Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
LEADER: Richard McLaren
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1995
ESTIMATED SIZE: Less than 1,000
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Texas
The Republic of Texas is an extremist group formed in 1995, claiming that the state of Texas was never legally annexed by the United States and is therefore an independent country. Based on this claim, members of the group assert that both the federal and Texas state governments are illegitimate, making their laws and regulations non-binding. Like numerous other antigovernment groups, the Republic of Texas employs a variety of financial tactics, including bank fraud, issuing worthless checks, and filing fraudulent government claims to harass enemies.
In 1996, the year-old group split into three factions. One of these factions gained notoriety during a 1997 hostage-taking, which ended peacefully one week later, while members of a second faction were arrested for threats against the President. Several group members were subsequently tried and sent to prison for these two crimes, and other group members disavowed the violent tactics. Today, the reorganized group continues its efforts to assert Texas independence.
In 1995, former insurance salesman Richard McLaren made a startling claim: the state of Texas, part of the Union since 1845, had been annexed illegally. Further, given that Texas used to be an independent nation, the current residents of Texas are not actually Americans but are legal citizens of the sovereign Republic of Texas. Finally, because Texans are not Americans, McLaren claimed they are not subject to U.S. laws, including the Internal Revenue Code.
While McLaren's claims were quickly dismissed by historians and legal experts, they created a modest stir, attracting a small band of disgruntled followers who began working for Texas independence. In 1996, the group split into three separate factions. The following year, McLaren led his group in kidnapping Republic of Texas opponents, Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe, who they held as "prisoners of war," while demanding the release of two imprisoned Republic of Texas members. The conflict was resolved peacefully one week later, with the arrest of McLaren and the release of the hostages. McLaren and five others were tried and imprisoned for the kidnapping.
A second faction of the original organization was also involved in criminal activity. This group, led by Jesse Enloe, threatened to assassinate multiple government officials, including then-President Bill Clinton. An FBI informant, John L. Cain, infiltrated the group and discovered their plans, which involved the creation of a unique weapon. This weapon, a specially modified cigarette lighter, would have been used to shoot cactus thorns dipped in toxins such as the HIV virus and rabies. Three members of the group, including Enloe, were convicted and sent to prison for the plot.
Many of the Republic of Texas' members were outraged at the tactics used by McLaren and Enloe and openly criticized their actions. During the late 1990s, the remaining group shrank numerically and appeared to moderate its views somewhat. Following the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the President of the Republic of Texas called the American people "brothers" of the citizens of Texas and offered the group's assistance in the war on terror.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
The Republic of Texas bases its ideology on a contention that Texas is an independent country, rather than part of the United States, exempting Texas citizens from U.S. law. In addition to resisting federal taxes and regulation, some members have committed fraud and theft in pursuit of their goals; prior to his standoff with police, McLaren had been court-ordered to stop filing spurious liens and was then found in contempt when he failed to comply with court orders.
The Republic of Texas, like numerous other antigovernment groups in the United States, is notorious for its use of liens, which members file against property owned by public officials. Property liens, which are simple and inexpensive to file, prevent the property holder from selling the property; while frivolous liens are relatively simple to remove, this action requires the property owner to appear in court, making these liens a powerful tool for harassment. In addition, the massive volume of liens filed often overloads the court system, further obstructing the working of the local government. In response to the use of frivolous liens, several states have since passed laws restricting the use of frivolous liens, although as of 2005, Texas is not among them. As of 2005, state governor Rick Perry has more than 200 liens filed against his property by various groups.
Given Texas' unique history as an independent nation prior to joining the United States, the claims of Texas continuing sovereignty raise interesting if not realistic legal issues. Ralph Brock, a practicing attorney and law school teacher, notes several reasons that sovereignty claims by the Republic of Texas are legally defective. Foremost, international law states that no nation has the right to question agreements with other nations by claiming that the other nation violated its own laws.
