Virginia State Convention.
Thursday, March 28, 1861.
The Convention assembled at 10 o'clock.--Prayer by the Rev. Mr. Willis
, of the Baptist Church.
Voice of the people.
, of Nelson
, presented a series of resolutions adopted by the citizens of that county, in favor of immediate secession.
Referred to the Committee
on Federal Relations.
Equality of taxation.
The Convention proceeded, in the order of business, to consider the resolutions of the gentleman from Monongalia, (Mr. Willey
, of Jackson
, who was entitled to the floor, being absent, Mr. Early
embraced the opportunity to make a correction of the report in the official organ of the Convention
, the Richmond Enquirer
having by this time arrived, took the floor, and continued his speech in favor of an ad valorem
tax on slaves.
He argued its necessity, in order to the maintenance of the credit of the State
While repudiation was staring us in the face, it was urged on this floor that action on this important subject must be postponed to an adjourned session.
If this course was followed, no one could see where it would end. Gentlemen had spoken of the people of Western Virginia
as likely to become abolitionize.
He would remind them that the course they were pursuing here was the very thing calculated to bring about such a result.
, of Monongalia, desired to explain briefly the reasons which induced him to offer the resolutions.
The allegation that the subject was not contemplated in calling the Convention
, was fully refuted by the act passed by the Legislature, wherein it was expressly provided for. If the Convention
refused to consider it, they will have ignored one of the objects contemplated in the assembling of the body, and will have disappointed a large number of the people of this Commonwealth.
He could see no good to be attained by postponing it to a future day; and so far from the time being inopportune for its consideration, it would tend to quiet agitation, and remove the heart burnings at present existing.
He denied that it was a sectional question; for the entire property of the working man in Eastern as well as in Western Virginia
was taxed, while a large portion of the property of the rich man, better able to pay, was exempt.
The hour of half-past 10 having arrived, the President
stated that the Convention
would go into Committee of the Whole, for the further consideration of the order of the day.
, of Jackson
, moved to suspend the order, to enable him to call up his resolution contemplating a change of the hours of meeting.
The motion was not agreed to.
Committee of the Whole.
The Convention then went into Committee of the Whole (Mr. Southall
in the chair) and proceeded to consider the report of the Committee
on Federal Relations, the pending question being on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Gloucester
, (Mr. Seawell
,) to insert in the fifth line of the first resolution, after the word‘"sovereignties, "’ the words ‘"and still are sovereign."’
, of Powhatan
, moved to amend the amendment by adding after the word ‘"sovereign,"’ the words ‘"over all powers not granted to the United States
by the Constitution of the United States
, of Northampton
, asked if there was any person in the United States
who deemed that proposition?
.--That is not for the Chair to decide.
desired to have something tangible to vote upon.
, of Frederick
, thought that altogether too much stress was placed upon the word sovereign.
It was a word more applicable to European
nations than to a Republican country.
He thought there was no more relevancy in the insertion of the proposed amendment than in the insertion of any other truism.
They might as well insert the whole bill of rights
He would not say that it was offered for the purpose of embarrassing the Committee
, but could have no other effect.
It could not in any manner change the sense of the resolution.
He held that the people of Virginia
were a free and independent people, except in so far as they had parted with their powers, and had the right at any time to change their form of Government, either State or Federal.
The amendment, whether true or false, he considered altogether unnecessary, and therefore out of place.
, of Powhatan
, said that, although he had offered the second amendment, and intended to vote for it, he would still vote against the resolution as amended, for he was perfectly satisfied with it in its original form.
He contended that the word sovereign, in this connection, was inapplicable, for sovereignty implied supremacy.
The proposition stood in the dilemma of the Scotchman who was addressing an audience on metaphysics; the audience did not understand the Scotchman, nor did he understand himself.
took the position that the Federal Government
had the power to execute its laws in the State of Virginia
, and the people had no right to prevent it. These powers had been granted.
For what time had they been granted?
Could they be resumed at pleasure?
The very preamble of the old Articles of Confederation declared that the old Union was perpetual.
To make a more perfect Union, the thirteen States agreed to the alteration of the Articles
He held that the powers granted to the Federal Constitution
were granted forever, unless changed in conformity with the terms of that instrument.
