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[480] stimulate your prosperity. If so, the prestige of the Union would be destroyed, and you would be the nucleus for a Southern confederation at no distant day. But I do not doubt, from all I have been able to learn, that the Federal Government would use force, beginning with the form most embarrassing to you, and least calculated to excite sympathy: I mean a naval blockade. In that event, could you withstand the reaction of feeling which the suffering commerce of Charleston would probably manifest? Would you not lose that in which your strength consists, the union of your people? I do not mean to imply an opinion; I only. ask the question. If you force this blockade, and bring the Government to direct force, the feeling in Virginia would be very great. I trust in God it would bring her to your aid. But it would be wrong in me to deceive you by speaking certainly. I cannot express the deep mortification I have felt at her course this winter. But I do not believe that the course of the Legislature is a fair expression of the popular feeling. In the East, at least, the great majority believe in the right of Secession, and feel the deepest sympathy with Carolina in opposition to measures which they regard as she does. But the west-Western Virginia--there is the rub! Only 60,000 slaves to 494,000 whites.1 When I consider this fact, and the kind of argument which we have heard in this body,2 I cannot but regard with the greatest fear, the question whether Virginia would assist Carolina in such an issue.

Mr. Garnett had clearly and truly foreseen that Western Virginia must necessarily constitute a formidable obstacle to the triumph of Secession. The forty-two counties which now compose the State of West Virginia, had, in 1860, a free population of 349,642, with only 12,771 slaves, or but one slave to nearly thirty white persons; and even this small number of slaves were, in good part, held in the counties of Greenbrier, Monroe and Hampshire, lying on the southern verge of the new State, and, for the most part, adhering to old Virginia in the struggle for Disunion. In the nature of things, this people were not, and could not be, disposed to divide the Republic, and place themselves on the most exposed and defenseless frontier of a far smaller and weaker nation, in the interest, and for the supposed benefit, of human Slavery. And yet this enormous sacrifice was required of them by the slaveholding conspiracy, which, since it could not hope to win them by persuasion, was preparing to subject them to its sway by force of arms: and it was a secret condition of the adhesion of Virginia to the Confederacy that her territorial area was, in no case, to be curtailed by any treaty of peace that might ultimately be made with the Union.

On the other hand, the accession of Virginia to the Confederacy had rendered a peaceful concession of Southern independence a moral, and well nigh a geographical, impossibility. West Virginia--but more especially that long, narrow strip, strangely interposed between Pennsylvania and Ohio, (locally designated “The Panhandle,” ) could not be surrendered by the Union without involving the necessity of still further national disintegration. For this “Panhandle” stretches northerly to within a hundred miles of Lake Erie, nearly severing the old from the new Free States, and becoming, in the event of its possession by a foreign and hostile power, a means of easily interposing a military force so as to cut off all communication between them. If the people of the Free States could have consented to surrender their brethren of West Virginia to their common foes, they could not have relinquished their territory without

1 Mr. Garnett counts the Valley (Shenandoah,) as a portion of Western Virginia.

2 Mr. G. was then a member of a Virginia State Convention.

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Muscoe R. H. Garnett (2)
Shenandoah (1)
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