Richard McLaren is a native of Missouri and worked as an automobile repair manual author and sold insurance. McLaren is well known for his self-proclaimed opposition to taxation of any kind. In 1995, he publicized his belief that Texas' 1845 annexation into the United States was illegal, making Texans non-U.S. citizens. Further, he claims that as non-citizens they do not have to pay federal taxes or obey federal laws and that the federal government owes them war reparations.
McLaren and about fifty followers soon formed the Republic of Texas, with the goal of removing the state from U.S. control. Following his involvement in a 1997 kidnapping, McLaren and his associate, Robert Otto, were convicted; Otto was given a fifty-year sentence, while McLaren was sentenced to 99 years in prison. In 1998, McLaren, his wife, and several other members of the group were convicted of passing more than $3 billion in hot checks; McLaren received an additional twelve-year sentence for this conviction.
- The Republic of Texas becomes the twenty-eighth state of the Union by an act of Congress.
- Richard McLaren, an antigovernment activist, announces the formation of the Republic of Texas, claiming that Texas was never legally annexed by the United States.
- The group splits into three factions, two of which eventually commit terrorist acts.
- Police arrest two members, one for driving without license plates. McLaren and followers kidnap two individuals, demanding the members' release. The standoff is peacefully resolved.
- Republic of Texas faction leader, Jesse Enloe, and followers are arrested for threatening to kill government officials, including the President.
- The newly reunited group sets up its "capital" in the small town of Overton, RT (Republic of Texas).
Second, an 1868 case titled Texas v. White reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that once Texas became a state in 1845, its union with the remaining states was permanent and complete. A 1901 Supreme Court opinion also cited Texas' entry into the union as an example of an absolute annexation. Also, since Texas has failed to legally challenge its statehood in the many years since, its acquiescence removes any legal defects in the U.S. claim of sovereignty. Finally, because the people of Texas voted to join the Union, Texas cannot argue that the annexation was illegal.
Similar anti-annexation claims are also made by groups in the states of Alaska and Hawaii, claiming that the United States erred by failing to consult natives before annexing the two territories. In 1996, the Hawaiian secessionists managed to pass a nonbonding referendum calling for the state to secede from the Union, however the claim has made little progress.
The Republic of Texas is one of several extremist groups throughout the United States that claims political sovereignty and the freedom to reject U.S. law. While the Texas group's claims are based on an interesting set of historical circumstances, most legal scholars and historical experts reject them outright. Since 2003, the reorganized group is headquartered in Overton, Texas, and is not considered a major threat by extremist watchdog groups.
Separatism: Texans promised (second) capitol
In a communiqué notable for its bravado if not its import, the leaders of the antigovernment Republic of Texas (ROT) told the world in October that they have secured forty-two acres on which they plan to build their "Provisional Capitol."
From this patch of land in Dewitt County, the group that says Texas never really joined the union will pursue its quest to convince Americans that their state is actually an independent nation.
To that end, they plan a home for the "General Council," an official state archive, and buildings to serve as meeting places "for various committees and branches of the Provisional Government and a symbol of the increasing growth and entrenchment of our independence movement."
Actually, ROT hasn't made too much real political progress, although a ROT faction did manage to get into a week-long standoff with several hundred Texas Rangers in 1997, ending with the death of one ROT member. But it has made a series of announcements that have at least the ring of authority.
In July, for example, the General Council announced that "the Republic of Texas Provisional Government is pleased to announce that Texas' newest Embassy and Consulate will open July 10, 2000, in Barcelona, Spain."
That news, like the September announcement that Daniel Miller had replaced Archie Lowe as president of ROT, was virtually ignored by the mainstream U.S. and foreign press.
Of course, some reporters may be thinking about the last ROT "embassy." It was there, in Ft. Davis, Texas, that ROT factional leader Richard McLaren held several hundred police and reporters at bay after followers kidnapped a neighbor couple. McLaren is now serving a sentence of 111 years in prison.
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, 2000
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