Territories of the United States


Territories of the United States
Political divisions of the United States as they were from 1868 to 1876, including nine organized territories and two unorganized territories.
Administrative divisions of the United States
First level
States

Commonwealth
Indian reservation
Territories

Second level
County

Consolidated city–county
— Independent city

Third level
Cities, towns and villages

Civil township

Territories of the United States are one of the four types of political division of the United States, overseen directly by the federal government of the United States and not any part of a U.S. state. These territories were created to govern newly acquired land while the borders of the United States were still evolving. Territories can be classified by whether they are incorporated (part of the United States proper) and whether they have an organized government (through an Organic Act passed by the U.S. Congress or a territorial constitution (and functioning legislature), as the region was striving for statehood).

Many organized incorporated territories of the United States existed from 1789 to 1959, through which 31 territories applied for and achieved statehood. In the process of organizing and promoting territories to statehood, many unorganized territories were orphaned from the parts of a larger territory wherein the whole was ineligible, usually demographically lacking sufficient development and population densities at the time a vote could be taken petitioning Congress for statehood rights.

The U.S. had no unincorporated territories (also called "overseas possessions" or "insular areas") until 1856 but continues to control several of them today.

Contents

Incorporated and unincorporated territories

An incorporated territory of the United States is a specific area under the jurisdiction of the United States, over which the United States Congress has determined that the United States Constitution is to be applied to the territory's local government and inhabitants in its entirety (e.g., citizenship, trial by jury), in the same manner as it applies to the local governments and residents of the U.S. states. Incorporated territories are considered an integral part of the United States, as opposed to being merely possessions.[1]

All territory under the control of the federal government is considered part of the "United States" for purposes of law.[2] From 1901 to 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of opinions known as the Insular Cases held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation, under which the Constitution applies fully only in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, and applies only partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.[3][4]

To define what is an unincorporated territory in Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 312 (1922), the Court used, as an argument of non-incorporated territory, the following statements regarding the court in Puerto Rico:

The United States District Court is not a true United States court established under article 3 of the Constitution to administer the judicial power of the United States therein conveyed. It is created by virtue of the sovereign congressional faculty, granted under article 4, 3, of that instrument, of making all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States. The resemblance of its jurisdiction to that of true United States courts, in offering an opportunity to nonresidents of resorting to a tribunal not subject to local influence, does not change its character as a mere territorial court.[5]

In Glidden Co. v. Zdanok, 370 U.S. 530 (1962) the court cited Balzac and made the following statement regarding courts in unincorporated territories:

Upon like considerations, Article III has been viewed as inapplicable to courts created in unincorporated territories outside the mainland, Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 266 -267; Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 312 -313; cf. Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138, 145 , 149, and to the consular courts established by concessions from foreign countries, In re Ross, 140 U.S. 453, 464 -465, 480. 18

The U.S. Supreme Court offers two ways in which incorporation could be made: "incorporation is not to be assumed without express declaration, or an implication so strong as to exclude any other view".

In Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 319 (1901)) the Court also said:

When the various treaties by which foreign territory has been acquired are considered in the light of the circumstances which surrounded them, it becomes to my mind clearly established that the treaty-making power was always deemed to be devoid of authority to incorporate territory into the United States without the assent, express or implied, of Congress, ...

Express or Implied?

In Balzac,[6] where Chief Justice Taft delivered the opinion of the Court, the meaning of “implied” was specified:

Had Congress intended to take the important step of changing the treaty status of Porto Rico by incorporating it into the Union, it is reasonable to suppose that it would have done so by the plain declaration, and would not have left it to mere inference. Before the question became acute at the close of the Spanish War, the distinction between acquisition and incorporation was not regarded as important, or at least it was not fully understood and had not aroused great controversy. Before that, the purpose of Congress might well be a matter of mere inference from various legislative acts; but in these latter days, incorporation is not to be assumed without express declaration, or an implication so strong as to exclude any other view.

