Virginia State Convention.
twenty-seventh day.

Saturday, March 17, 1861.

The Convention met at 12 o'clock, and was called to order by the President. Prayer by the Rev. Mr. Mitchell, of the Presbyterian Church.

Federal Relations.

Mr. Goggin, of Bedford, said that be had some propositions to offer, by way of amendment to the report of the Committee on Federal Relations, at present under consideration. The following are the propositions:

An Ordinance of the State of Virginia.

Whereas, The State of Virginia has made every honorable effort to restore the friendly relations which should exist between the General Government and the several States of the Union, upon terms perfectly just to all, but deeming it unnecessary to refer to the causes of complaint which have existed for a series of years, still more aggravated as those causes now are by the declared purposes of a mere sectional majority, and as all the efforts so made have proved unavailing, without reciting the differences of opinion which exist in regard to the powers of the State government those of the Government of the United States, as derived from the reserved rights of the one, the constitutional authority of the other, or the inherent rights of the people constituting a Government which seeks to protect the persons and property of those who compose and who have ordered and established it, against the abuses of such Government itself, or which arise from its connection with the Government of other States, or that of an association of States, the people of Virginia, in Convention assembled, deem it proper now to doclare that the time has arrived when it becomes them to assume, as they do, their position as the people of a sovereign independent State.

  1. 1. Be it therefore ordained, by the people of Virginia, and they do hereby declare, That the said State is no longer one of the Union of States known as the United States of America, and that the people of the said State owe no allegiance or duty to any other Government whatsoever.
  2. 2. Be it further ordained, as it is hereby declared. That the people of the said State do resume all the rights of property, or the use thereof, which have been granted by the said State to the Government of the United States, or which have in any wise accrued to the same by reason of the connection of the said State with the said Government, by the assent of the said State, given with a view to the protection of her own people, and the people of all the other States, composing a Union formed under an agreement that it should establish justice — insure domestic tranquility — provide for the common defence — promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity — that agreement having been violated, and the objects of the Union perverted so as to defeat the purposes of instance — to destroy the very foundations of domestic tranquility --to lessen the means of common defence, so as to disregard the objects of the general welfare of one entire section of the Union and thereby to entail, in that section, injury and oppression upon the people thereof, and upon their posterity forever.
  3. 3. And without determining at this time whether the State of Virginia will unite herself with any other State or association of States in any common Government, this Convention doth respectfully and earnestly request that the States of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas and Delaware will, as soon as possible, appoint Commissioners to meet Commissioners, to be appointed by this Convention, in the city of Lexington, in the State of Kentucky, on the last Wednesday in May next, to confer together and to propose a plan of constructing a Government to be formed by the said States, Virginia inclusive, and the Confederate States of America.-- Such plan of Government, however, to have no binding authority till the same shall be adopted and ratified by this Convention — And for the better accomplishment of the objects intended, the said Confederate States of America are also respectfully requested to send three Commissioners to the Conference herein proposed — who shall be invited, at such time as may be agreeable to them, to address the same. That each of the States hereinbefore named shall be entitled to as many votes as it had Representatives and Senators in the last Congress, in the Conference herein proposed. That the Commissioners to be appointed by this Convention shall make report to the Governor of this Commonwealth, as speedily as possible, of the result of their deliberations — whereupon he shall make known the same by proclamation. That on the 15th day after the date of such proclamation, (unless the same be Sunday, then on the next day,) this Convention shall re-assemble in the city of Richmond, at such place as the Governor shall designate in said proclamation, and shall then and there consider the report of the said Commissioners, and all other matters which at this time are, or may then be, proper subjects for deliberation, ouching the future relations of the State of Virginia to any other Government or State.
  4. 4. And it is hereby ordained and declared by the people of Virginia, That they do recognize and acknowledge the independence and nationality of the said Confederate States of America; and that they will extend to the said States any aid which they (the said people of Virginia,) can command, or which may be necessary to enable the said States to maintain their independence, or against any coercive measures which may be adopted by the authorities of the United States.
  5. 5. Be it further declared, That the people of Virginia have ever cherished an ardent attachment for the Union and the Constitution of the United States while it was the bond of peace and fraternity; and that it can now only be restored upon the original basis by an amendment of the Constitution through the primary agency of the non-slaveholding States themselves proposing suitable and sure guarantees, and by a full and unconditional, plain and positive recognition of the rights of property in slaves, as held under the laws of any of the States; so as also to obtain satisfactory assurances and guarantees, for the future, as to slavery in the District of Columbia; as to the powers of the Federal Government over African slavery and the employment of slave labor in the forts, arsenals, dock-yards, and all places ceded by the States for Federal uses; as to protection against excessive direct taxes on slaves; as to the rendition of fugitive slaves; as to the transit with slaves through any of the States, by land or water, and of the right of transportation, on the high seas, of slaves from one State to another State or Territory: as to the protection of slave property in the common territories of the United States; as to the better security of the independence of the judiciary, and for protection against unjust taxation in the form of excessive imposts laid upon foreign importations.
  6. 6. Be it further declared, That the people of Virginia, though they have taken their position, have an anxious desire to preserve the peace, and would, therefore, regard any action of the Federal Government tending to produce a collision, pending egotiations for the adjustment of existing difficulties, as aggressive and injurious to the interests and offensive to the honor of this State; and they would regard any action on the part of the Confederate States of America, tending to produce a like collision, as hurtful and unfriendly, and as leaving the people of Virginia free to determine their future policy.
  7. 7. Be it also further declared, That the President of this Convention shall immediately cause copies of this ordinance to be forwarded to the Governors of each of the United States, as the same existed on the first day of December, 1860, to the President of the Confederate States of America, and to the President of the United States. And it is further ordained, that this Convention will proceed at once to the appointment, viva voce, of fifteen Commissioners to attend on behalf of this State, the Conference herein proposed to be holden; and it is provided, also, that if Commissioners shall fail to attend the said Conference, from the other States named in the third clause of this ordinance, so that the said Conference shall not be holden, then the said Commissioners from this State shall, in like manner, report the fact to the Governor, who shall make proclamation thereof, when also this Convention shall reassemble at the time herein provided for.
  8. 8. But this Convention, anxious as it is to take no step to disturb existing relations, only so far as is necessary, but seeking to avoid any collision, doth suspend the operation of the second clause of this ordinance till such time as it may deem proper to enforce the same, and with a view to an adjustment of the pending difficulties, through the agency of the Conference herein provided for, and by a returning sense of justice among the people of all sections.
Mr. Goggin said the position which he thus desired Virginia to assume was no new one to him, and for the purpose of disabusing the minds of those who might suppose his opinions had undergone a change, he read from his address to his people when he was a candidate for a seat in the Convention. He went on to express the confident hope that the course which he indicated would tend to a reconstruction of the Union as it was designed by the fathers.

