declaration of their decision to preserve such citizenship; in default of which declaration they shall be held to have renounced it, and to have accepted citizenship in the United States; for children under eighteen years the said declaration may be made by their parents or guardians. Such election of Danish citizenship shall however not, after the lapse of the said term of one year, be a bar to their renunciation of their preserved Danish citizenship and their election of citizenship in the United States and admission to the nationality thereof on the same terms as may be provided according to the laws of the United States, for other inhabitants of the islands.

    The civil rights and the political status of the inhabitants of the islands shall be determined by the Congress, subject to the stipulations contained in the present convention.

    Danish citizens not residing in the islands but owning property therein at the time of the cession, shall retain their rights of property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property, being placed in this regard on the same basis as the Danish citizens residing in the islands and remaining therein or removing therefrom, to whom the first paragraph of this article relates.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    In regard to the confusion between “popular sovereignty” and “territorial sovereignty,” the situation of the Republic of China in Taiwan is quite instructive. On Oct. 25, 2004 in a Press Conference in Beijing, Sec. of State Colin Powell stated: “Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy."

    Many Taiwanese people (including many government officials) were outraged at this statement, however they failed to examine the meaning behind Sec. Powell's words. It is obvious to everyone that the Taiwanese currently have the right to vote and to elect their own representatives and leaders at every level of government, so of course the Taiwanese people do have “popular sovereignty.” Certainly Sec. Powell is aware of this.

    However, being a military man, Sec. Powell is keenly aware that the ROC in Taiwan does not enjoy “territorial sovereignty.” This is explained as follows. In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan, and became part of Japanese territory. In the post WWII peace treaty, Japan ceded Taiwan, but no “receiving country” was designated. Specifically, the Republic of China did not receive the “territorial sovereignty” of Taiwan via the 1952 post-war peace treaty.

    Moreover, no other legal arrangements from 1952 to the present have altered this situation in any way. Hence, in referring to the “Republic of China in Taiwan” in the abbreviated form of “Taiwan,” Sec. Powell was very correct in saying that “Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation . . . . ”

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  • 1 decade ago

    In the United States, we are a government for the people by the people. No individual is the sovereign, but representatives are elected to look after our best interests. In the various territorial cessions you cite, France (Napoleon I) exercised sovereignty over Louisiana. He sold it to the United States for $15 million. The territory only came into the American system at that point. Russia (Czar Aleksandre II (?)held sovereignty over Alaska and sold it to the US, Spain Florida, etc. The people of the acquired territories voluntarily joined the United States at a later date under an act of group sovereignty. Please note the Puerto Rico, Guam, and so forth, have not decided to do so--the sovereign right of their people.

    If I am mistaken, so be it; however, in the American system, and I believe in most Western democracy-based systems, the people are the sovereign.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    But it's the people who vote government representatives in or boot them out. And those officials need reminding of that on occasion

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