Virginia State Convention.
Monday, February 18, 1861.
As early as 9 o'clock the ladies thronged the various entrances to the Institute building
and when the doors were opened a struggle look place of an exciting, but somewhat amusing character.
After a good deal of compression, a little shrieking, and much laughing, the "advanced guard" of femininity poured into the Hall
, and quickly filled the ladies' gallery.
Hundreds of others continued to arrive completely blocking up the front passage, and through the lower hall.
As many were admitted as could be accommodated with seats, and many more turned away from the Hall
, some with sorrow and others with indignation.
The rush of the "sovereign people" was not so great, because those who were minus tickets generally thought it useless to assemble where they were not invited.
Notwithstanding all the precautions, however, there was considerable confusion in the lobby, which at one moment, seemed likely to result in knock-down arguments.
The Convention met at 12 o'clock, pursuant to adjournment.
Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Beid
, of the Presbyterian Church.
, of Frederick
, offered a resolution, which was adopted, authorizing the Committee
on Federal Relations to employ a Clerk.
, of Rockbridge
, desired to state, before the Convention
proceeded to the execution of the order of the day, that the Governor
of the Commonwealth
was prevented from attending here to-day by the state of his health; otherwise he would have been present to participate in the reception of the Southern Commissioners
On motion of Mr. Wm. Ballard Preston
, the Convention
voted to proceed to the execution of the order of the day, namely, the
Reception of the Southern Commissioners.
The President.--Gentlemen of the Convention
, in pursuance of a resolution adopted by your body, I now introduce to you the Hon. Fulton Anderson
, Commissioner on behalf of the State of Mississippi
, after a graceful acknowledgment of the reception, said he intended to detain the Convention
but a few minutes, for the purpose of briefly discharging the duty imposed on him by his State, and would then yield the floor to the Commissioners
and South Carolina
, States older and more distinguished, and having a more ancient claim than the State
he represented.--They would present more conspicuously than be could the causes which operated on the States which have recently taken steps in vindication of their rights.
In the name of the people of Mississippi
, he expressed sentiments of admiration and esteem for the ancient and renowned Commonwealth of Virginia
Nothing that concerned her honor failed to create a deep interest in his State.
He recognized in Virginia
the leader in the great struggle for independence, as well as in the great work which united the people in the adoption of a Constitution.
He alluded to the unexampled munificence of Virginia
in the bestowal upon the Government
of that great Territory which had become the seat of empire, but which, he regretted to say, was the seat of much that was hostile to Virginia
When his State was compelled to server her connexion with the Government
, it was with the hope of being joined with Virginia
at no distant day, in a Union under happier auspices.
If doomed to disappointment, it would be a source of infinite regret to his people.
He did not design, in whatever he might say of the enemies of our institutions, to include that great body of conservative people at the North
who had manfully stood by us. He should ever remember with gratitude their struggles to maintain the Union
as it was governed by our fathers.
His remarks would apply to those who have persistently assailed Southern rights and Southern honor.
On the 29th of November, the Legislature of Mississippi
, by a unanimous vote, called a Convention of the people of the State
, to take into consideration their relations with the Federal Government
, and adopt such measures of protection and redress as the circumstances might demand.
The Legislature also adopted resolutions setting forth a catalogue of vevancis, and suggesting such remedies as the people ought to adopt.
These resolutions did not grow out of the fact that a Northern man was elected to the Presidency, and that the South
was to be excluded from all there in the government, but out of the fact that the North
had declared war upon our institutions, and a purpose to destroy them.
The Convention assembled at Jackson
on the 7th of January, and on the 9th, by an overwhelming majority, proceeded to adopt an ordinance of secession, by which Mississippi
dissolved her connection with those people who had dishonored her, without the hope expectation, or wish of ever being restated, and with a purpose to hold them as her enemies in war, but in peace her friends.
