previous next


House of Delegates.

Saturday, March 30th, 1861,

The House was called to order at 10 o'clock, by Speaker Churchfield.

The House was informed that the Senate had passed House bills ‘"for the better government of the town of Danville,"’ with amendments, and House bill incorporating the Home Savings Bank of the city of Richmond; also, bills absolving the State from all damages for loss of coupon bonds deposited as security for bank circulation; and Senate bills for the incorporation of the Kanawha Salt Company; authorizing the formation of a battalion of two companies in the towns of Scottsville and Howardsville, in Albemarle county; and have agreed to amendments proposed by the House to a bill incorporating the American Agency. The various Senate bills mentioned were passed and amendments agreed to.

Senate bill releasing John W. Murrell from the payment of a judgment rendered against him in the Circuit Court of Lynchburg, was taken up and passed — ayes 97, noes 8.

The House agreed to Senate amendments to House bill establishing the county of Bland out of parts of Giles, Wythe and Tazewell.

A message was received from the Senate, through Mr. Lynch, who informed the House the Senate had passed an act for the relief of E. N. Eubank, Commissioner of the Revenue for the city of Lynchburg.

A message was received from the Senate, through Mr. Carter, who informed the House that the Senate had passed a bill, entitled ‘"an act to allow the claims of the Hillsborough Border Guard, of Loudoun county."’

The House were informed, through Mr. Thompson, that the Senate had passed a bill, entitled "an act for the relief of Thomas W. Scott, of Dinwiddie county.

A resolution to rescind a resolution, fixing a time of adjournment of the General Assembly, and designating another day, communicated from the Senate, was taken up. Mr. McKenzie moved the indefinite postponement of the resolution — and the question being on agreeing thereto, was put and decided in the affirmative — ayes 63; noes 53.

A joint resolution in regard to the movement of troops and arms within the limits of this Common wealth, by the General Government, with the amendments proposed thereto by the Senate, were taken up. Mr. Collier submitted an amendment to the Senate's amendment, and the question being on agreeing thereto, Mr. Cowan moved the indefinite postponement of the whole subject, and the question being on agreeing thereto, Mr. Cowan demanded the previous question, and the question being, shall the main question be now put? was put and decided in the negative — ayes 55; noes 64.