While gentlemen declared here that they owed no allegiance to the Federal Government
, it was still certain that they could commit treason against the United States
, of Wetzell, desired to ask a question.
If the Senators
representing the thirty-four States should withdraw from Congress, and the States should refuse to send up others, where would be the sovereignty then, and what sovereign power would there be to compel them to do so?
.‘--Why, sir, the Government
would, in that case, be broken up. I regard the sovereignty of the United States
to be in the States in their collective capacity, or in three-fourths of them, in which lies the power to alter or abolish the Constitution
, though Vatteli says it may reside in a Government.--’Secession was regarded by Mr. Scott
as a revolutionary remedy, but he should uphold it as the last resort.
, of Mecklenburg
, had listened to all the arguments with pleasure and satisfaction, and if he consulted his own feelings he would be content to have the ayes and noes taken upon the question at once.
But some of the positions advanced by gentlemen on this floor, he conceived, ought not to go unanswered.
In reply to the gentleman from Augusta
, who had stated that Virginia
was stepped from any complaint against the action of the General Government
, because she had ratified the several compromise acts, he argued that those concessions were extorted from her; that her consent was influenced by a patriotic desire to preserve the peace and prevent the destruction of the Union
That consideration, he considered, was a potent reason why she should now turn her back upon the people who were so basely ungrateful for the efforts she had heretofore made.
went on to allude to the election of a sectional President
as a cause for severance from the Union
, taking the ground that it was sufficient, and reading from a speech of Millard Fillmore
, in 1856, to substantiate his argument.
The checks and balances of the Constitution
he regarded as utterly impotent to restrain the party now in power.
To show that the abolitionists had, in no way, backed down, be sketched their history in connection with political movements at the North
, which, commencing with a comparatively small number, had constantly augmented, until it resulted in the election of Lincoln
to the Presidency.
He then read an extract from Lincoln
's sentiments on the subject of slavery, as communicated in letters to the Republican party, and others from Seward
's speeches, looking to the ultimate emancipation of slaves everywhere.
The sentiment of the North
was so hostile to the institution of slavery, that it would override any barrier interposed by the Constitution
argued at some length upon the general subjects advanced from the Union
side of the Convention
, and was occasionally "set right" by Mr. Baldwin
in quoting his positions.
He passed a glowing eulogium upon the course of the Virginia Senators
in Congress, in regard to whom a resolution of censure had been introduced in this body.
In criticising the report of the Committee
on Federal Relations, Mr. Goode
opposed various propositions therein contained.
A Border Conference looked to delay, and could result in nothing satisfactory.
He looked with proud anticipation to the day when the flag which now waves over the Southern Confederacy might be his flag and Virginia
A reconstruction of the Union
he regarded as hopeless.
It had gone down through Northern hatred of Southern institutions, and he was happy to believe it had gone forever.
He had rather see the standard of revolution thrown through this land, than to be ruled by a Government in which he could have no voice.
He did not believe the people would submit to it. By secession, he believed, we would strike at the very root of the motive which impelled the Northern
people to war upon the institution of slavery.
It would be placed entirely beyond their interference.
He thought if a stranger were to enter this Hall
while some of the gentlemen on the other side were launching philippics against the Cotton States
, he would think this was a high court sitting in judgment upon the action of those States, and particularly South Carolina
.--It was affirmed that they acted precipitately, and without consulting Virginia
He contended that South Carolina
did seek to consult with her, and she declined; and to prove that their purpose was to abide by the result of the Conference, he produced extracts from the addresses of Mr. Memminger
from South Carolina
, and Gen. Starke
, before the Legislature of Virginia.
The destruction consequent upon the refusal of Virginia
, then foretold, had come to pass.
Gentlemen might sing hymns and psalms and plans to the Union
, but it was destroyed, and he believed that upon their heads rested the responsibility.
They refused to go into the Conference with their sisters, and now Virginia
was left almost alone under an abolitionized Government.
In conclusion, Mr. Goode
paid a tribute to the gallantry of South Carolina
, and prayed that Virginia
might soon follow in her footsteps.
, of Gloucester
, said that he was glad that the gentleman from Powhatan
, (Mr. Scott
,) had disclosed the motive which induced him to offer the amendment to the amendment — namely, to defeat the amendment itself.
replied that such was not his motive; he would vote against the resolution as amended, because he thought the amendment unnecessary.
said, with all respect to the gentleman, that this disclosed a purpose to defeat the amendment.
