Doc. 225.-the Central Committee's address to the people of Northwestern Virginia.
Having submitted to you the resolutions of the Convention held at Wheeling, on the 13th instant, with a brief address, we now crave your earnest attention whilst we discuss, yet further, the very grave and important questions submitted for your consideration and action. We are yet freemen, Virginia freemen, in the full possession and enjoyment of the sacred and inalienable rights guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights and Constitution of our State, and the Constitution of the United States. In that character and under those sanctions we now address you, and it will remain for us in our future action to determine whether we shall retain them or not. As shown in the resolutions of the Convention already submitted to you, we have been called to pass upon the acts of one of the highest and most solemn assemblages known to our system of Government — the representatives of the people of Virginia in Convention assembled. We must here correct an error of fatal effect and consequence, which meets us at the threshold of our discussion The Convention of Virginia, which was elected on the 4th of February last, and assembled at Richmond on the 18th of the same month, was not the embodiment of the sovereignty of the people of Virginia. The were not clothed with the powers they have assumed to exercise; else could they have undone the work of our fathers, abolished our republican form of Government, and re-established the Crown of Great Britain as our supreme governing power. The act of our Legislature, convening this Convention, expressly provided that the distinct question should be submitted to the people of Virginia, whether any ordinance in any manner affecting or changing our relations to the Government of the United States, or the Constitution of our own  State, should be referred to the people, or not. By an unusual, unprecedented majority, the people decided, substantially, that no change should be made, either in our allegiance to the Constitution of the United States or in our State Constitution, without having first received the sanction and approval of our people. The second article of our Bill of Rights declares “that all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.” Therefore no act or ordinance of the Convention changing our Government, either State or Federal, can be of any force or effect until the people have, by a free, deliberate, and unconstrained vote, passed upon it; and then only subject to the Constitution of the United States. This leads us to the next, and yet more important question, as to the power, effect, and obligation of the Constitution of the United States. In this address we intend to speak with perfect frankness and candor. Claiming to understand our rights, we know that we are addressing those of equal intelligence, and who, whilst understanding their rights, have the courage and manhood to vindicate and maintain them. The Hon. Jefferson Davis, President of the so-called Confederate States, on the 29th of the last month, sent a message to the Congress at Montgomery, convened in extra session. He has availed himself of this occasion, as the head and chief of the States who have attempted to withdraw themselves from our Federal Union, to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” He says to the Congress: “The occasion is indeed an extraordinary one. It justifies me in a brief review of the relations heretofore existing between us and the States which now unite in warfare against us, and a succinct statement of the events which have resulted in this warfare; to the end that mankind may pass intelligent and impartial judgment on its motives and objects.” When our fathers declared their country's independence, it was not the act of one man; but the instrument bore the signatures of men the story of whose lives is the history of the times in which they lived. This message of Mr. Davis is the authoritative declaration of the Seceding States, and we receive it in the character he has assumed for it. The single, naked proposition upon which rests the whole claim of the right of secession is distinctly stated in the second of the “Articles of Confederation” adopted by the original Thirteen States during the War of the Revolution, as framed by the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled, on the 9th of July, 1778. This article is in these words:
Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.This was the vital defect in the articles of Confederation, and on the 21st of February, 1787, the Congress, after declaring the inefficiency of the Federal Union, and the necessity of devising such further provisions as should render the same adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and being satisfied that a Convention was-- “The most probable means of establishing in these States a firm National Government, resolved that it was expedient that a Convention of Delegates appointed by the several States should be held on the second Monday in May then next, at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several Legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union.” The Congress and the patriotic men of that day had become satisfied, from the experience and trials of the Revolutionary War, and the few years which had elapsed subsequent to its close, that the so-called “sovereignty and independence,” reserved to the States under the Articles of Confederation, were the fruitful source of all the manifold troubles and difficulties they encountered. They found that their Government was so imperfect as to be inadequate to the great ends of all Governments, as laid down in their Declaration of the 4th of July, 1776, and that it had therefore become their duty “to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them should seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” The Convention which assembled in May, 1787, at Philadelphia, and which immortalized itself in the Constitution of the United States, thoroughly reflected the will of those whom they represented. They framed that Constitution in the name and on behalf of the people of the United States, and not of the several States, as separate and distinct sovereignties. In the debates had in that Convention, on the formation of the Constitution, the following language was used by that distinguished son of Virginia, James Madison:
