Virginia State Convention.
Saturday,March 2, 1861.
The Convention was called to order by the President
at 12 o'clock.
Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Borrows
, of the First Baptist Church.
The President (Mr. Gogin
in the Chair) stated that the first business in order was the consideration of the resolutions of Mr. Moore
, of Rockbridge
, and that Mr. Goode
, of Mecklenburg
, was entitled to the floor.
The State Constitution.
, of Jackson
, (Mr. Goode
having given way,) offered the following resolutions, which, on his motion, were laid upon the table.
That it is expedient and proper that the 23d section of the 4th article of the Constitution
of the State
shall be so modified that slaves, like other property, shall be taxed without exemption, and according to value, and that no exemption of any property from taxation shall be had without the vote of a majority of all the members elected to each House of the General Assembly.
That a committee, to consist of thirteen members, to be selected from the different section of the State
, be appointed, who shall report to the Convention
such amendments to the Constitution
of the State
as will effect the object indicated in the foregoing resolution.
Printing the debates.
, of Henrico
, asked the privilege of offering the following resolution:
That a committee of five be appointed by the President
of the Convention
, to whom shall be referred the contract between the said President
and the proprietors of the Richmond Enquirer
in regard to the publication of the debates of the Convention
— the said committee shall have power to send for persons and papers, and shall make report to this Convention.
stated his object to be, in offering the resolution, to clear up the differences of opinion in regard to that clause of the contract which related to the paper used in printing the debates.
Many members had supposed that the contract stipulated for payment only for the paper used in executing the contract, while it seemed, from the interpretation given to it by the editors of the Enquirer
and others, the State
pays for the entire paper used in printing their daily and country editions.
He had made the following estimate of the cost, per week, to the State
, under this interpretation of the contract, allowing the amount of matter published per day to be eight columns; Composition, $156; Press Work, $50; Reporting, $360; Folding, $120.60; Paper, $209; total cost, per week, $896.60;--Although the contract had been made, there existed a difference of opinion among members with respect to that clause; and he hoped a committee would be appointed, composed of men acquainted with the business, if such were to be found in the Convention
, and that the matter would be definitely settled.
He would have opposed the proposition for printing the debates had he been in the hall when it was offered, and did vote for its reconsideration; for he thought its effect would be to protract the session interminably, while he doubted not that there was enough newspaper enterprise in Richmond
to print all that was necessary to be printed without burdening the State
with the expense.
, of Northampton
, opposed the resolution, and moved that it be laid upon the table.
On this motion the yeas and nays were called, and resulted — yeas 30, nays 62.
So the Convention
refused to lay the resolution upon the table.
, of Middlesex
, opposed the resolution.
, of Petersburg
, and Mr. Early
, of Franklin
, advocated it, after which the vote was taken and the resolution passed.
, of Marion
, by leave, presented some papers relative to the contested election in Lee county
, which, on his motion, were referred to the Committee
The Convention then proceeded to the consideration of the resolutions offered some days ago by Mr. Moore
, of Rockbridge
, of Mecklenburg
, being entitled to the floor, resumed his remarks.
While speeches had been made calculated to inflame excitement against those with whom he hoped we would soon be united, he felt indisposed, however little weight his remarks might have, to be silent.
The gentleman from Richmond
had said yesterday that this body was not divided into a majority and a minority; but events had shown that there was a majority, and not a very tolerant one.
He alluded to the past unity of the people of this land.
Now all was changed.
We were in the midst of a revolution, which threatens ere long to light up the flames of civil war. The property and lives of Southern people were to be put in jeopardy.
He deprecated the sentiments of the gentleman from Rockbridge
, contemplating party issues on this floor.
To the Democratic party he would say that it had been swept down by the power which had swept away the old Whig party.
They all went down before the antislavery party of the North
History would bear to after times no sublimer record than that of the gallant band of Breckinridge
men, who refused at Charleston
to sell their birthright for the spools of party.
He denied the position of the gentleman from Rockbridge
that the Cotton States
sought the aid of Virginia
for a selfish purpose.
It was a question for some days where the gentleman from Rockbridge
would like to go; but on yesterday he defined his position.
He believed it was now generally understood that he would not go with the South
He would sooner see Virginia
go down among the breakers than have her unite her destinies with her Southern sisters.
He then went on to show that the hobgoblins of direct taxation and a reopening of the African slave trade, had been effectually put down by the proceedings of the Congress
Even if the slave trade were to be re-opened, how could the slave property of Virginia
be in a worse position than in a Northern Confederacy?
The speaker proceeded to reply to the positions of Mr. Goggin
, in regard to the tobacco latest of Virginia
, and showed that in a confederacy with the North
the results to the planter would be ruinous.
He charged that all the disasters had been brought upon the country by a long series of systematic aggressions by the Northern
people upon the South
, commencing in 1820.
Subsequently Abolition societies were organized throughout all the Northern States
Their emissaries under every guise were sent among us to incite our slaves to insurrection and rebellion.
None could ever forget the excitement consequent upon the Southampton
tragedy in 1831.
But antislavery even then did not retrace its steps.--A few years later the National
halls were flooded with petitions for the abolition of slavery, and peace was only restored by concessions of Southern men. In 1850, after Southern blood had watered the plains of Mexico
, the agitation was again renewed, and to quiet it, the South
into the Union
, with a constitution which virtually excluded us forever from that valuable territory.
In 1859, a band of Northern men, in pursuance of a plan that had long been on foot — a band of armed men — made an incursion into Virginia
, to excite insurrection, murder her peaceful citizens, and overthrow the Constitution
of the State
But this did not arouse the conservative feelings of the North
The majority of the people there regarded the hero of that invasion as a martyr.
And now a vast party, called the Republican party, had secured the National
councils, and elevated Abraham Lincoln
to the Presidency; and in a few more revolutions of the wheel they would have every department of government.
The speaker then analyzed the Chicago
platform, upon which the party rested.
He inquired whether that party would now consider its duty done and its mission ended.
He apprehended that it would not, but would go on in its career of madness and folly and crime, until it struck a deadly blow to the institution of slavery in the Southern States
.--In connection with this point, he alluded to the higher law and irrepressible conflict doctrines — the last of which had been proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln
, in his speeches, two years ago. Lincoln
had told the people that if he were in Congress, and the question of the extermination of slavery was to come up, he would vote for it, in spite of the Dred Scott
Thus, through its chosen champions had the party presented to the South
the alternative of submission and humiliation, or a bold maintenance of her rights.
He hoped she would choose the latter.
had rendered a verdict in favor of the doctrines of the Helper book, and in that verdict would inaugurate those doctrines into power at Washington
on Monday next.
Thus the strong arm would be uplifted against the Constitution
of the country and against the peace of Southern society.
Seeing that one by one the constitutional barriers had been swept away, some of our Southern sisters had seceded, and set up a government for themselves.
It may be that they would move through a pathway of blood, but they possessed the "Promethean light that would the sphere relume"--they were destined yet to shed a brighter light than ever before.
He expressed his ardent hopes for their future glory.
It was now for Virginia
to say where she would go — whether she would seek an ignoble position in a Northern Confederacy — stand idly by until one by one her sisters of the South
had been crushed out, and a military despotism reared upon the rains of a once happy country — or unite with her sisters and take part in the struggle for her household gods.
The Southern people were bound to us by every sentiment and by every tie. Their destiny must ultimately be our destiny.
He proceeded to allude to the Republican
acts in Congress — the adoption of the Clark resolutions — a force bill had passed to its second reading in the House
— and if anything else were wanting, a proposition had been sent from the Peace Conference, which he repudiated in the name of the people whom he represented on this floor.
He then proceeded to criticise the Franklin
proposition, which he looked upon as anything but a guarantee of Southern rights.
It placed us in a worse position than we already occupied, and he spurned it. His people had been firmly attached to the Union
, and were prepared to stand around the Constitution
as long as they who stood last; but they had seen the Constitution
overpowered by the higher law, and now they were for an eternal dissolution of these States.
All they ask is to be allowed to depart in peace; but if war must come, let it come, and may the God of battles defend the right.
He did not propose to discuss the right of secession, but contended that the States had the right whenever the compact was violated by parties to it. Virginia
had especially reserved to herself the right to resume her sovereign powers, whenever her rights should be invaded.
But in any event, they had the right, under the Declaration of Independence
, to resist oppression and wrong, come from whence they may. Virginia
had none of the responsibility for the present state of affairs — no stains upon her garments.
Whatever might be the result, Virginia
could say to the North
, in the language of Macbeth
to Banquo, "Thou canst not say I did it."
, of Bedford
, said his spirits were weighed down by the consideration that before the Convention of Virginia assembled on Monday, a Black Republican will have been inaugurated as her President
Poor old Virginia
ere that time she will have bowed her neck to the yoke and passed under the triumphal car of a Black Republic
He therefore asked, in the name of his people, that the following preamble and resolution might be spread upon the record:
the people of Virginia
, in Convention assembled, did declare and make known, when they assented to and ratified the Constitution of the United States
, on the 25th of June, 1788, that the powers granted under the said Constitution might be resumed, whenever the same should be perverted to their injury or oppression; and, whereas, the said powers have been perverted to the injury and oppression to the people of Virginia
; and, whereas, the very moderate and reasonable demands, known as the Crittenden propositions, with certain essential modifications which were presented by the General Assembly of this Commonwealth as a final
effort to restore the integrity of the Union
, have been deliberately rejected by our Northern confederates,
That every consideration of duty, interest, honor and patriotism, requires that an ordinance should now be adopted by this Convention, and submitted to the people for ratification, by which Virginia
shall resume all the powers delegated by her to the Federal Government
, and declare her connexion with that Government dissolved.
Referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
, of Northampton
, offered the following, which were likewise referred:
That in the opinion of this Convention, any attempt on the part of the Federal Government
to collect revenue on goods in transit to any port or ports in any of the States which have withdrawn from the Confederacy
of the United States of America
, or any attempt to take the forts, arsenals, dock-yards, or munitions of war, in possession of the said States that have withdrawn from the Federal Union, would be the initiation of civil war, and that this Commonwealth will not be an indifferent spectator in such war; but will take part in the same to the full extent of her military ability, in behalf of her Southern slaveholding sisters that have seceded from the Federal Union.
in the opinion of this Convention, that it is the duty of the Federal Government
at the earliest practicable moment to enter into negotiation with the authorities of the Southern Confederacy for the transfer of Fort Sumter
and Fort Pickens
to said Confederacy, and for an equitable division of the public property and public burdens of the United States of America
, at the time of the withdrawal of the States of the said Southern Confederacy from the Union
, between them.
On motion of Mr. Tredway
, the Convention