Virginia State Convention.
Wednesday, March 6, 1861.
The Convention was called to order at 12 o'clock.
Prayer by the Rev. Mr. Hour, of the Presbyterian Church.
the National difficulties.
Mr. Osborn, of Jefferson, offered the following preamble and resolution:
Whereas, the Government of the United States having been created and established for the purpose of forming a more perfect Union than existed under the articles of Confederation) and adopted by all of the original States, with ample provisions for amendments to the same; but without any for its disintegration: Therefore,
Resolved. That a resort to State secession, or a resumption of the original rights of the States, by an ordinance of secession, is not only unauthorized by the letter and spirit of the Constitution, but is contrary to, and subversive of, the fundamental principles upon which it was founded; wholly at variance with the legitimate objects of its creation: and can only be justified, as a revolutionary means of obtaining redress, when every peaceable, honorable and constitutional expedient has been exhausted and failed.
That an ordinance of secession cannot restore to the seceding State its original sovereignty until its secession has been assented to by a Convention of the remaining States, called for the purpose thereof.
That with a view of preserving peace and to prevent the collision of arms and effusion of blood.
It would be both politic and wise to waive the unquestionable right on the part of the General Government to advert the avenue and protect the public property within the limits of the seceding state or States, during the adjustment of the pending difficulties, holding them severally responsible for the safety of the same; and to either repeal or suspend the laws of the Federal Government therein, until their independence may be assented to, and their rights duty acknowledged.
That the preservation of this Government cannot be maintained by force, or coercion; that, therefore, this Convention earnestly recommends to both the Federal Government and the Government of the seceded States, to carefully abstain from any aggressive measure of policy towards the other.
Referred to the Committee on Federal Relations.
Mr. Goggin asked that his resolutions, offered yesterday, might be referred to the same committee, and they were so referred.
The President.--The question pending before the Convention is upon the amendment offered yesterday by the gentleman from Amelia, to the amendment to the resolution of the gentleman from Chesterfield: and on that question Mr. Flournoy is entitled to the floor.
the vote on Reference.
Mr. Haymond, from the Committee on Elections, asked leave to make a report, (before the Convention proceeded to the consideration of the order of the day,) relative to the vote on the question of referring the action of the Convention to the people.
It appears from this report that the whole number of votes cast were 145,697, of which 100,536 were cast for referring to the people, and 45,161 votes against, showing a majority of 55,375 votes for referring to the people.
From the following counties no official returns have been received, viz: Buchanan, Cabell, Elizabeth City, Greene, Logan, McDowell, Upshur, Wise, Wyoming and York.-- Should the returns from the delinquent counties be received, the result of the vote will be reported.
On motion of Mr. Haymond, the report was laid on the table.
report on Coercive Measures.
Mr. Treadway, from a special committee appointed a few days since, asked leave to submit the following report:
The Committee to whom was referred a resolution with instructions ‘"to inquire and report as speedily as practicable, whether any movement of arms or men has been made by the General Government to any fort or arsenal in or bordering upon Virginia, indicating a preparation for attack or coercion."’ beg leave to report--
That from information derived from such sources as were accessible to them, they are of opinion that there has been no movement of arms or men by the General Government, with any purpose of attack or coercion.
In regard to Fortress Monroe, there is no doubt that since the 1st of January last it has been put in a better condition for defence against attack from all quarters, than at any time before.
Guns have been mounted upon the land side, pointing inland, a portion of the fort which was before comparatively unprotected, and increased vigilance has been exercised in and around the fort.
It was in evidence before your committee that the practicability of taking the post, in certain contingencies had been discussed in the neighborhood, and they are of opinion that nothing has been done by those in command of the fort which might not be regarded, by them, as proper means of protection on their part.
Your Committee have been informed by the War Department at Washington, that within the period supposed to be alluded to, there has been no increase of the public arms in the Arsenal in Virginia, nor any transfer of them from one point to another in the State, except one hundred muskets, sent from Harper's Ferry to Fort Monroe, to supply a deficiency, and some weeks since a company of troops was withdrawn from the latter place, with a view of reinforcing a Southern fort.
It also appears from information satisfactory to your Committee, that a company of recruits, consisting of fifty men, were removed some months ago from Carlisle Barracks to Harper's Ferry, to act as a guard, in the event of an attack, which the Superintendent has just grounds to apprehend was contemplated by persons not residing in Virginia or sympathizing with the South.
It will be seen from a letter herewith filed, and addressed by the Secretary of War to your Committee, that no other movement of troops has taken place in Virginia, within the last twelve months, than those herein specified.
"N. Holt, Secretary of War."