The question being open for debate,

Mr. Segar said that hitherto he had been silent as to the great questions of Federal import which had been discussed off and on during the session, but the extraordinary and revolutionary resolutions which had been sent from the Senate forbade his longer silence. The resolutions directed a seizure, by military force, of the property of the United States, and he could not sustain them. He would sooner die in his seat than cast his vote for them. He maintained, first, there was no necessity for the intense excitement which had sprung from this matter, and of course no necessity for the adoption of the resolutions; secondly, that we had no moral or legal right to pass them; thirdly, that the seizure would be an act of war; and, finally, that the great excitement and alarm pervading the country, and the revolutionary action of the secession party and the seceding States, had no just warrant in the facts of the case. The excitement about the transfer to Fort Monroe of the guns from Bellona Arsenal, was wholly uncalled for. It scarcely rose to the dignity of a tempest in a teapot. What were the facts? In 1857, the Government, through Secretary Floyd, contracted with Dr. Archer for sundry cannon, to be delivered in Richmond. The very date of the contract exonerated the existing Government from all hostile purpose in reference to the guns. The guns having been made, the contractor wanted his money, and applied for payment, and to his application it was replied, that on the compliance with his contract by the delivery of the guns in Richmond, the money would be paid, and the head of the Ordnance Department accordingly advised Dr. Archer to deliver the guns to Colquitt & Co., in Richmond, to be by them re-shipped to Fort Monroe, the chief Virginia depot for the reception and keeping of National arms and munitions of war. So the first movement of the guns had its origin in an act of indebtedness of the Government to a citizen of Virginia, in need of, and demanding his money, In such a movement, no hostile intention could be detected. It was but the doing of an ordinary act in the ordinary routine of the business of a department of the war office, and it was done without any regular military order of the head of the War Department, which at once negatives the idea of any inconsistency between the statement of the officer of the Ordnance Department, and that of the Secretary of War. Thus far, the facts gave no ground for the supposition that the Government designed to employ the guns against Virginia, or for any dangerous or improper use. And it is conclusive against any unfriendly or warlike intent on the part of the Government, that the Ordnance Department, immediately on being apprised that the removal of the guns had provoked excitement, notified Dr. Archer not to move them at all. What cause, then, was there for alarm, or for the passage of these harsh and illegal resolutions? Besides, General Scott had said that there was no need for the guns at Old Point, there being a large number of supernumerary cannon already there. The simple truth was, that the guns were to be sent to Fort Monroe because it was the only convenient depot in Virginia to which they could be sent. It was not only the most natural and proper place to send them to, but the only one in the State within convenient reach.-- The panic which had arisen from these simple circumstances were unworthy the chivalry of Virginia. It could have no other effect than to scare timid women and children, and did not become grown-up and bearded men. If Virginia, under provocation so slight, and circumstances so little and significant, adopted those resolves, she would provoke the ridicule and contempt of the brave and fearless all over the world. And was not all this fuss about these guns one, in a series of measures, designed to precipitate Virginia into secession? Secondly, the General Assembly has no right to pass these resolutions. The guns are the property of the Government — that all admit. Fort Monroe, the point to which they were to have been transported, belongs also to the Government. Virginia, by solemn act of Assembly, and by formal deed duly recorded in the clerk's office of his county, ceded and transferred all her rights, title, and jurisdiction in and to the lands at Old Point Comfort, for purposes of fortification and National defence. Then, if the guns were the property of the United States, and Old Point Comfort were also the property of the United States, what right had Virginia to lay her hand upon these guns, or prevent their removal to the lands of the United States? A man said (Mr. S.,) illegally takes my horse, and the law pronounces the act larceny — in plainer language, stealing. Now, what difference, he begged to know, is there, either in morals or in law, between the act of an individual illegally taking and carrying away another person's property, and that of a State doing the very same thing? Do we make the thing better by paying for the guns after they shall have been seized? Not at all. The wrong is in the seizure and appropriation. If a man steals my cow, does he escape the moral infamy or the legal penalty of the act? Mr. S. said he should regard the passage of the resolutions as a foul stigma upon the good name of the State. It would dim her escutcheon forever. God forbid that she should do so dishonorable and dishonoring an act!--He (Mr. S.) did not mean to say that there were no circumstances under which Virginia might properly take possession of the cannon. If she were at war with the Federal Government, or if by revolution she had dissolved all connection with that Government, the principles of self-defence and of well-settled international law, would justify the act.