Virginia State Convention.
Saturday, March 9, 1861.
The Convention met at 12, and was called to order by Mr. Goggin
, in the absence of the President
Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Hoge
, of the Presbyterian Church.
stated the pending question to be on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Amelia
to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Goochland
, to the resolution of instructions offered on Tuesday last by the gentleman from Chesterfield
; and on that question Mr. Ambler
, of Louisa
, was entitled to the floor.
Partial report from the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Frederick
, from the Committee
on Federal Relations, asked and obtained leave to make a partial report.
The Committee, he said, had under consideration a large number of resolutions, and had directed him to submit the following to the Convention
The suggested amendments to the Constitution
therein referred to, would be reported upon at an early day:
The representatatives of the people of Virginia
is Convention assembled, are profoundly sensible of the difficulty, delicacy and importance of the duty which, in obedience to the popular will, they have assumed to perform.
They feel that the controveray which unfortunately distracts and divides our country, has brought about a condition of public affairs for which history has no parallel, and the experience of Governments no precedent.
They recognize the fact that the great questions which press for consideration are of entire novelty and of great intrinsic difficulty, and that their proper solution will require on the part of our Governments, State and Federal, and of our people the exercise of the utmost prudence, discretion, calmness, and forbearance.
Above all other things, at this time, they esteem it of indispensable necessity to maintain the peace of the country, and to avoid everything calculated, or tending to produce collision and bloodshed.
The grievances for which several of the States have withdrawn from the Union
and overthrown the Federal Government
within their limits, are such as have affected the people of Virginia
to a greater extent than any of the seceded States, and it is their determined purpose to require such guarantees for the protection of the rights of the people of the slaveholding States as in the judgment of Virginia
will be sufficient for the accomplishment of that object.
having initiated measures to obtain such guarantees, a proper self-respect impels her to demand of all the parties that they shall refrain, during the pendency of her efforts for amicable adjustment, from all action tending to produce a collision of forces: Therefore,
- 1. be it Resolved and declared by the people of the State of Virginia, in Convention assembled, that the States which composed the United States of America, when the Federal Constitution was formed, were independent sovereignties, and in adopting that instrument the people of each State agreed to associate with the people of the other States, upon a feeling of exact equality.
It is the duty, therefore, of the common Government to respect the rights of the States and the equality of the people thereof, and within the just limits of the Constitution to protect with equal care the great interests that spring from the institutions of each.
- 2. African slavery is a vital part of the social system of the States wherein it exists, and as that form of servitude existed when the Union was formed, and the jurisdiction of the several States over it within their respective limits was recognized by the Constitution, any interference to its prejudice by the Federal authority, or by the authorities of the other States, or by the people thereof, is in derogation from right, contrary to the Constitution, offensive and dangerous.
- 3. the choice of functionaries of a common Government, established for the common good for the reason that they entertan opinions and avow purposes hostile to the institutions of some of the States, necessarily excluded the people of one section from participation in the administration of the Government, subjects the weaker to the domination of the stronger section, leads to abuse, and is incompatible with the safety of those whose interests are imperillied; the formation therefore, of geographical or sectional parties in respect to Federal polities is contrary to the principles on which our system res and tends to its overthrow.
- 4. the Territories of the United States constitute a trust to be administered by the General Government, for the common benefit of the people of the United States, and any policy in respect to such Territories calculated to confer greater benefits on the people of one part of the United States than on the people of another part, is contrary to equality, and prejudicial to the rights of some for whose equal benefit the trust was created.
If the equal admission of slave labor and free labor into any Territory, excites unfriendly conflict between the systems, a fair partition of the Territories ought to be made between them, and each system ought to be protected within the limits assigned to it, by the laws necessary for its proper development.
- 5. the sites of the Federal forts, arsenals, &c., within the limits of the States of this Union, were acquired by the Federal Government, and jurisdiction over them ceded by the States, as trusts, for the common purposes of the Union, during its continuance; and upon the separation of the States, such jurisdiction reverts of right to the States, respectively, by which the jurisdiction was ceded.
