Convening the Legislature.
At the present juncture and in view of the convening of the Legislature by the Governor
, it may be of interest to refer to the Inaugural Message
of Governor Letcher
, delivered January 7th, 1860. After setting forth the unfriendly legislation upon slavery of various non-slaveholding States, and the events threatening a dissolution of the Union
, he asks, "What can be done to avert the danger?" and says:
"The only more, therefore, of remedying the evil, that occurs to me, under the Constitution,
is provided in the fifth article thereof.
Summon a Convention of all the States, that a full and free conference may be had between the representatives of the people, elected for this purpose, and thus ascertain whether the questions in controversy cannot be settled upon some basis mutually satisfactory to both sections.
If such a Convention shall assemble, and after free and full consultation and comparison of opinions, they shall find that the differences between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States are irreconcilable, let them consider the question of a peaceable separation, and the adjustment of all questions relating to the disposition of the common property between the two sections.
If they can be reconciled, let them adjust the terms and give them such sanctions as will render them effective.
"I suggest, therefore, that you adopt resolutions in favor of the call of such a Convention, and appeal to the Legislatures of the several States to unite in the application proposed to be made to Congress, in pursuance of the provisions of the article aforesaid.
If the non slaveholding States shall fail or refuse to unite in the application, such failure or refusal will furnish conclusive evidence of a determination on their part to keep up the agitation, and to continue their aggressions upon us. If the Convention
shall meet, and the question cannot be satisfactorily adjusted, the people of the South
will clearly understand what they are to expect in the future."
The 5th article, to which reference is made in the above extract, is as follows:
"The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to the Constitution
; or, on the application of the Legislature of-two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution
, when notified by the Legislature of three-fourths of the several States, or by counties, in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by Congress; provided, that no amendment which may be made prior to the year 1808, shall, in any manner, affect the first and fourth claims in the ninth section of the first article; and that no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the South
" (The first clause in the ninth section, here referred to, is that which, at the instance of Massachusetts
, was adopted, declaring that the slave trade shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to 1808; the fourth directs that no capitation or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration hereinbefore directed to be taken.)
The Governor then proceeds to suggest that two of the most intelligent, discreet and experienced statesmen of Virginia
shall be appointed, whose duty it shall be to visit the Legislatures of those States which have passed laws to obstruct the execution of the fugitive slave act, and insist, in the name of Virginia
, upon their unconditional repeal.
In support of the suggestion of the appointment of a commissioner, Gov. Letcher
refers to a precedent in the history of our own State, in the appointment of the distinguished Benjamin Watkins Leigh
, who was commissioned to visit the Legislature of South Carolina at the time of the controversy between that State and the Federal Government
The action of Virginia
exerted a most happy influence at that period in preventing the threatened dissolution of the Union
The Message of Gov. Letcher
, which makes these recommendations, was delivered nearly a year ago, but we observe that much attention has been called of late to it in the Southern Atlantic
States, and that its recommendations seem to be regarded with favor in influential quarters in that section.