--But we are not at war with the Federal Government; our connection with it is yet undissolved; Virginia is still in the Union, and being yet a member of the Confederacy, she was bound by all the duties and responsibilities of that membership. Observing those duties and responsibilities, she could not seize and appropriate to herself property that was held for National purposes, for the common defence, that, in other words, belonged to the Union or the common Government. Thirdly, (he argued,) the seizure of the guns by the State would be an act of war against the Federal Government. The taking of the property of one nation by another nation, has always been regarded just cause of war. If I go (said Mr. S.) into the port of Liverpool with my vessel, and the British Government seize it, it is an act which would justify war upon Great Britain, and would lead to it if the wrong should not be redressed. Will it not, then, be an act of war on the part of Virginia, if she should seize and appropriate to herself the property of the United States? And in this view, is not the act an unconstitutional act? Congress, alone, can raise and maintain armies and navies, and declare war — do acts of war. Can Virginia, while she remains in the Union, declare war or do any acts of war? Mr. Segar believed the passage of the resolutions would involve an unconstitutional act, but he hoped the State would not tarnish her fair fame by its perpetration. Let not her honor be thus soiled. Let the jewel of that honor sparkle, and sparkle on, now as heretofore, lustrous and more lustrous yet, now, henceforth, and forever! And the inconsistency of the thing, was it not apparent? We profess to desire peace, to avoid collision with the Federal Government. The secessionists themselves all the time avow that such is their desire. And yet, while we all profess to desire peace, and to avoid collision, we propose to do ourselves acts decidedly warlike — acts that provoke collision and the destruction of peace. Mr. S. objected, further, to the passage of the resolutions that it would much increase the excitement and panic already existing through the State, and so existing more by misapprehension and the ceaseless efforts of a sensation press, than for any just and sufficient causes. It would alarm unnecessarily the innocent women and the plain yeomanry of the State, who have little time to investigate matters of public concern, and would lead to general disquiet. The passage of the resolutions would be regarded as a sort of license to the wicked elements among as.-- Besides the mass of conscientious and honorable secessionists, there was he said, in this State, as in all others, a class who desired revolution because they might be benefitted and could not be injured by change — that class so well described by the historian Sallust as studio at nova, um retun--desirous of change — because, in the general upheaving of society, they might come to the surface, and be bettered in their condition. This class long for collision and blood, because they know well that the first clash between the State and Federal muskets — the first drop of blood that collision spills — will enkindle a flame that will light them on to the accomplishment of their foul, hellish purposes of blood and carnage.-- This class would, in a mere spirit of adventure, fire the very temples of Liberty, and dash into fragments that proudest and noblest monument of human wisdom — the Union of these States--the handiwork of Washington, and Franklin, and Madison, and Gerry, and Morris, and comrade conscript fathers — under which we have been the proudest, freest, happiest, greatest nation on the face of the earth. This class does exist in Virginia. It exists all over the civilized earth, and it is detraction from Virginia to say that it exists within her domain; she would be an exception to all human society, if she did not hold in her bosom such a class. Now all this class will be stimulated by the passage of these revolutionary, and force inviting, and lawless resolutions, to deeds of lawlessness, violence, and blood. Let this Legislature beware how it holds out the seductive bait. It may encamp us on a mine, which a spark may explode, and the explosion of which may ‘"deal damnation round the land,"’ and involve the fathers and mothers, and husbands and wives, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters, and innocent children of Virginia, in miseries and woes unnumbered, and the end whereof none of the present generation will live to see. Mr. S. then went into an elaborate argument to show that there was nothing in the past political action of Virginia to justify the extraordinary and revolutionary action which the secessionists proposed, and which was shadowed forth in the Senate resolutions. In 1798 she fixed her political rule that the Federal Government should not be resisted until it had committed some ‘"deliberate, palpable, and dangerous" ’ infraction of the Constitution.--What infraction of this sort has been committed by the Federal Government? What is it, where is it, when was it committed? Has the present Administration perpetrated any such aggression? And if the seceding States had remained in the Union, could Congress, with twenty-one majority in one House, and eight in the other, have committed any outrage upon the rights of Virginia, or the South? Virginia, then, on her own established principles of political action, ought not now to present the spectacle she does, of extreme excitement, and ought not, and cannot, consistently, rush upon the violent and unconstitutional measures involved in these Senate resolutions. She ought — it becomes her dignity and her past renown — to look calmly, even placidly, around her, and, from the stand-point of that dignity and renown, surveying the whole ground, consider and advise, and remonstrate and forbear, until every pacific and constitutional expedient for composition and safety shall have been exhausted.-- These radical measures of seizing the United States arms, and seceding from the Union, are totally unwarranted by the more recent political action of Virginia. In 1850, when the subject of the Wilmot Proviso was up for consideration in her Legislature, Virginia took a new position.--She declared that if any one of these things should be done by the Federal Government, she would ‘"resist at all hazards, and to the last extremity:’" first, the application of the Wilmot Proviso to the common Territories, secondly, the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia: and, thirdly, interference with the slave trade between the States.