Virginia State Convention.
Wednesday, March 27, 1861.
The Convention was called to order at 10 o'clock. Prayer by Rev. Mr. Willis
, of the Baptist Church.
, of Jackson
, moved a call of the roll, which was ordered, and a bare quorum ascertained to be present.
Voice of the people
, of Chesterfield
, presented a series of resolutions, adopted by a portion of the citizens of his county, at Chester
, on Saturday last, in favor of secession.
said the meeting was respectable in character and numbers, and the expression of sentiment would have its due weight with him.
Referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
Equality of taxation.
The President said the pending business before the Convention
was the consideration of Mr. Willey
's resolution on taxation and representation.
, of Jackson
, being entitled to the floor, addressed the Convention
in favor of the passage of the resolutions.
He protested against any adjournment of the Convention
for a length of time, until the subject had undergone a full and fair investigation.
Committee of the Whole.
Before Mr. Turner
had reached the closing point of his speech, the hour of half-past 10 arrived, and the Convention
went into Committee of the Whole, for the purpose of considering the report from the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Albemarle
, who had been for a day or two detained from the Convention
by indisposition, resumed the chair.
, of Louisa
, desired to correct, in the Journal of yesterday, the record of the point of order which had been decided against him.
, of Greenbrier
, who was in the chair at the time specified, gave an explanation of the circumstances under which the decision was rendered.
The correction asked for, was ordered to be made, after which Mr. Ambler
made a similar request with regard to another portion of the Journal, which was refused by a vote of the Committee
said that when the Committee
adjourned on yesterday, it had under consideration the first section of the report from the Committee
on Federal Relations; and if there was no amendment to be offered, he would proceed to state the question.
, of Jackson
, then offered the following as a substitute for the entire report:
Seven States having withdrawn from the Federal Union, and formed a new and distinct Government, it has become necessary for Virginia
, if she remain in the present Federal Union, to obtain guarantees by way of amendments to the Constitution of the United States
, upon the following points:
A recognition, that by virtue of the Constitution.
African slavery does exist in all the territory of the United States, and must be protected by the Federal Government.
Upon all questions relating to the acquisition of territory a concurrent majority of the Senators in Congress from the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States shall be required.
With a view to settle the vexed question of the Territories, it is agreed that in all the territory of the United States, now held or hereafter acquired, situate north of 36 deg. 30 min. north latitude, slavery is prohibited.
and in all the territory of the United States, now held or hereafter acquired, south of said due, African slavery is recognized as existing, and shall receive its necessary protection as property from the various departments of the Government.
On all questions relating to laying taxes, duties, Imposts and excises, or any other means necessary to raise revenue for the support of the General Government, a concurrent vote of a majority of the Senators in Congress, from the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States, shall be required.
The right of transit by the citizens of the several States with their property, slaves included, through the States and Territories.
The rendition of fugitive slaves, and in case of their loss by violence or intimidation, remuneration by the General Government to the owner, and Congress shall provide for its reimbursement by laying and collecting a tax upon the State, city, or county in which said loss occurred.
That Congress shall not abolish or interfere with slavery, as it now exists, in the District of Columbia; nor shall it abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the States, by whose laws it is or may be allowed or permitted.
The withholding from persons who are in whole or in part of the African race, the elective franchise and the right to hold office, whether Federal, State, Territorial, or Municipal.
Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery in places under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves.
That the importation of slaves from foreign countries into the United States shall be foreign prohibited.
That Congress shall have no power to interfere with the slave trade between the States.
That the foregoing amendments shall not be subject to repeal or modification, except with the consent of all the States of the Union.
And in order that amendments to the Constitution of the United States
, carrying into effect the foregoing suggestions, shall be submitted to the people of the several States now in the Federal Union for their approval or rejection, therefore.