Mr. Early moved that 10,000 copies of the report be printed for the use of the members. Negatived. On motion of Mr. Treadway, the report was laid on the table, and the usual number ordered to be printed. Unfinished business. The Convention proceeded to the consideration of the amendment offered yesterday by Mr. Harvie, instructing the Committee on Federal Relations to report forth with the following: ‘ Whereas. It is now plain that it is the purpose of the Chief Executive of the United States to plunge the country into civil war by using the power ‘"to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties on imports"’ in all the States as well those that have withdrawn from, as those that have remained in the Union; and whereas the State of Virginia will resist such exercise of power with all her means: Therefore, be it Resolved, That the Legislature of the State be requested to make all needful appropriations of means, and provide the necessary forces to resist and repel any attempt on the part of the Federal authorities to ‘"hold, occupy, and possess the property and places "’ of the United States in any of the States that have withdrawn or may withdraw from the Union, or to collect the duties on imports in the same. ’ Mr. Flournoy, of Halifax, took the floor, and made a powerful speech against submission and coercion. He believed that a bold and decided resistance on the part of Virginia would be a measure of peace, and lead eventually to a restoration of the Union. He desired the Convention to divide the question, and take that part of Mr. Cox's original resolution requiring a report on the subject of coercion. This subject he wished disposed of promptly and at once, and if an assurance could not be given that it was not the design of the Administration to use coercive measure, Virginia should never submit to see her Southern sisters forced. Mr. Flournoy passed a severe criticism upon Lincoln's Inaugural. the Peace Conference. A communication was received from the Executive, enclosing the report of the Virginia Commissioners to the Peace Conference, as follows:
‘ To His Excellency John Letcher. Gov't of Virginia: The undersigned Commissioners, in pursuance of the wishes of the General Assembly, expressed in their resolutions of the 19th day of January last, repaired in due season to the city of Washington. They there found, on the 4th day of February, the day suggested in the overture of Virginia for a Conference with the other States, Commissioners to meet them from the following States, viz: Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Subsequently, during the continuance of the Conference, at different periods, appeared likewise Commissioners from Tennessee, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Maine, Iowa and Kansas; so that, before the close, twenty-one States were represented by Commissioners appointed either by the Legislatures or Governors of the respective States. The undersigned communicated the resolutions of the General Assembly to this Conference, and both before its committee appointed to recommend a plan of adjustment, and the Conference Itself, urged the propositions known as the Crit enden Resolutions with the modifications suggested by the General Assembly of Virginia, as the basis of an acceptable adjustment. They were not adopted by the Conference, but in lieu thereof, after much discussion, and the consideration of many proposed amendments, the article with seven sections, intended as an amendment to the Constitution, was adopted by sections not under the rules, being voted on as a whole,) and by a vote of the Conference, (not taken by States,) was directed to be submitted to Congress, with the request that it should be recommended to the States for ratification, which was accordingly done by the President of the Conference. The undersigned regret that the journal showing the proceedings and votes in the Conference has not yet been published or furnished them, and that consequently they are not able to present it with this report. As soon as received, it will be communicated to your Excellency, in the absence of that record, it is deemed appropriate to state, that on the final adoption of the first section, two of the States. Indiana and Missouri, did not vote, and New York was divided, and that the vote by States was ayes 9, noes 8-- Virginia, by a majority of her Commissioners, voting in the negative.--The other sections were adopted by varying majorities, (not precisely recollected.) and on the 5th and 7th sections the vote of Virginia was in the negative. The plan, when submitted to Congress, failed to receive its recommendation, and as that body having adjourned, can take no further cognizance of it, the undersigned feel the contingency has arrived on which they are required to report, as they herein do, the result of their action. ’
having adjourned, can take no further cognizance of it, the undersigned feel the contingency has Brockenbrough, the other Commissioner, communicating his views of the adjustment; and then, on motion, the whole was laid on the table and ordered to be printed. The coercion question again. The Convention resumed the consideration of the resolution of instructions to the Committee on Federal Relations. Mr. Thornton, of Prince Edward, made an eloquent speech, in which Lincoln's Inaugural, in its various parts, was subjected to an unlimited excoriation. In closing he made a beautiful allusion to the flag of the Southern Confederacy. Mr. Early, of Franklin, opposed hasty action, and spoke against secession. Constitutional remedies should be still resorted to. He repudiated Lincoln's Inaugural, but believed precipitate action here would not meet the approval of the people. He preferred to wait for the regular report of the Committee on Federal Relations, and would, if he had an opportunity, at the proper time offer a substitute for the resolutions before the Convention. Mr. Goods, of Bedford, replied. The gentleman from Franklin had, on yesterday, asked the Convention to wait for a more perfect copy of the Inaugural than the telegraph had furnished. The Convention waited, and the document had been received by due course of mail; and now, the gentleman from Franklin, though he repudiates its doctrines, asks us still to wait. [Laughter in the galleries.] The President said that unless the spectators preserved better order, he would be under the painful necessity of ordering the galleries to be cleared. Mr. Goode went on to say that the Convention had been here twenty days; that the gentleman from Fauquier, (Mr. Scott,) had informed them ten days ago that this very question of coercion was under consideration in the committee, and still there was no prospect of a report. The Convention should wait no longer — now was the time to strike.