--Has any one of these things been done? Has the Wilmot Proviso been applied to the Territories? No. On the contrary, at the late session of Congress, though it had, by the secession of the Gulf States, a clear majority, that body, Black Republican as it is, passed three Territorial bills, from all of which the Wilmot Proviso was excluded; and more than this, a provision was engrafted in each of them that all rights of property should be determined by the principles and proceedings of the common law — provisions that open up the Territories to every citizen of the Union that shall choose to carry his slaves thither. The Black Republicans, as his friend from Stafford so delights, with peculiar emphasis, to call them, have themselves surrendered, given up the Wilmot Proviso. And had the Cotton States remained in the Union, could this Black Republican party, with its minority of twenty-one in one house and eight in the other, have ever applied the Wilmot Proviso to the Territories that belong to us all,‘"share and share alike? "’ No law, then, has been passed applying the Wilmot Proviso.-- Has any been enacted abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia? No. Even Mr. Lincoln assures us that he will approve no such law, except with the consent of the slaveholders of the District, and then not without compensation to the owners. Has any law been passed interfering with the slave trade between the States? Not at all; such a doctrine is not even in the Chicago platform; and at the late session of Congress, in which, by the secession of the Gulf States, (as already said,) the Republicans have the majority, a resolution was adopted by the necessary constitutional majority, recommending an amendment to the Constitution, whereby hereafter interference with slavery in the States by the Federal Government is to be totally and forever forbidden. Not one, then, of the three things has been done for which Virginia said she would break up the Union. Why, then, all this hot excitement, and this hot haste to go out of the Union, and make its disruption complete, by dashing it into irrevocable fragments? Can Virginia, on her own principles, (so far as the question of slavery is concerned,) proceed hastily to extreme measures of resistance, or to the adoption of the seizure and appropriation proposed by the resolutions before us?--Besides this, I wish to be informed (said Mr. S.) what wrong has been done me or any citizen of the South, or the South at large, by that Federal Government which some regard as accursed, and which they so haste to break up? I know of no wrong it has done us. If there be any law on the Federal statute book impairing the rights of one Southern man, or impeaching the equality of the Southern States with the Northern, let it be pointed out. The production of it is defied. No man has ever shown it, and no man ever can, because it is not on the statute books. If it be there, it is easy to show it. And not only is no such statute there, but the Federal Government has been to the South the most parental of Governments. It has given the South all it has ever asked or demanded. In 1793, the South wanted a fugitive slave law, and, as it was entitled, received it. It demanded, after wards, a better and more stringent fugitive slave law, and it was not only granted, but the drafting of the law was left to a Virginia Senator of the United States, Mr. Mason. In 1320, we made with the Federal Government a certain compact, the celebrated Missouri Compromise, with which we were then so well pleased that every Southern Senator but one voted for it, and a large majority of Southern representatives. But in the course of time, when the wave of politics set high, and politics became trade, we became dissatisfied with the compromise of 1820, and we appealed to the Federal Government to break up the old, and make a new contract. The Federal Government — this accursed Federal Government that we are so anxious to annihilate — took us at our word, broke up the old and gave us a new bargain, whereby the Missouri Compromise was repealed, and the Kansas-Nebraska pro-slavery act substituted. The Federal Government, then, has not been unkind or unjust to the South. it has been even especially kind and parental to our section; and more than this, the South, by Northern accord, has had the Federal Administration in its hands during nearly the whole period of our national existence. Why should we of the South desire to break up such a Government? And why should we make such haste to rid ourselves of it when we know, by official returns, that we had at the North at the last election, 1,600,000 friends standing fast and faithfully by us?--Some wrongs and some ills we are suffering at the hands of some of the Northern States, as the slavery agitation and the non-tradition of fugitive slaves; but whatever wrongs and ills we thus suffer, will be a thousand times aggravated by a full separation of the States. The slavery agitation will be intensified, and we shall lose, by disunion, scores of slaves where we now lose one; because, by the abolition of the Fugitive Slave Law, and the readier facilities of escape, there will be no effectual impediment to such escapes. On the whole, it may be safely said that there is too much excitement, and not sufficient cause, for extreme measures of any kind. We had better wait awhile longer yet, impatient as some of us are. Virginia is now sitting in her sovereignty and her majesty. When she acts in that sovereignty and majesty we shall all be agreed. She is the ‘"good old mother of us all."’ She is the author of all our municipal blessings. She gives us all our rights and rules of property, our laws of descent and marriage, our social privileges, our form of society, our remedies for wrongs. She throws over all our rights of property, of reputation, of liberty, and life, the ægis of her protection, and when she, our mother, in her sovereignty, gives us law, we will obey her whether she be right or wrong. Every loyal son of hers will say, as I have heretofore said, and as I now say, ‘ "My author and disposer, whatever thou biddest, unargued I obey."’