Another clause in the ordinance expressed her wish to form a Union with all those States which might secede, upon the basis of the Constitution of the United States
As early as the 10th of February, 1860, the Legislature had adopted a resolution in effect that the election of a President by the votes of one section, upon the ground that there is in irrepressible conflict between free and slave labor, and of an avowed hostility to the South
, would justify the South
in taking measures of consultation, and in proposing a remedy.
had ample warning that it was through their own reckless folly and madness that the Federal Union would be shattered.
But in defiance of this, and of evidence accumulated from a thousand other sources, they proceeded to nominate a candidate, who, though not the most distinguished among them, was still a true representative of their principles of hostility to Southern institutions.
The speaker then reviewed the acts of the Black
Republican party, alluding to their avowals of war upon the institution of slavery, leading to its eventual abolition in the States themselves.
As a part of the history of the controversy, he read from a speech of Lincoln
in 1858, quoting his opinion that the slavery agitation would never cease till a crisis was reached and passed; that the Government
could not permanently endure while half slave and half free; and that he did not believe the house would ever be divided, but expected it would eventually be all free or all slave.
This was the avowed principle of the party who elected a President by a large majority in the free States.
In defiance of all the purposes for which the Government
was founded instead of protecting all, it was to become our for and trample our rights and sacred honor beneath its iron heel.
We, the descendants of the Revolutionary patriots, were expected to bend our necks to receive the yoke, and were expected to solace ourselves with the land delusion that the foe would some day cause its hostilities and that all would be well.
We, of Mississippi
, are no longer under that delusion.
The song of the siren is no longer in our cars.
We have finally made up our minds to preserve our rights and our honor-- to take our destiny in our own hands, and never surrender it to our implacable foes.
The speaker then alluded to the outrage on the soil of Virginia
; when, in an hour of fancied security and supposed peace, this Commonwealth.
distinguished for her unwavering fealty to the Constitution
, was made the seem of a foray by ruffians from among our national enemies of the North
, to light up the fine of insurrection, and give up the wives and children of the citizens to the assassin's knife.
It is true the expedition failed; the slaves proved loyal the dignity of the State
was exonerated, and the criminals forfeited their lives.
But it had no effect on the party at the North
now about to be inaugurated into power.
He had no purpose to arouse the feelings of his hearers by his reference to the John Brown
raid, but spoke of it as one of the effects of misplaced confidence; to show that it is the principle of the North
to war upon the Southern
people; and to warn the people of Virginia
of what they must expect when the party shall have fully established its dominion over them.
These were some of the cause which had impelled the State of Mississippi
to take her Destiny in her own hands.
She had clung to the Union
long after its obligations had been violated under the fond hope that her rights would be restored under the Constitution
.--Long and vainly had she hoped that every section of the Confederacy
would recognize the rights of all, and that they might continue together.
Could we have believed the evil temporary, we might still have hopes; but the present state of things is the sure result of the growth of false teachings in the Northern
section of the Confederacy
He then gave a history of the Abolition aggression, beginning with the Missouri
controversy, and read the language of Jefferson
, 40 years ago, showing that he regarded that as the knell of the Union
Then traced it through subsequent years of disregard of constitutional obligations, until it terminated in the irrepressible conflict, of which a Black Republican President
and his party were about to reap the benefit.
But the South
could place herself beyond its power.
He did not mean to argue the question of the right of secession.
That question had, with his people, passed beyond the field of argument.
If the right be not in the Constitution
the people of Mississippi
knew there was a higher law — not the higher law of their foes --but the higher law of the people's power, when they put the lance in its rest and decide the issue in the field.
When the North
shall make up its mind to coerce us, we shall meet the issue.
He hoped for peace in all sections, and trusted that Providence
would so ordain that the friends of liberty throughout the world should not have to mourn over the madness and folly of a conflict of arms on this continent; but if war must come, they were preparing for it, and the Southern
people would meet it with firmness.
The justice of their cause was a tower of strength.
When the hour comes (he continued) we know, however you may dread to withdraw from the Union
and all its revered associations, where Virginia
will then be found.