Incorporated Territories U.S. Supreme Court declarations

"The inhabitants of the ceded territory . . . shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States;" This declaration, although somewhat changed in phraseology, is the equivalent, as pointed out in Downes v. Bidwell, of the formula, employed from the beginning to express the purpose to incorporate acquired territory into the United States, especially in the absence of other provisions showing an intention to the contrary.".[7] Here we see that the act of incorporation is on the people of the territory, not on the territory per se, by extending the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution to them. The U.S. Supreme Court statements follow:

Alaska Territory

Congress express declaration:

Rassmussen v. the United States (197 U.S. 516, 522 (1905)) arose out of a misdemeanor conviction in Alaska by a jury composed of six persons pursuant to a federal statute allowing such a procedure in Alaska. In a decision written by Justice White, a majority of the Court concluded that Alaska had been incorporated into the United States because the treaty of cession with Russia specifically declared that "the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights,advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States.[8]

In addition, Congress implication so strong as to exclude any other view:

That Congress, shortly following the adoption of the treaty with Russia, clearly contemplated the incorporation of Alaska into the United States as a part thereof, we think plainly results from the act of July 20, 1868, concerning internal revenue taxation, chap. 186, 107 (15 Stat. at L. 167, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 2277), and the act of July 27, 1868, chap. 273, extending the laws of the United States relating to customs, commerce, and navigation over Alaska, and establishing a collection district therein. 15 Stat. at L. 240. And this is fortified by subsequent action of Congress, which it is unnecessary to refer to.
Rassmussen at 533–534

Justice Brown, in his concurring opinion, also expressed the same thought:

Apparently, acceptance of the territory is insufficient in the opinion of the court in this case, since the result that Alaska is incorporated into the United States is reached, not through the treaty with Russia, or through the establishment of a civil government there, but from the act of July 20, 1868, concerning internal revenue taxation, and the act of July 27, 1868, extending the laws of the United States relating to the customs, commerce, and navigation over Alaska, and establishing a collection district there. Certain other acts are cited, notably the judiciary act of March 3, 1891, making it the duty of this court to assign [197 U.S. 516, 534] the several territories of the United States to particular Circuits.

Florida Territory

In Dorr v. USA (195 U.S. 138, 141-142 (1904)) Justice Marshall is quoted more extensively as follows:

The 6th article of the treaty of cession contains the following provision:

The inhabitants of the territories which His Catholic Majesty cedes the United States by this treaty shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States. [8 Stat. at L. 256.] [195 U.S. 138, 142] 'This treaty is the law of the land, and admits the inhabitants of Florida to the enjoyment of the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States. It is unnecessary to inquire whether this is not their condition, independent of stipulation. They do not, however, participate in political power; they do not share in the government till Florida shall become a state. In the meantime Florida continues to be a territory of the United States, governed by virtue of that clause in the Constitution which empowers Congress 'to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States."

[9]

In Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 256 (1901), Justice Brown says:[10]

The same construction was adhered to in the treaty with Spain for the purchase of Florida (8 Stat. at L. 252) the 6th article of which provided that the inhabitants should 'be incorporated into the Union of the United States, as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution;

Southwest Territory

In Downes v. Bidwell supra at 321–322, the first mention of incorporation is made in the following paragraph by Justice Brown:[10]

In view of this it cannot, it seems to me, be doubted that the United States continued to be composed of states and territories, all forming an integral part thereof and incorporated therein, as was the case prior to the adoption of the Constitution. Subsequently, the territory now embraced in the state of Tennessee was ceded to the United States by the state of North Carolina. In order to insure the rights of the native inhabitants, it was expressly stipulated that the inhabitants of the ceded territory should enjoy all the rights, privileges, benefits, and advantages set forth in the ordinance 'of the late Congress for the government of the western territory of the United States.

