Virginia State Convention.
Tuesday,Feb. 26, 1861.
The Convention was called to order at 12 o'clock.
Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Minnegerode
, of St. Paul's Church.
, of Preston
, offered the following, which was adopted:
Resolved, That the Auditor
of Public Accounts be requested to furnish to the Convention
a statement showing the aggregate number of persons returned delinquent by the Sheriffs of the different counties of the Common wealth for the nonpayment of taxes for the year 1860; also, the aggregate amount of taxes on such delinquent taxes.
The National difficulties.
, of Bedford
, called up the resolutions offered by Mr. Moore
, which were laid on the table yesterday.
, of Bedford
, being entitled to the floor, proceeded to say that it was not his purpose to speak to the resolutions, but to reply to the gentleman from Rockbridge
, (Mr. Moore
.) He regretted that his physical condition rendered him wholly unable to do justice to a case of such vast interest, and regretted also that circumstances prevented him from concluding his remarks yesterday.
He hoped the citizens would in future abstain from all demonstrations of applause in the hall.
It was a solemn work in which the Convention
was now engaged.
Its action might, and doubtless would, determine the destiny of Virginia
for all time to come; and while it was natural that the eagle eye of the people, jealous of her honor, should be riveted on this body, he hoped they would remember the remark of Mirabeau in the French Assembly
, that ‘"the silence of the people is a lesson to Kings
He repeated the inquiry made yesterday, What ought Virginia
to do, in this the most trying and perilous hour in her history?--That was the all-absorbing question which must be answered by this Convention — answered before God and the country — answered plainly.
flatly, and unequivocally; and if they fail to answer it, they fail to meet the just expectations of the people.
Gentlemen might chant pa ans to the Union
, but the Union
was already dissolved — the Union
of 1789, which the fathers formed, and which he had hitherto cherished with fond devotion: which, in the language of the Father
of his Country, he had been accustomed to look upon as the Palladium of our liberty and prosperity — was numbered among the things that were.
What then, would Virginia
Would she be true to herself and her historical renown, and nobly vindicate her ancient fame, or was her brave blood altogether extinct, and were we prepared to lower her proud flag, and permit her to humble her pride by submitting to the yoke of Northern abolitionism?
Shall we go to the house of our enemies, or to the house of our friends?
east her lot with her sisters of the South
, or still hope on hope ever — hope against hope — trusting her interests and her honor to the leader mercies of Abraham Lincoln
?--For himself, he had no hesitation in saying that Virginia
should now, promptly and with out delay, declare herself out of the Union
, and take her position at the head of the Southern
He believed that immediate separation from the from the Northern Confederacy
would be a peaceful measure.
The coercion of the seceded States would be attempted by Lincoln
The tone of the Northern
press — the declarations of their representative men — the votes of their Senators
and Representatives in Congress — the action of their State Legislatures — the collection of Federal troops at the Federal
metropolis — the reported declarations of Lincoln
himself — the organization and drilling of Northern Wide-Awakes — all these considerations should be sufficient to convince the most skeptical on the subject.
They may not attempt to march their mercenaries into a seceded State, but they will attempt to collect the revenue and retake the captured forts.
Would our Southern brethren submit to this?
It was a slander on their good name and fame to entertain the idea for one single moment.
Talk about the stamp act and the tax on tea which kindled revolutionary fires in former days.
To his mind, the most horrible attempt that could be made on earth would be to wring tribute from an unwilling people.
The Union could never be restored by the power of the sword.
It had been preserved heretofore in the hearts and affections of the people.
If coercion is attempted, the blood of slaughtered patriots will be like the dragons' teeth of old, sown upon the earth, from which would spring forth heroes ready to go into battle.--They might attempt to coerce a seceded State, but would never attempt to coerce a united South.
When old Virginia
places herself at the head of the column, the other border States will quickly wheel into line; and then, and not till then, will Northern coercion be abandoned; then, and not till then, will grim visaged war smooth its wrinkled front, and peace return to bless the land; then, and not till then, will the Union
be restored, as given us by our fathers, and move forward again in a career of glory and prosperity.