The propositions were referred to the Committee of the Whole and ordered to be printed.

Voice of the people.

Mr. Holladay, of Norfolk county, presented a series of resolutions enveloped in the American flag, and numerously signed by his constituents, favoring an adjustment of the National difficulties and instructing him to vote on, the side of the Union. He went on to speak of his constituents as firmly devoted to the Union and Constitution, but denied that they were sub-missionists in any sense of the term. They believed that the existing difficulties might be adjusted on fair and honorable terms.

The resolutions were, on his motion, laid upon the table.

Anti-secession resolutions.

Mr. Burley, of Marshall, offered a series of resolutions, asking that they might be laid upon the table, proposing to call them up at a suitable time. They are as follows:

Resolved, That this Convention can see no reason for departing from the faith of our fathers and from the principles on which the Government of the United States was founded, and therefore, we declare in the name of our constituents, the people of Virginia, that the Constitution of the United States was, in the language of Mr. Madison, adopted by the people of the several States who were parties to the compact in their highest sovereign capacity, "in toto and forever,"

Resolved, As the fixed and deliberate opinion of this Convention, that nullification and secession are fallacies and heresies, and in the language of Mr. Madison, ‘"both spring from the same poisonous root,"’ that they had no place in the minds of the framers of the Constitution, and are political anomalies in government which the sound practical sense of the people will never adopt or submit to, and which, if once recognized, will utterly and entirely overthrow all possibility of establishing a fixed and permanent Government on this continent.