That this Convention will appoint one Commissioner
to each of the States of the Union
, who shall be instructed to submit to the Legislatures of said States, of in session, and if not, to the Governors
of said States, the foregoing amendments, with the request that the same may be acted on either by the Legislatures of said States, or by Conventions called by the Legislatures of said States, on or before the first Monday in October next.
That in case said amendments shall not be approved by the Legislatures or Conventions of said States, on or before the first Monday in October next, that then an ordinance to the effect indicated in the following resolution, shall go into operation on the third Monday in October next.
That this Convention will adopt an ordinance resuming to the State of Virginia
the powers heretofore delegated by her to the Federal Government
, to take effect on the third Monday in October next, in case the amendments indicated in the foregoing suggestions are not approved by the several states of the Union
on or before the first Monday in October next.
That the said amendments and ordinance be submitted to the people of this State, at the next general election, for their approval or rejection.
The motion being to strike out the report of the committee and insert the substitute offered by Mr. Turner
, the yeas and nays were demanded by Mr. Conrad
, of Frederick
The roll was then called, and the vote resulted as follows:
, Richard H. Cox
, John Goode, Jr.
, Tho F Goode
, Kledred, Lawson
, Chas. K. Mallory
, Jas. B. Mallory
, Strange, Thornton
, Robt. H. Turner
, Franklin P. Turner
, and Woods.--37.
, Asion, Baldwin
, Blow, Boggess
, C. R. Conrad
, Robt. Y. Conrad
, James H. Cox
, Deskins, Dorman
, Gravely, Gray
, Addison Hall, Cyrus Hall, Ephraim B. Hall
, Huil, Jackson
, Marmaduke Johnson
, Peter C. Johnston
, Kilby, Lewis
, Maslin, Masters, Miller
, Petrick, Pendleton
, Robt. E. Scott
, Sharp, Sheffey
, Sitlingtone Slaughter
, Speed, Spurlock
, Chapman J. Stuart
, Sammers, Sutherlin
, and Wilson
So the motion to strike out and insert was decided in the negative.
, of Amelia
, said various inquiries had been made of him as to when he should offer his minority report as a substitute for the report of the committee.
He gave notice that he would do so at the proper time.
, of Bedford
, said he would give a similar notice that when the gentlemen from Amelia
offered his amendment, he should offer his report as an amendment thereto.
was then directed to read the first resolution of the committee's report, as follows:
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 footing 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.
, of Middlesex
, moved to amend by inserting in the fourth line, after the word "were," the words"and still are," so that it would read"were, and still are, independent sovereignties."
, of Frederick
, opposed the amendment.
He admitted the rights of States to secede, but denied their sovereignty.
He thought it would involve the Convention
in that which he, as a lawyer, was unable to affirm.
advocated the amendment, and demanded the yeas and nays upon it. In reply to Mr. Conrad
, he contended that if he admitted the right of secession, sovereignty must follow.
, of Fauquier
, hoped it would not be the pleasure of the Committee
to engraft in this resolution a sentiment so contrary to the fact.
He took the ground that Virginia
was dependent upon the will of a Confederated Government.
replied to Mr. Scott
, declaring that the State of Virginia
was more independent now than she was when George the Third recognized her independence.
The Union was entered into for the purpose of strengthening her independence.
She had the power to declare war, and to regulate commerce, through the Federal Government
.--Whenever she thought an emergency required her to declare war, the Constitution
gave her the power to make such a declaration.
The very amendment which was now moved, he had tried to have inserted when in committee.
It failed there, and it might fail here; but it should not fail, if any effort of his could ensure its success.
, of Halifax
, made some remarks in favor of the amendment.
, of Prince George, proceeded to oppose the doctrine which had been maintained here, of absolute sovereignty.
If such a declaration were to be made, it would leave but a very short step between us and omnipotence.
He said there was a band of repudiators here, repudiating the action of the Convention
The minority report, in favor of immediate secession, was denounced by the speaker in most emphatic language.-- He exhorted the friends of the Union
to stand firm.
said it was evident from the applause that had greeted the gentlemen's gestures, that they constituted the most forcible portion of his argument.
