Virginia State Convention.
Defence of the Commonwealth.Mr. Fisher, of Northampton, offered the following: ‘ Resolved, That a committee, consisting of thirteen members, he appointed by the President, whose duty it shall be to inquire into the expediency of passing an ordinance making an appropriation for the defence of the Commonwealth — and if, in their opinion, an appropriation should be made, that they report such ordinance, and the amount which ought to be appropriated. ’ Mr. Early moved to lay the resolution upon the table. The President said that he understood the gentleman from Northampton as desiring to offer a resolution which would cause no debate. The unfinished business of yesterday must be disposed of before the Convention can proceed to the consideration of the resolution just offered. Mr. Dorman moved that the unfinished business of yesterday be taken up. This having been carried in the affirmative, Mr. Goggin, of Bedford, resumed the floor, and proceeded with his remarks. His views, he said, had been presented in no partisan sense, and without any purpose to make them the basis of his ultimate action, in case the Convention should determine to pursue a different course. His purpose was to discuss these grave questions in such a way as to arrive at the truth; to compare opinions, and then to present the result to the great council at home, for their action.--Whatever might be his love for the Union, he had indicated that when the time should come for Virginia to sever her connection therefrom. he would be one of those who would endeavor to lead her where she should go. He had come here with a desire for peace and harmony, but when all remedies failed, he should stand by those which he had expressed. There were circumstances which should induce Virginia to pause and consider whether she should take her place by the States which had seceded. He had presented facts for the Convention to consider before they determined to take one course or another. The interests of Virginia were diversified. She appealed to no king; and while cotton was represented as the interest to be looked to by those States which had seceded, there were other interests to be brought into the account by Virginia. --He cited statistics of the tobacco trade as one of her material interests. Those people whom we were to hold as enemies in war and in peace, were the men who purchased this great staple. If the market were cut off, where would Virginia find one o replace it. --He wanted the people of Virginia to know when they left this Union, whether they would find the security which they had failed to find here. He then read an extract from the Charleston Mercury, to show that measures had been engrafted on the Provisional Government which would not probably be adopted permanently; that they might have been put forth to conciliate the Border States. He then proceeded to re-argue the question of inter-State and African slave trade. But if the rights of Virginia could not be firmly and fully established, he was ready to go wherever Virginia might lead. He wanted to wait and see if the Peace Conference might not arrive at some result which would give peace to this distracted country. It must be no cobweb affair, but something permanent and satisfactory to the South. Moreover, he would see what the President about to be inaugurated would say to the country. He must abandon the principles of the Chicago Platform, and pledge himself to the support and maintenance of the Constitution. He feared he would not do this; but it was our duty to act so as to show that we would not be so precipitate as to impair the moral weight of that action with the people.--He had indicated a desire, that if a Convention of the Border States could be inaugurated here, without jeopardizing the interests of Virginia, such a course should be pursued; but not otherwise. If it were found that delay would be fatal to her peace or security, he was ready to act with others in a different policy. No consideration should divert him from the line of his duty; but he must be satisfied, and be enabled to say to his people, that every constitutional remedy had been exhausted. Every feeling, and every conviction, would lead him to take his place under the folds of the flag of Virginia. He would prefer to perish under that flag, if perish he must, to a struggle for the future under the stars and stripes. He had little hope from Abraham Lincoln; but if he could show him that he turned his back upon the principles of his party, he would indeed deserve the thanks of all men, and feel that he was worthy to fill the place occupied by George Washington. Mr. Sheffey, of Smythe, next addressed the Convention. He spoke of the responsibilities resting upon the body assembled here, the result of whose deliberations might decide the destiny of Virginia. He had listened with pleasure to the gentleman from Bedford, and welcomed the sentiment at which he had aimed, of his loyalty to Virginia in the event that the faint hope of restoration becomes extinguished. He (Mr. S.) came from his mountain home, where cotton was not king; where the herds upon the hills were the predominating interest; yet he would be indeed a brave man who should dare attempt to invade those mountain passes with a hostile intent.