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[41]

Its next step was to inaugurate measures looking to the dismemment of the Commonwealth. On the 20th of August, 1861, it passed an ordinance to provide for the erection of a new State within the territory of Virginia. This ordinance enumerated certain counties which should form the new State, and certain others—among them Berkeley and Jefferson—which, or any of which, the Constitutional Convention of the proposed State was authorized to include within its boundaries, if the said counties, or any of them should, by a majority of the votes cast on the question, declare their wish to form part of the commonwealth so proposed to be erected, and should elect delegates to the Convention.

Within the same month of August, too short a period having intervened to allow adequate time for consideration and discussion, or even for proper notice on so grave a question, the vote was taken, and resulted, as it was intended, and indeed inevitable, that it should result. Hardly more than one-fourth of the voters took part in the election, most of those opposed to the movement regarding the whole proceeding as a farce which it would be alike unworthy and impolitic for them to countenance by participating in. A handful of ballots were cast on the other side, but the great mass of those who went to the polls voted, as, of course, in the affirmative, the numbers standing 18,408 to 781.

The Convention met on the 26th of November, 1861, and adopted a constitution to be submitted to the people on the 3rd of the following April. Mutatis mutandis, this election was a copy of the preceding. The same causes produced the same effects, but, having had a longer time to operate, in a somewhat intensified form. The great majority did not appear at the polls; of those who did almost all voted for the constitution, the respective numbers, in this case, being 18,862 in favor of to 514 against it. So stand the records on their face, no attempt, be it noted, having been made here to go behind them, or to reach even a conjectural estimate as to the proportion of these affirmative votes obtained by illegitimate methods—by corruption of various kinds, by fraud, by intimidation.

The Legislature of what was called the reorganized government of Virginia, sitting within the limits of the proposed State, and representing, so far as they could properly be said to represent any at all, substantially the same people with those therein included, gave their consent, in the character of legislators of the old State, to what they themselves had done, as agents in the formation of the new.


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