Whilst a State remains in the Union, the legitimate use of such forts, &c., is to protect the country against foreign force, and to aid in suppressing domestic insurrection.
To use, or prepare them to be used to intimidate a State, or constrain its free action, is a perversion of the purposes for which they were obtained; they were not intended to be used against the States, in whose limits they are found, in the event of civil war. In a time, of profound peace with foreign nations, such as now exists, and when no symptoms of domestic insurrection appear — but whilst irritating questions of the deepest importance are pending the States--to accumulate within the limits of a State, interested in such question an unusual amount of troops and munitions of war, not required for any legitimate purpose, in unwise impolitic and offensive.
- 6. Deeply deploring the present distracted condition of the country, and lamenting the wrongs that have impelled some of the States to cast off obedience to the Federal Government, but sensible of the blessings of Union, and impressed with its importance to the peace, prosperity and progress of the people, we indulge the hope that an adjustment may be reached by which the Union may be preserved in its integrity, and peace, prosperity and fraternal feelings be restored throughout the land.
- 7. to remove the existing causes of complaint much may be accomplished by the Federal and State Governments; the laws for the rendition of fugitives from labor and of fugitives from justice may be made, more effectual, the expenditures of the Government may be reduced within more moderate limits, and the abuses that have enfered into the administrative departments reformed.--the State authorities may repeal their unfriendly and unconstitutional legislations, and substitute in its stead such as becomes the comity and is due to the rights of the States of the same Union.
But to restore the Union and preserve confidence the Federal Constitution should be amended in those particulars wherein experience has exhibited detects and discovered approaches dangerous to the institutions of some of the States.
- 8. the people of Virginia recognize the American principle that Government is founded in the consent of the governed, and they concede the right of the people of the several States of this Union, for just causes, to withdraw from their association under the Federal Government with the people of the other States, and to erect new Governments for their better security, and they will never consent that the Federal power, which is in part their power, shall be exerted for the purpose of subjugating the people of such States to the Federal authority.
- 9. the exercise of this right by the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, without the assent of the other States, has given rise to new conditions, and presented questions touching those conditions intimately affecting the rights and safety of the other States.
Among these are the free navigation of the Mississippi River, the maintenance of the forts intended to protect the commerce of the Gulf of Mexico, and the power to resire in smuggling along the interior borders of the seceded States; but the Federal authorities, under the Constitution as it is, disclaim power to recognize the withdrawal of any State from the Union and consequently to deal with these questions, holding that it is reserved only to the States as parties to the Government compact to take lawful action touching them.
- 10. without expressing an opinion as to the question of power, but in deference to the opinion of the Federal authorities, the people of Virginia hereby declare their desire to confer upon the Government of the United States the powers necessary to enable its proper authorities to deal peaceably with these questions, and, if it shall become necessary to recognize the separate independence of the seceding States, and to make such treaties with them, and to pass such laws as the separation may make proper.
- 11. this Convention, composed of delegates elected by the people in disticts, for the purpose of considering the existing difficulties in our Federal Relations, represents the desire and earnest request of the people of Virginia, to meet as directly as possible the people of her sister States, and to them appeal for satisfactory adjustment.--Virginia, therefore, requests the people of the several States, either by popular vote, or in Convention similar to her own, to respond, at their earliest convenience, to the positions assumed in the foregoing resolutions, and the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States hereunto appended.
And in the event that this Commonwealth fails to obtain satisfactory responses to her requests, from the non-slaveholding States, she will fell compelled to resume the powers granted by her under the Constitution of the U. States, and to throw herself upon her reserved rights.
