Virginia State Convention.
Thursday, Feb. 28, 1861.
The Convention was called to order at 12 o'clock.
Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Burrows
, of the First Baptist Church.
The President stated that the unfinished business of yesterday, (the resolutions of the gentleman from Rockbridge
,) was now in order — the gentleman from Orange
） being entitled to the floor.
said he would give way a moment for the gentleman from Hanover
, who desired to offer a resolution.
, of Hanover
, submitted the following:
That in furtherance of the resolution adopted by this Convention on the 20th inst., seeking information of the Governor
regarding the militia, the Adjutant General
of the State
be, and he is hereby requested, to communicate to this body, as speedily as is compatible with a thorough report on this subject, how many and what kind of arms are in the possession of the state, undistributed, and the number and kind of additional companies which can and will, probably, shortly be armed.
Also, at what points, in his judgment, having due reference to the localities of the different companies, and to economy in time and money, the whole volunteer force of the State
can be best assembled in bodies sufficiently large to be instructed in battalion evolutions, in the evolutions of the line, in siege, garrison and camp duties, incident to the respective arms of the service, and any other information in his reach calculated to throw light on the means necessary to put the Commonwealth
in a complete state of preparation against attack.
On motion of Mr. Early
, the resolution was laid upon the table.
The National difficulties.
took the floor and proceeded with his remarks.
He alluded to the magnitude of the subjects which the Convention
was called to consider.
He had listened with pain and displeasure to the discussions in this body.
He regretted that the gentleman from Rockbridge
, (Mr. Moore
,) who was not in his seat, had not undergone a change of sentiment in thirty years, while a change had swept over the country, and he was almost ready to say, over the world.
Thirty years ago, that gentleman believed that slavery was a moral, social and political evil, and he regretted the expressions that indicated similar opinions still.
He next alluded to the remarks of the gentleman from Bedford
, (Mr. Goggin
,) and welcomed the sentiment that when it comes to coercion, he would be found fighting under the flag of Virginia
But they had not dwelt sufficiently upon the wrongs of the South
He then gave a historical sketch of the rise and progress of the anti-slavery party, and proceeded to consider the recent acts of the Black Republicans
He thought there was no chance of effecting any change in public sentiment at the North
was elected upon a single principle of hostility to the South
They had the Executive
power of the Government
, and how long would it be before they would secure the Judiciary, also?
With every Department in the hands of the Black
Republican party, and administered upon the plan dictated by Wm. H. Seward
, how long would Virginia
Under the distribution of the official patronage, how long would it be before a man might come to think the wrong the better side?
If we stay together for twelve months, he thought there would be most beneficent showers of patronage upon Virginia
, and Tennessee
--he would not go so far as North Carolina
--and upon Kentucky
Those who accepted the gifts would form a nucleus of acquiescence in the powers that be, and in the next election, or the next but one, we should have Black Republican orators on every stump, and where would Virginia
's safety be?
There might be those who thought he was for throwing away the treasure of the Union
He would tell them that in the last election he voted for Bell
, but did so upon the declaration that if the Charleston Convention had made a nomination he would have supported it. But that failed, and he had thought that the conservative portion of the people might rally to save the country.
In this he was disappointed.
For years he had endeavored to drive back the wave of Northern fanaticism, and to save the Union
--and in connection herewith he read from one of his speeches in Congress, wherein he appealed for justice in behalf of the South
He read it to show that his heart had been in this Union.
He would do what he could to preserve it, if he could do so upon terms of honor and safety.
But we must have security.
He did not mean such security as was offered in the miserable abortion of the Peace Congress, but permanent security; and if we could not get it, he hoped to God the Union
would be dissolved.
That was the sentiment of the people.
The agitation of African
slavery was an ulcer, eating away the vitals of the country, and unless we used the knife or the caustic, rooted out the evil, and settled the question forever, it would result in utter ruin.
The agitation must be stopped and stopped forever.
Turning to Mr. Wise
, he expressed his utmost approbation of his course in repelling the invaders of the soil of Virginia
Speaking of the visit of the South Carolina
Commissioners, after that occasion, and the disappointment of their hopes, he said South Carolina
had subsequently determined to take the matter in her own hands, and yet she was blamed for not seeking the counsel of Virginia
He besought the gentleman from Rockbridge
, and the gentleman from Rockbridge
, and the gentleman from Bedford
, not to blame South Carolina
, but to blame Virginia
If she had gone into counsel with them when they did seek it, the present calamities would have been averted.
But she refused it, and then the crisis came on. South Carolina
had done her part towards saving the Union
, and if Virginia
had done as much — had been as sensitive of her wrongs — this Convention would not have been deliberating to-day upon measures to save the country.
He proceeded to pay further compliments to South Carolina
and the gallantry of her people, and vindicated them from the charge of want of proper respect and courtesy to the Virginia Commissioner
, (Judge Robertson
He presumed that by this time the Convention
was satisfied that he thought the proper course was for Virginia
to secede forthwith.
If there was any doubt upon that subject, he would read some resolutions offered by himself in the county of Orange
, on the 24th of Dec., 1860. The resolutions took the ground that the Union
of the South
is the safety of the South
, and that Virginia
ought to go out with her Southern sisters before the 4th of March.
He thought if that advice had been followed, we should not now have heard one word about coercion.
Whilst wrongs and insults had been heaped upon Virginia mountains
high, she was still here deliberating whether she should go North or South.
He would have had a conference of the fifteen slave States, from which he would not have excluded all the free States, but would have admitted some of the border States, whose interests at least would have been with the South
; but if they could not have been purified by the association, he would have relinquished them.
