Virginia State Convention.
Friday, March 15, 1861.
The Convention was called to order at 12 o'clock. Prayer by the Rev. Geo. W. Nolley
, of the M. E. Church
Voice of the people.
, of Northampton
, presented a series of resolutions adopted by the citizens of his county, disapproving of the inaction of the Convention
, repudiating the Peace Conference propositions, and favoring immediate secession, &c.
, in commenting on the resolutions, alluded to the change of feeling among the Union
men of his county, as one of the cheering signs that the popular tide was setting in the right direction.
The resolutions were referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Mecklenburg
, presented a series of resolutions adopted by the citizens of that county, repudiating the result of the Peace Conference, and declaring it the duty of Virginia
at once to withdraw from the Union
, and place herself by the side of her Southern sisters.
endorsed the high character of the citizens he represented, and paid a tribute to their gallantry.
The resolutions were referred.
, of Polaski, presented a series of resolutions from that county, declaring that Virginia
had already done all that her henor required to preserve the Union
, and that all further overtures must come from the North
; opposing coercion, declaring that the first attempt in that direction ought to be resisted by Virginia
, and favoring secession.
, of Rockingham
, presented a series of reunion resolutions from that county.
Referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Hanover
, moved that the Convention
take up his resolution on the military strength of the State
--a like motion having been lost yesterday for want of a full vote.
demanded the yeas and nays.
, of Preston
, opposed the taking up of the resolution.
He thought the agitation of any subjects foreign to the purposes of the Convention
would have a tendency to depreciate State stock.
The motion to take up was lost — ayes 35, noes 46.
Order of the day.
The Convention then resolved itself into Committee of the Whole, (Mr. Southall
, of Albemarle
, in the Chair,) and proceeded to the consideration of the reports from the Committee
on Federal Relations.
said the strict parliamentary rule would require the consideration of the majority report alone; but such a course would exclude the minority reports.
Hence the Chair would proceed by the method of giving all a fair and equal opportunity of competing with the majority report.
, of Frederick
of the Committee
on Federal Relations,) took the floor.
He said the majority report was the result of a thorough and deliberate investigation of all the subjects referred to the Committee
Upon the final vote on that report, the Committee
being comparatively thin at the time, the vote stood twelve in the affirmative to two in the negative.
He believed that with a full committee, not more than four or five votes would have been recorded against it. He urged a full examination of the subjects reported, and proceeded to discuss the propositions embraced.
He passed over the several sections with a brief announcement of their purposes, and said that be considered their adoption necessary to the safety of the country.
He did not regret that the Committee
had yet been unable to furnish a report upon the proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution
, for a discussion of the subjects here presented would enable the members to see their intimate connection with the final report.
He could not agree with those gentlemen who went for immediate secession without a further effort to adjust the pending difficulties.
He entertained the highest respect for their opinions, but could not subscribe to them.
He believed the people expected the Convention
to make every possible effort to restore the Union
as it was, and if all failed, then the last resort might be adopted.
He proceeded to consider the objection urged against assuming a decided position on these great questions.
He thought it proceeded from a want of due reflection.
Whenever a great crisis in our National history arises, it is peculiarly proper for Virginia
to make a declaration of her rights.
No greater or more momentous crisis than the present had ever been presented.
New questions had sprung out of the existing difficulties, which it was indispensable, if there was to be any amicable adjustment, to have settled now. If we make demands, we must lay down the principles upon which we make those demands.
They must be presented in the imperative form of a demand of right.
He would leave it to the judgment of the Convention
to say whether any portion of the report could be omitted, without destroying the symmetry of the whole.
He then proceeded to consider the eighth resolution, which he thought would meet the disapprobation of the Northern
mind, and even among us it would find opponents when first presented.
It reads as follows:
"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
The Northern people (continued Mr. Conrad
.) for the seventy years of our national existence, had given little attention to questions of constitutional right.
The principle that any people have a right to reform, alter or abolish any form of their Government, made for their benefit, was the fundamental principle of Republican liberty.
The affirmation here is simply that the people of the several States may, for just causes, withdraw from their association with the Federal Government
If gentlemen were disposed to deny this principle on this floor, it was his opinion that they had sadly degenerated since the days of 1776. Unless it could be shown that the government of the people of a State had been destroyed, or merged in some other form of government, they still possessed this right.
If they had a right to change their form of State government, they also had a right to change their form of Federal government.--He did not regard it as a revolutionary right.
He maintained that the proposition was sound and impregnable, established during the American Revolution
, leaving the people free to change their forms of government.
It was originally an American principle, but was now recognized both in England
He then called attention to the language of the Declaration of Independence
and the Virginia Bill of Rights
, where the principle was distinctly affirmed.
The report was further intended to deny to the Government
any right, in any way, forcible or otherwise, to decide the question of the secession of the States.
It affirms that it is not granted by the Constitution
It was somewhat remarkable that Mr. Lincoln
, while he admits that he has no power to deal with the question peaceably, should contend for the right of dealing with it forcibly.
This alone would present the question in an extraordinary form — that he has no power to make peace, but has the right to make war. On this point Mr. Conrad
made a constitutional argument, and spoke of the ingeniously devised bill in Congress for the collection of revenue outside of the ports of entry; but this bill, he said, was directly in contradiction of a provision of the Constitution
The other propositions were those which made demands upon the Northern States
, and he believed that when those demands came from the committee, they would meet with no opposition upon this floor.
They would embrace all that was necessary for the protection of Virginia
There might be some difference of opinion as to the method proposed, of a direct appeal to the people; but his own opinion was, that if it was carried, the Northern
people were now prepared to say that they would give to Virginia
anything, within the bounds of right, which she thinks proper to demand.
, of Richmond city
, indicated his purpose to address the Convention
, but as the hour was late, he would prefer to postpone his remarks until to-morrow, if any gentleman felt disposed to move an adjournment.
On motion of Mr. Baldwin
, of Augusta
, the Committee
rose; and, the President
having resumed the Chair, reported progress, and asked leave to sit again.
On motion of Mr. Hall
, of Lancaster
, the Convention