Resolved, In the language of the illustrious statesman above referred to, whom the people of

Virginia have been taught to venerate and revere as the wisest, safest and truest expounder of the Constitution which he so largely contributed to construct, That that instrument ‘"makes the Government to operate directly on the people; places at its command the needful physical means of executing its powers, and finally proclaims its supremacy, and that of the laws made in pursuance of it, over the Constitution and laws of the States, and subject to the revolutionary rights of the people in extreme cases; that a political system that does not provide for a peaceable and authoritative termination of existing controversies would not be more than the shadow of a Government, the object and end of a real Government being the substitution of law and order for uncertainty, confusion and violence; that in the event of a failure of every constitutional resort, and an accumulation of usurpations and abuses, rendering passive obedience and non-resistance a greater evil than resistance and revolution, there can remain but one resort — the last of all — an appeal from the cancelled obligations of the constitutional compact to the original rights and the law of self-preservation. This is the ultima ratio of all Governments, whether consolidated, confederated, or a compound of both. It can not be doubted that a single member of the Union, in the extremity supposed, but in that only, would have the right, as an ultra and constitutional right, to make the appeal."’

Resolved, That the forts, fortifications, armies, arsenals, arms, ammunition, ships of war, custom-houses, mints, post-offices and other property of the United States, can by the Constitution be disposed of only by Congress, and that no portion of the people have any interest in, or claim to any part thereof, after they cease to be citizens of the United States, and when they no longer participate in the payment of its debts or in the defence of the institutions of the country.

Resolved, That while no doubt can exist on the minds of this body of the right and the obligation of the Government to execute all its laws fairly, impartially and promptly upon all its citizens, without distinction or discrimination. Yet under the extraordinary condition of things as they now exist, we earnestly and anxiously urge upon the Executive Department of the Government the policy of abstaining from the exercise of such power, at any point where such attempt would be likely to occasion collision, so long as there are efforts to be made by the other States, or hopes to be indulged of a final and peaceful settlement of the difficulties with which the country is embarrassed.

Resolved, That the right of revolution, above recognized, can be exercised as well by a portion of the citizens of a State against their State Government, as it can be exercised by the whole people of a State against their Federal Government, and when the powers of a State Government are used for purposes of unjust discriminations against a portion of the citizens, or a particular section of the State, in imposing upon one portion or section an undue proportion of the burdens of the State Government, and in exempting from taxation a peculiar species of property, belonging to a great extent to another portion of the citizens, and located mostly in another section of the State, thus increasing taxation upon all other interests, in order to favor a ‘"peculiar interest,"’ the people thus oppressed, after having exhausted all constitutional efforts to obtain redress, would be justified in resisting the collection of all revenue from them, until the injustice aforesaid was removed. And that any change of the relation Virginia now sustains to the Federal Government, against the wishes of even a respectable minority of her people, would be such an act of injustice, perpetrated upon the rights of that minority, as to justify them in changing their relation to the State Government, by separating themselves from that section of the State that had thus wantonly disregarded their interests and defied-their will, particularly when the cause assigned for the change of Virginia's relation to the said Federal Government is the alleged insecurity, in the said last-mentioned Government, of the peculiar species of property thus protected by the organic law of the State from contributing its due share to the support of the said State Government, by prohibiting the taxing of a large portion of said property, and limiting the portion subject to taxation to a specific tax far less than that imposed upon every other species of property.

Hour of meeting changed.

Mr. Sutherland, of Pittsylvania, offered a resolution changing the hour of meeting from 12 to 11 o'clock.

Mr. Armstrong, of Hampshire, moved to amend by fixing the hour of 10 instead of 11.

Mr. Patrick, of Kanawha, called the attention of the Chair to the fact that a similar resolution was laid upon the table a few days ago; whereupon the President said a motion to take up would be necessary.

Mr. Sutherland then moved that the resolution alluded to be taken up, which was carried in the affirmative.

A motion to amend by substituting the hour of 10 o'clock was voted down by a large majority.

Mr. Hall, of Marion, moved to amend by substituting half-past 10 for 11 o'clock, and on this motion Mr. Armstrong demanded the yeas and nays.

The roll was thereupon called, and the vote resulted — yeas 70, nays 46.

So the question on the amendment was carried in the affirmative.

Messrs. Johnson, Macfarland and Randolph, of Richmond city, voted for the amendment.

The resolution, as amended, was then adopted. So the Convention will meet at half-past 10 A. M., until further ordered.

Mr. Armstrong moved that the hour for going into Committee of the Whole be changed to 11 o'clock.

After some debate, the motion was withdrawn.

Order of the day.

The Convention then resolved itself into Committee of the Whole, (Mr. Southall, of Albemarle, in the Chair,) and proceeded to consider the report of the Committee on Federal Relations.

Mr. Randolph, of Richmond city, said that he had secured the floor at the adjournment on yesterday, with the view of tendering it this morning to Mr. Holcombe, of Albemarle; but the sickness of that gentleman having prevented his attendance, he was compelled to offer himself as, he conceived, a most unworthy substitute. The question before the country, he proceeded to say, presented itself in a social and in a commercial view, and as he represented in part the chief commercial city of the Commonwealth, he proposed to address himself mainly to the latter. With regard to the Peace Conference propositions he differed entirely with the gentleman from Kanawha,(Mr. Summers.) A basis of adjustment ought to settle forever the agitation of the slavery question, which this failed to do. All agreed that the State was no longer safe under the Constitution of our fathers, and only differed on the amendments proposed to be incorporated. It was sufficient to render a change necessary, to know that the forms of the Constitution were observed in the election on the 6th of November last, which has resulted in the inauguration of a party avowedly hostile to our interests, and permitted that party to seize all the power of Government, and to wield it to our oppression. The Constitution that we require must be a shield to protect us, not only in the territories, forts, dock-yards, &c., but must give us equality in all the purposes of Government. The first section of the Peace Propositions conceded to the Black Republican party all that they had ever asked for. The very language used, which the gentleman from Kanawha relied upon to protect our property, was that used by Republican Judges and Senators to show that there was no property in slaves; because the word ‘"persons"’ is used, and there cannot, as they contend, be property in persons. He quoted from the language of Fessenden and Collamer in the United States Senate, to sustain this position. He then quoted the words of the propositions, that ‘"the present status of persons held to servic South of 36deg. 30 min. should remain the same;"’ while North of that line involuntary servitude was forever prohibited. The latter clearly meant African slavery, while in the former, the apprentice system might be regarded as equally plain.-- He contended that such ‘"protection"’ amounted to nothing, and made an able argument in connection therewith.

He asked by what standard the ‘"status"’ would be tried; whether by the law as it now exists, or by laws hereafter to be enacted. The Republicans, he maintained, recognized no status of slavery in any Territory of the United States. This was apparent from all their platforms. The anti-slavery dogma was the creed of the party, and they had manifested a determination to abrogate the slave code of New Mexico, which the gentleman from Kanawha had so much relied upon.

The second section, he said, had been most elaborately defended, and proceeded to reply to the arguments advanced by Mr. Summers on the partition of territory. The question was proposed to be transferred to the floor of the Senate, and whichever party holding the majority should so manage as to seduce a few votes to their side, would seize upon the whole of the territory. He contended that it furnished no guarantee to the South, while it would eventually bring in all the provinces of Kansas against us. The Republicans had all the power of patronage on their side, while we had nothing. The provision gives rise to corruption and compromise, and consequently a constant agitation of the slavery question.

In the third section, on the question of taxation and representation, he found fresh grounds for agitation. The fourth section he passed by. The fifth section, instead of prohibiting the African slave trade, prohibited the foreign slave trade, thus ffectually cutting off the trade between Virginia and the South. We were thus hermetically sealed; and by their homestead legislation, the Republicans hold out inducements to our citizens to emigrate, and it would tend eventually to Africanise Virginia, for they could not take their slave property with them to the Territories. With regard to the seventh section, he asked why it was, when professing to make the General Government pay for fugitive slaves, they dropped the language used by Mr. Crittenden. He drew a comparison between the parallel sections of the two propositions, showing that the Peace Conference only proposed compensation for slaves when they were rescued from their owners by a mob or riotous assemblage. He conceived that it this provision were excised, as proposed by the gentleman from Kanawha, it would cut off the leading motive of the North for adopting it.