--There were no people more loyal than those of Southwestern Virginia. They might maintain themselves if all the institutions of the State were swept away; but still they were true to the State, and would be true to their historic fame. They would always dare to maintain their rights. The present was the most momentous period in the existence of Virginia; and with her destiny was intimately connected that of other States of the Confederacy. He counseled the Convention, invested as it was with such power, to emulate the spirit of the Revolutionary patriots, and endeavor to rescue this beloved country from the pall of gloom which hangs over her. He looked upon the acts of Northern States as equally in violation of the Constitution with the acts of secession of the several Southern States. But he was opposed to precipitate action. He hoped that her delay would not be mistaken for submission; for if coercion were attempted, either of Virginia or of the other Southern States, she would repel it with all her power. All eyes were now directed towards her, as the venerable mother; and it should be made known that when her efforts for a peaceful settlement shall have failed, she will stand in the breach and interpose her body and the bodies of her noble sons — and, if need be, her daughters — to frustrate the purposes of her oppressors. To Virginia had been committed a mission of peace and reconciliation. The most aggrieved of all the States--her soil desecrated by the foot of the invader — it was her's yet to stand proudly amid the tumult, and, elevated far above it, calm, dignified, and firm — a spectacle of moral sublimity worthy of her ancient renown. She is looked to to-day as the great pacificator and mediator in this almost fratricidal strife; yet she stands with the sword in one hand, ready to defend her rights and the rights of the Southern States, and with the other she proffers the olive branch of peace. She extends the symbol of peace to all who will meet and commune with her around a common altar. Her Legislature had declared against the right of coercion, and declared that if all her efforts for a peaceful solution shall fall, every consideration of honor and interest demands that she shall unite her destiny with her sister States of the South. Her Legislature had inaugurated a Peace Conference; had sent Commissioners to Washington and to South Carolina, to endeavor to stay the hand of violence, and thus far they had been successful, for not one drop of blood had yet been shed. He prayed that peace might be restored to the distracted country. He had hailed the missions as the dawning of hope — and he trusted it would prove no delusive hope, but a glad assurance of the restoration of the Union and a renewal of the covenant forever. But whether this resulted or not. Virginia felt the proud consciousness of having done her duty; and it is not derogatory to her to say that she has and does cherish an abiding love for the Union as it was. He alluded to the vast progress of the United States, from the foundation of the Government to the present time. All this domain a few weeks ago was ours, and it will still be ours, it the interests of Virginia in the Union can be restored. When considering its greatness and its glory, surpassing any that the sun ever shone upon, it was no wonder that Virginia still clung to the Union--though at present with weakened attachment — no wonder that she cherished the fond love of the Union as it was. But that sentiment should not be misinterpreted or misunderstood. It should not be misconstrued into an abandonment of her own State sovereignty, or a relinquishment of her devotion to the rights of the States. The question was no longer, with Virginia statesmen, whether this glorious Union can be preserved; but whether it can be reconstructed, and whether civil war can be averted. He thought we had been too blessed — too happy under the system of Government formed by the fathers; that we had forgotten the trials they passed through in its construction, and were unmindful of their struggles to achieve the liberties which we had been permitted to enjoy. He prayed that Heaven might avert so dire a calamity as the down-fall of the Republic created at such a sacrifice. But we must look to facts as they are. The Union is no more. Seven States, have seceded, and that fact is a practical dissolution of the Union. The silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl is broken.--He did not propose now to discuss the right of secession; but whether it existed or not, there was no power to punish a State for its exercise. There was no right of coercion vested in the powers that be. Whether secession were right or wrong — whether a Southern Government exists de fure or not, we must all come to the conclusion that it exists de facto. The repulsion of fanaticism has driven the Pleiads from their orbit, and nothing but the power of attraction can bring them back. The Union cannot be preserved by force.