When he first knew the gentleman from Prince George, he stood with him upon the platform of State sovereignty.
He had wandered into the sterile fields of the opposition, and afterwards come back; but now, in his peculiar manner, he was here asserting that there was a sovereign nation in this land, and that the States were mere dependencies upon it. If this doctrine were to prevail, then farewell to Republican liberty, for Mr. Lincoln
and Gen. Scott
could come here with their armies and disperse this Convention.
He intended to express his views fully hereafter; but he would say to the war-horse of Prince George, and his friends, that if they succeeded in carrying their doctrine of consolidation, the people would repudiate it.
, of Harrison
, took the floor, and called the attention of the gentleman from Middlesex
to the language of the Declaration of Independence
; he thought if the doctrines advocated by the gentleman were true, the authors of that instrument did not understand their own work.
He quoted from the debates of 1788, from the opinions of Madison
, the speeches of Calhoun
, to show that the ground occupied in this Convention was untenable.
, of Rockbridge
, gave reasons why he should vote against the amendment, and wanted it to be known that his course was not in opposition to any well understood doctrine of State-rights, or in favor of any idea of consolidation.
, of Augusta
, said he was a State-Rights man; but if the State of Virginia
could not make a law in conflict with the Constitution of the United States
, how could she be sovereign and independent?
So far as his vote could go, he was willing to declare that she was sovereign and independent to the extent that she had powers delegated to her by the Federal Constitution
He was opposed to the amendment.
, of Northampton
, after an allusion to the State-Rights
doctrine advanced by the gentleman from Rockbridge
, said that the position occupied by the gentleman from Harrison
was as hostile to the report of the committee, as was the position occupied by the State-Rights party in this Convention.
hoped the gentleman would not pronounce him inconsistent until after he had cast his vote.
He hoped that when the vote was taken, the gentleman from Harrison
would go with him, against the report.
He then made an argument in favor of the rights and sovereignty of the States, (quoting freely from Madison
's opinions as bearing upon the present issue,) and advocated the amendment.
, of Campbell
, thought the amendment of the gentleman from Middlesex
was out of place, though he agreed with him in many of his positions.
The amendment which he preferred would be to insert "and did not part with their sovereignty in so doing," in the appropriate place.
He would not, however, offer any amendment, believing it would destroy the symmetry of the report.
, of Portsmouth
, briefly opposed the amendment, and gave reasons why he should vote for the report.
, of Richmond city
, made an argument upon the question whether a State that was in a condition of subordination in essential particulars, could be regarded as absolutely sovereign.
He was not aware of any popular expression of sentiment upon the specific subject before the Convention
, and in the absence thereof he knew of no rule for his guidance except his own reflections of right.
The term "sovereign," he conceived, was inapplicable to a State which had delegated a portion of her powers, for a time at least, to another Government.
The report of the committee, as it stood, asserted no dangerous doctrine, and was acceptable to him without amendment.
replied to Mr. Macfarland
He did not know that any one claimed absolute sovereignty for a State, but contended that a State, like Texas
for instance, coming into the Union
, became an independent sovereignty.--She had the power to lay imposts and to declare war. A State did not part with its sovereignty by merging it with other sovereignties.
asked whether, when, by by the position of Virginia
, she might be dragged into a foreign war, against her will, she should be regarded as sovereign?
replied that she would.
He referred, in support of this position, to the Confederacies of Europe
, as one of the German Confederacies
, might be dragged into a foreign war against her will; yet no one would assert that Prussia
was not an independent sovereignty.
The right of secession, as truly stated by the gentlemen from Portsmouth
, attaches unequivocally to the sovereignty and independence of a States.
Pending Mr. Wise
's remarks, the hour of 2 having arrived, the Committee
took a recess till 4 o'clock P. M.