Her sons will bear the banner of the South
aloft, and their blood will enrich every field in defence of her honor and sacred rights.
Circumstances have demonstrated that the South
should take her destiny in her own hands.
No brave people would ever place its honor and its property in the hands of a Government where hostility to them is the law of administration — a Government not founded on the policy of equal rights, but on the policy of hatred to the South
and her institutions.
We are not opposed to the principle of a confederated Union.
It was no fault of ours that a form of confederation with the Northern States
ceased to be desirable.
What, then is the remedy?
It is that which we have adopted: a Union of States with common hopes and common interests.
The destiny of the South Virginia
now holds in her hands.--Let Virginia
take her stand by her Southern sisters, and the revolution will be a peaceful one.
Grim-visaged war will smooth his wrinkled front, and we shall no longer hear of the despotic power of coercion by the Federal Government
, and the other border States will take their stand by Virginia
, We shall then have a united South, with fifteen stars on our banner, and a territory more compact and more desirable than one with the Northern
We shall have a great Southern Republic, where faction will cease to trouble us, and where liberty and prosperity will take up their permanent abode — a Republic to which we may safely entrust our interests and the interests of posterity.
In concluding, the speaker, in the name of the people of Mississippi
, renewed his expressions of admiration for this State and her people, and urged their co-operation in the great movement now going on; hoped they would come out from the house of their enemies and take a place in the house of their friends and kindred.
They wanted the advice and counsel of Virginia
If she came to them, her arrival would raise a shout of congratulation which would echo and re-echo from the shores of the Atlantic
to the Rio Grande
The Georgia Commissioner.
The President.--Gentlemen of the Convention
— In further execution of the order of the day, I introduce to you the Hon. Henry L. Benning
, Commissioner on the part of the State of Georgia
said he had been appointed by the Convention of the State of Georgia
to present her ordinance of secession, and to invite Virginia
, through this Convention, to join Georgia
and the other seceded States in forming a Southern Confederacy.
This was the whole extent of his mission.
He had no power to make or to receive promises.
Still, a proper respect for this Convention required that he should explain the reasons which induced Georgia
to take the step of secession.
He would, therefore, lay before them some facts and considerations in favor of the acceptance of the invitation by Virginia
What were the reasons for Georgia
A deep and settled conviction, on her part, that a separation from the North
was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery.
This was the main cause.
He maintained that it was true, that unless there was such a separation slavery would be finally abolished in the South
In the first place, the North
hates slavery — hates it willingly, and hates it intentionally.
An administration was about to be inaugurated founded upon this hate.
To satisfy any mind that might doubt this proposition, he then read a few sentences from a speech delivered by Lincoln
, in October, 1858, wherein he said that he always hated slavery as much as any Abolitionist; that he was always an old line Whig; and that if he was in Congress he would vote for the abolition of slavery.
These were pregnant sentences.
Hatred of slavery as extreme as hatred can exist.
His political principle is that his action against slavery is not to be restrained by the Constitution of the United States
, even as interpreted by the Supreme Court.
This is the sentiment of the chosen leader of the Republican party.
Can you doubt that it is entertained by every solitary man of that party?
He is the representative man — his sentiments are the sentiments of his party — his principles are their principles.
It is true that the Black
Republican party hates slavery, and the Black Republican
majority in the North
is equivalent to the whole, for the voice of the minority is drowned when the majority is permanent.
The part is so deeply seated in the North
that it cannot be overthrown.
It has the press, the pulpit, the school- houses, the Legislatures, the State Governments
, the Magistrates, the Constables — in fact, all official life — and it now has the General Government
In addition, it has an inexhaustible reserve to fall back upon and recruit from — a reserve that believes slavery is a moral and social evil.
It is also in alliance with the tariff, internal improvement and Pacific Railroad schemes.
It cannot be overthrown.
You might as well try to lift a mountain out of its bed and pitch it into the sea.
But suppose the party were overcome — how long would the victory last?