While opposing the indefinite postponement of the whole subject, Mr. Robertson desired to state his objections to the Senate's amendment. He thought, to say the least, it was infringing upon the privileges of the Executive. He had introduced his resolution merely as a measure of police, to preserve the public peace, and he thought that a matter within the province of this House. He would not authorize the Governor to do an act which might bring about a collision between the State of Virginia and the Federal Government. The debate took a pretty wide range and the gentleman's remarks were continued at some length, but the above points were the main ones made by him.

Mr. Kemper said he sympathized in the indignation manifested by the gentleman from Richmond city, (Mr. Robertson,) but thought that gentleman had ‘"roared as gently as a sucking dove."’ He (Mr. Robertson) advocates a simple protest against the removal of the arms, and questions our power to seize them. Your meek protest is crouching supplication at the foot of the Black Republican throne; for when you protest with an acknowledgment on your lips that you have no right to enforce your protest, you avow that you will tamely submit if your protest is contemptuously spurned back upon you. Better do nothing than resort to the brutum fulmen of such a thing as that. Have we no power to execute our purposes by any means better than words? What did gentlemen mean on the first day of this session when they voted that Virginia would meet any effort at coercion by arms, and would resist it to the blood and to the death? Did any gentleman then say we violated the Constitution or our official oaths by pledging and binding Virginia to make war upon the Federal Government in specific contingencies? Why, sir, gentlemen here have acknowledged that the removal and appropriation of these arms in the present condition of things, by the Federal Government, is coercion; and not to resist this incipient coercion by all the instrumentalities necessary to its suppression, is an ignominious backing down from the position of the State. The gentleman, (Mr. Robertson,) too. while questioning the power of the General Assembly to resist the removal, yet assures us that the Governor will resist it and prevent it, thus assuming that the Governor, who is the agent sworn to execute the will of the General Assembly, has more power than the General Assembly--that a fragment of the Government is more powerful than the whole Government. But I will not, at this late day, stop to demonstrate that Virginia may interpose to arrest aggression by force, if necessary. Any question or denial of that power now, any employment of your empty protests, or expostulations, or supplications in a crisis like this, is but a continuation of that policy of vacillation, of timidity and inaction, which has brought upon us all the iliad of our woes. Sir, I feel it, and know it, that if this old Commonwealth had in the beginning of this crisis met Black Republicanism — uplifting in its face that sacred falchion which she bathed in the best blood of Great Britain eighty years ago, every son of hers would have rushed to her defence, filled with the very spirit of the Revolution. Every man would have been a hero, ready and exulting to die in her cause. The whole Commonwealth would have breathed deliberate valor, from the Ohio to the ocean, and the very spirit of aggression would have crouched in dismay. Virginia would have exercised her immemorial prerogative of leader of whatever cause she espoused, she would have been the marshal of the van-guard of the Southern column, and would have led the whole South--which was eager to follow her in solid array. There would have been no fragmentary dissolution of the Union; there would have been no talk of coercion and no menace of civil war. Such a lead and such a Union of the South would have driven Black Republicanism to surrender the Government which it had confiscated under the forms of the Constitution, and would have insured a peaceful and perpetual settlement of all our troubles. But the vacillation of Virginia has brought about the disunion of the South itself, and it has united and emboldened her enemies. It has robbed the old Commonwealth of all her power in the councils of the South, presented her to the world as, ‘"a luke-warm friend and a placable enemy."’ brought upon her the maledictions of her own allies, and contributed to bring the country to the utmost verge of civil war.

Mr. K., continuing, said he was sick and tired of this namby-pamby policy. If we meant to do nothing, we should say nothing. If we really meant to prevent the removal of the arms, it was logically necessary to provide the means to execute the purpose of prevention. If we showed, by our preparation of means, that we were earnest in the matter, then our action would prevent riot and collision, and restore calm to the public mind of this vicinity upon this matter, at least. Any superficial tampering with the matter would create the very ground-swell of popular riot and revolution, which gentlemen deplored.-- He commented with severity upon the letters of the U. S. Colonel of Ordnance and Secretary of War, denounced their duplicity, and declared that the Secretary of War was convicted of falsehood in denying that there had been no order for the removal of the arms.-- Gentlemen had spoken of another probable order, suspending or countermanding the removal. Even if such an order should have actually arrived, what of it?-- What faith was to be attached to the orders of the Administration after their known prevarication and duplicity? Were we not warranted in believing their object to be to temporize and delay for the present, and then to renew the order after the General Assembly had gone home? No matter what order might be issued now, it did not warrant us in entrusting this delicate business, in the future, either to the mercy or the honor of a Black Republican authority, already convicted of perfidy and falsehood in respect to this very matter. He argued that anything short of the Senate resolutions would be no guaranty against a public outbreak in the future, and would not secure the rights of Dr. Archer, which we had already taken charge of and were bound to respect, for we had deprived him of the fruits of his contract with the Federal Government.--He deprecated any supplicatory effort to mollify the Administration in its action, or to temporize or treat with that power, but insisted that Virginia should execute her own will, and by her own action secure her peace and safety.

Pending discussion, the House took a recess till 7½ o'clock.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Robertson (8)
House (8)
Junius L. Archer (8)
Segar (4)
Thomas W. Scott (4)
Cowan (4)
Wythe (2)
Thompson (2)
Virginia Senator (2)
John W. Murrell (2)
Morris (2)
McKenzie (2)
Mason (2)
Madison (2)
Lynch (2)
Lincoln (2)
Kemper (2)
Giles (2)
Gerry (2)
Franklin (2)
Floyd (2)
E. N. Eubank (2)
W. D. Colquitt (2)
Collier (2)
Churchfield (2)
George W. Carter (2)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 30th, 1861 AD (2)
1857 AD (2)
1850 AD (2)
1820 AD (2)
1798 AD (2)
1793 AD (2)
1320 AD (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: