Virginia State Convention.
Wednesday, March 20, 1861.
The Convention assembled at half-past 10 o'clock. Prayer by the Rev.Geo. Woodbridge
, of the Monumental Church.
, of Preston
, offered a resolution for taking the ayes and noes in Committee of the Whole in the same manner that they are taken in the Convention
, of Campbell
, offered the following resolution:
That the Committee
on Federal Relations be instructed to inquire into the expediency of reporting to the Convention
two Ordinances, to be submitted to a vote of the people for their approval or rejection on the fourth Monday in May next.
one providing for a resumption by the State
of the powers heretofore delegated to the General Government
, and the other, as an alternative proposition the series of amendments to the Constitution of the United States
, which may be agreed on by the Convention
to be submitted to the Northern States
as an ultimatum, on the acceptance of which this State will continue in the Federal Union, with the proviso, that if not accepted by the — day of--, the Convention
shall have authority to pass an Ordinance of Secession without referring it back to the people for their ratification.
, of Franklin
, moved that the resolution be laid upon the table, on which motion the yeas and nays were demanded, and the roll was called with the following result:
, C. B. Conrad
, Deskins, Dorman
, Gravely, Addison Hall, Ephraim B. Hall
, Peter C. Johnston
, McGiew, McNeill
, Masters, Moffett
, Sharp, Sitlington, Staples
, H. H. Stuart
, Chapman J. Stuart
, and Willey
, Boyd. Branch
, Robert Y. Conrad
, James H. Cox.
Richard H. Cox. Fisher
, Isbell. Marmaduke Johnson
, James B. Mallory
, Preston. Price
, Robert E. Scott
, William C. Scott Seawell
, Robert H. Turner
, Franklin P. Turner
, and Wysor
So the motion to lay on the table was carried in the negative.
The resolutions were then referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
Order of the day.
The hour of 11 having arrived, the President
announced that the Convention
would go into Committee of the Whole, pursuant to order.
, of Botetourt
, asked leave to offer an amendment to the report of the Committee
on Federal Relations, but objection was made by Mr. Hall
, of Marion
, of Harrison
, moved that the execution of the order be suspended, to give the gentleman from Marion
, (Mr. Haymond
,) an opportunity of finishing his speech on the question of taxation.
The motion was decided in the negative.
Committee of the Whole.
The Convention then resolved itself into Committee of the Whole, (Mr. Southall
, of Albemarle
, in the Chair,) and proceeded to consider the reports from the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Albemarle
, being entitled to the floor, addressed the Convention
He commenced by comparing the situation of Virginia
to that of landsman overtaken by storm in the midst of the Atlantic
— the ship tossing to and fro, and threatened by icebergs, whose contact would crush it down forever.
We were upon the verge of revolution — a powerful struggle between the life and death of a people, and the simple prayer "For life!" put into the mouth of a hero by the oldest of poets on the eve of battle, was now recalled to his mind.
He for one was ready to raise his arm to repel the storm — and to avert the horrors of deadly strife.
It was the duty of the Christian
and the patriot, however remote might be the danger, to resist it in its incipiency.
The danger, he believed, was impending, and the present was the time to avert it. The people of Albemarle
, where reposed the remains of Thomas Jefferson
, the author of the Declaration of Independence
, had declared, when the cloud first appeared, that it was time to make another Declaration of Independence
He went on to advert to the history of the Constitution
of the country.
When that instrument was adopted, the question of sectionalism was scarcely more than a dream; but that passive indifference has been vitalized into one of the most violent conditions of discord that has ever convulsed a nation, and there was no doubt that this discord sprang from an irrepressible conflict of opinions which were driving the nation to destruction.
The Northern people had struck a blow at our rights, disregarding the very basis of common prosperity, equality of rights, and pursued a system of injustice towards us, thus commencing a revolution as disastrous as that of a foreign enemy upon our soil.
This had lasted through a period of forty years, and his mind had become settled in the conclusion that we could live together no longer under a common Government.