Louisiana Territory

In Downes v. Bidwell supra at 252, it was said:[10]

Owing to a new war between England and France being upon the point of breaking out, there was need for haste in the negotiations, and Mr. Livingston took the responsibility of disobeying his (Mr. Jefferson's) instructions, and, probably owing to the insistence of Bonaparte, consented to the 3d article of the treaty (with France to acquire the territory of Louisiana), which provided that 'the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion which they profess.' [8 Stat. at L. 202.] This evidently committed the government to the ultimate, but not to the immediate, admission of Louisiana as a state...

The Supreme Court of the United States is unanimous in its interpretation that the extension of the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution of the United States to the inhabitants of a territory in effect produces the incorporation of that territory. The net effect of incorporation is that the territory becomes an integral part of the geographical boundaries of the United States and cannot, from then on, be separated. Indeed, the whole body of the U.S. Constitution is extended to the inhabitants of that territory, except for those provisions that relate to its federal character.

More so, the needful rules and regulations of the territorial clause must yield to the Constitution and the inherent constraints imposed on it in dealing with the privileges and immunites of the inhabitants of the incorporated territory. Notice must be taken that incorporation of a territory takes place through the incorporation of its inhabitants, not of the territory per se. As such, those inhabitants receive the full impact of the U.S. Constitution, except for those provisions that deal specifically with the federal character of the Union.

In the contemporary sense, the term "unincorporated territory" refers primarily to insular areas. There is currently only one incorporated territory, Palmyra Atoll, which is not an organized territory. Conversely, a territory can be organized without being an incorporated territory, a contemporary example being Puerto Rico. However, a 2008 case in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico declared that Puerto Rico no longer remain an unincorporated territory. The court says that although Congress has never enacted any affirmative language such as “Puerto Rico is hereby an incorporated territory,” its sequence of legislative actions from 1900 to present has in fact incorporated the territory. The court elaborated that the Congressional incorporation of Puerto Rico throughout the past century has extended the entire Constitution to the island, and today entitles the territory and United States citizens thereof to full enjoyment of all rights and obligations under the Constitution. Given the same, the territory has evolved from an unincorporated to an incorporated.[11]


See organized incorporated territories of the United States and unincorporated territories of the United States for timelines.

Organized Territory

Land under the sovereignty of the Federal government (but not part of any state) that were given a measure of self-rule by the Congress through an Organic Act subject to the Congress’ plenary powers under the territorial clause of Article IV, sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution).[12]

Classification of current U.S. territories

Incorporated organized territories

No incorporated organized territories have existed since 1959, the last two being Territory of Hawaii and Territory of Alaska, both which achieved statehood in that year.

Incorporated unorganized territories

Location of the insular areas:
  The USA
  incorporated unorganized territory
  unincorporated organized territory
  Commonwealth status
  unincorporated unorganized territory
  • Palmyra Atoll is privately owned by the Nature Conservancy and administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is an archipelago of about 50 small islands with about 1.56 sq mi (4 km2) of land area, lying about 1,000 miles (1,609 km) south of Oahu, Hawaii. The atoll was acquired by the United States through the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii in 1898. When the Territory of Hawaii was incorporated on April 30, 1900, Palmyra Atoll was incorporated as part of that territory. However, when the State of Hawaii was admitted to the Union in 1959, the Act of Congress explicitly separated Palmyra Atoll from the newly federated state. Palmyra remained an incorporated territory, but received no new organized government.[13]

Palmyra was formerly (before 1950) a seaplane base used by Pan American Airlines and the U.S. Navy. It had a Pan American hotel that was used for overnight stops by travelers. It was along an air travel route that linked Hawaii with American Samoa, Australia, and other destinations in the south Pacific as non-stop flights were not possible.

There are also "territories" that have the status of being incorporated but that are not organized:

  • U.S. coastal waters out to 12 nautical miles offshore.
  • U.S. flagged vessels at sea, naval, coast guard, or civilian.