The fragments might get into a majority — but the Republican party, he argued, would soon again get the power, and come down upon its opponents like an avalanche, crushing them by its weight.
The Republican party cannot be put down.
It is to be the permanent dominant party at the North
, and thus we were authorized to conclude that the North
The whole people there regard it as a moral and social evil, and in the course of events, it would merge from passive into active hatred.
In the past, the North
invariably exerted against slavery the whole amount of power which it had to exert.--They abolished it in the magnificent empire which Virginia
presented them in 1787, and in every State and Territory North of 36,30; then endeavored to put the Wilmot Proviso
on all other Territories of the Union
, and succeeded in Washington
They had taken all that was acquired by the Mexican
war, and appropriated it to the free country.
They do all they can to make negroes free — maltreat their pursuers, and make raids to murder all classes and sexes; and when the chief perpetrator is caught and punished, half the North
goes into mourning.
If any of the perpetrators escape, they are shielded by the law. This is what they have done against slavery — they have always done what they could to put it under the ban in Christendom.
We had a right to argue from the past to the future.
If the North
has done all it could in the past, so it will in the future, and if it can, will abolish slavery in the States.
The speaker alluded to the fact that the North
is constantly acquiring the power to abolish slavery by the acquisition of new States.
The public territory is practically Northern territory, and every State that comes in will be a free State.
should satisfy every one of that.
These additions will go very near to bringing the power of the North
high enough to change the Constitution
so as to suit their own views.
There is also a process going on by which some of the slave States are becoming free States.
In some the slave property is on the decrease.--The census shows this to be the case in Delaware
, and in other States on the same parallel the relative increase and decrease is against the slave population.
The anti-slavery feeling is so predominant in the North
, that owners of slaves in these States feel that their property is doomed, and they haste to get rid of it. Thus it goes down lower, until it all gets into the pocket.
Under the weight now pressing on this property, it is bound to go into the Cotton States
, and he feared the day was not distant when they would be the only slave States.
obtaining the power, will amend the Constitution
and abolish slavery — and say if the masters resist they shall be hung for it. The North
is acquiring this power, as the past has shown; and if causes are allowed to operate as they now operate, slavery is to be abolished in Georgia
and the other Cotton States.
The speaker alluded at length to the eventual result of anti-slavery aggressions, and argued that if the Black Republicans
entered into any compromise, recognizing slavery South of any line of latitude, it would be broken; for the people of the North
regard slavery as an agreement with death, and a compact with the devil; and to violate it, would be a part of their religion.
They are entirely beyond the pale of contract making, and hold it to be right to violate anything that violates their higher law. He contended that the South
could get no remedy for this disease in the Union
A separation from the North
would be a complete remedy.
The Personal Liberty Bills and the election of Lincoln
had much to do with the action of Georgia
The Personal Liberty bills were direct, deliberate infractions of the Constitution
They gave the South
the right to say she would no longer be bound by the Constitution
if she chose to say so. A bargain broken on one side is broken on all sides.
The election of Lincoln
was the occasion Georgia
chose to select.
The speaker went on to show that it would be to the material, social, religious and political interest of Virginia
to unite with the South
He spoke of the value of the cotton crop, and its rapid increase yearly — of the sugar, rice, naval stores, and other staple productions. --With their immense surplus, amounting to $200,000,000 to $230,000,000 annually, the Cotton States
purchase their articles of consumption.
Very little of this was spent at home. --He then went on to urge Virginia
to take the place of New England
and New York, in furnishing goods
for the South
She would have it if she separated from the North
, and with the same protection that has built up the manufactories in that section.
He believed that the Southern Government
would guarantee full protection, but if Virginia
wants more, let her come in a proper spirit to the Southern Congress, and it would be given.
This point was urged at considerable length, and with much force.
In alluding to the fugitive slave evil, the speaker said the indirect effect of the loss of a slave was to make the people of the border States distrust slavery.
