Admission of new states into the United States must be consistent with Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution, but that leaves some discretion to Congress in a number of matters. What were the different ways of proceeding and which states were admitted according to which processes?

I know some examples of different ways of proceeding in the admission of states, but I also know my understanding is very incomplete, and I'm not sure any books deal with this question systematically. Examples:

  • With many states, the act of Congress said that the new state would be admitted when the president signed a certain document on a certain date, but with some other states, it simply said the new state would be admitted on a specified future date. With the first two of the states admitted under Article IV, Vermont and Kentucky, the latter procedure was followed.

  • Vermont and Texas make the transition directly from being a foreign country to being a state in the U.S.A. (Hawaii went through an intermediate period of some decades between foreign-country status and being a full-fledged state.) Vermont's de-facto independence was vehemently but ineffectually disputed by New York, and New York's governor George Clinton successfully campaigned against Vermont's admission for a long time; otherwise it would have happened almost a decade earlier under the Articles of Confederation (in a sense it almost did happen in 1781 but Clinton exerted great efforts to stop it, and did).

  • Congress granted Texas the right to split itself into several states without any further action by Congress.
  • In Vermont the state constitution that had already been in effect for years simply continued in effect with no changes at all when the state was admitted, and the governor and other state officers who were already in office under that constitution simply continued their terms of office without even so much as getting sworn in in the manner prescribed by the federal Constitution. (Might something similar have happened in Texas?)
  • Kentucky was a part of Virginia until it became a separate state in 1792. Under Article IV, Section III, this required the consent of the legislature of Virginia, which was given in 1789. (I think governing such an extensive state was expensive and inconvenient and they also wanted more southerners in the U.S. senate.) Strangely, the act of Congress admitting Kentucky was actually passed two weeks before the act admitting Vermont, although Kentucky was not admitted until well over a year after Vermont. Because of New York's claim that Vermont was legally part of New York (although Vermont was under a government that refused to recognize that), Vermont could not be admitted until New York's legislature consented in 1790. Maine could similarly not be admitted (in 1820) without the consent of the legislature of Massachusetts (granted in 1819, I think?) and West Virginia was a strange case, admitted during the Civil War with the consent of some anti-secessionist legislators in Virginia.
  • They could be forced in by executive order. Or annexation. Or by people just calling them a state.
    – D J Sims
    Apr 1, 2016 at 6:58
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    I think at the core, this is a good list question. The core question is "How were states admitted to the Union?" - there are less than 50 answers (some are grouped, probably some discussions of "not admitted"). I would argue that the answer is both interesting and educational. Let's answer the question.
    – MCW
    Apr 2, 2016 at 11:57
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    Rhode Island was admitted under threat; if Rhode Island did not join, it would be treated as a foreign power (comment rather than answer because I can't find my source - feel free to steal it). Although it was one of the original 13, RI dragged feet as long as possible to deal with debt problems caused by land speculators. Eventually the other states demanded that RI join or be foreign - which was a bit more serious when government income was through tariffs.
    – MCW
    Apr 2, 2016 at 22:10
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    @MarkC.Wallace : It seems more to the point to say Rhode Island joined rather than that Rhode Island "was admitted". Article IV Section 3 did not apply to Rhode Island and no act of Congress was needed. Apr 2, 2016 at 22:14
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    @DJSims They can not be forced in by executive order or annexation. You can't just call it a state.
    – Benjamin
    Jul 1, 2016 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


Not only were they "re-admitted," but some were thrown out a second time for failure to act upon the 14th and 15th Amendments. Look at these dates: Secession, then readmission, and finally "returned to local rule."

The Confederate States of America:

South Carolina: -Seceded: Dec. 20, 1860 -Admitted into C.S.: Feb. 4, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: July 9, 1868 -Local rule reestablished: Nov. 28, 1876

Mississippi: -Seceded: Jan. 9, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: Feb. 4, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: Beg. 23, 1870 -Local rule reestablished: Jan. 4, 1876

Florida: -Seceded: Jan 10, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: Feb. 4, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: June 25, 1868 -Local rule reestablished: Jan 2, 1877

Alabama: -Seceded: Jan. 11, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: Feb. 4, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: July 14, 1868 -Local rule reestablished: Nov. 16, 1874

Georgia: -Seceded: Jan. 19, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: Feb 4, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: July 15, 1870 -Local rule reestablished: Nov. 1, 1871

Louisiana: -Seceded Jan. 26, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: Feb. 4, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: June 25, 1868 or July 9, 1868 -Local rule reestablished: Jan. 2, 1877

Texas: -Seceded: Feb. 1, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: Mar. 2, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: Mar. 30, 1870 -Local rule reestablished: Jan. 14, 1873

Virginia: -Seceded: April 17, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: May 7, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: Jan. 26, 1870 -Local rule reestablished: Oct. 5, 1869

Arkansas: -Seceded: May 6, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: May 18, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: June 22, 1868 -Local rule reestablished: Nov. 10, 1874

Tennessee: -Seceded: May 6, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: May 16, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: July 24, 1866 -Local rule reestablished: Oct. 4, 1869

North Carolina: -Seceded: May 21, 1861 -Admitted into C.S.: May 16, 1861 -Readmitted into U.S.: July 4, 1868 -Local rule reestablished Nov. 28, 1876

Sourced from https://web.archive.org/web/20130128092221/http://civilwartalk.com/threads/dates-of-southern-states-readmitted-to-the-u-s-and-local-rule-reestablished.19808 via https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-order-of-states-being-admitted-to-the-Confederacy/answer/Tuan-Nguyen-355?share=1

Then there's Mississippi, with a filing error. The movie Lincoln reminded them to ratify the 13th Amendment, officially filed Feb. 7, 2013.

  • @MichaelHardy I was curious too, history.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/53992 should help, I added the link. I'm glad Lincoln was made a movie, just for another additional reason now, apparently the film was educational enough to remind them to finally ratify (true story, and I added multiple source links just for that good reference in case others do not believe that at first either). Nov 25, 2020 at 4:59

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