The White Court (1910–21)


What ruling established that a state can choose its own capital city?

The White Court ruled 7–2 in Coyle v. Smith that the state of Oklahoma could move its capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City despite a provision enacted by Congress when it admitted Oklahoma into the Union in 1906. The U.S. congressional act that made Oklahoma a state contained a provision that provided that Guthrie should be the capital until at least 1913. However, the state of Oklahoma passed a law in 1910, providing for the change of the capital site to Oklahoma City. The U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Horace Lurton, ruled that the U.S. Congress could not limit a state’s ability to change capital cities. “The power to locate its own seat of government, and to determine when and how it shall be changed from one place to another and to appropriate its own public funds for that purpose, are essentially and peculiarly state powers,” he wrote.


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