Virginia State Convention.
Friday, March 22d, 1861.
The Convention assembled at half-past 10 o'clock. Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Jeter
, of the Baptist Church.
Correction of report.
, of Harrison
, rose to correct the report of his remarks in the official organ of the Convention
, the Richmond Enquirer
. --He said he had written out his speech, and would publish it in the Richmond Whig
Claims for Services.
, of Richmond
, from the Committee
to audit claims against the Convention
for services prior to its organization, made a report, which was adopted.
Equality of taxation.
The President announced that the subject pending before the Convention
was the consideration of the resolutions offered on Monday last, by Mr. Willey
, of Monongalia.
, of Marion
, being entitled to the floor, supported the resolutions.
The members of the Legislature from the West
, he said, would never have voted for calling this Convention, unless they had supposed that the subject of taxation would be brought before it. Their people demanded action.
They had submitted to inequality of taxation because they were compelled to; and now they were disposed not to submit any longer.
It was eminently proper that it should be done now. Gentlemen admitted that it was right and proper, and if they would cease their opposition, the matter could be disposed of without occupying any time.
He hoped there was no man ready to enter into any bargain upon this or any other interest.
He scorned a proposition to bargain for a concession which was just and right.
He alluded to other portions of the organic law which required amendment — the Judiciary system and the County Court
system were also burdensome to the people; but upon this question of taxation, he could see no objection to the appointment of a committee to investigate the matter.
Committee of the whole.
The hour of 11 having arrived, the Convention
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, with the substitute offered by the gentleman from Harrison
, of Augusta
, being entitled to the floor, resumed his remarks, adverting in the outset to the tendency to introduce subjects in debate which had no bearing upon the great question at issue.
He understood gentlemen to acquiesce yesterday in his declaration, that the agitation of the slavery question at the North
was the only grievance of which Virginia
had to complain.
, of Orange
, desired to know if the gentleman represented this as an admission from the entire body of secessionists in the Convention
said he distinctly understood the gentleman from Albemarle
) to acquiesce in the proposition as he stated it yesterday.
said he signified his individual assent to the proposition that the action of the General Government
on the slavery question was not such as to justify Virginia
in taking the issue of Union or disunion; he did not admit that he acquiesced in the entire policy of the Government
He did not expect to find gentlemen who approved every act of the General Government
, item by item; but he asserted that the general policy of that Government had been directed by Virginia
's own sons, or those of her choice, up to the time of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln
He then reviewed the acts of various Administrations, showing that the line of compromise had been recognized in the settlement of all the vexed questions before the nation.
Coming to the Missouri Compromise
, he said it was sanctioned by Virginia
's Senators and by Southern members of the Cabinet
, and received the approving voice of Virginia
The next measure of slavery restriction was under the Administration of the distinguished gentleman from Charles City
, now a member of this body.
asked to be allowed to call the gentleman's attention to a fact in connection with the Missouri Compromise
He had stated it in the main correctly, but had forgotten a portion of the history.
T.) was a member of Congress at the time, and, with eighteen of his colleagues, voted against it.--He would have stood there against it until he had perished, if he could thereby have defeated the measure, for he believed it was unconstitutional.
was going on to allude to the annexation of Texas
desired to state his point before the gentleman made his defence.
merely wished to set history right in regard to the annexation of that State.
It was the result of the acquisition of territory, and treaties were made in accordance with the existing law.
said he had made the allusion to show the recognition of the dividing line in carrying out what the gentleman and his friends called the crowing act of his Administration.
He then proceeded to speak of its recognition in the admission of Oregon
, and its approval by President Polk
recognized the right to apply the Wilmot Proviso
where it did not interfere with the Compromise
She also approved the Compromise of 1850 as the great measure of peace, and both parties in the State
reiterated it in their political platform.
He thought he was justified in defying the production of a single act of the General Government
, in reference to slavery, which did not receive, at some time or other, the distinct approval of Virginia
.--He hoped, if any gentleman should do him the honor to notice, in the subsequent discussion of this question, any portion of his argument, that he would give particular attention to the challenge which he here threw down.
.--I take up the glove.
.--I hope he will take it up; he will find that the battle has but just begun.
.--And it will be a long time before it is ended.
went on to disclaim any purpose, if he used harsh language, of giving offence to any member.
hoped the gentleman did not think he had taken offence at any portion of the debate.
