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[38]

Executive Department, Richmond, Va., April 15, 1861.
Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War:
Sir: I received your telegram of the 15th, the genuineness of which I doubted. Since that time 1 have received your communication mailed the same day, in which I am requested to detach from the militia of the State of Virginia ‘the quota designated in a table,’ which you append, ‘to serve as infantry or riflemen for the period of three months, unless sooner discharged.’

In reply to this communication, I have only to say that the militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object—an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795—will not be complied with.

You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and, having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the administration has exhibited toward the South.

Respectfully,


Lincoln's call for troops to invade and coerce the newborn Confederacy, and Letcher's reply to that call, wrought an immediate change in the current of public opinion in Virginia, from the mountains to the sea. At the election of delegates to the State convention, held on the 4th of February, the best and ablest men of the commonwealth had been chosen, largely without regard to party affiliation, but because they were for the maintenance of the Union. The citizens of the State further safeguarded their views upon this subject by deciding, by a large majority, at the time of that election that any action of the convention looking to a change of the relations of the States to the Union must be submitted to a popular vote for approval or rejection.

Up to this time the convention had been mainly engaged in efforts to conciliate the discordant sections, urging the general government, which was now entirely Northern in character, to abstain from hostile action toward the seceded States, and at the same time endeavoring to restrain the latter, in the hope that time and reflection would lead to a reconsideration of their, in its opinion, hasty and premature action. The Confederacy had sent its ablest men to urge Virginia to join it, satisfied that unless she did so the effort to organize a new and independent nation would be a failure. To these eminent men the convention had given a respectful hearing, but had declined the proffered alliance, satisfied that if she joined the Southern Confederacy, almost her entire territory would become the scene of a fierce and long-continued

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