The speaker then proceeded to consider the question in its commercial aspect; whether the interest of Virginia would be best promoted by continuing with the North, or by uniting her industry with the States of the South. The question had found a solution in the adoption of a tariff by the Provisional Government of the Confederated States, and the indicated purpose to adopt a tariff for revenue in the permanent Government. Alluding to the position of the gentleman from Bedford, (Mr. Goggin,) he proposed to show that the agricultural interests of Virginia would be better protected under a free trade with the South than under a free trade with the North. In this connection he produced tables of statistics on the productions of Virginia, to show that the market for them was not at the North, where there was a surplus, but at the South or in foreign ports, where the deficiency was. If we went North they would say, we don't want your productions-- we have more than you have; but if we went South, they would take what we sent them. He further argued that productions commanded higher prices under a tariff merely for revenue, than under a high tariff for protection.

Mr. Randolph's argument upon this point was logical and conclusive, showing that it would be the mercantile death of Virginia to cut loose from the Cotton States. He was proceeding to elaborate the subject, when, seeing that the speaker was somewhat exhausted, Mr. Morton, of Orange, moved that the committee rise, which was agreed to.

The committee then rose, and the Chairman reported progress.

Taxation and representation.

Mr. Willey, of Monongahela, said the Convention was engaged in a great work of national conciliation, and he felt assured that the day was not far distant when this object would be attained. It only required a little time, a little patience, and a little forbearance, and a consultation with our sister slave States not out of the Union, to bring about a satisfactory adjustment of the existing difficulties. But aside from national questions, he thought it would be wise in the Convention also, to remove the causes of difficulty and strife at home; to remove the odious distinctions and unequal burthens now imposed upon citizens of the State; to compose domestic strife, and produce harmony throughout the length and breadth of Virginia. One cause of complaint was the anomaly in our organic law, by which a large portion of the property of the Commonwealth was wholly exempt from taxation. He then produced tables giving the number of slaves over 12 years of age, who were taxed, and the number under that age, who were not taxed; by which operation a large amount of property in Eastern Virginia, the section chiefly interested in slavery, escaped taxation, while the West, where there were few slaves, was taxed indiscriminately. He (Mr. W.) was a slaveholder, and it mortified him much to know that there was a discrimination in favor of his property, but none in favor of the property of his neighbors. After some further remarks, Mr. Willey offered the following resolutions:

Resolved, That taxation should be equal and uniform throughout the Commonwealth, and that all property should be taxed in proportion to its value.

Resolved, That a committee of thirteen members be appointed to prepare and report to the Convention such alterations of sections 22 and 23 of Article IV, of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, as shall conform said sections to the principle of taxation enunciated in the foregoing resolution.

Resolved, That a committee of thirteen members be appointed to take into consideration so much of Article VI, of the Constitution of this Commonwealth, as relates to the Supreme Court of Appeals, the District Courts, Circuit Courts, and County Courts; and that they report such amendments and modifications thereof as they may deem necessary and proper.

Resolved, That the basis of representation in the two Houses of the General Assembly should be the same; therefore, be it further.

Resolved, That a committee of twelve members, to be selected in equal numbers from the four great divisions of the State, be appointed to apportion representation in the Senate according to the number of the qualified voters in the Commonwealth, and that they report amendments of the 4th Article of the Constitution accordingly.

Some discussion ensued upon a point of order, it being suggested that similar resolutions, previously offered by Messrs. Haymond, of Marion, and Turner, of Jackson, and laid upon the table.

Mr. Slaughter, of Campbell, moved that the resolutions just offered be laid upon the table, and on this motion Mr. Willey demanded the yeas and nays; but without further action.

On motion of Mr. Early, of Franklin, the Convention adjourned to meet again on Monday, at half-past 10 o'clock.

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