Virginia State Convention.
Monday,March 4, 1861.
The Convention was called to order at 12 o'clock.
Prayer by the Rev. Mr. Reid
, of the Presbyterian Church.
Resolution of Censure.
, of Preston
, (by leave, Mr. Willey
being entitled to the floor,) offered the following resolution:
That the Hon. Robt. M. T. Hunter
, and the Hon. James M. Mason
, tailed to reflect the opinions and wishes of the people of Virginia
in their recent opposition, in the Senate of the United States, to a reference of the report of the Peace Conference to the consideration of the States of this Confederacy, with a view of having the amendments proposed in said report adopted, as part of the Constitution of the United States
To consideration of the fact that many members were absent, the resolution was, on motion of Mr. Brown
, laid on the table.
The National difficulties.
, of Greensville
, (by leave,) offered a series of resolutions, prefaced by a lengthy preamble written by that enlightened Hon. Judge Allen
, and by him presented to a meeting in Botetourt county, Va. Mr. Chamber
adds to the preamble the following:
And the Conference, lately held in Washington city
, having failed to accomplish, to the satisfaction of this Convention, the objects of its mission, therefore this Convention declares--
That the compromise agreed upon by the majority of the Conference at Washington, fails to give assurance of that equitable, satisfactory, post and final settlement of the slavery controversy which the slaveholding States have the right to demand.
That the dignity and honor of Virginia forgot that she should offer any other propositions for adjusting the pending difficulties between the North and the South.
That the time has come when Virginia should resume her sovereignty — withdraw from the Federal compact — and adopt, in concert with the other Southern States, or plane, such measurers may seem most expedient to protect the rights and insure the safety of her citizens.
proceeded to criticise the Peace Conference propositions, and opposed with especial vehemence that part which denies to slaveholders the right to carry their property into free States.
He made a brief secession speech, alluding to the fact that a Black Republican President
was in process of inauguration at Washington
, and if he had his way the President
of the Virginia Convention would at the same time be proclaiming these cession of Virginia
from the Confederacy
The President announced the reference of the resolutions to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Harrison
, desired to reply to the gentleman from Greensville
The President said it would not be in order, as the resolutions were already referred.
, said, with the leave of the Convention
he would make a few remarks.--Perhaps it was fortunate that the member from Greensville
had not his way. The secession movement, he believed, had its origin and was carried on in contradiction of the will of the people.
Wherever the people had been allowed to speak — in Virginia
--they had spoken in thunder tones in opposition to the attempts to drag the States into secession from the Union
It was the work of the politicians, those who were fed from the public crib and were clothed in purple and fine linen; they thought a continuance in the Union
under present circumstances would lead to their retirement, and this retiring process had much to do with the secession excitement.
With regard to the Peace Conference, gentlemen had condemned it by resolutions before its action had been officially reported to this body.
Such hot haste he considered disrespectful to the Commissioners
The proposition of the Peace Conference commended itself to him, and he believed it would to the people also.
, of Goochland
, inquired if there was any question before the Convention
If not, the gentleman from Harrison
was out of order.
said if any gentleman objected to his going on, he would take his seat.
, of Brunswick
, (by leave,) offered the following, which was referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations:
That the States of Virginia
, North Carolina
, ought to meet in Convention, with a view to concerted and united action, to determine where they will go, whether with the North
or the South
--or whether they will establish a Central Confederacy.
The Southern Commissioners.
The President laid before the Convention
copies of the addresses delivered by the Commissioners
from South Carolina
, furnished by themselves for publication in compliance with a resolution of this body.
, of Bedford
, offered a resolution calling for the printing of 10,000 copies of the addresses, to be distributed equally among the members, for circulation.
E. B. Hall
moved to lay the resolution on the table, and on this motion Mr. Goode
called for the yeas and nays.
The vote was then taken, and resulted — years 64, nays 42.
So the resolution to print was laid on the table.
The Convention proceeded to the consideration of the resolutions offered some days ago by Mr. Moore
, of Rockbridge
, of Monongalia, being entitled to the floor, addressed the Convention
He did not propose to enter upon a full discussion of the great questions before the Convention
, but to notice briefly some of the arguments tied in favor of secession by gentlemen upon this floor.