Some contend that States are sovereign, when in fact they are only political societies. There is a gradation of power in all societies from the lowest corporation to the highest sovereign. The States never possessed the essential rights of sovereignty. These were always vested in Congress. Their voting as States in Congress is no evidence of sovereignty. The State of Maryland voted by counties, did this make the counties sovereign? The States at present are only great corporations, having the power of making by-laws, and these are effectual only if they are not contradictory to the General Confederation. In the memorable preamble to that Constitution they declare as follows:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.It was the act of the people and not of the States. George Washington, the President of the Convention, in communicating to the Congress the Constitution which had been thus framed, in his letter of the 17th of September, 1787, uses this most remarkable and significant language:
It is obviously impracticable, in the Federal Government of these States, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each and yet provide for the interest and safety of all.This Constitution was not submitted to the States for ratification, but to the people of the several States in Conventions assembled. On the 25th of June, 1788, the Convention of Virginia, by their ordinance assenting to and ratifying that Constitution, declared and made known:
That the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.We still hold to the great political truths our fathers have taught us. Our National Government is not a mere league between sovereign States, which each may revoke at its pleasure, but the solemn act of the people of the several States, which they alone can revoke. We do not deny the right of revolution; on the contrary, we maintain and vindicate it. Whenever a Government, in its administration, is destructive of the legitimate ends of all Governments, “it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it ;” but in so doing the people must be consulted, and they will ever take care that the Government they have established shall not be changed for light and transient causes. Nothing has occurred to warrant or justify the change in our Government proposed by the ordinances of our Convention. Adopting the language of our fellow-citizens of the county of Berkeley, at their late mass meeting, we can truthfully declare:
That we have never yet agreed to break our allegiance to that Constitution which was signed by George Washington, framed by James Madison, administered by Jefferson, judicially expounded by John Marshall, protected by Jackson, defended by Webster, and lived for by Clay.“That we have never known Virginia save as a State in the United States; and all our feelings of State pride are indelibly associated with her, as a bright star in the constellation of a glorious and united country.” “ That we have lived happily under the great Government of the United States, and if that Government has oppressed us by any of its acts, legislative, executive, or judicial, during its existence, we do not know it.” Such, we are well persuaded, must be the declaration of every calm, deliberate, and conscientious citizen. How, then, can we approve and ratify the ordinance of secession? As if nothing should be wanting to arouse and excite our most determined opposition, the manner of its adoption, the circumstances which preceded it, the unjustifiable acts of aggression and warfare against the Government of the United States, committed prior even to the attempted disruption of the Union, and the still more flagrant outrage upon our rights and liberties, in the passage of the ordinance annexing our State to the Confederate States, and the introduction of the armed soldiers of that Confederacy for |the avowed purpose of making war upon the United States, all combine to strengthen and confirm our solemn determination not to submit to such violation of our rights secured to us by the Constitutions of both Virginia and the United States. We will maintain inviolate our fealty and allegiance to both. There is and can be no conflict in this double allegiance. The ordinances of the Convention intended to withdraw our State from the United States and annex her to the Confederate States, are unconstitutional, null, and void; and the acts of the Governor and his subordinates, so far as they are intended to execute those ordinances, are mere usurpations of power, unwarranted by the Constitution and laws of our State. To show conclusively how far the existing authorities of our State Government have compromised her honor and dignity and abused the trust and confidence of her people, we make the following extract from the message of the Hon. Jefferson Davis, to which we have before referred:
Having been officially notified by the public authorities of the State of Virginia that she had withdrawn from the Union, and desired to maintain the closest political relations with us which it was possible at this time to establish, I commissioned the Hon. Alex. H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States, to represent its Government at Richmond. I am happy to inform you that he has concluded a convention with the State of Virginia by which that honored Commonwealth, so long and justly distinguished among her sister States, and so dear to the hearts of thousands of her children in the Confederate States, has united her power and her fortunes with ours, and become one of us.The fourteenth article of the Bill of Rights of our State is in these words:
That the people have a right to uniform government; and therefore that no government separate from or independent of the government  of Virginia ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.But in direct violation of this fundamental law of our State, without the authority, aye, without the knowledge of our people, a government separate from and independent of the government of Virginia has been erected and established within her limits. The new government, called the Confederate States of America, las, by the usurpation of our Convention, been placed over a large portion of our State, put in possession of the Governor and his subordinate executive officers, our whole military force and military operations, offensive and defensive; and, to complete our degradation as a free people, by the introduction of large bodies of Confederate troops, and the alteration of our Constitution and laws relating to elections, that foreign government has obtained the control of the ballot-box. We are very sure that no man, whose faith has not been shaken in the great political axiom of our fathers, that man is capable of self-government, can calmly and dispassionately consider the acts of the Convention and Executive of our State without feeling aroused within him the same spirit of indignant resistance which led our fathers into and through the war of the Revolution. Questions of the grave import as are those submitted to you are not to be decided under the sudden and rash impulse of passion, prejudice, or the promptings of misled State pride. We have loved and honored our State for her past history — a history made glorious by her loyalty to the great Union which she more than any other State contributed to create, establish, and perpetuate. No mere vituperation or sneering can or ought to move us from our honest convictions of duty. We are not the followers of any man or set of men, but the conscientious supporters of the Government, both National and State, which our fathers created, and which for nearly three-quarters of a century has covered our country with blessings. Admitting, as we do, the right of revolution, but denying, as we must, that there is any case, sufficient or otherwise, to demand or justify it, to what description of Government has our Convention attempted to annex us? We cannot better answer this question than in the language of one of Maryland's most patriotic and gifted sons:
On one side of us is a united nation of nineteen millions of people; on the other, a divided population of nine millions. We stand between them. If we remain true to the Union, we shall have protection and peace, and hereafter an easy settlement of all our complaints. If we desert the Union, we shall be driven into a Confederacy which has but little sympathy with our interests, and less power to protect us against the ravages of the frequent wars which must inevitably arise between the two sections.“The Southern Confederacy is essentially weak in the basis of its construction. It is founded on a principle which must lead to the ever-recurring danger of new secessions, and the exhibition of a worse than Mexican anarchy. It may witness pronunciamientos upon every discontent, and the strife of the parties ending in further disintegration. If the Border States go into that Confederacy, the opposition of material interests will soon develop the utter want of capacity in the new Government to secure its cohesion.” Wisely, therefore, did our late Convention, looking to the geographical, social, commercial, an industrial interests of Northwestern Virginia, resolve “that the Virginia Convention, in assuming to change the relations of the State of Virginia to the Federal Government, have not only acted unwisely and unconstitutionally, but have adopted a policy utterly ruinous to all the material interests of our section, severing all our social ties, and drying up all the channels of our trade and prosperity.” We are very confident that every reflecting and candid man must concur in this resolution; and that, therefore, if our reasoning upon the constitutional question be sound, both our duty as true and loyal citizens of Virginia and the United States, and our interests of every kind, are in perfect harmony the one with the other. It is neither our right nor our duty to anticipate the action of the Convention which will assemble on the 11th of June. Ere this address reaches you, your will, at least in parts of our State, will have been expressed through the ballot-box. How far that will may sustain the positions we have here assumed, we know not, but they are nevertheless submitted to you with the confident assurance that they cannot be successfully assailed. We are equally confident that it will be your determination to maintain and vindicate the loyalty of our State in the Union, in such manner and by such constitutional and lawful means as future consultation and deliberation shall determine to be the best and wisest. We have sought to strengthen and confirm your attachment to our Government as it existed prior to the usurpations of the Convention and Executive of our State; to satisfy you that your love for the Union of our fathers was not a mere sentiment, but was firmly based upon truth and duty; that your fealty to the State of Virginia demanded and compelled your fealty to the Union; and that, however our brethren in other parts of the State might decide for themselves in this solemn crisis of our country's history, we of Northwestern Virginia, having an equal right with them so to decide, will abide by and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States and of Virginia. Whilst we have a Constitution and code of laws for our State Government, and local officers to administer them, the Executive and his immediate subordinates have submitted themselves to the Government of the Confederate States. They have thrown off their allegiance  to the United States, and are now diligently and laboriously preparing themselves to wage war against the Government of the Union. We need not characterize, in terms, such conduct, but as true and loyal citizens of Virginia we can and must declare that, in our calm and deliberate judgment, it will be the duty of the people of Northwestern Virginia to provide, in the lawful and constitutional mode, for the exercise of those executive and legislative functions of our State Government which have been intrusted to those who are faithless and disloyal, and thus save ourselves from that anarchy which so imminently threatens us. In submitting this grave subject for your consideration, we do so in the earnest faith and hope that you will send to the Convention of the 11th of June your best and truest men, that such action may be secured as will best subserve the interests of our State and secure the perpetuity of its union with the United States.
--National Intelligencer, June 1.