Virginia State Convention.
Saturday,Feb. 23, 1861.
The Convention was called to order by the President
, at 12 o'clock.
Prayer by the Rev. Geo. W. Nolley
of the M. E. Church
, of Wetzel
, arose to make a personal explanation, in regard to his remarks on Thursday, which had been made the subject of newspaper criticism, as well as comment by gentlemen from the Northwest
He had been represented as saying that the whole Northwest was unsound; in other words, that they were not true representatives of Virginia
sentiment, and not loyal to the Commonwealth
He did not intend to include, in the remarks he had made, the whole Northwest, or any considerable portion thereof.--He alluded to those two or three thousand Lincoln
votes in that section, and to that portion of the people who sent members to this Convention elected upon a platform dictated by the Wheeling Intelligencer Lincoln
's organ in the Northwest
, which has a reporter upon this floor.
In this connection he mentioned Messrs. Clemens
, of Ohio
--Did I understand the gentleman to say that I stood upon a platform dictated by the Wheeling Intelligencer
-- said, sir, this--
--I want a categorical answer to my question.
.--I said this: that he ran upon a platform of resolutions defended by the editor of the Wheeling Intelligence.
--That is not an answer to my question.
--It is all you will get from me.
.--Very well, sir.
The President here interposed, and said the remarks were taking a course beyond his understanding of a personal explanation.
A gentleman might set himself right on any point which had been misunderstood; but could not allude to the position occupied by others.
said he had no disposition to misrepresent the people of the Northwest
He had supposed the gentlemen alluded to represented the sentiments of a majority of their people; not that they were doing anything wrong on this floor.
He went on to speak of the importance of unity among the people of Virginia
on the great question now agitating the country.
rose to a point of order.
He was not aware that there was any question before the Convention
The President said the gentleman from Wetzel
had arisen to make a personal explanation, but he thought he had exceeded his privilege.
then produced the following special dispatch to the Wheeling Intelligencer
, which was read:
"Great indignation prevails here among Northwestern members on account of the course pursued by Leonard S. Hall
, delegate from Wetzel county
He openly denounced his colleague last night, in the parlor of the Spotswood House
, as a submissionists, and read a letter from Mr. Charles W. Russell
, of Wheeling
, in support of his views.
‘"The gallant old Gen. John Jackson
, of Wood county
, repudiated Hall
and his letter before a large crowd, showing that Hall
did not represent Wetzel county
, much less the Northwest
, having been elected only by a meagre plurality, and that through a division of the Union
men of his county.
The letter of Mr. Russell
is reprobated by Messrs. Willey
, and all others from the West
whom I have heard speak of the affair. C."’
then read the letter from C. W. Russell
, alluded to above, to show that it was not Able to the construction placed upon it.
Transportation of Negroes.
offered the following, which was adopted:
That the several railroad companies in this State be requested to report to the Convention
, as soon as practicable, the number of negroes carried over their roads, en route
for any Southern States, within the years 1855 to 1861, inclusive.
Another personal explanation.
arose to a privileged question.
Only one consideration prompted him to say a single word in reply to the gentleman from Wetzel
He was here as a representative of a portion of the people of the Commonwealth
, and was not insensible of impressions that had been sought to be created against him, both in public and private.
The effect of this was apparent in the faces and breasts of those around him, and in the sentiments of the sovereign people of this section.
He would put the heel of inexpressible contempt on every insinuation, come from whence it might, that he was wanting in loyalty to the Commonwealth
He reviewed his Congressional record, and alluded to his speech which had been extensively circulated.
Let any gentleman who denounced that — as the gentleman from Middlesex
did, and then acknowledge that he had never read it — as an incendiary document, peruse it, and say if it will not satisfy the most extreme secessionist.
To the gentleman from Wetzel
he could afford to be magnanimous.
When he declared that he (Mr. Clemens
) stood on a platform dictated by the editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer
he said that which he would not presume to say was prompted by malice, but would assume that it was said through ignorance; he said that which showed a most miserable lack of information.
He stood on his own platform, which he made in the face of the most fleury opposition in his own county, and triumphed — triumphed gloriously.
expressed extreme devotion and loyalty to Virginia
arose to a privileged question, though he regretted the necessity; for it seemed to be the general sentiment among gentlemen, that they were here to make personal explanations, and for nothing else.
The gentleman from Ohio
) had said that he denounced his speech as an incendiary document, and then admitted that he never read it. The point which he made, on that occasion, related to the corruption of the Government
, which had resorted to forgery, and violated our laws by sending documents to the negroes of the Commonwealth
to stir up insurrection.
He had not read Mr. Clemens
' speech; he was not in the habit of reading speeches, for he had matters of more importance to attend to.
, of Ohio
, replied to the remarks of the member from Wetzel
He denied that he was elected on a platform dictated by the Wheeling Intelligencer
, and read his address to his constituents to show the position he occupied.