- 12. the people of Virginia will await any reasonable time to obtain answers from the other States, to these propositions, aware of the embarrassments that may produce delay, but they will expect, as an indispensable condition, that a pacific policy shall be adopted towards the seceded States, and that no attempt be made to subject them to the Federal authority, nor to reinforce the forts now in possession of the military forces of the United States, or re-capture the forts, arsenals, or other property of the United States within their limits, nor to exact the payment of imposts upon their commerce; nor any measure resorted to justly calculated to provoke hostile collision.
- 13. in the opinion of this Convention, the people of Virginia would regard any action of the Federal Government, tending to produce a collision of forces, pending negotiations for the adjustment of existing difficulties as aggressive and injurious to the interests, and offensive to the honor of this Commonwealth; and they would regard any such action on the part of the seceded or confederated States as hurtful and unfriendly, and as leaving them free to determine their future policy.
- 14. the peculiar Relations of the States of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas to the other States, make it proper, in the judgment of this Convention, that the former States should consult together and concert such measures for their final action as the honor, the interests and the safety of the people thereof may demand, and for that purpose the proper authorities of those States are requested to appoint Commissioners to meet Commissioners to be appointed by this Convention on behalf of the people of this State, at Frankfort, in the State of Kentucky, on the last Monday in may next.
on motion of Mr. Conrad
, the report was laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
, of Alexandria
, by leave, corrected some portion of his speech, as reported in the official newspaper.
Voice of the people.
, of Spotsylvania
, by leave, laid before the Convention
a series of resolutions adopted by the citizens of Fredericksburg
, denouncing the intentions of the now Federal Executive, and counselling immediate action towards the construction of a Government with the slave States.
[the reporter was unable to obtain a copy of the resolutions.]
addressed the Convention
in opposition to coercion, and read resolutions expressive of his convictions.
He wished the Convention
to take a decided stand on this question, as an answer to the Inaugural, showing that when what had there been declared should be acted on, Virginia
would also act. The following are the resolutions read by Mr. Marye
Whereas, Abraham Lincoln
has announced, in his Inaugural Address, that he regards the Union
is still unbroken, and that he feels constrained, by the obligations of his office, to assert the jurisdiction of the Federal Government
within the seceded States: be it
Resolved, by this Convention,
will resist any attempt by the Federal
arm to coerce those States, and that she will regard the collection of revenue and the recapture of forts within the limits of such States, as coercive measures.
that the Legislature of Virginia is hereby instructed to adopt such measures as will, in the most effectual manner, enable the State
to repel all coercive movements of the Federal Government
against the seceded States.
that the foregoing resolutions be referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations, with instructions to report the same without delay to this body.
on being informed that the Committee
had already made a report in part, Mr. Marye
did not ask for the reference of his resolutions, and no action was therefore taken upon them.
, of Princess Anne, as a member of the Committee
on Federal Relations, asked leave to present a minority report.