Neither the Crittenden Propositions
nor those of the Peace Conference possessed the elements essential to the security of the South
Expansion, with us, was a measure of safety, and though one of the sections reported by the Committee
guaranteed this to some extent, it did not go far enough, Unless expansion could be secured, the ultimate extinction of slavery was inevitable.-- The policy of the Republican party was like "surrounding the scorpion with a belt of fire." There were at present 4,000,000 slaves in the Southern States
, and according to the laws of nature there would be in fifty years 16,000,000--or one-third more than the whole white
population in all the Southern States
at this time.
With the proper means of expansion for the diffusion of the slave population, the density of the white population would be promoted; whereas, without such means, the black population would increase as before stated in a circumscribed space, and thus, within the life-time of our children, the way would be prepared for all the horrors of servile war. His argument in this connection was able and elaborate.
He conceived this question of territorial expansion to be the rock upon which every scheme of compromise would be wrecked.
He proceeded to examine the subject in its political bearings — the possibility of taking the power of government from the hands of extremists and placing it in the hands of moderate men in both sections.
The concessions to be made by the North
, if any are to be made, must be such as to quiet forever the agitation of the slavery question.
tragedy was the result of agitation.
The John Brown
raid was the result of agitation.
With agitation constantly sounding in the ears of the slave, could we expect anything else than an occasional outburst of violence?
The amendments proposed by the committee contained no assurance of the removal of this agitation.
The subject of slavery would still be mixed up with the politics of the North
, in the waging of what they call a moral war upon the institution.
No such amendments can change the anti-slavery sentiment of the North
The Republican party had not been formed upon the basis of a temporary expediency, but upon deep-seated convictions of right and wrong, which must never be relinquished until its object is accomplished.
The passion was the most immovable that had ever seized upon the minds of a people, and he had no hope that it would ever be eradicated.
He then read extracts from the speeches of their representative men, beginning with Anson Burlingame
, of Massachusetts
, expressive of the most ultra abolition sentiments; next, John P. Hale
, of New Hampshire
, of similar import, and called attention to the "extract of Lincoln
" read yesterday by Mr. Randolph
; also, to the well-known declarations of Chase
, and others.
He asked if any present declaration from Mr. Seward
could reconcile the Southern
people to his past professions as the very head and front of the irrepressible conflict, and as the man who had calumniated the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States
gave Mr. Seward
a raking broadside, and the disposition among the listeners to applaud seemed almost "irrepressible" His language was the reality of eloquent sarcasm.)
The question of party was not considered.
He contended that when parties became sectional, their antagonism was like the antagonism of countries entirely foreign to each other.
He quoted from the writings of President Madison
（No. 10,) in regard to factious combinations of a majority, and showing the security necessary to resist them.
In the early history of the country, (he went on to say,) we did enjoy adequate security, but a great party had now been formed on the cohesive principle of hostility to slavery, sufficient to overpower all the checks and balances of the Constitution
In the free States, every party consideration had been merged in this principle, and the people supported men for office who adopted the largest proportion of the abolition element in their political cree.
We could not trust to such people for security against oppression.
They had rendered the elective franchise utterly worthless to the Southern
They had transferred the decision of all the great questions connected with slavery to the forum of the North
Unless, perchance, there should be a division in the ranks of the Republican party in the ensuing four years, it would be the merest folly for the Southern States
to open an electoral poll in the next Presidential elec- tion.
He would not exchange the inalienable rights once enjoyed under the dome of the Temple of Liberty
, for all the possible advantages which have been so glowingly pictured.
The reporter does not pretend to give more than a faint outline of Mr. Holcomer
Indeed, the omission of a sentence, or even a word, of his thrilling eloquence, would, unquestionably, mar the beauty of this grand effort in behalf of the rights of the South
He spoke of the humiliating attitude of Virginia
, bowing her neck to the yoke of Northern tyranny, and said that the retribution of a just Providence
must sooner or latter overtake a people who would surrender their cherished rights to a mere consideration of interest.
Tell me not, said he, of what our ancestors said in their day. Their maxims and sentiments were wise in their time; true reverence for the memory of our fathers consists not in applying their precepts to the events of our day, but rather in applying them as they would now, were they living and in the field of action.
