Virginia State Convention.
fifty-second day.

Monday, April 15, 1861.
The Convention assembled at 10 o'clock.--Prayer by the Rev. Francis J. Boons, Chaplain of the Seamen's Bethel.

Report of the Commissioner.

Mr. Preston, of Montgomery, one of the Commissioners appointed by the Convention to wait on the President of the Northern States, presented the following report:

‘ The Committee, appointed on the 8th inst. by this Convention, with direction to wait upon the President of the United States, and present to him the preamble and resolution adopted on that day, beg leave to report, in the fulfillment of their duty. They left the city of Richmond on the morning of the 9th instant, for Washington city they were however, prevented, by injuries sustained by the railroad from a violent and protracted storm, from reaching Washington until 11 o'clock on Friday, the 12th inst. At 1 o'clock on that day, they called on the President and informed him that they had been appointed a Committee by the Convention of Virginia then in session, to make a communication to him from that body and requested him to designate an hour at which it would be agreeable to him to receive us. He replied that he would be happy to receive us at 9 o'clock the next morning. We accordingly at tended him at that hour, when we presented the resolution of the Convention, and explained our mission. He then read to us a paper, which he stated he had first prepared, as the answer to the communication of the Convention, declaring that he had seen in the newspapers the proceedings of the Convention and the character of commission. We here with communicate the President's reply to the preamble and resolution of the Convention.

The reply of President Lincoln was then read. It was published in this paper yesterday.

Mr. Holcombe, of Albemarle, offered the following resolutions:

Resolved, That the standing order for resolving the Convention into Committee of the Whole be suspended.

Resolved. That the Convention will immediately go into secret session, in order to consider the report of the Committee appointed to visit Washington.

Mr. Scott, of Fauquier took the floor. In the course of his remarks he said that so long as the difficulty was confined to the Administration and the Confederate States, touching the possession of the forts, he could see no necessity for undue haste; but the proclamation of the President, published this morning, could have no other construction than civil war. The Convention had already declared that under no circumstances ought the people of this State to be made parties to an unnatural war against their brethren of the South. This had been declared in terms so explicit as not to be misunderstood. The question was now presented whether we should make that declaration good, whether, so far as lay in our power, we will adopt measures necessary to prevent us from becoming involved in this war. So far as he was concerned, he meant to make good the declaration.

Mr. Scott was here interrupted by a suggestion of the necessity of passing Mr. Holcombe's first resolution. as the hour was close at hand for going into Committee of the Whole. A division of the question was called for.

Mr. Baldwin, of Augusta, was opposed to going into secret session, on the ground that the Convention had not yet sufficient information to take the measures necessary to be pursued. He presumed, if the war was upon us, there would not be two opinions upon the part Virginia would act; but there were many grave circumstances to be taken into consideration. His idea was that the voice of Virginia and the voice of the South was one; but until the subject was laid before the Convention in an official shape, he could see no reason why the Convention should wish to deliberate in secret.

The first resolution was put to vote and adopted — yeas 80, says 43.

Mr. Holcombe then offered the second resolution, to go at once into secret session.

Mr. Scott resumed his remarks, reviewing his position that the body had declared that under no circumstances ought Virginia to be made a party to the impending war. If the proclamation be true, the Administration is about to inaugurate a general war. There is but one course for Virginia in such an event, except to disconnect herself from the Federal Government. In what way this shall be done, is a question for grave deliberation. --The law under which the Convention is assembled, requires us to submit our action to the people. So, as secession will at last have to be determined on by the people at the polls, I cannot see, said Mr. Scott, why we should resolve ourselves into secret session. He then alluded to the diversity of opinion in the Convention — some being for co-operation with the Border States, and some for separate State action. He remained of the opinion that we ought to have consultation with the Border States. The division which characterized this body, also characterized the people of the State.

Mr. Wise rose to a point of order. He submitted that a motion to go into secret session did not permit debate upon the whole question at issue.

Mr. Scott claimed that he had strictly confined himself to the question under consideration.

The President was of opinion that it was competent for the gentleman from Fauquier to proceed.

Mr. Wise held that the debate would then disclose the whole object of going into secret session.

Mr. Scott went on with his remarks. He thought the alternative propositions of separate State action or co-operation might be submitted for the decision of the people.--This, in his opinion, was the proper course for the Convention now to pursue.

Mr. Preston, of Montgomery, said he studiously abstained from expressing any view of the question involved, when he presented the report this morning. He thought the course of Virginia was plain, and he hoped that God would nerve him for the conflict. That war was upon us, was an established fact. With regard to the question of a secret session, he bowed with deference to the opinions of others. There were prudential reasons why such a course should be pursued, not because our minds were not unalterably made up.

Mr. Conrad, of Frederick, was in favor of going into secret session. It might be important to preserve secrecy for the time as to the course which Virginia would pursue. It was all important that there should be unanimity. The effect of this proposition would be that members would have an opportunity for a free comparison of views. He appealed to Messrs. Scott and Baldwin to withdraw their objections.

