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Doc. 15.-address to the people of Virginia.1

The delegates now assembled in convention at Wheeling, deem it proper to address their fellow-citizens throughout the commonwealth, in explanation and vindication of the course they have unanimously felt it incumbent on them to pursue.

It is only necessary to allude briefly to the circumstances which called this convention into existence, to justify, in the fullest manner, any resumption of authority by the people in whose name they act. The General Assembly, which met in extra session at Richmond, in January last, without the excuse of impending danger or other grave necessity, and without constitutional authority, convened a convention, “to adopt such measures as they may deem expedient for the welfare of the commonwealth;” thus tamely relinquishing the very power reposed in themselves by the constitution, and, as the sequel proved, with a corrupt purpose. Elections were held for delegates to the proposed convention, and it being then clearly understood that an active and influential party favored the secession of the commonwealth from the United States, the issue presented everywhere was clearly “Secession” or “No secession.” We need not remind you that by a very large majority of the voters of the commonwealth secession was rejected and repudiated, by the election of delegates professedly opposed to that iniquity, nor that a still larger majority required, that any act of that convention, altering the fundamental law or affecting the relations of the state, should be submitted to the people, and without the approbation of a majority, expressed at the polls, should have no force or effect.

The proceedings of that convention, up to the seventeenth of April last, were evidently intended by those in the secret to persuade the members favorable to the perpetuity of the Union, and the people at large, that it was intended to propose terms on which it could be maintained. On the day named the mask was thrown aside, and the secession ordinance was passed, This was done in secret session, and no immediate promulgation of the fact was made to the people; nor, until since this convention assembled, was the injunction of secrecy so far removed that the vote on the passage of the ordinance was made public. It now appears that more than one third of the whole convention voted against it, and that nine members were absent. Up to this day the debates which preceded the vote are concealed from the people, who are thus denied a knowledge of the causes which, in the opinion of the majority, rendered secession necessary, and justified so gross a disregard of their lately expressed will.

Under the legislative act calling the convention, from which alone that body derived its authority, and under the vote of the people provided for by that act, the secession ordinance had no legal effect until ratified at the polls by a majority of the voters of the commonwealth. The leaders in the secession movement, whose conduct has proved them to be conspirators against the State of Virginia, and the peace and welfare of her people, did not wait until the time fixed for this ratification, to begin their overt acts of treason against the government and people of the United States, as well as the state and people for whom they professed to act. Indeed, two days before the adoption of the ordinance, with the connivance, or, as is alleged, in defiance of a feeble executive, they levied war against both by sending their emissaries to capture the Harper's Ferry armory, and to obstruct the entrance of the harbor on which is situated the Gosport navy yard. This bold assumption of authority was followed by numerous acts of hostility against the United States; by the levy of troops to aid in the capture of the national capital, and the subversion of the national authority, and, to crown the infamy of the conspirators, with whom the executive had now coalesced, by an attempt, without even the pretence of the authority or acquiescence of the people, to transfer their allegiance from the United States to a league of rebellious states, in arms against the former.

In this state of things, the day arrived when the people were to vote for or against the secession ordinance. Threats of personal injury and other intimidations, such as had been uttered upon the floor of the usurping convention against the remaining friends of the Union there, were used by the adherents of the conspirators in every county of the state. Judges charged the grand juries that opposition to disunion would be punished as treason against the commonwealth; and the armed partisans of the conspirators, in various places, arrested, plundered, and exiled peaceable citizens, for no other crime than their adherence to the Union their fathers had constructed, and under which they had been born and lived in prosperity and peace. We are not apprised by any official announcement of the result of the vote taken under such circumstances; but, whatever it may be, we denounce it as unfair and unjust, and as affording no evidence of the will of the people on the subject actually presented for their suffrages, and much less of their consent to be transferred to the self-constituted oligarchy of the south.

In the point of view in which this result, and the transactions which inevitably led to it, should be examined by the people of Virginia, it is unimportant whether secession was of itself desirable or not desirable; because the end cannot justify the means, if the latter are illegal and unholy. In the present case, the great principle which underlies all free government — the principle that the will of the people is the supreme law, or as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and in our own Bill of Rights, that “all power is vested in and consequently derived from the people,” has not only been violated and set at nought, but has been trampled under foot. In the call of the

1 unanimously adopted by the convention in session at Wheeling, June twenty-fourth, 1861.

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