He affirmed his loyalty to the Commonwealth
, but seemed to think Virginia
's rights would be more secure in than out of the Union
The National difficulties.
Tredway, of Pittsylvania
, called up his resolution which was laid on the table on Wednesday, and it was accordingly taken up. The resolution reads as follows:
That a select committee of five be appointed, with instructions to inquire and report as speedily as possible, whether any movement of arms or men has been made by the General Government
, to any fort or arsenal in, or bordering upon, Virginia
, indicating a preparation for attack or coercion.
, of Jefferson
, regretted that his absence should have caused such a resolution to be laid upon the table, for it met his cordial approbation.
Occupying, as he did, the position of Superintendent
of the Arsenal at Harper's Ferry
, he was anxious that the people should have all the information it was possible to obtain, relative to movements at that place.
He would inform them that every soldier and every piece of ammunition sent there was sent at his suggestion.
An investigation of that matter would prove a subject of interest to the people of Virginia
, of page, advocated the resolution.
His people were opposed to coercion, and to the reinforcement and arming of the forts in order that, if Virginia
should deem it right and proper to pass an ordinance of secession, the General Government
would be in a position to coerce her. They were in favor of a Union that would secure the equality of all the States.
Their voice would ever be heard to pray for Union, such as their fathers established, but they were opposed to a Union which did not furnish equal protection to all. He hoped the resolution would pass.
said he had no disposition to figure in the local papers at home, and did not propose to discuss the great subject of Union on such a resolution as this.
He would say, however, that Virginia
was in an unfortunate condition if she was afraid of fifty blue-coated men. In further remarks, he said that those who were the last to go out of the Union
would be the first to fight.
He wanted to stay in the Union
on terms satisfactory to all our people; but if such terms could not be obtained, then go out. If Virginia
did leave the Union
, no consideration that could be presented to her brave people would bring her back.
, of Franklin
, fully appreciated the position of the gentleman, as an officer of the Federal Government
, but could see no necessity for the adoption of the resolution.--He then alluded to the rumored proceedings at Fortress Monroe
, and went on to show that the same state of things had existed there for years.
In the progress of his remarks, he desired to do an act of justice to his old companions in arms, Capt. Dyer
, the Command and of Artillery at Fortress Monroe
, and to Maj. Anderson
, the commander at Fort Sumter
The President thought the line of remark did not pertain to the subject under consideration.
By general consent, Mr. Early
was allowed to proceed.
's veins run the blood of the Marshalls, and both of the officers named were true and loyal sons of the South
If duty required them to point their guns at their own countrymen, every shot would wring their hearts; but they would do their duty to the last.
, made a statement as an act of justice to the Superintendent
of the Arsenal at Harper's Ferry
, showing that it was under his advice that the communication relative to the proceedings at Harper's Ferry
was made to the Executive
said that the resolution was not dictated by any want of confidence in the gentleman from Jefferson
of the Arsenal at Harper's Ferry
He believed the result would place him in the position which he never doubted he occupied, of a true and loyal Virginian.
He was glad to have the information already drawn out, from the gentleman from Franklin
, that the forts were commanded by men who would never do aught against the honor of the South
, of Wood
, thought the Convention
was taking an improper course in regard to the proposed investigation.
The proper mode would be for the Executive
of the Commonwealth
to obtain the desired information by making a respectful communication to the President
of the United States
The course proposed by the resolution indicated an indefinite prolongation of the session.
He moved to lay it on the table, but withdrew the motion at the request of.
, of Jefferson
, who said that the debate had taken such a course that he hoped the investigation would be made.
He knew naught of the proceedings at Fortress Monroe
, but the force at Harper's Ferry
was sent at his suggestion, and that consideration took the poison from the Executive head
gave the reasons why he opposed the resolution.
If he could reconcile it to a sense of duty, he would oblige his friend from Jefferson
, and vote for it. But Virginia
was still part and parcel of the Federal Government
, and as a constitutional man he preferred a constitutional mode of making the investigation.
It should be made by the representatives of the State
, at Washington
He moved an indefinite postponement of the resolution, and called for the yeas and nays in order that he might record his vote.
, of Amelia
, would with great pleasure vote against indefinite postponement, and for the resolution.
Not that he thought or believed that the gentleman from Jefferson
had done anything improper, but because he wanted to know if the Federal Government
had done anything intended to coerce Virginia
into submission in the event that she should be compelled to go out of the Union
He wanted Virginia
to be prepared to meet the issue.
, of Henrico
, opposed the indefinite postponement of the resolution.
He had good reason to believe that there were fewer United States
soldiers in Virginia
now than on the 6th of November.
