Heritage, Winter 2004 Page: 28
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A Controversy That Helped Shape The Modern Land Office
By Mark Dallas Loeffler
Padre Islands Under Six Flags by Jerry Sadler,
commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.
Provided by the GLO.
n June 12, 1950, 200 angry Texans gathered in
N0Nocona to petition the Texas Legislature to secede
from the Union. Congressmen had already
announced how the new Republic of Texas would be divided into
five states. Elected officials were rallying supporters via the airwaves,
and the land commissioner of Texas made it clear that he
thought Texas should leave the Union. At the center of the battle
was millions of acres under the Gulf of Mexico and the oil contained
Since the early 18th century, nations have struggled to determine
ownership of the marginal seas along their shorelines. In
Roman times, the seas were deemed free and open, with no nation
able to claim ownership. Later, it was generally held that a nation
could claim as much of its bordering seas as it could control.
In 1704, Dutch jurist Cornelius van Bynkershoek proposed that
the minimum limits of a nation's ownership of its marginal seas be
set at the distance of a cannon shot. By the end of the century,
Fernando Galiani suggested the distance of a cannon shot be set at
three miles, and many nations adopted his suggestion.
The new colonies in America were granted charters that
extended their boundaries up to 10 marine leagues from the shore.
While the issue of marginal seas was not addressed in the
American Revolution or the Constitution, it was clear the new
United States of America recognized that component states had a
right to the seas on their borders.
In 1836, colonists and settlers in the Mexican state of Coahuila
y Tejas revolted and won their freedom at the Battle of San
Jacinto. The Congress of the new nation promptly expanded its
seaward boundary from the two leagues it enjoyed under Spanish
and Mexican rule to three marine leagues, or about 10.3 miles.
This was a decision that would have enormous repercussions for
GEM WINTER 2004
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Winter 2004, periodical, Winter 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45372/m1/28/: accessed March 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.