He was not authorized to speak for some of his colleagues who were absent, but embodied his individual dissent to the views of the majority, in the following report:
the undersigned begs leave to assign his reasons for his dissent from the first partial report of the Committee
on Federal Relations, and presents the following as a substitute for the plan of measures recommended thereby to be adopted by the Convention
this Convention, called by the people of the Commonwealth
, to deliberate upon the present exigencies of their Federal Relations, and upon the redress of their wrongs and grievances in the Confederacy
of the United States
, deems it necessary and proper, with a view to preserve peace, to defend the Federal Constitution
, and to restore and perpetuate the Federal Union of all the States, on a basis of just and equal rights, to declare:
that for a long series of years the property of the citizens of the slaveholding States, and particularly that of her own citizens, has been assailed and endangered; that the Constitution of the United States
has been broken; that the rights and comities of States, and their equality in the Union
, have been denied to the people of the slaveholding States; that the Federal
laws have been nullified in respect to the protection of their property in slaves; that the separate and independent right of self-government by the border slaveholding States has been seriously impaired, and, in part, practically annulled; that their domestic tranquility and social safety have been endangered and ruthlessly disturbed by actual invasion; that associated and systematic efforts have been constantly and persistently made to enforce upon their people rules of conscience and of morals by a power without their borders, to control the family Governments of their homes and their Relations as masters to their domestic slaves; that their character as a people has been maligned and misrepresented to the world, in order to bring an influence to bear upon their rights and Relations and their wills, rendering them odious, and no lest offensive and injurious to their sense of self-respect, and to their interests, than the force of arms; that the sanctity of the Federal Judiciary
has been threatened and set at naught, in order to destroy the only peaceful guard and guarantee of their rights of property and Federal equality; and that a sectional hate which engendered these evils is continually magnifying them by every form and effort of incendiarism, until they are no longer desirable; until the people actuated by it have obtained the reigns of Federal authority and control in all the departments of Government; and until several of the severeignties, parties to the Federal
compact, have been compelled to resume the powers granted by them under the Federal Constitution
, and to form a separate and independent Confederacy, thereby dissolving the Union of the United States of America
these wrongs have been perpetrated in part by the Federal Government
either by acts of omission or commission, in paid by the non-slaveholding States, and in part by their people, unrestrained by laws, such as confederates are bound to enact in respect to the rights and safety of each other.
and the secession, consequent upon these wrongs, is now met by every indication of an intention and an attempt to course the submission of seceding States, by the authorities of the Federal Government
, who are but the mere agents of the sovereign parties to the Federal
compact, without even an appeal to them for the sanction of any ultimate resort to force.
thus, under the pretext of enforcing laws of the Federal Government
, the jurisdiction of which is now denied and abjured by the seceding States, the nation is imminently threatened by an unnatural and unnecessary civil war — equally unnecessary, whether the Union
is to be finally dissolved or restored.
these indications are made but too plainly manifest by the failure of the Conference, inaugurated by the Legislature of this Commonwealth herself, to agree on any terms of adjustment; by the disclaimer of all power on the part of the Federal
authorities to negotiate for peace with the Commissioners
of the seceded States; by the Inaugural Address
of the incumbent President
of the United States
, declaring the policy, powers and purposes of his administration of the Federal Government
, and supposed to represent the sentiments of large majorities of the States constituting the major section of the United States
; by his failure to suggest any mode, whilst disclaiming all powers of adjustment; by the failure of Congress to recognize the results of the peace Conference, or to recommend any other plan of peace; and by the concentration of Federal troops at various points, and the reinforcing and holding of certian forts and arsenals, with the obvious intent and purpose of overcoming any resistance to the execution of Federal laws by the seceded States, and to overawe the further secession and free action of the slaveholding States.
under these circumstances of peril to everything precious to a State, this Commonwealth feels compelled to appeal to her confederates still remaining in the Union
, and to ask for their determinate conclusions on the following points of difference and dissension, as to which she is bound to demand, and seeks to obtain satisfactory guarantees and assurances for the future:
as to a full recognition of the rights of property in African slaves.
- 2. as to slavery in the District of Columbia.
as to the powers of the Federal Government over African slavery, and the employment of slave labor in the forts, arsenals, dock yards, and all places ceded by the States for Federal uses.
- 4. as to protection against the pretension to lay and collect excessive direct taxes on slaves.
- 5. as to the rendition of fugitive slaves.
- 6. as to protection of the right and comity of transit with slaves through the limits of the States, by land or water; and of the right of transportation of slaves on the high seas.
- 7. the protection of the right of citizens of the United States, owning slaves, to sojourn temporarily with their slaves in waiting, in the limits of non-slaveholding States.
- 8. the protection of equality of settlement by owners of slaves, with their slave property, in the common Territories of the United States.
as to the rights of negroes or free persons of the African race to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States.
- 10. as to the equality of the African race with the white race, in the States where it may reside, and the protection of that equality by State laws, and by the laws of the United States.
as to the better security of the independence of the Judicial Department of the Government of the United States, by changing the mode of appointing the Federal Judges.