Such a consultation would have led to a result calculated to secure the peace of the country.
But the miserable abortion that had sprung from the Peace Conference at Washington
, should receive the scorn of every Southern man.
He did not participate in the apprehension expressed here, that if Virginia
went out her slaves would be insecure; nor would it be necessary, as assumed by the gentleman from Rockbridge
, to keep a standing army on the border lines, but only a small force at the principal points, for the purpose of collecting the revenue.
The slaves would be more secure than ever.
He charged upon William H. Seward
the responsibility of breaking up the Union
To him he would not say one kind word if it would save him from destruction.
He had denounced him before his face, and had told him if the question were to be settled between them, he would settle it in an hour.
He went on to consider the question, what shall Virginia
He had with pleasure heard the gentleman from Bedford
) say that in the final event of a separation he would wrap himself in the folds of the flag of Virginia
, and perish with her, if she must perish.
But his idea of a Middle Confederacy, he considered nothing less than a middle foolery.
On this subject the speaker dilated at considerable length.
Speaking of the Constitution
of the Provisional Government
, and Mr. Goggin
's expressed caution in respect to it, he said he knew his friend did not intentionally misrepresent it, but he was surprised that he should have ventured upon the subject without more thorough information.
He then read the clause in reference to the inter-State slave trade.
He was surprised that gentlemen should have endeavored to create an excitement because the Congress of the Southern States ventured to reserve the right to interdict it.--He would say, that while they opposed the African slave trade, they should remember that if Virginia
refused to unite her destinies with them, the seceded States would be as foreign to her as Africa
If it were left to him, and Virginia
refused to go with the South
, he would erect a breakwater, and she should keep her negroes — they should multiply on her hands — until she felt enough interested in the institution to defend it. He reiterated the assurance of the Southern Commissioners
that the African slave trade would not be reopened.
He had mingled much with the people of the South
, and no people were possessed of higher moral integrity.
He had never seen there a single African
, although they were imported by cargoes to the coast of Cuba
If the business had ever been carried on in the Southern States
, it was done on a far greater scale by the smuggling Yankees
of the North
With regard to the difficulty of transit alluded to, in case Virginia
went with the South
, he believed that Fortress Monroe
and the Rip Raps
would belong to Virginia
He would rally under the lead of the gentleman near him (Mr. Wise
,) and pluck the plume from the brow of the Lieutenant General
.--He anticipated none of the difficulties spoken of by others.
He again urged the necessity of secession.--Where were the interests of Virginia
in a Northern Confederacy, when for thirty years they had been warring upon her and her institutions?
If he were to agree to a union with the North
, he would consider himself base enough to bend the knee to his oppressor, to bow his neck to the yoke, to extend his hands for the manacles.
He believed in secession as a measure of peace; but if war must come, he would rather have four millions of slaves and eight millions of freemen, than sixteen millions of freemen and not a single slave.
He did not conceive that under surrounding circumstances, the ideas advanced from the other side could alarm the women or the men.
On some future occasion he proposed to show that it would be to the material interest of Virginia
to go with the South
.--All the great interests would be promoted by it. In ten years, Richmond
would reap more material advantages than she would in thirty years in the Union
, while Norfolk
would become a rival of New York.
In conclusion, he thanked the Convention
for the patience with which he had been listened to.
spoke more than two hours, and the foregoing is but a mere outline of his remarks.
, of Augusta
, next took the floor.
He said he was glad that almost every gentleman who had spoken had disclaimed party politics.
It was on that ground that he came to be elected; for he represented a county where the party to which he had belonged was always in a minority.
He proceeded to speak of the resolutions of the gentleman from Rockbridge
, (Mr. Moore
.) The first of those resolutions sets forth some of the grievances we had suffered from the North
Yet it has been said, notwithstanding, that there has not been complaint enough of the acts of the North
--that we have not abused them enough.
Gentlemen are not satisfied with resolutions denouncing Northern aggression, but would have us go farther.
It was true that some of the Northern States
--not all — had passed what they called Personal Liberty bills, to obstruct the operation of the Fugitive Slave Law
. These States we denounce, and say they ought to repeal those laws.
But it was the universal practice, when alluding to our grievances, to denounce the whole people of the North
, without any exception.
The Personal Liberty bills, he proceeded, were against the rights and interests of the Southern
people, and we ought to demand their repeal; but we ought to remember, at the same time, that they are not Federal laws, and so far as Federal law is concerned, they are just no laws at all. No one could say that Congress had not done ample justice to the South
on the questions which involve her vital interest.
He had heard it said outside of this hall, as well as in it — he believed it had been said today — that Virginia
ought not to hesitate, but go out at once.
He believed he heard the gentleman from Orange
say this, and he asked him if he understood him right.
.‘--You did, sir.’
.‘--Go out for what?’
He wanted gentlemen to state their reasons.
Nothing had been said yet sufficient to satisfy him that there was any good reason for it. He admitted that the Union
was already dissolved --that six or seven links in the great chain had gone-- but twenty-six yet remained, and Virginia
was not among the number that had gone. --The stars and stripes still floated over her, and he meant to hold on to that flag till the last hope had fled.
He intended to let the Convention
know just where he stood on this question; but as it was now late, and as it had been the practice to adjourn over to give members a full opportunity of expressing their views, he would give way if any one desired to submit such a motion.
A motion to adjourn was made, but withdrawn at the request of the President
, who presented a communication from the Dean
of the Medical College of Virginia
inviting the members of the Convention
to attend the commencement of that institution, at Metropolitan Hall, on Friday night.
On motion of Mr. Early
, the Convention