Doc. 170.-letter of Senator Mason on the Virginia election.
To the Editor of the Winchester Virginian:--The question has been frequently put to me, What position will Virginia occupy, should the ordinance of secession be rejected by the people at the approaching election? And the frequency of the question may be an excuse for giving publicity to the answer. The ordinance of secession withdrew the State of Virginia from the Union, with all the consequences resulting from the separation. It annulled the Constitution and the laws of the United States within the limits of this State, and absolved the citizens of Virginia from all obligations and obedience to them. Hence it follows, if this ordinance be rejected by the people, the State of Virginia will remain in the Union, and the people of the State will remain bound by the Constitution of the United States, and obedience to the Government and the laws of the United States will be fully and rightfully enforced against them. It follows, of course, that in this war now carried on by the Government of the United States against the seceding States, Virginia must immediately change sides, and, under the orders of that Government, turn her arms against her Southern sisters. From this there can be no escape. As a member of the Union, all her resources of men and money will be at once at the command of the Government of the Union: Again: For mutual defence, immediately after the Ordinance of Secession passed, a treaty, or “military league” was formed by the Convention, in the name of the people of Virginia, with the Confederate States of the South, by which the latter were bound to march to the aid of our State, against the invasion of the Federal Government. And we have now in Virginia, at Harper's Ferry, and at Norfolk, in face of the common foe, several thousand of the gallant sons of South Carolina, of Alabama, of Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi, who hastened to fulfil the covenant they made, and are ready and eager to lay down their lives, side by side, with our sons in defence of the soil of Virginia. If the Ordinance of Secession is rejected, not only will this “military league” be annulled, but it will have been made a trap to inveigle our generous defenders into the hands of their enemies. Virginia remaining in the Union, duty and loyalty to her obligations to the Union will require that those Southern forces shall not be permitted to leave the State, but shall be delivered up to the Government of the Union; and those who refuse to do so, will be guilty of treason, and be justly dealt with as traitors. Treason against the United States consists, as well “in adhering to its enemies and giving them aid,” as in levying war. If it be asked, what are those to do who in their consciences cannot vote to separate Virginia from the United States--the answer is simple and plain: honor and duty alike require that they should not vote on the question; if they retain such opinions, they must leave the State. None can doubt or question the truth of what I have written, and none can vote against the ordinance of secession, who do not thereby (whether ignorantly or otherwise) vote to place himself and his State in the position I have indicated.
--Winchester Virginian, May 22.