I was curious whether a territory would be affected by federal law before it was ratified as statehood. For example, if a federal law passed in 1934, would it impact Hawaii which was admitted on August 21, 1959?

  • 1
    This might be a better fit on the Law SE.
    – Steve Bird
    Aug 1 '21 at 23:31

The answer to the question in the title is "it depends"; the answer to the question in the body of the question is "yes" see below.

"New states have generally been admitted after a period of territorial government, during which Congress and the President have broad authority pursuant to the Property Clause, also in Article IV, Section 3. An Act of Congress established the territorial government, often giving greater self-government (e.g., in the form of an elected territorial legislature) as the territory’s population increased over time. Some states, however, such as California and Texas, have been admitted without ever being territories." ConstitutionCenter.org

If a territory is administered by the Federal government, then Federal law applies. If a territory is admitted without having been administered as a territory, then, no.

Spurred by the nationalism aroused by the Spanish-American War, the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 at the urging of President William McKinley. Hawaii was made a territory in 1900, and Dole became its first governor. state.gov

Hawaii, administered as a federal territory, would have been subject to Federal law

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    Very clear, thank you!
    – xxx
    Aug 1 '21 at 23:56
  • @MCW Your answer is flawed. Residents ofmMunicipalites are subject to the laws of the counties they are in. Residents of counties are subject to the laws of the states or territories they are in. Residents of states and territories are subject to the laws of the federal government. You seem to have interpreted the question as asking whether territories would be exclusively subject to federal law and not have any legal system of their own before becoming states.
    – MAGolding
    Aug 2 '21 at 18:40
  • @MAGolding - That sounds like the basis of an alternate answer. I'm not sure which of us would be closer to OP's actual intent. (Although I think I agree with your conclusion, I don't agree with the analogy, but I suspect that is an artifact of comment compression)
    – MCW
    Aug 2 '21 at 19:00
  • another reason would be that the territory would likely spend the time before officially becoming a state to bring their own laws in line with US law, thus making its law over a period of several years become more and more in line with US federal law.
    – jwenting
    Aug 3 '21 at 6:59

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