- 12. as to the protection of the slaveholding States against the abduction of their slaves, by repealing such State or Federal laws as may countenance the wrong, or by passing such laws by the States and by the Federal Government as may be necessary and proper to suppess it.
as to the protection of the domestic tranquility of the people of the United States by suppressing the incendiary assemblages, associations and publications which have engendered the sectional wrongs and hatred which have rent the Union asunder and now threatens a civil war.
the protection of the public peace by suppressing societies and individual efforts for the collection of money and other means to invade the States or Territories of the United States.
and by suppressing all organizations seeking and introducing foreign aid and influence, to incite domestic violence in any of the States or Territories of the United States.
upon these points, and any others which may arise requiring them, this Commonwealth needs, and ought to demand, additional assurances and guarantees to those now existing; and those assurances and guarantees can, on the main points of dissension and severance, only be made sure by obtaining, not merely constitutional amendments, or the pledges of States by resolves or otherwise, but by grants of power to check abuses or wrongs by a majority of the States.
and with the view of adjusting these points and obtaining these guarantees, guarded by the necessary and proper checks and balances of power, it is recommended that this Convention shall appeal to the States still remaining in the Union
to give, at as early a day as practicable, their answers to those demands of this Commonwealth, say within the period of the present year and by the 1st day of October next, if possible.
in the meantime it is recommended that every step be taken to preserve the peace of the country:
that to that end neither the Federal Government
nor the seceded States shall commence hostilities; that the States now in the Union
should confer with this State upon a mode of sanctionist the claim of the right of peaceable secession, and of determining all questions arising thereupon such as the free navigation of the Mississippi river
, the maintenance of forts and arsenals; and the settlement of commercial and postal regulations, &c., &c. And the Federal
authorities should avoid all acts whatever tending to cause or to irritate the causes of civil war, by abstaining from the execution of all laws which may require the force of arms against the seceded States; by withdrawing all occupation of their forts, arsenals, dock-yards and other places ceded; andby reducing the military forces at the forts, arsenals, magazines, dock-yards, &c., within the limits and around and about the borders of the slaveholding States still remaining in the Union
, to mere garrisons for the purpose of guarding and preserving the public property; pending the efforts of this Commonwealth to adjust pending issues, to obtain guarantees, to preserve peace, and to restore the amity and Union, if possible, of all the States.
and it is further recommended to adopt an ordinance that this Commonwealth shall be immediately placed in a full and complete State of military organization for defence; and it shall be immediately submitted to the people to determine whether, if the just demands of this Commonwealth are not satisfactorily responded to, or are not responded to at all by her Confederates, or civil war commencing on the part of the Federal Government
, within the period named, pending her efforts of adjustment, they will or will not resume the powers granted by them under the Constitution of the United States
, and that this Convention shall place itself immediately in communication with the border slaveholding States for conference and co-operation.
to these ends, therefore, be it resolved--
That the foregoing points for adjustment or for declaration of purpose on the part of the States now in the Union, be immediately addressed to them.
- 2. That additional guarantees or assurances shall be demanded on the more important of these points, in the forms of checks and balances of power, to be defined by amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
That responses to these demands from the respective States shall be requested within a fixed and limited period, to wit: on or before the 1st day of October next, if possible.
- 4. That, in the meantime, it be recommended to the people of this Commonwealth, in the event the Federal authorities shall, under any pretext whatever, attempt to enforce their claim of jurisdiction over the people of the seceded States, as by collecting the duties for revenue or diverting the transit or entrance of commerce, or in any other mode, by force of arms, to resist such exertion of force by all the means in their power.