What a glorious chaplet will be bound upon the brow of our venerated mother, if, in the Providence
of God, it shall be her destiny to give peace to this distracted country.
Not only will the people of this land, but people of all nations of the earth will rise to bless her.
He sympathized with those who desired a restoration of the Union
, but would remind them that Virginia
could never be instrumental in producing such a result, until she left the side of the oppressor and took the part of the oppressed.
He proceeded to allude to the act of the Southern States
a year ago, in sending Commissioners here, to take counsel upon measures of safety.
turned coldly from them, and it was natural they should feel some distrust.
But when Virginia
wheels into the line, and peace shall be happily restored, her Southern sisters will listen to her invitation, and come back to the Union
which she helped to reconstruct.
They will come — not like the prodigal son, as some have said here — not in sack-cloth and ashes — but glorying in what they have done; and will say to Virginia
, in the beautiful language of Ruth
to Naomi--‘"Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodges, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.--Where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried.--’
cannot reconstruct the Union
, she can effect a peaceable separation.
If she cannot live in a Northern Confederacy, she has the right to depart in peace.
She can either restore the Union
, or secure a peaceable and final separation.
It is no longer a question of Union or disunion, but will she go North or South?
Every consideration of interest and honor requires that she should go with her Southern sisters.
They are bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh.
desert them now?
As well might it be asked could the mother desert and forget her own offspring.
He regretted that the gentleman from Rockbridge
was not in his seat.
He would, however, notice a few of his objections to going into a Southern Confederacy.
With regard to there-opening of the African slave trade, Mr.
G. proceeded to say, that every Convention in the seceded States had proclaimed against it, and a provision to that effect had been inserted in the Constitution
Yet, the gentleman would go with the Northern Confederacy
, in whose Constitution no such prohibitory clause was to be found.
With regard to Free Trade and Direct Taxation — the Provisional Government
had already declared in favor of collecting the revenue from imports.
And as to his complaint, that they had not consulted with Virginia
on the causes of withdrawal, he (Mr.
G.) alluded to the fact that some of them sought it over 12 months ago, when the causes of withdrawal were ripe.
Yet they had submitted to the hardships until now — when a President was about to be inaugurated by a party who denounced the Constitution
of our fathers as a league with death, and a covenant with hell --they had determined to cut loose and leave the result with the God of battles.
He had no doubt that the Southern Government
would be the most virtuous one ever administered; but even in the event that it were to resort to direct taxation, he had no desire to escape taxation at the expense of honor.--Virginia
would at least receive the benefits of the taxation, while now she is taxed for the benefit of the North
The speaker went on to review the position and acts of the Black
Republican party, and showed that in a Confederacy with them, apart from her Southern sisters, Virginia
would be virtually disfranchised, and practically without a representation in the Federal Congress.
He again adverted to the question, which Confederacy will Virginia
He indulged in no such gloomy forebodings of the future of Virginia
, at the head of the Southern Confederacy.
She would be the leading star in the constellation.
With natural advantages unsurpassed — with unlimited manufacturing facilities — she could carve out for herself a brilliant destiny.
With every advantage of soll and climate — with a grave, public-spirited and high minded population — it required no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, to predict that Virginia
would jump at once into the front rank of greatness and power.
Manufactures would be transferred from the North
to the waters of the Tappahannock and the James
, and Norfolk
would become the greatest seaport in the world.
Let her not, then, submit to the rule of Abraham Lincoln
, but assert her rights and maintain them in the fear of God.
He regretted that the gentleman had referred to party politics.
We had nothing to do with party here.
Whatever may be hidden in the future, the same destiny awaits the whole people of Virginia
, be they Whigs, Douglas
men. Let bygones be bygones.
Let us endeavor to rise up and stand in united majesty, and keep our garments all unstained by contact with party conflicts.
He would be lost to every consideration of duty, who did not, in this trying hour, forget that he ever belonged to a political party.
This point was well illustrated by the anecdote of the Duke
and the old soldier.
When asked by his leader if in the height of battle he thought of his regiment, the war-scarred veteran replied that he loved his regiment — he gloried in its honor; but on the battle field he thought only of his King
and his country.
So (said Mr.