He alluded to the influences that had been brought to bear upon the body, and claimed the privilege of expressing his mind fully and freely, independent of influences here or elsewhere.--Free speech was the right of a free people.--Ancient and modern history furnished abundant examples that where free speech was dialed the voice of liberty was drowned.
He then went on to examine some of the great evils brought to the notice of the Convention
by some of the gentlemen on the other side.--He acknowledged these evils and repudiated them but he was here not to break up the Union
, but to demand a redress of those grievances.
There was no instance in which the general Government had been derelict in the discharge of its duty.
The remedy proposed by others was secession.
If it be true, as many able men here think, and as many able judges decided, that there was no constitutional right of secession, the remedy can have no weight with a constitution-loving people.
If 100% proper construction of the Federal Constitution
justifies secession, we have never had a Union at all; and if the position could be maintained, he was willing that the principle of law should be brought to bear upon such an illicit intercourse.
He would admit at such right.
He alluded to the purchase of Louisiana
He could never believe that the Government
would have expended such a vast amount for that purpose, if they were to be allowed to walk off with the spoils at their own pleasure.
If the doctrine were true, in my hour of trial, a State may go out of the Union
, leave those with whom she had been allied and join the enemy, or go out at her convenience, and leave the debt incurred by war for the other States to pay. The right of State to secede was spurned from the Con of Virginia
, which met to ratify the Constitution
He denied that a construction, Serving the right, could be properly given to be resolutions of 1798-99, and read from writings to sustain the point.
The Best Coalition of secession appeared in the Hartford Convention, and the second in 1830; in the latter case, the iron logic of Gen.
and the verdict of the great Democratic party, put a seal upon it, and it did not appear again until very recently.
In regard to Mississippi
, he said she had been dragged out in opposition to the popular voice.
He then read from a speech of Howell Cobb
, of Georgia
, delivered some years ago, embodying is argument against the constitutional right of secession.
The evils of the day, as announced here, were next commented on. First, the acrimony with which Southern institutions had been pursued by Northern men. He conceived that an act of secession would, instead of si, agitate the evil.
Second, the efforts Northern abolitionists to entice our slaves abscond, the Personal Liberty
bills, and the obstructions to the execution of the Future Slave Law
. He asked gentlemen how secession would remedy these evils?
In such an event, the inducements to fly across the will be increased.
There will be none of the power of the Constitution
to recover them.
He denounced the Personal Liberty
law as an insult to Virginia
and to the whole North
, but they had never been enforced, or interposed any obstruction to the recovery of fugitive slaves.
Third--the Republican party threatens to exclude the South
from the Territories
— to destroy the equality of the States.
This he would ever oppose, but would not resort to secession.
He would never submit to inequality.
(Some person in the lobby gave a slight hiss, which Mr. Willey
sarcastically rebuked.) Secession.
he contended, would never secure our equal rights in the Territories
Turning our backs upon the Territories
and giving them up, was the most inefficient remedy that the mind of man could conceive of. It was also contended that the Black Republicans
had got control of the Government
— that the rights of the South
He deplored the election of Lincoln
, or any other sectional President
; but he should oppose him with the weapons of reason, and when they failed it was time enough to resort to the ultima ratio.
Again, it was said that we were in a minority.
Our "Southern sisters," as they were called, were responsible for this.
They had left us in this minority, in defiance of our remonstrances, and left us to be trodden under the heel of Black Republicanism.
It was alleged by the gentleman from Orange
that the honor of Virginia
required that she should secede.
He believed her honor required that she should contend for her rights, and not yield an inch to her enemies.
It had also been said that Lincoln
would use the patronage of the Federal Government
to corrupt Virginia
This was an argument that he would not dare to use before his people, and would only say in reply that if Virginia
was of such easy virtue as to be corrupted by a little Federal pap, her honor was not worth preserving.
The speaker adverted briefly to the John Brown
raid, in regard to which the dignity of the State
had been vindicated.
If the State
seceded, her border would be constantly exposed to such raids.
In reply to the position of the gentleman from Middlesex
, who had read from Washington
's Farewell Address
to show that the experiment of Government had failed, he alluded to the vastness of the American
empire, and thought if we were true to ourselves we were but on the threshold of our greatness.
He then proceeded to allude to the evils to result from secession.
The country would not only be divided into a Northern and a Southern Confederacy, but in course of time it would be divided into petty Confederacies, and then would come constant warfare, of which we have an example in the South American empire.
Another result would be the commencement of the abolition of slavery, first in Virginia
, and ultimately in the whole South
This was the idea of Sumner
.--They wanted to draw a belt of fire around us. Whether it be right or wrong, the moral sentiment of the world was against slavery, and the force of all would be exerted against it.--Entangling foreign alliances would be another evil result.
If the Union
is dissolved, too, Great Britain
could conquer the South
, and she had no means of preventing it. He said it was a very easy thing to pull down this Government, but very difficult to build it up again.
As to the question where shall Virginia
go, he said he would go nowhere, but stay where we are, and plant the State
firmly upon the Constitution
The perils of the new Government at the South
were alluded to. The provisional Constitution had no force derived from the people; but they were going to work to make a permanent Government, from which we might expect little less than a military despotism.
Secession implies the necessity of putting this State upon a war footing.
Though we might go out peaceably, it would not be five years before we should be involved in all the horrors of civil war. The Western and North-western counties would have 450 miles of hostile border.
They are cut off from the balance of the State
by an almost impassable barrier.
Should they be left in such a condition?
The Legislature had inaugurated a measure to appropriate one million of dollars for the defence of the State
In his opinion, it would require one hundred millions to put the Northwest
in a proper state of defence.
The State debt and largely increased taxation were next briefly considered.
It would amount to a burden that the people would not endure.
The great resources of Virginia
-- her commercial advantages — her mineral treasures — her geographical position — promised future greatness and grandeur to the old Commonwealth.
He could not conceive that she would forfeit all these considerations for the sake of becoming the appendage of some "miserable Southern Confederacy." Secession destroys our nationality.
The flag which has waved in triumph and protected our commerce all over the world, would no longer be as a shield to our people wherever they might be. He knew the Southern States
had gone, but if Virginia
stands fast, the wanderers may be eventually brought back, and the Union
In conclusion he returned his thanks for the attention which had been given to his remarks.
arose to a personal explanation, and proceeded to correct a misrepresentation of his remarks a few days ago, in some newspaper, (the reporter could not hear the name,) relative to the responsibility of the Black Republicans
for the John Brown
He had not said that Black Republican men were not responsible for it, but that the party was not. The Chicago
platform did not endorse the John Brown
raid, but denounced it. If they had endorsed it in their platform, they never could have elected Lincoln
or any one else upon it. The Richmond Enquirer
had said that no man would endorse the Peace Conference proposition, unless he were himself a Black Republican.
He would say to the editors that he
endorsed it, and he was no more a Black Republican than they were.
He was a slaveholder, and represented a slaveholding constituency.
B. went on to make some correction of his speech, as reported in the Enquirer,
for which he did not blame the reporters, since he could not imagine how they could hear what a man said in this hall.
Committee on printing.
The President announced the following committee under Mr. Wickham
's resolution to make certain investigations of the contract for printing the debates: Messrs. Wickham
, and Dent
The Southern Commissioners again.
asked leave to record his vote against laying on the table the resolution for printing the addresses of the Southern Commissioners
, he having been necessarily absent at the time the vote was taken.
Leave was granted accordingly.
moved that the resolution be taken up from the table.
He had voted under a misapprehension, having forgotten that the Convention
had passed a resolution requesting the Commissioners
to furnish copies for publication; and to refuse to print them now would be an act of discourtesy.
The resolution was taken up, and Mr. Branch
moved that the words "ten thousand" be stricken out. The motion was agreed to, and after sundry suggestions, the blank was filled by inserting 3,040 as the number to be printed, and the resolution, as amended, passed.
On motion of Mr. Echols
, the Convention