Virginia State Convention.
Thursday, March 7, 1861.
The Convention was called to order at the usual hour, and opened with prayer by the Rev. Dr. Moore
, of the 1st Presbyterian Church.
Finance and taxation.
, of Preston
, offered a resolution for the appointment of a committee of --members, to be styled the Committee of Finance, whose duty it shall be to take into consideration all subjects referred to it, including State and county taxation.
urged the expediency of the passage of such a resolution, to meet possible contingencies in the event of a war. If the necessity should arise, every dollar that he had was at the service of the State
, to arm, equip, and feed the brave men in the field. --He proceeded to contradict the allegation made in a local newspaper, that a bargain exisited between Western and Eastern men on the question of taxation: he at least knew nothing of such a bargain, and he hoped if other Western members did, they would let the Convention
, of Monroe
, moved that the resolution be laid upon the table, and on that motion Mr. Brown
called for the yeas and nays.
The roll was then called, and the vote resulted — yeas 69, nays 43.
So the motion to lay on the table was carried in the affirmative.
, of Franklin
, (Mr. Carlile
having yielded the floor for that purpose,) proceeded to correct some portion of his remarks, on yesterday, as reported in the official organ of the Convention
, the Richmond Enquirer
Report of a Committee.
, of Randolph
, asked and obtained leave to present a report from the special committee upon the subject of printing the debates on a separate sheet.
On his motion it was laid on the table.
, of Clark
, asked and obtained leave to offer a resolution, as follows:
Resolved, by the Convention of Virginia,
entirely disapproves of and earnestly protests against, any attempt on the part of the Federal Government
to repossess itself of the property and places belonging to the Government
, and to collect the duties on imports within the limits of the seceding States.
Referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
Order of the day.
The President stated that the question pending before the Convention
was on the amendment offered by Mr. Harvie
to the amendment of Mr. Leake
to the resolution of instructions offered on Tuesday by Mr. Cox
, of Chesterfield
, of Harrison
, being entitled to the floor, proceeded with his remarks.
The crisis was one requiring the patriotic efforts of every member.
The resolution, if adopted, would have an effect to place Virginia
in a hostile attitude to the Federal Government
, which at present was Virginia
The secession movement thus far had been exactly in conformity with the programme laid down by the editors of the Richmond Enquirer
He proceeded to pay his respects to the editors of that paper, reading copious extracts from its columns by way of illustration.
He had no doubt they understood their programme well, but they would never be able to succeed.
He believed these resolutions were prepared before Lincoln
's Inaugural made its appearance, and maintained that Virginia
should not be thus committed without consulting with the people-- that she should not be plunged into the horrors of civil war by a mere act of this advisory power.
The speaker then read from Gov. Wise
's speech to the New York Seventh Regiment, when they brought hither the remains of Monroe
--two years ago — declaratory of his faith in the Union
as the work of God Almighty; also, from another address, delivered by the Governor
in this city, in May, 1859, closing with a toast to the "Union and the Constitution
, as they are."
Yet we were called to pledge ourselves to a support of rebellious States against our native land or to participate in a foreign alliance against that land.
He declared he was agreeably disappointed in the pacific tone which breathes throughout the whole of Lincoln
's Inaugural Address.
It was well that the people could read it, and judge for themselves, without taking newspaper comments for their guide in forming a judgment.
He went on to read from Buchanan
's special message in December last, to show that they stood alike upon the Constitution
And yet because Lincoln
had expressed his constitutional views of the action of States which he (Mr.
C.) believed were in open rebellion against the Government
was also to be dragged into rebellion and civil war. He was not here as an apologist for Mr. Lincoln
, but believed that he would not have dared to acknowledge the right of the secession of States.
He next alluded to Mr. Goggin
as a member of the Whig Convention which adopted a platform for the preservation of the Union
and the Constitution
— and he believed the gentleman from Halifax
) stood there also.
They backed up Mr. Fillmore
, as he did, in enforcing the laws in Boston
; but now when they were to be enforced on this side of the line, it was a very different thing.
His people were a law-abiding people; devoted to the institution of slavery, because it was, as they and as he believed, the bulwark of Republican liberty.
Yet they were not to be driven from the Union
because one had been elevated to the Presidency, through our divisions, who was objectionable to them.--They had yet the Constitution
to protect them.
The Government had never yet brought us anything but good, and no act had been placed there upon the subject of slavery which the Southern States
did not assent to. We were called upon to destroy a Government that protects us against the consequences of our own mistake.
We had the right to increase the number of slave States since 1845, but had now only fifteen; and yet we wanted expansion!
Slavery was governed by soil, by climate, by interests; and where those were adverse, it would not go.
spurned the causes which were alleged here for a dissolution of the Union
The present secession movement was initiated in South Carolina
, where they never lost a slave.
tells you frankly it is because of the "irrepressible conflict" between free and slave labor.
The doctrine of the right of a State to secede originated in Massachusetts
, the hot-bed of all the "isms," in 1807, because of the embargo.
In 1808 the electors met in this city to east their votes for Madison
, and one of the regular toasts at the electoral dinner was, "The Union of the States--the majority must govern--'tis treason to secede. " But the doctrine of secession was still agitated in the New England
States, and the Richmond Enquirer
held that it was treason to all intents and purposes. --Madison
's letters were referred to as putting his heel upon the poisonous doctrine of secession.
He alluded to the doctrines of the leading secessionists in this body. --The people of Virginia
were a moral and a law-abiding people, and before they would endorse the doctrine they must be convinced of the morality and the legality of the act. Mr. Calhoun
never held to such a right — he said in the Senate that its exercise would be a breach of the compact — a violation of faith.