G.) let it be now. Let us relinquish all for the glory and honor of Virginia
He was ready to lose all rather than sink to degradation and disgrace; and his fervent prayer was that Heaven would protect the noble old Common wealth.
having closed his remarks.
, of Bedford
, arose to address the Convention
He proceeded to say that he had come here to discharge a high and responsible duty as one of those who had been clothed with the sovereign power of his native State.
He had not heretofore occupied one moment of the time and attention of the body, and now entered upon the performance of a duty with many misgivings of his capacity to say anything that would reflect even the simplest light upon subjects so momentous as those which agitated not only the State
, but the Union
, from one extreme to the other.
He came here to do as he thought proper, without pledges and without a platform.--Party measures had no connection with this deliberative body.
He did, however, come with one pledge, so far as his past life could give it — and that was, that he would endeavor to save his country, and the whole country.
He had felt an ardent attachment to the Union
--it had conferred blessings on the bravest, freest and mightiest people on the face of the earth.
It was his wish that those blessings should be transmitted to his children, and his children's children.
He had always felt that if it were to fall, he must perish with it. But that Union was now dissolved.
Six or seven States had united and formed a Union at the South
, while Virginia
continued with the Union
at the North
The question then was, what position shall Virginia
Is she to remain in that Union which was lost, and he feared lost forever, or unite with her sisters of the South
?--or is she to form an Independent sovereignty unconnected with any other State?
He had long felt that danger was coming upon us, and had looked around to find if there was no healing balm in that Constitution which, on other occasions, he had sworn to maintain.
Although it was an old fashioned argument to refer to the sentiments of the Father
of his Country, he might be excused for saying that he had more faith in George Washington
than in any living statesman.
He must still be permitted to go to him for counsel.
He had looked to the Constitution
, and found that it provided a remedy for any evil that might be brought upon the country.
's Farewell Address
is the following language;
"To the efficacy and permanency of your Union a Government for the whole is indispensable.
No alliance, however strict, between the parts, can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the interactions and interruptions which all alliances, in all time have experienced.
Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay.
by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns.
This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon fall investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles.
In the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.--Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws acquiescence in its measures are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.
The bases of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government; but the Constitution
which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government"
This was the doctrine taught him by the language of the Father
of his Country.
He might therefore be pardoned if he had faith in it, in preference to those statesmen of the present day, who had shattered the fairest temple of Government ever erected by human wisdom.
He proceeded to read the following resolutions, which he intended to offer, as the basis of some portion of what he would have to say:
That in view of the provisions of the 5th article of the Constitution of the United States
, it was eminently wise and proper that the Southern States
should, in concert, have proposed amendments to the same, so as to have effectually secured a settlement of the present unhappy difficulties which disturb the peace of the country.
That it is the duty of Virginia
new to invite the co-operation of all the slaveholding States, upon the border, so as to provide measures for their concurrent action hereafter.
is attached to the Union
as it was, but that it does not protect her rights as it is — that it becomes her people in Convention assembled to look to every remedy for relief, and then to provide; also, in the event of a failure, for the future relations she is to occupy, having a due regard to her position as one of the States of the South
In connection with these resolutions, he said it was his earnest desire, when the controversy first commenced, that an appeal should have been made by the Legislatures of the Southern States
to the Legislatures of the Northern States
, and to the representatives in Congress assembled, to see if some method could not have been adopted to bring peace and quiet to the country, as suggested by the fifth article of the Constitution
"The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments, which, it either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by Conventions 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 one thousand eight hundred and eight, shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article: and that no State without its consent shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate."
Here, then, is the method pointed out by that great instrument to cement every State in the bonds of brotherhood.
Here are the directions pointed out by the Father
of his Country in his last moments.
G.) had loved the Union
, and if he could make it as it was designed to be, he would this day fling to the breeze the banner of the stars and stripes, and let it float from the Aroostook
to the Rio Grande
, from the Atlantic
to the Pacific
But the Union
is dissolved, and how?
Not by a trial of the remedy the fathers prescribed; not by the rule to which he had called the attention of the Convention
They had been disregarded, and without any resort to the Constitution
, a portion of the States had seceded and assumed to set up a government.