In referring to the argument of the gentleman from Frederick
, (Mr. Conrad
,) he said he could not see why Virginia
was any less entitled to equality and protection in the Union
by declaring her sovereignty now.
said that while she might not be less entitled, in consequence of a declaration of sovereignty, she was no more entitled to it than she was at the time of the adoption of the original compact.
contended that she had a higher claim now, and he made a brief argument in favor of the adoption of his amendment.
, of Petersburg
, said he arose with some diffidence to address the Convention
, yet with more firmness than usual.
He asked whether the mind of every member was not already made up, and if so, what was the use in making these endless speeches here?--It was burdening the State
with expense, and could result in no possible change of sentiment.
He went on to give the long-winded orators some home thrusts, which vastly excited the risible faculties of all who heard him. He would go for allowing members to print their speeches, if buncombe was their object, and let them go forth to the country as if delivered here; but he thought it was high time that speaking should terminate and action begin.
The leading men had already thrown away enough time and talent.
His constituents had instructed him to take the State
out of the Union
, and he gave gentlemen warning that he would bring in an Ordinance of Secession to-morrow morning, and would take them directly to the point at issue.
, of Madison
, replied to Mr. Branch
, and maintained that members were not liable to a charge of delaying business because they desired to perfect and render acceptable the propositions under consideration.
He advocated the amendment offered by the gentleman from Gloucester
, and made an argument upon the question of sovereignty.
, of Rockbridge
, hoped the discussion would shortly terminate.
It was the most idle debate that he had ever listened to. It was a mere disagreement upon the meaning of the word sovereignty.
He thought the question should be taken without further delay.
, of Pittsylvania
, desired to explain the reason which would influence him in giving his vote.
The amendment proposed be regarded as a truism, but its insertion here was unnecessary, and would only involve the Convention
said the question was upon the amendment offered by the gentleman from Powhatan
, to the amendment of the gentleman from Gloucester
called for the reading of the amendment, and it was accordingly read by the Secretary
then briefly opposed the amendment.
re-stated the question, and Mr.Morris
, of Caroline, demanded the yeas and nays.
proposed to substitute for the word ‘"over,"’ in the last amendment, the words ‘"in regard to."’ This was accepted by Mr. Scott
The roll was then called, and the vote resulted as follows:
, Robt. Y. Conrad
, Gravely, A. Hall
, E. B. Hall
, Marmaduke Johnson
, P. C. Johnston
, Maslin, Moffett
, Robert E. Scott
, Wm. C. Scott
, Sharp, Sillington, Spurlock
, A. H. H. Stuart
, C. J. Stuart
, and Willey
, Jas. Barbour
, C. B. Conrad
, Jas. H. Cox
, Richard H. Cox
, J. Goode, Jr.
, T. F. Goode
, C. Hall
, L. S. Hall
, Kilby, Kindred, Lawson
, C. K. Mallory
, Speed, Strange, Thornton
, Tredway, R. H. Turner
, F. B. Turner
, and Woods.--75.
So the amendment to the amendment was lost.
The question then recurred on the amendment offered by Mr. Seawell
, of Barbour
, desired to address the Committee
, but was declared out of order.
The vote was then taken, and resulted as follows:
, Jas. Barbour
, Richard H. Cox
, John Goode, Jr.
, Thos F. Goode
, Cyrus Hall, L. S. Hall
, Kindred, Lawson
, Chas. K. Mallory
, Robt. H. Turner
, Franklin P. Turner
, and Woods.--47.
, C. B. Conrad
, Robt. Y. Conrad
, James H. Cox
, Deskins, Dorman
, Gravely, Gray
, Addison Hall, Ephraim B. Hail
, Marmaduke Johnson
, Peter C. Johnston
, Kilby, Lewis
, James B. Mallory
, Maslin, Moffett
, Robt. E. Scott
, William C. Scott
, Sharp, Sillington, Slaughter
, Speed, Spurlock
, A. H. H. Stuart
, Chapman J. Stuart
, Tredway, Waller
, IWhitfield, Willey
, and Wilson
So the amendment was defeated.
had paired off with Mr. Harvie
The hour of 2 o'clock having arrived, the Committee
took a recess till 4 o'clock P. M.