He had said, with a sweet smile, "I take up the glove."
was not alluding to that.
He did not, however, regret having made use of harsh language, since it gave the distinguished gentleman from Albemarle
an opportunity of making a graceful disclaimer of having imputed to Virginia
a degraded position.
here distinctly defined his position on this point, quoting from his speech that portion as to what might be her degradation in the future.
went on to say that he regarded any attempt to dissolve the Union
in consequence of the election of an unfriendly President
, as a direct assault upon the temple of American liberty.
The Government was founded in a confidence in the virtue and intelligence of the people; but it is built in that wise distrust which has been well characterized here as the parent of safety — safety against tyranny or abuse.
Proper restraints and checks had been introduced in order that every department might be administered with calmness, and with a due regard to the rights of all the people.
Its founders had built up five distinct barriers against encroachment, and if one, two or three failed, sufficient still remained to restrain the application of oppressive measures.
If all fail, there is still an appeal from the faithless servants to their real masters, the people.
He would only give up the great experiment of confederated Republican liberty when the people said the powers of Government had been wielded to their oppression.
He feared that we were getting into the habit of exaggerating, grossly exaggerating, the Executive office of Government.
He considered it the weakest of all the departments.
He would undertake to say, that when the Republican party got possession of the Presidential office
, they got hold of the weakest of all, and which would, as circumstances existed previous to the election, have brought them to an untimely end, beyond all doubt or controversy.
If they have now got possession of the Government
in all its different departments, who is responsible?
At the time of the election of Lincoln
, all the other bulwarks of the Constitution
were unbroken, and who is responsible, before God and man, for their abandonment?
Who has withdrawn fourteen from the United States Senate and thirty-odd from the House of Representatives, and left us in a helpless condition there?
Who, but the seceding States?--He had no intention or disposition to undertake any denunciation of the seceding States, or any other States.
This was no time for denunciation.
He would rather speak of things which would make for peace than add to the distractions of the country.
But it was due to history that these things should be stated.
Why had they left us helpless and hopeless in the hands of those who they tell us are our enemies.--When he thought of the election of Lincoln
, which all here regarded as a wrong to the entire South
, and thought of the firing of a hundred guns on the reception of the news in Charleston
, he was led to inquire if we had the earnest efforts of those people who thus rejoiced over his election to defeat him?
We had the power of withholding the material supplies from the Government
, and of compelling justice to the South
This was taken from us by the action of the seceding States.
But were we justified in abandoning the great experiment of American liberty because of the mere carrying of an outpost?
He felt rather disposed to rally more ardently around the broken fabric, in the hope of preserving the last and only hope of civil and religious liberty on earth.
The idea seemed to be, now-a-days, to precipitate people into a revolution.
On this idea, our Southern brethren seem to have acted.
He went on to speak of the assertion that they were justified in not conferring with Virginia
, because she refused a year ago to go into a conference on the subject.
He asked if the cases were similar.
She declined a conference because, she said, the time had not come.
It was a very different thing to decline a conference then, to declining it as the Southern States
had done, and to go into a revolution.
had undertaken the task, with a determination to confer with nobody.
It was common to hear that the embarrassments of business required the secession of Virginia
How further disruption was to restore confidence to the people in this respect, he was unable to see. Seven States had seceded de facto,
and it was now for us to determine whether we would follow them or not. He denied that it was a commercial or political necessity for Virginia
to follow them.
He thought he could see that time in the future, when they would find that no Government could be formed on this continent which would satisfy people who had lived under the stars and stripes.
It might suit the fancy of some people to wander among the ruins of desolated cities, and to admire the proportion of broken arches and columns; but he preferred the walks of industry and the honor of busy life.
He then drew a picture of the great Union, unbroken and undisturbed, contrasting it with the shattered Republic, and small Confederacies formed out of the different States.
In arguing the question of how Virginia
was to get out of the Union
, he illustrated by repeating an anecdote of a boy who was interrogated on the subject; his reply was that he "guessed she would have to go by water, in a dug-out." It had been said that North Carolina
would follow Virginia
, that her voice was so potential that the people of North Carolina
would reverse their solemn decision, and go where Virginia
led. Would it not be at least respectful, he asked, to consult her on the subject?
With this remark Mr. Baldwin
commenced an argument in favor of a Border State Conference.