- 5. That the Federal authorities be requested to withdraw all occupation of the places ceded in the seceded States, and to reduce the forces at Fortress Monroe and Harper's Ferry, at Fort Washington and Fort McHenry, in Mary land, to garrisons on guard duty; and that the guns which have been lately mounted landwards, be removed, and all other prepareatioes for war in the limits of this Commonwealth, or on her border, be at once stopped; protesting that these forces and warlike preparations are irritating causes of civil war, and dangerous to the people.
- 6. That the Legislature of this Commonwealth be recommended and urged to make ample appropriations to place her people in a complete state of military defence.
- 7. That this Convention will place itself in immediate communication with the border and other slaveholding States still remaining in the Union, for conference and co-operation, whilst awaiting the responses of the other States to these requests and demands.
- 8. That an ordinance be adopted at once submitting to the people of this Commonwealth to determine whether, if their inst demands are not satisfactorily responded to by the non-slaveholding States, or are not responded to at all by them, or it civil war shall commence on the part of the Federal authorities, within the period named pending the efforts of this Commonwealth for adjustment, they will or will not resume the powers granted by them under the Constitution of the United States; and will or will not unite their destiny with that of the seceded slaveholding States of the South, embracing in any new Union to be formed such non-slaveholding States as will manifest a disposition and determination to respect and maintain the equal rights of all the States and their people.
All which is respectfully submitted, with the request to be permitted to assign hereafter the objections to the report, entertained by the minority of the Committee
, several of whom are now absent.
Henry A. Wise
, of Amelia
, submitted the following minority report:
The undersigned, a minority of the Committee
on Federal Relations, report that, having had under consideration the resolutions referred to the said committee, and dissenting from the report of the majority, recommend to the Convention
the adoption of the following resolution:
That the Committee
on Federal Relations be instructed to report an ordinance resuming the powers delegated by Virginia
to the Federal Government
, and to make provision for submitting the same to the qualified voters of the Commonwealth
for their adoption or rejection.
Lewis E. Harvie
Robert L. Montague
Samuel C. Williams
, of Culpeper
, from the same committee, submitted the following minority report on his own behalf:
That this Convention has witnessed with deep concern the failure on the part of the Federal Government
, and a majority of the non-slaveholding State Government, to co-operate efficiently with the authorities of this Commonwealth, in an earnest effort to restore the Federal Union on terms consistent with the security of the people of the slaveholding States.
That the recommendations of this Commonwealth having been met by no sufficient response on the part of the authorities of the non-slaveholding States and the Federal Government
, considerations of public duty induce us to refrain from further recommendations.
If the authorities of the Federal Government
and of the non-slaveholding State governments desire and expect to restore the Federal Union, they must, without further delay, adopt such measures as will afford to the people of the slaveholding-States full constitutional assurance of their safety in continuing any further association with them under a common Government.
That this Convention will, on the day after the adoption of these resolutions, appoint three Commissioners to proceed to Montgomery
and confer with the authorities of the Confederate States
in reference to the grave emergency in our public affairs.
, of Richmond
, asked the indulgence of the Convention
while he made a brief personal explanation.
He announced the fact [of which few in the Convention
, probably, were aware] that reports had been circulated among his constituents charging him with having made a Black Republican and coercion speech in that body.
He fully vindicated himself from the charges, and pronounced them slanderous and untrue.
order of the day.
The Convention proceeded to the consideration of the pending resolutions of instruction to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Louisa
, said the condition of his voice precluded the possibility of making a prolonged speech.
He therefore merely desired to correct an impression which might have been made upon some minds, that his remarks on Friday were intended as a reflection upon the Western
He disclaimed any such intention, and hoped they would yet rally to the support of their Eastern brethren in the maintenance of a common cause.
, of Chesterfield
, the mover of the original resolution, said that since the Committee
on Federal Relations had made a report, he considered it his duty to move to lay the resolution and amendments on the table.
He therefore made that motion, which was carried in the affirmative; and the matters which had occupied the attention of the Convention
for five days, were collectively consigned to the table.
On motion of Mr. Patrick
, of Kanawha
, the Convention