Unincorporated organized territories

  • Guam (since 1898): also the home of a U.S. Naval Base and a U.S. Air Force Base.
  • Northern Mariana Islands: formerly a United Nations Trust Territory under the administration of the United States, it established itself as a U.S. Commonwealth in 1978.
  • Puerto Rico (since 1898): established as a U.S. Commonwealth in 1952.
  • United States Virgin Islands (since 1917): these were purchased by the U.S. from Denmark.

Unincorporated unorganized territories

Islands in the Pacific Ocean
  • American Samoa: (since 1898): locally self-governing under a constitution last revised in 1967.[15]
    • Swains Island: Annexed by the United States on March 4, 1925, currently administered by American Samoa, and claimed by Tokelau (a dependency of New Zealand).
  • Wake Island: no longer under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy, now only inhabited by civilian contractors. It is now primarily a wildlife refuge.
  • Midway Islands: no longer under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy, now inhabited only by caretakers. It is now primarily a wildlife refuge.
  • Johnston Atoll: last used by the Department of Defense in about 2005.
  • Baker Island: now uninhabited
  • Howland Island: now uninhabited
  • Jarvis Island: now uninhabited
  • Kingman Reef: now uninhabited
Islands in the Caribbean Sea

Extraterritorial jurisdiction

The United States exercises some degree of extraterritorial jurisdiction over its embassy, overseas military, and leased areas such as:

  • Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (since 1903): A 45 sq mi (117 km2) area of land along Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to which the United States holds a perpetual lease.[16] This is disputed by the Cuban government. The U.S. pays its annual lease payment by check, but the Cuban government has refused to cash them for decades.
  • Certain other parcels in foreign countries held by lease, such as military bases, depending on the terms of a lease, treaty, or status of forces agreement with the host country.[citation needed]

Classification of former U.S. territories and administered areas

Former incorporated organized territories of the United States

See Organized incorporated territories of the United States for a complete list.

Former unincorporated territories of the United States (incomplete)

Former unincorporated territories of the United States under military government

  •  Puerto Rico (April 11, 1899 – May 1, 1900): civil government operations began
  •  Philippines (August 14, 1898[17] – July 4, 1901): civil government operations began
  •  Guam (April 11, 1899 – July 1, 1950): civil government operations began

Areas formerly administered by the United States (incomplete)

