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[40] States, the Convention of that Commonwealth which had hitherto been engaged in persistent efforts to preserve peace and restore harmony, all hope of this having disappeared, at length adopted an ordinance of secession. Immediately on its passage a majority of the members from the northwestern part of the State withdrew from the Convention, and a movement was at once set on foot in that section to resist and nullify an act which, whether wise or unwise, was at all events undoubtedly that of the people of Virginia, acting as an organized commonwealth, through the highest representative body known to our institutions.

At a meeting held in the town of Clarksburg, in Harrison county, a call was issued, addressed exclusively to the people of the northwestern counties, inviting the appointment of delegates to a convention to be held at Wheeling, on the 13th of May. There was no pretense even of a regular election of delegates to this Convention. They were appointed in some cases by public meetings, without reference to the number of qualified voters composing them, in others by papers to which were appended a few signatures requesting certain persons to act as representatives, in yet others without even this faint show of respect for the principle of popular choice. A number of the residents of Wheeling and of Ohio county, in no way more entitled to seats than any similar number of private citizens from any other locality, together with the delegates thus irregularly appointed, composed the motley gathering. Out of one hundred and forty counties and three cities the Committee on Credentials could report representatives from no city and only twenty-six counties. The greater or smaller degree of irregularity in these proceedings is, however, of the less consequence, as it is abundantly evident that there was no shadow of legality in the whole movement from its beginning to its close.

On the recommendation of this assemblage, a Convention, claiming at different stages of its existence to represent a varying number of counties never exceeding thirty-six, met at Wheeling on the 11th of June, 1861. This body, even nominally representing scarcely more than a fourth of the counties of the State, in some of which there were strong minorities, in others probably actual majorities in favor of abiding by the action of the regular Convention at Richmond, assumed nevertheless to speak in the name of the whole people of Virginia, and at once proceeded to alter the State Constitution in important particulars, to vacate, and re-fill all the State offices, and to prescribe new oaths and qualifications for their holders.


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