Admission of States to Union

The state-making process in the United States is regulated by Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution. It allows for the admission of new states by an act of Congress. Generally speaking, states could not be formed by subdividing existing states without the consent of both concerned legislatures, but West Virginia was accepted into the Union during the Civil War by seceding from Virginia, after Virginia has itself seceded from the Union.

All states are admitted to the Union on an equal footing. This is not a provision of the Constitution itself, but U.S. Supreme Court rulings have established that Congress cannot discriminate against states when they are admitted.

Vermont could be considered on the same footing as the original thirteen colonies, since Vermont has been independent since 1777 and operated under its own constitution before applying to the United States for admission, which was granted in 1791. Other early states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maine were taken out of land originally considered to be part of one of the original thirteen.

Following the Louisiana Purchase, Louisiana was proposed for admission as a state. Josiah Quincy, a leader of the Federalist Party in the House of Representatives, denounced the bill, using the theory that the original constitution allocated powers to the original states, which the addition of new states would unreasonably dilute. He went so far as to suggest that the New England states would be within their rights to secede of more western states were admitted. His objections found little support outside of Massachusetts.

With the acquisition of new territories by treaty, combined with war, the United States extended its dominion to the Pacific Ocean. These new lands were gradually incorporated into the Union until Arizona in 1912 completed the union of the contiguous 48 states. Almost 50 years later, Alaska and Hawaii were added. There has been some consideration of admitting Puerto Rico to the union, but this presently seems unlikely.

During the years leading up to the Civil War, the question of slavery in territories became a major concern. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 created the precedent that states would be admitted in pairs, one slave and one free, which held until the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

The issue of secession from the Union is not addressed directly in the constitution. The fundamental constitutional issue of the Civil War was the contention by Southern states that the Union was voluntary and revokable, while Lincoln and the North asserted that once in, there was no way out.

Rank

State

Admission Date

1

Delaware

December 7, 1787

2

Pennsylvania

December 12, 1787

3

New Jersey

December 18, 1787

4

Georgia

January 2, 1788

5

Connecticut

January 9, 1788

6

Massachusetts

February 6, 1788

7

Maryland

April 28, 1788

8

South Carolina

May 23, 1788

9

New Hampshire

June 21, 1788

10

Virginia

June 25, 1788

11

New York

July 26, 1788

12

North Carolina

November 21, 1789

13

Rhode Island

May 29, 1790

14

Vermont

March 4, 1791

15

Kentucky

June 1, 1792

16

Tennessee

June 1, 1796

17

Ohio

March 1, 1803

18

Louisiana

April 30, 1812

19

Indiana

December 11, 1816

20>

Mississippi

December 10, 1817

21

Illinois

December 3, 1818

22

Alabama

December 14, 1819

23

Maine

March 15, 1820

24

Missouri

August 10, 1821

25

Arkansas

June 15, 1836

26

Michigan

Jan 26, 1837

27

Florida

March 3, 1845

28

Texas

December 29, 1845

29

Iowa

December 28, 1846

30

Wisconsin

May 29, 1848

31

California

September 9, 1850

32

Minnesota

May 11, 1858

33

Oregon

February 14, 1859

34

Kansas

January 29, 1861

35

West Virginia

June 20, 1863

36

Nevada

October 31, 1864

37

Nebraska

March 1, 1867

38

Colorado

August 1, 1876

39

North Dakota

November 2, 1889

40

South Dakota

November 2, 1889

41

Montana

November 8, 1889

42

Washington

November 11, 1889

43

Idaho

July 3, 1890

44

Wyoming

July 10, 1890

45

Utah

January 4, 1896

46

Oklahoma

November 16, 1907

47

New Mexico

January 6, 1912

48

Arizona

February 14, 1912

49

Alaska

January 3, 1959

50

Hawaii

August 21, 1959

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---- Selected Quotes ----

Quotes regarding Admission of States to Union.

By Josiah Quincy
If this bill passes, it is my deliberate opinion that it is virtually a dissolution of this Union; that it will free the states from their moral obligation, and, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, definitely to prepare for a separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must.
Address to Congress regarding admission of Louisiana as a state, 1811

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