--Force did not create, and cannot re-create it. The speaker went on to review the purposes for which the Government was formed, and said if the Constitution had failed to answer them, it had become the engine of injustice and oppression. He loved the Union--he revered and cherished it, because it was hallowed by such names as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Jackson, and Clay — by men of patriotism, from the days of the Revolution down to the hapless year of 1860. But dear as it was, it could not be maintained by force, and at the expense of our interest, honor, and liberty. It could never be enforced upon a free people unwillingly and against their consent. Such a Union would be the worst of tyranny — a despotism that no free or brave people ever could or would submit to. Some other mode must be resorted to, to preserve or restore the Union. Public sentiment at the North must be revolutionized. The conservative men of the North--if conservatives there are — must crush out the spirit of abolitionism, their worst enemy, which has subverted the Government, and now brought us to the very verge of an awful civil war. And why was this? The South had never invaded them — never denied their rights of property, or sought to excite rebellion and insurrection among their laboring population. Were we to do this, we should be Catalysts and demons. But the South would scorn such a course. A few days would show whether this spirit of fanaticism was encouraged for the mere sake of the plunder, or whether it would be still invoked by the party in power. It was said that the prevailing sentiment at the North is--"The Union must and shall be preserved." They must not, then, make it odious, or destroy it by any measures of coercion. He was unalterably opposed to such a proceeding, and would regard any attempt to collect the revenue from the seceded States without their consent, or an attempt to retake the forts, as coercion. Where, then, should Virginia go? Virginia would go nowhere until she knows the terms. She would not blindly rush into this Union or that, until, by fair counsel, she had ascertained where her rights would be protected. She must either stand neutral, stay with the North, or go with the South. She might stand as an armed neutrality between the belligerent powers — between her Southern sisters and Northern aggressors — if events would permit her to occupy that position. But if coercion were to be attempted Virginia would go out of the Union, and then look around and determine for the future. She held her destiny in her own hands, and whatever it might be, he was with her, and prepared to abide it. The speaker then went on to show that if the Constitution gave a State no right power to secede, there was no power to coerce a seceding State. He fortified his position by reading from the Madison Papers, (p. 761,) and then argued that Virginia had reserved the right to resume her sovereign power. The outgoing President had disclaimed the right of coercion, and yet he and the Government maintain an attitude of menace and intimidation. The guns originally intended for the defence of Virginia and South Carolina, were turned upon the bosom of those States. What the incoming President intends to do we know not, for he is silent upon the great questions which agitate the country — silent as an oriental despot, and mysterious as the Veiled Prophet of Khorassin, and takes credit to himself for his silence. He has seen State after State secede, and has seen the country march on to the very verge of a disastrous civil war, when one word from him might have poured oil on the troubled waters, and calmed the tumult and the storm. --Yet he spoke not that word. No assurance comes to us from his sealed lip, to show what his future course will be. But on his way to the Federal Capital we hear mysterious givings out of coercion. It would have been better for him had he determined to sacrifice himself — to tender his resignation as a peace offering, than that he should attempt to coerce the South. What the destiny of Virginia might be (said Mr. Sheffey, in closing) he knew not: ‘but his hope was that the whole South would present a united front, and with one heart, mind, and purpose, endeavor to raise this bleeding country from the dust and set her free.’ Mr. Morton, of Orange, intimated a desire to address the Convention, but was without the documents necessary to the construction of the argument he proposed to present. He therefore moved an adjournment, and he would fulfill his intention to-morrow. He withdrew the motion at the request of the President.
Military force of the State.The following communication was received from the Executive:
Gentlemen of the Convention:
His Excellency John Letcher, Governor of Va.:
Volunteer force.There are now in commission 95 troops of cavalry, 26 companies of artillery, 112 companies of light infantry, and 114 companies of riflemen.
- 7 troops are armed with sabres and percussion cavalry pistols.
- 2 troops with sabres and cavalry musketoons.
- 32 troops with sabres and revolvers.
- 21 troops with sabres only — and
- 33 are unarmed.
- 11 companies are armed with 6-pounder field guns, with carriages and implements complete, and artillery swords.
- 1 with 6-pounder field guns, swords, and sappers and miners' musketoons.
- 1 with 6-pounder field guns, swords, and artillery musketoons.
- 1 with six 12-pounder howitzers and light infantry swords — and
- 12 are unarmed.
Of the Artillery:
- 6 companies are armed with rifled muskets.
- 75 companies are armed with percussion muskets.
- 26 companies are armed with flint-lock muskets.
- 4 companies are without arms.
Of the light infantry:
- 4 companies are armed with long-range rifled, with sword attachment.
- 24 companies with percussion rifles.
- 10 companies with flint-look rifles — and
- 76 companies are without arms.
Of the riflemen:
|With sabres and pistols, or sabres only||2,547|
|Companies with rifled muskets||400|
|Companies with percus'n muskets||3,830|
|Companies with flint-lock muskets||1,300|
|Companies with long-range rifles||330|
|Companies with percussion rifles||1,230|
|Making an aggregate of||16,707|
Your obedient servant,
Wm. H. Richardson, A. G.
On motion of Mr. Fisher, the communication was laid on the table and ordered to be printed.