No doubt they hoped the Union
might be perpetual — that Liberty and Union might be one and inseparable, now and forever.
There is a higher sentiment, breathing in all the fragmentary elements of the past; it is embodied in that glorious scene (pointing to the picture of Washington crossing
) which so fitly graces the hall where Virginia
's representatives are now deliberating upon her future welfare; it speaks in that majestic form and in that eagle eye, imparting hope to every patriot and every lover of his country in her darkest hour of trial.
It says to us, if this Union and Liberty cannot exist together, cast the Union
to the winds, and clasp Liberty to your bosom!
here notified the spectators that if the proceedings were again interrupted, he would give an order for the clearing of the lobby and the gallery.
, of Montgomery
, said that as the gentleman from Albemarle
seemed some-what exhausted, he would move that the Committee
rise, to give him an opportunity of continuing to-morrow.
asked him to withdraw his motion.
He desired to occupy the attention of the Committee
for a short time on a different subject, in presenting an amendment to the report of the Committee
on Federal Relations.
insisted on his motion, which was agreed to; whereupon the Committee
rose and reported progress.
's amendment, or substitute, which he proposes to offer, is what is called the Franklin
substitute, which emanated from a body lately assembled in Washington
, known as the Peace Conference.
The additions consist in a declaration of Virginia
's acceptance of the same, and a programme for submitting the amendments to the people for ratification, &c., &c.]
Voice of the people.
The President was stating the business next in order, when
, of Henrico
, asked leave to present some resolutions adopted by a portion of the citizens of that county, at a meeting held at the Court-House
on the 16th instant.
These resolutions (which were published in Wednesday morning's Dispatch,
) go for immediate secession, and request the county delegate in the Convention
to carry out the wishes thus expressed.
proceeded to say that he was ready to comply with the wishes of any portion of his constituents, so far as he could consistently, and he therefore cheerfully made their wishes known to the Convention
He had the honor to represent on this floor a constituency of about 2,200 citizens, while in the meeting above alluded to only about 100 participated, and these included many citizens of Richmond
The Union men, as he learned from a local in the Dispatch,
withheld their votes.
Under these circumstances, he could not comply with the request to vote for an Ordinance of Secession.
Frankness and candor, he said, were among the golden rules of life for the guidance of man in his course of action.
Two years ago, he was called from the peaceful pursuits of agricultural life, against his earnest protestation, to become a candidate for the Senatorial District of Hanover
He was elected, and it had ever been his effort to discharge his duties in a manner acceptable to his constituency.
He had the good fortune to acquire their confidence.
In the Presidential election he told them that the issue was Union or disunion-- and in upholding the cause of Bell
he sought to throw the weight of Virginia
on the side of the Union
He took the same ground in the canvass for the Convention
Prominent citizens of Henrico
had addressed him a letter, urging him to become a candidate for a seat in this body, knowing his views and sentiments, and he consented, though he would have much preferred that some other, entertaining like opinions with himself, would have undertaken the canvass.
He was elected, and now stood here prepared to defend every right of Virginia
, but he also acknowledged his allegiance to the Union
, believing that the interests of Virginia
would be best promoted by remaining in the Union
He had no sympathy with those gentlemen who announced their intention of removing elsewhere if Virginia
refused to secede; for himself, he would stand by her, come weal or woe. Whatever might be the consequence, he intended to carry out the principles upon which he was elected, and of which his constituents were perfectly aware; and if he was so unfortunate as to lose their confidence, he would be satisfied with the belief that in after time their children would say to his children, your father endeavored to secure for us our best interests.
He did not, therefore, intend to depart from the programme which he laid down previous to the election.
The resolutions were referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Jefferson
, by leave, presented some resolutions adopted on the 15th inst., by the citizens of Harper's Ferry
, in that county.
They say they have not changed their sentiments since the election, and still go for the Union
; they moreover deprecate the course of the Virginia Senators
and Representatives in Congress.
Referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
The President said the pending question was on the resolutions offered on Monday last by Mr. Willey
, of Monongahela
That taxation should be equal and uniform throughout the Commonwealth
, and that all property should be taxed in proportion to its value.
That a committee of thirteen members be appointed to prepare and report to the Convention
such alterations of sections 22 and 23 of Article IV.
of the Constitution
of the Commonwealth
, as shall conform said sections to the principle of taxation enunciated in the foregoing resolution.
That a committee of thirteen members be appointed to take into consideration so much of Article VI.
of the Constitution
of this Commonwealth, as relates to the Supreme Court of Appeals, the District Courts
, Circuit Courts, and County Courts; and that they report such amendments and modifications thereof as they may deem necessary and proper.
That the basis of representation in the two Houses of the General Assembly should be the same: Therefore, be if further.
That a committee of twelve members, to be selected in equal numbers from the four great divisions of the State
, be appointed to apportion representation in the Senate according to the number of the qualified voters in the Commonwealth
, and that they report amendments of the 4th Article of the Constitution
, of Marion
, being entitled to the floor, expressed the hope that the discussion might be brought to a speedy termination, and a vote taken upon the propositions.
He inadvertently said yesterday that the tax paid by the slave property of the State
was $163,000; but he should have said $326,000. If this species of property were taxed as it should be, the State
would receive $929,600, taking the average value of the slaves, old and young, at $450. If the average were only $300, the amount annually received by the State
would be $613,200, instead of $326,000, which it now receives.
He conceived that the interest and glory of the Commonwealth
, as well as her honor in the future, demanded that the Constitution
should be amended in this particular.
He then adverted to the State
debt, to be augmented by the action of the Legislature, and by her guaranteed bonds.
Adding the sums together, he showed the debt of the State
, to be provided for by taxation, at the enormous amount of $45,091,152.87. The State bonds were 25 per cent. below par, and the debt constantly increasing.
He believed something ought to be done to stop this progress towards financial ruin.
The act calling the Convention
together contemplated proper amendments to the Constitution
, and in the section of the country from which he came that subject was agitated as much as the subject of Federal relations.
Ordinances of secession had been offered here, and resolutions upon the matter of military defence.
If an Ordinance of Secession were to pass, the Commonwealth
would have to be prepared to resist encroachments, and a standing army for that purpose, he contended, would cost millions upon millions.
He alluded to the proposition of the gentleman from Northampton
) in regard to granting this request for equality if the West
would grant them an Ordinance of Secession.
His people, he said, contended that the ad valorem
system of taxation was right; and if right out of the Union
, it was also right in the Union
He respectfully declined any such bargain.
He deprecated the issue of Treasury Notes (which he called the shinplaster business,) to meet the million appropriation of the General Assembly, and contended that the State
would lose 25 per cent. by the operation.
He appealed to gentlemen from the East
and from the West
to unite in an effort to restrain this reckless system of extravagance, by relieving the West
from the medium of unequal taxation.
If this measure of justice were refused now, it would render necessary a call for another Convention in 1865, thus imposing an additional expense upon the Commonwealth
for a body which would have no more power to deal with the subject than had this Convention.
He called upon the Western
men to stand firm in their demand for justice.
They had a majority of from four to fourteen, and he believed that there were patriotic men in the East
who would come to their assistance.
continued to argue on this point, when he was interrupted by
, of Petersburg
, who asked if he understood the gentleman to say that he would be contented with a change in the organic law to be made by this Convention, but to take effect in 1865?
replied that the people of the West
demanded a change now. If they could do no better, they would be compelled to wait until 1865.
closed his remarks; after which, Mr. Goode
, of Mecklenburg
, moved that the resolutions be laid upon the table.
On this motion, Mr. Hall
, of Marion
, called for the yeas and nays.
, of Monongahela
, appealed to Mr. Goode
to withdraw his motion.
He asked if the gag law was to be applied.
said that as the gentleman was the author of the resolutions, he would withdraw the motion if he wished to take the floor, on condition that he would renew it.
said he did not feel authorized to make any such bargain.
At this stage of the proceedings, on motion of Mr. Burdett
The Convention adjourned.