He repudiated the idea of submitting to any oppressive measures from the North
It was his determination, and the determination of those who thought with him, to demand and to have full and sufficient guarantees for the future, or they would have a "row." They meant to present to the North
the alternative, of submitting to their demand, or a peaceable separation.
The irrepressible conflict doctrine of Wm. H. Seward
was considered, and the speaker denied that the institution of slavery was on the retreat; on the contrary he maintained with pride and pleasure that it was on the increase, and at this moment stood higher and more powerful than at any previous history of the world.
he could remember when slavery was looked upon by Southern people as a moral incubus, but now it was regarded as a beneficent and advantageous institution.
He also maintained that there were now at the North
more pro-slavery people than there were in the South
and in the whole world beside, thirty years ago. He believed that if slavery had been let alone by the fanatics of the North
, there would not to-day have been a slave in all the broad limits of this Commonwealth.
He alluded to an address delivered years ago in the city of Petersburg
by the gentleman from Albemarle
, as an illustration of the great change that had been wrought in public sentiment.
He thanked God that slavery now stood firmer than even before.--He then went on with a history of the Abolition movement at the North
, commencing with a few fanatical old women and weak-minded preachers, singing Psalms and hymes
and spiritual songs; then spreading among the uneducated masses, and finally the politicians got hold of it and used it as an element to secure the spoils of office.
He did not believe that there existed at the present time such a fanatical feeling upon the subject at the North
as had been represented on this floor.
If he thought the disruption of this Union would be the means of restoring public sentiment, and drawing the sections together again, he would be willing to make the experiment.
But he did not believe any such result would follow.
Public sentiment at the North
would no more be reached and operated upon then than now. Slavery, he charged, had been made the toy of politicians, North and South; and in the great day of final account there would be a fearful reckoning for the political gamblers of both sections, who had used it as the counter in the game they were playing.
In speaking of making a bargain with the North
, he said he would consent to no plan which did not involve a direct appeal to the people of all the States.
It had so happened that the North
had got the majority, and the time had come for a solution of the question whether the minority should be invested with the rights of a majority.
The administrative power must be entrusted to the will of the majority, for this principle lay at the very foundation of Republican government.
The idea had been advanced by the gentleman from Albemarle
, that the minority must have the power of expansion — the power of acquiring territory.
He could not conceive how this was to be done.
The proposition of the Peace Conference proposes to settle the question as to all the present territory; but as to future acquisitions, which it could not settle, it proposed a guarantee of power, and to that extent he favored it. But while this was not acceptable to some, those who made objections had other propositions to bargain with the North
As it seemed to be admitted, then, as the sentiment of Virginia
that some bargain should be entered into with the North
, he begged gentlemen to come up and join in an honorable effort in that direction.
He gave a history of the Peace Conference, which he called a most august assemblage, and in which the Northern States
were represented in the proportion of two to one.
The Northern Commissioners represented Black Republican States, and might therefore be regarded as fair exponents of Northern sentiment.
They agreed upon a proposition, to which he called the attention of the Convention
He did not look upon it as a failure.
It had never yet had a fair chance and a fair trial.
He believed that if this Convention had sent it forth as the expression of its own sentiment, the Union
men would have rallied around it, and it would have ere this been received as the great measure of pacification.--A resolution which he had offered with that object in view, had failed, and he now subscribed to the report of the majority of the committee.
It was, in some degree, an improvement upon the former, because it estopped the mouths of all cavilers against the Peace Conference propositions.
He believed that there was no subject in regard to which the South
had complained, that was not covered by the Peace Conference propositions.
He maintained that they were better than the Crittenden propositions, and argued upon the point at some length.--With regard to territorial expansion and protection, he assumed that we had no territory now in possession which was adapted to slave labor; and even if we had, there were no surplus slaves to take there.
He alluded to the importation of Africans by the South
, to show that there was really a deficiency in slave labor.
To disrupt the Union
upon a question so devoid of policy or reason, was abject infatuation.
The Missouri Compromise was the great line of peace, and he looked upon it as a happy omen that every measure of adjustment proposed, maintained this line of 36 30.
He thought it indicated a disposition to return to the spirit and principles which actuated the fathers in the formation of the Government
At this point, Mr. Baldwin
, who had spoken three hours, yielded the floor, and,
On motion of Mr.Gray
, of Rockingham
, the Committee
rose and reported progress.
On motion of Mr.Hall
, of Lancaster
, the Convention