Other zones

See also

References

  1. ^ Definitions of insular area political organizations, Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.doi.gov/oia/Islandpages/political_types.htm, retrieved 2007-11-14 
  2. ^ See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(36) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(38) Providing the term “State” and "United States" definitions on the U.S. Federal Code, Inmigration and Nationality Act. 8 U.S.C. § 1101a
  3. ^ Consejo de Salud Playa de Ponce v. Johnny Rullan, Secretary of Health of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, pages 6–7, The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, http://puertoricoadvancement.org/Documents/Consejo%20De%20Salud%20Playa%20De%20Ponce%20V.%20Johnny%20Rullan%20-%20Secretary%20of%20Health%20of%20the%20Commonwealth%20of%20Puerto%20Rico.pdf, retrieved 4 February 2010 
  4. ^ The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid (2007) Juan R. Torruella, http://www.law.upenn.edu/journals/jil/articles/volume29/issue2/Torruella29U.Pa.J.Int'lL.283(2007).pdf, retrieved 5 February 2010 
  5. ^ Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922)
  6. ^ Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922) (opinion full text).
  7. ^ Rassmussen v. U S, 197 U.S. 516 (1905)
  8. ^ The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid" (2007) Juan R. Torruella Pages 318-319., http://www.law.upenn.edu/journals/jil/articles/volume29/issue2/Torruella29U.Pa.J.Int'lL.283(2007).pdf, retrieved 7 February 2010 
  9. ^ Dorr v. United States, 195 U. S. 138 (1904)
  10. ^ a b c Downes v. Bidwell
  11. ^ Consejo de Salud Playa de Ponce v Johnny Rullan, Secretary of Health of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. http://puertoricoadvancement.org/Documents/Consejo%20De%20Salud%20Playa%20De%20Ponce%20V.%20Johnny%20Rullan%20-%20Secretary%20of%20Health%20of%20the%20Commonwealth%20of%20Puerto%20Rico.pdf. Retrieved November 5, 2011 
  12. ^ U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3, cl. 2 ("The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States...").
  13. ^ "Palmyra Atoll". US Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs. http://www.doi.gov/oia/Islandpages/palmyrapage.htm. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  14. ^ IBP USA (2009), SAMOA American Country Study Guide: Strategic Information and Developments, Int'l Business Publications, pp. 49–64, ISBN 978-1-4387-4187-1, http://books.google.com/books?id=bIx7G7j1HC8C, retrieved 2011-10-20 
  15. ^ The revised constitution was approved on June 2, 1967 by Stewart L. Udall, then U.S. Secretary of the Interior, under authority granted on June 29, 1951. It became effective on july 1, 1967.[14]
  16. ^ Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, February 23, 1903, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/dip_cuba002.asp, retrieved 2008-04-02 
  17. ^ Zaide, Sonia M. (1994), The Philippines: A Unique Nation, All-Nations Publishing Co., p. 279, ISBN 971-642-071-4, http://books.google.com/books?id=6YMsNgAACAAJ, retrieved 2011-10-20 
  18. ^ Okinawa Reversion Agreement - 1971, The Contemporary Okinawa Website. Accessed 5 June 2007.
  19. ^ a b In Danger Undaunted: The Anti-Interventionist Movement of 1940–1941 by Justus D. Doenecke:
  20. ^ Campbell Robertson; Stephen Farrell (December 31, 2008), Green Zone, Heart of U.S. Occupation, Reverts to Iraqi Control, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/world/middleeast/01greenzone.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper 

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Organized incorporated territories of the United States — North America and United States Territories ca. 1830.  • The Oregon Country to the upper left was in dispute with and later co managed by Great Britain.  • The American Southwest was added to the United States after the Mexican American …   Wikipedia

  • Unincorporated territories of the United States — Unincorporated territories are areas controlled by the government of the United States which are not part of the United States proper. The history of these territories is as follows:;April 11 1899The 1898 Treaty of Paris came in to effect,… …   Wikipedia

  • Courts of the United States — include both the United States federal courts, comprising the judicial branch of the federal government of the United States (operating under the authority of the United States Constitution and federal law) and state and territorial courts of the …   Wikipedia

  • Communications in the United States — The FCC logo. The primary regulator of communications in the United States is the Federal Communications Commission. It closely regulates all of the industries mentioned below with the exception of newspapers and the Internet service provider… …   Wikipedia

  • Geography of the United States — The United States is a nation in the Western Hemisphere. It consists of forty eight contiguous states on the North American continent; Alaska, an enormous peninsula which forms the northwestern most part of North America, and Hawaii, an… …   Wikipedia

  • Politics of the United States — United States This article is part of the series: Politics and government of the United States …   Wikipedia

  • History of the United States — The United States is located in the middle of the North American continent, with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The United States ranges from the Atlantic Ocean on the nation s east coast to the Pacific Ocean bordering the west, and …   Wikipedia

  • Law of the United States — The law of the United States was originally largely derived from the common law system of English law, which was in force at the time of the Revolutionary War. [Lawrence M. Friedman, A History of American Law , 3rd ed. (New York: Touchstone,… …   Wikipedia

  • Race in the United States — The United States is a racially diverse country. There is an extensive history of race based slavery, the abolishment of it, and its economic impact. Modern issues of race, as well as its impact in the political and economic development of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Elections in the United States — For the most recent elections, see United States elections, 2010. For a complete list of elections, see List of elections in the United States. An 1846 painting showing a polling judge administering an oath to a voter The United States has a… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.