He would say, with all respect to the opinions of others, in whatever position he might assume, that there was no warrant in the Constitution
by which a State had the right to secede from the Union
at all. Though this was his position, he would be ready at the proper time to co-operate with those who differed with him. In the event of the failure of the constitutional remedy, there could remain but one resort, and that was an appeal from the compact to the law of self-preservation.
In this connection he quoted from the writings of James Madison
The speaker went on to say that he believed in the doctrine of self-preservation — the right to defend life, liberty and property — to defend wife and children.
That right had never been taken from us, but it was an extraordinary right, reserved to operate when the constitution fails.
He believed that secessionists would have no better protection than the right of revolution; and when the time arrived for its exercise, he would stand side by side with them in vindicating the honor of Virginia
and the South
But he desired that every constitutional remedy should be exhausted first.
The speaker proceeded to allude to the glories of the past; to the feelings derived there from which enabled him to take by the hand citizens in every portion of the country and call them brothers; and to the patriotism of the women of all sections which prompted them to preserve the shrine at Mount Vernon
, where he hoped they might always come and pour out their united prayers for the protection of the Union
In reference to the causes which produced the present state of affairs, he said he might call up many, but appealed to his hearers rather to act the part of the wise men in the temple, who took care of the jewels without stopping to ask who applied the torch.
In proceeding, he spoke of Abraham Lincoln
, whom he knew in Congress, and his acquaintance had led him to anticipate better things than had lately been developed.
He thought, since his recent speeches, that there was no hope for the future through him.--With regard to the collection of Federal troops at Washington
, he said it was unfortunate that Gen. Scott
was called there.
He could pledge his right hand to Abraham Lincoln
that there was not a man in Virginia
who proposed by force to prevent the consummation of his inauguration.
Yet when the power at Washington
or elsewhere is brought to bear on this Common wealth, all here will stand united as one man. For himself, he would say that if any coercion be attempted, either directly or indirectly, as he would say for every one here, that it would be repelled.
reviewed at considerable length the arguments of the Southern Commissioners
, for whom he expressed the highest personal respect.
He cited statistics to show that King Cotton had a rival in colonies with which Great Britain
had made treaties, and to show that the argument contemplating her fostering care was fallacious.
He then alluded to the tobacco and other great interests of Virginia
, which ought not to be made subject to King Cotton; and the consideration of their protection would not permit Virginians
to become reconciled to the introduction of Yankees in place of the negroes, who would, as had been told us, all be required to cultivate the cotton of the South
To obviate all the difficulties, he proposed that there should be a confederation of all the border slave States of the South
It was too late for consultation with the North
He was opposed to precipitate action.--When they got into this consultation and formed a Constitution — which they had a right to do as well as the six States which had gone out — they could invite all the other States to come into their confederation.
He would not stop at New York, as some did, but would invite all. As to the idea that there must be in all respects a perfect identity of interests, he believed that when it was carried out it was calculated to stir up feelings that should not exist between members of a common family.
He thought that there was no positive assurance that the Southern Confederacy would afford sufficient protection to Virginia
— no assurance that the plan laid down by the Provisional Government
would be permanent.--He complained of the North
--he denounced her. But had not the South
sometimes violated the laws by the importation of African
slaves; and if this had been done before, was there any security that it would not be done under a Provisional Southern Government?--With the competition to which Virginia
would be thus subjected, she would stand in still further danger from those whom she made strangers and aliens on the other side of the Ohio River
. Mr. Goggin
also alluded to the threatened prohibition of the inter-State slave trade, and to other subjects in connection there with.
The time was past when we should ask the people of the North
to go into consultation; but had we asked it, and had it been denied us, we should not to-day have witnessed the spectacle here of divided counsels.
The whole South
would have been united, and peace and quietness restored.
As matters now stood, he conceived the conference of the border States to be the only right and just plan of settlement.
He did not believe coercion would be attempted, yet was in favor of ample preparation for any emergency.
After Mr. Goggin
had spoken some two hours, (we have given but an outline of his remarks,) he gave way at the suggestion of Mr. Dorman
, for a motion to adjourn — and then, on his motion,
The Convention adjourned.