-- While the gentleman from Franklin was opposing hasty action, he (Mr. Goode,) had received letters from two prominent citizens of Franklin, stating that the people were impatient for action. Mr. Goode proceeded to give the Inaugural Address of Lincoln a raking broadside, and drew a vivid contrast between the Illinois politician and Jefferson Davis, the ‘"bright Saladin of the South."’ Virginia would resist coercion to the death. The first at tempt on the part of Lincoln, in that direction, would light up the fire of civil war in every portion of the Commonwealth. He thought the only way to preserve the peace was for Virginia to speak at once. Mr. Johnson, of Richmond, next addressed the Convention. He thought gentlemen exhibited too much of passion, and were indisposed to do deliberately what could not well be done hastily. His own position was a peculiar one, subjected as he was to much outside pressure; but if he could not act with calm deliberation on questions so momentous as those before the Convention, it would be useless for him to attempt the performance of his trust. He thought the resolution was a reflection upon the-committee, and he would not vote for any reflection upon their conduct when he believed every member was endeavoring to discharge his duty. The Peace Commissioners had made their report, it is true; but he had private reasons for believing that the Peace Conference was not a failure, and he wanted to hear from them more fully. He thought it was wrong to take from the committee the deliberate decision of the question of coercion. He wanted them to report when they got ready, and not until then. Whatever his constituents desired him to do, he would do, and wherever Virginia went he would go. Her flag was his flag, and under that he would fight forever. Mr. Grant, of Washington, continued the debate, in a decided anti-coercion, anti=submission speech. Mr. Early desired to reply briefly to the gentleman from Bedford, Mr. Goode.) The President reminded him that he could not speak again on the question, unless by leave of the Convention. Several members--‘"Leave,"’ ‘"leave"’ Mr. Early went on to speak of the gentleman's having arraigned him for opposing precipitate action, while he (Mr. G.) had not only aided in consuming time here, but had availed himself of opportunities to speak elsewhere. Since he had taken the liberty of alluding to his position with his constituents, he supposed he would have no objection to giving the names of those from whom he had received letters. Mr. Goode emphatically denied that he had sought opportunities to speak elsewhere; he had only spoken when called upon by the people to do so. He was responsible for any thing he said, here or elsewhere. Before closing the remarks he gave the names of the authors of the letters--Messrs. Garrett and Dillard, of Franklin county. Mr. Early replied that one of them he did not know. The other was a gentleman for whom he had the highest personal respect, but he was his competitor for a seat in the Convention, over whom he (Mr. E.) was elected on the Union platform by something like a thousand majority. [Laughter] He disclaimed having said that the member from Bedford had ‘"sought"’ opportunities to speak, but merely that he had spoken elsewhere. Mr. Goode made a brief and good-natured rejoinder. Mr. Hall, of Wetzel, urged that something ought to be done. The gentleman for whom he had the highest personal respect, but he was his competitor for a seat in nothing. A Voice.--Half a million? Mr. Hall.--Yes. The two bodies in session here cost the State $2,600 per day. Mr. Carlile, of Harrison desired to address the Convention, but was physically unable to do so to-day. He therefore moved an adjournment, but withdrew the motion at the request of Mr. Grant, of Washington, who offered the following: ‘ 1st. Resolved, That we, the people of Virginia, in Convention assembled, deeply regret the condition in which our country is placed, imperiling, as it does, the peace, prosperity and perpetuity of one of the noblest Governments ever adopted by man. 2d. That Virginia has ever been inclined to a peaceful and amicable adjustment of the difficulties that have so long menaced and threatened the destruction of our institutions, and has ever exerted her power and influence to that end. But notwithstanding all her efforts, the future is still dark and portentous; scarcely a ray of hope illumines it. (Abraham Lincoln)--that he in that address declares his right to coerce the seceded States, (Abraham Lincoln)--that he in that address declares his right to coerce the seceded States, and makes it a matter of policy, subject only to his discretion, whether he will attempt it or not -- 4th. That we the people of Virginia in Convention assembled, in the event that any attempt is made to coerce any of our sister States of the South, that Virginia will not submit to any such attempt, but will make common cause with them, and resist coercion with all her power, to the last extremely. 5th. That the honor, institutions and interests of Virginia are closely allied and identified with those of all the Southern States; but more directly, at this time, with the border slave States; and in view of effecting united action on the part of said States, and of ultimate union of the whole South, we the people of Virginia, through our representatives in Convention assembled, doth earnestly request the States of Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas, to meet the Commissioners which shall be appointed by Virginia, in the city of Knoxville, by the — day of-- to advise and consult what is best to be done under existing circumstances, and let the result of their deliberations be referred for ratification either to Conventions of the several States or the Legislatures thereof; and that this Convention proceed to appoint Commissioners on the part of Virginia, and take the necessary steps to secure the co-operation of the aforesaid States in the proposed Conference. Referred to the Committee on Federal Relations. Mr. Carlile renewed his motion to adjourn, and on that motion Mr. Neblett called or the yeas and nays. The vote was taken, and resulted --yeas 73, nays 42. So the Convention adjourned. ’