He wanted to have the public mind quieted on the subject, and to allay an agitation that had been artificially created, by sensation dispatches, in the minds of the people of the Commonwealth
After some further remarks by Mr. Tredway
, Mr. Carlile
withdrew his motion, and said he would content himself with voting "no" on the resolution.
The question was then taken, and the resolution passed.
, of Northampton
, offered the following:
That this Convention does not wish to inaugurate a National Convention, and would not rely on such a body to afford redress for the grievances and wrongs of which the South
complains, nor give such guarantees as would satisfy the people of this State that their honor and interest would obtain an effectual protection from such a Convention; but, on the contrary, that the people of the South
might reasonably apprehend that such a body would reorganize the judiciary system of the United States
, and make the Judges
elective by the whole people of the Union
, as Mr. Seward
has declared his party would do as soon as they acquired the power, and that such a body would make other innovations upon the non-recognized rights of the minority section.
asked if the rules did not allow him to object to any resolution on Federal Relations.
The President said that under a rule adopted, all such resolutions would be referred, after they had been explained by the member offering them.
then proceeded to advocate his resolution, after which it was referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
The following resolutions were also offered, and referred to the same committee:
By Mr. Whitfield
, of Isle of Wight
That the election of Abraham Lincoln
to the Presidency of the United States
, and the apprehensions entertained as to the policy of his administration, together with the withdrawal of the seceded States from the Union
, having placed Virginia
in great peril and embarrassment, the Convention
should deliberate coolly and calmly upon the course she is to pursue for the future.
That if the Peace Congress should fail in its mission; or if the guarantees which may be adopted by it, and assented to by this Convention, be not ratified within --, by the people of the North
, co-operating with the border slave States, will unite with the seceded States, provided the latter have not incorporated in their Constitution provisions prejudicial to her interests.
That while we tender our warm sympathies to our Southern sisters, and feel embittered by the wrongs and injuries received from the North
, this Convention should, nevertheless, look first
to the interests of Virginia
, and by conciliation and compromise pursue that course which will produce harmony and prevent discord among ourselves.
That in the judgment of this Convention, this Commonwealth should resist, with all her means, any attempt to coerce a seceded State.
That if the force of events shall present the alternative to Virginia
of uniting either with the North
or the South
, in the opinion of this Convention her true position will be with the latter.
By Mr. Wilson
That we, the people of Virginia
, in Convention assembled, do adhere with patriotic devotion to the Union
of these States, and that we will do so as long as the same can be perpetuated consistently with full security of all our constitutional rights and the maintenance of the equality of all the States.
That it is inexpedient and improper for the General Government
to increase its forces at the forts, arsenals, and dock-yards, within the limits of Virginia
, or to do any act looking to warlike preparations against this State.
By Mr. Sharp
, of Lee
- 1st. Be it Resolved, as the sense of this body, that the Constitution of Government, and the Union, founded and established by our forefathers, having been the silent, yet prolific source of prosperity, peace and happiness to all the people of the United, and of prosperity, peace and happiness only, from its foundation to the present time, and will be for all time to come to our posterity if we are but true to the great trust reposed in us, as freemen, should not be broken up and destroyed except from grave and weighty causes of intolerable oppression and insufferable grievances, and only then after all peaceful and constitutional means of redress have been tried and have failed.
That, without expressing an opinion as to whether or not a State has the constitutional right to seceded from the Union, yet this body deprecates its exercise on the part of any State, as an act of political suicide, that would aggravate an hundred fold every grievance complained of, rather than remedy a single one.
That though we believe that a government, without the constitutional right and power to enforce all its laws made in pursuance of the Constitution establishing it; and to hold all its property, everywhere, to the extent of its limits and jurisdiction; is worthless, and equivalent to just no government at all; yet we would deprecate an attempt, on the part of our Federal Government, to exercise its laws in the seceding States, or to take, by force, the forts and other property of said Government, in the seceding States, that have been captured by said States from said Government, as an act of policy bad in its inevitable results; an act unmistakably calculated to produce civil war and sectional strife; the direst calamity that could possibly befall a people.
That whilst we would deprecate on the part of the Federal Government any act calculated or intended to coerce the seceding States, or any of them, and to produce a state of civil war and sectional strife; yet we would equally deprecate and condemn any attempt to take, by force of arms, from the Federal Government, by the seceding States, or any of them, any fort arsenal, navy yard, or other property, owned by and in the possession of said Federal Government, as an act of war, on the part of said seceding State or States, in which act said State or States would be the aggressor or aggressors; and that Virginia, under such circumstances, would be under no obligation to, and would not assist or support such State or States in a war produced by such act.
That the unhappy differences that now distract and divide the country ought to be met in a spirit of fairness to all parties and settled in the same spirit; and that, in the opinion of this body, the Crittenden or border States resolutions do present a basis of settlement that would be fair to all parties, and satisfactory to Virginia and to the border States of this Confederacy.
On motion of Mr. Preston
, the Convention