The Supreme Court of South Carolina
had also denied the legality and constitutionality of the right in the case of McCrady
The Legislature of South Carolina in 1828, in a provision said to have been written by Mr. Calhoun
, also held the same doctrine.
The Constitution itself, which provides a method for its own amendment, plainly shows the absurdity of the right of secession.
was called upon to say to the Government
-- you must not enforce your laws in this or that State, but you must enforce them in others; that you must collect your revenues in New York, but must not collect them in South Carolina
He then read from the writings of Henry Clay
, to show that he looked upon secession as treason.
Secession was a Yankee notion.
had given the true definition — it was the doctrine of the irrepressible conflict.--Seward
had abandoned it, and the Black Republicans
were afraid to enforce it; but the South
had taken it up. Virginia
was far behind the times in supposing the contest was between anything but the two systems of society.
In connection with this he read from Mr. Spratt
's speech in the Congress
, and from Mr. Preston
's speech before this Convention.
That was the feast to which the people of Virginia
initiated this movement, and would control it, if a government should ever be permanently formed, which he hoped in God never would be. He was a slaveholder, and had always taken the ground that slavery was right in itself, even when the people of the South
refused to take that position.--He now believed, that in case of a separation, slavery would not have a foothold in Virginia
five years hence, and nowhere in twenty years. You would have not only the North
to prevent it, but England
Nothing but our own separation and dissolution, on the other hand, could prevent the ultimate annexation of Cuba
to the United States
He went on to dilate upon the mighty progress of the American
Yet this was to be destroyed — not from any act of its own — not from any act of oppression; but because a portion of the people were hostile to the institution of slavery. -- He thought we should wait, and see if this hostility had not culminated.
In non-slave-holding communities men are now found to get append maintain that the institution of slavery is right, which no man would have dared to do even here, twenty-five years ago. Gentlemen were mistaken when they asserted that the sentiment of hostility to slavery is growing in the Northern States
; and in support of this he reviewed the history of the free soil party.
He believed that the trial which we were now going through was a punishment for a violation of our plighted faith to the rude savage, but he believed also that we would be carried safely through.
The efforts to forestal public opinion by telegraphic dispatches in Tennessee
were repudiated by the result of the election there, as were similar efforts in Virginia
, through the manifesto of a majority of her Congressional delegation.
That document only convinced the people of what they thought before — that they were not suitable representatives of popular sentiment.
All the power in this country is in the people.
It has for a time been usnrped; but as sure as the sun shines in yonder sky, that power will yet rebuke the effort to overthrow and destroy the best fabric of free government that ever existed upon earth.
He commended to his hearers a perusal of the 39th number of the Federalist;
and went on to allude to the efforts of Patrick Henry
, George Mason
, Luther Martin
, and other patriots, to lay the foundation of a Government for a free people.
It is amazing that with so many sources from whence we can derive the purposes of the Federal Government
, gentlemen will get up and contend for a principle for which they can find no argument.
No man contends for the power of coercion. --Why, then, continue to build cob-houses, that a breath can knock down?
Is there anything in the Inaugural to justify the assertion that it breathes a sentiment of civil war?
It tells you that no war will be made — no force will be used upon you. It pleads with you to wait, until your rights can be guaranteed under the Constitution
But it tells you that the President
must execute his oath.
Is it not his duty to possess and hold the property of the United States
Is it your duty as good citizens to connive at an act of bad faith on the part of a portion of the people, and to say to the Government
if you do not give up your property we will make war upon you?
C.) would say, not only let them have what they have taken, but let them take what they can, if they desire it. He believed that in a year or two the people would rise above those that have usurped the power, and raise the stars and stripes far above the Palmetto
and the Rattlesnake
He closed by drawing a picture of the condition to which Virginia
would be reduced, " hitched on to the tail of a Southern Confederacy;" contending that, in the present condition of things, there is no inequality, and that gentlemen upon the other side had mistaken the acts of party for the acts of the General Government
If the Union
were dissolved, a military despotism would be erected in its stead.
He protested against and denounced the "wicked attempt" to commit Virginia
to an overthrow of the best Government on earth.
spoke over two hours, and we have given but an outline of his remarks.
, of Chesterfield
, desired that a vote should be taken on the question to-day, and would not now detain the Convention
with any remarks but for the extraordinary speech of the gentleman from Harrison
That gentleman had said this resolution was prepared in advance of the appearance of Lincoln
disclaimed any reference to Mr. Cox
's original resolution; he had alluded solely to the amendments.
He further disclaimed anything of a personal character towards any member of the Convention
went on to say that the gentleman from Harrison
had uttered sentiments which he had not supposed were entertained by any member of this body.
So far from desiring to precipitate the State
into civil war, he had offered his resolution in the hope of preventing that calamity.
The moment coercion is attempted, the Union
will be broken up. He did not intend to discuss the question of coercion.
It was ably discussed by the gentleman from Halifax
, (Mr. Flournoy
,) every word of whose speech he endorsed.
His resolution proposed to call a conference of the border States, in order that Virginia
might consult with them as to what ought to be done.
If the gentleman from Harrison
was a Union man he would go for such a conference.
The Peace Conference, inaugurated by Virginia
, had proved an abortion, and she can now do nothing by herself; but in concert with the Border States
, much might be done.
and North Carolina
had voted against Conventions of their people; Kentucky
had taken no action, and there was no indication of a movement in Missouri
It was due to them and to Virginia
that there should be a conference.
He condemned the hasty action of South Carolina
and would condemn it in Virginia
But the people were in a state of feverish excitement, and wanted action on the subject of coercion.
He called for a vote on the resolutions.
, of Alexandria
, moved that the Convention
adjourn; and on that motion Mr. Cox
, of Chesterfield
, called for the yeas and nays, but withdrew it.
The Convention then adjourned.