RUDOLPH L. BIESELE, Editor
The Tidelands Oil Controversy: A Legal and Historical Analysis.
By Ernest R. Bartley. Austin (University of Texas Press),
1953. Pp. viii+312. $5.00.
Current among oil people is the statement that fields of cotton
have always been produced on any kind or no kind of title, but
not so in the case of an oil field. The title defects in the same land
quite often have been settled by limitation, legislation, and litiga-
tion, thereby permitting the testing and development for oil.
In like manner repeated production of kelp, sponges, and oysters
has come from the submerged soil of the marginal seas for a
century and a half. The title has been recognized by state and
federal courts as being vested in the contiguous littoral states.
However, when a drill stem penetration was contemplated for
the same lands, an entirely different kind of title has evolved.
Ensuing legislation and litigation unsettled far more questions
than they settled. The doctrine of "paramount powers" enun-
ciated by the United States Supreme Court was not oil on the
troubled waters. Instead it spawned trouble on the oil-laden
A comprehensive and dispassionate treatment of the entire
subject is found in Ernest R. Bartley's book. Not only is the
historical background given-including the reason for the three-
mile limit (ten and one-half mile for Texas and West Florida) -
but a meticulous tracing of how these concepts from England,
France, and Spain were applied to the original thirteen colonies
and to Louisiana, California, and Texas. Federal rights, both
expressed and implied, under the commerce provision are fully
Only recently with the discovery of oil has the element of title
in federal ownership been promulgated. Its advocates were ardent,
arbitrary, militant, and belligerent. Rival claims of cabinet officers
led to confusion. Congressional action failed to clarify. Executive
veto of quitclaim legislation further stalemated the situation.
Repercussions then spilled over into the political arena and na-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 57, July 1953 - April, 1954. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101152/. Accessed April 26, 2015.