The policy of the South
would be to station a line of police along the border to prevent their escape, and to have a surveillance on persons coming over, as well as on suspicious persons on this side of the border.
Experience had shown that statutes for the return of fugitives were worthless.
With regard to the Territorial evil, he said the South
would never get one foot of the new territory so long as she stayed in the Union
.--If she goes out, she can get it, and slavery could go there.
unites with the South
, she will have all these things in peace.
Cotton is peace.
It is an article of indispensable necessity in all the great nations of the world.
Unless we have peace, they cannot get it. But suppose Virginia
joins the North
She encounters a competition which will destroy her manufactures.--In consequence the North
has an advantage which she can never overtake.
Agriculture will be stationary, and cannot flourish.
She will lose her slaves, and get no return.
And rivalry will create a constant danger of war. Thus the South
presents a much more attractive bill of entertainment in material advantages than the North
; while in moral, social and religious advantages, the South
had every inducement.
The speaker went on to allude to the probability of a confederacy on the Pacific coast
at no distant day. The antagonism of interests would increase the dangers of the border States.
The Northern Confederacy might start beautifully, but it had within itself the elements of decay, and would go to pieces.--Then the South
would become the Empire
.--After anarchy had held sway for awhile, they would come to us and ask for what we could concede to them.
We could impose our own terms.
We would have nothing to do but sit down and let our territory grow and expand like an oak tree.
Then, with cotton as our safeguard, we should have peace with all the great nations of the earth.
In the Southern Confederacy, Virginia
will stand at the head, and be looked up to. In the Northern Confederacy
, she will stand at the — he could not say tail, for Virginia
could never stand at the tail of anything — but she would find herself degraded much lower than she is now.
He blinded to the future possibility of Sumner
, or Fred Douglas
--one of Virginia
's runaway negroes — being elected to the Presidency Thousands of men at the North
, in their hatred for slavery, were ready to do this thing to humiliate the South
Give him war, pestilence, famine, anything sooner than that.
With regard to the African slave trade, he said emphatically that the Southern Confederacy had done all it could to dispel the illusion in this respect.
The South would never open the trade.
There never was a greater delusion than a contrary belief.
On the Free Trade
question, he said it was the purpose of the Southern Government
to support itself by duties on imports.
A large majority of the members at Montgomery
were in favor of such a measure.
The Vice President
takes this ground, and think ten per cent. would be sufficient to support the Government
As to the prohibition of inter-State slave trade, he said it was true this was in the power of Congress.
goes with the North
he thought it would be prohibited.
Whatever the South
could do in that respect, under such circumstances, she would do. This, however, was not a threat.
He believed if Virginia
joined the South
, it would not be done.
It had been said that the seceded States went out without giving the border States an invitation.
In this respect the position occupied by the Cotton States
towards each other, and that occupied towards the border States, were the same.
Each State acted by herself, and acted promptly, in order to be prepared for the great event of the 4th of March.
It was a necessity.
They could not afford to wait.
He did not feel that their case was desperate, even if Virginia
refused to unite with them.
They had 5,000,000 people; had arms and ammunition; had a prospective arrangement with foreign Governments; and above all, they had a cause.
Their cause would save them against the North
They most earnestly desired the co-operation of Virginia
, and if she refused, they would receive it more in sorrow than in anger.
Greater than we once went to his own, and his own received him not; yet he became a great light, illuming all the world.
In conclusion, Mr. Benning
presented-the Georgia Ordinance
of Secession, earnestly invited Virginia
to unite with her, and thanked the Convention
for the attention given to his long address.
As he took his seat, there was a hearty demonstration of applause.
The Georgia Secession Ordinance was then read by the Clerk
, and, on motion of Mr. Preston
, of Montgomery
, laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
On motion of Mr. Preston
, the further execution of the order of the day was postponed until Tuesday.
On motion of Mr. Early
, the resolution adopted on Saturday, in regard to tickets for this day, was renewed for to-morrow.
On motion of Mr. Staples
, the Convention