Mr. Macfarland, of Richmond, opposed the motion to go into secret session. It would be an innovation upon the established usages of the State, and unless there were some better reason than had been advanced, he should persist in his objection. The exaggerated reports which would leak out would tend to increase the public anxiety, which it should be our purpose to allay. By the events of the day, we were reduced to the necessity of standing upon our rights, or of giving up everything. He was therefore in favor of giving immediate publicity to the proceedings of this body, that the public mind might not be kept in suspense as to the course to be pursued by Virginia in this crisis. He hoped the moral influence of the Convention would be exerted upon the powers at Washington, to restrain them from further pursuing their present policy.

Mr. Caperton, of Monroe, said that doubts had been expressed as to the authenticity of the proclamation which had given rise to this discussion. He thought it might be proper, therefore, to have more time. His own mind was made up; but with a view to the removal of all doubt, he moved that the Convention do now adjourn.

Mr. Holcombe requested him to withdraw it for a moment, and he would renew it.--This having been done, Mr. Holcombe explained the motive which prompted him to make a motion to go into secret session. He would have Virginia go into the battle with a shout, and it was therefore with no desire of secrecy that he had proposed the measure.--He had understood, however, that gentlemen who differed from him in opinion desired to gain information, and with the hope of gaining entire unanimity, he would frankly sustain the proposition for a secret session. Mr. Holcombe renewed the motion to adjourn, premising that he should vote against it.

Mr. Branch, of Petersburg, obtained a withdrawal of the motion; took the floor and advocated the proposition for a secret session.--He had something to present which he did not wish to have spread upon the wings of the wind. With regard to the question of secession, late events had fired his heart with a love of country, and if necessary he would buckle on his armor to fight in defence of the South. He was not now acting under instructions, for the question was a very clear one to his mind.

The motion to adjourn was not renewed.

Mr. Scott, of Powhatan, favored the motion to go into secret session, and then proceeded to indicate the change that had come over his own mind, under the influence of passing events. He had been one of the strongest Union men in the whole country; but he had abandoned all hope, and was now for war. He was ready for secession now, if it were policy. This was a matter to be deliberated upon in secret session.

Mr. Dorman, of Rockbridge, did not view the resolution as a proposition for secrecy, except temporarily. The reporters were to be retained, and the proceedings would be published to the world after the injunction was removed. Were it otherwise, he should oppose it. He wished to harmonize and unite Virginia. He was tired of trying moral power on Abraham Lincoln. He regarded his proclamation as a declaration of war and subjugation. If that be so it would be the extreme of folly to discuss that proclamation in open session, for in that case, Lincoln would be speedily informed of it.

Mr. Wise rose to make a motion which he thought he had never made more than three times in his life. The open discussion that was now going on, would do much more to disturb the harmony of the Convention than anything which gentlemen seemed to apprehend in secret session. He appealed to members to quit talking — he had a right to say this, for be had worn out his already lacerated lungs in discussing ultimata --but the time for action had now come Mr. Wise proceeded to discuss Lincoln's policy. There was no doubt about the authenticity of the proclamation, but at all events there was enough of an official character before the Convention to require harmonious and speedy action. He therefore moved the previous question.

The call was seconded, and the question being "Shall the main question be now put?" --Mr. Early availed himself of the ten minutes privilege to give his views. He expressed great doubt of the authenticity of the proclamation. He could not conceive that a man of such shrewdness as the Secretary of State (Seward) could be guilty of the blunders therein contained. At present he was opposed to a secret session. He moved the Convention now adjoin. Voted down by a large majority.

Mr. Baldwin still urged his objections to the motion for a secret session at this time. He wanted information officially, and was opposed to important action upon the basis of unauthenticated telegraphic dispatches. He was a ware of the great influences that had been borough to bear upon the Convention, and if they were to be forced to a change of position be claimed that everything should be presented in a light as clear as the sunlight of heaven. It a war of subjugation was to be waged against the South, there was no doubt in his mind of the course which ought to be pursued.

Mr. Gillespie had voted for the motion heretofore to make common cause with the South in the event of coercion, and meant to stand up to it. But he had been so often deceived by telegrams that he desired to wait for official information. He was not prepared to act, as circumstances stood at present. He moved that the Convention now adjourn.

The motion was agreed to — ayes 63, noes 44, and the Convention adjourned to meet again on Tuesday at 10 o'clock A. M.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Winfield Scott (8)
Holcombe (6)
Wise (4)
Abraham Lincoln (4)
Wm Ballard Preston (3)
Baldwin (3)
Montgomery (2)
Alexander H. H. Stuart (1)
Seward (1)
George W. Randolph (1)
Monroe (1)
Macfarland (1)
Gillespie (1)
Early (1)
Dorman (1)
Conrad (1)
Caperton (1)
Mariah L. Branch (1)
Francis J. Boons (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
April 15th, 1861 AD (1)
12th (1)
9th (1)
8th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: