Virginia State Convention.
Monday, April 8, 1861.
The Convention assembled in the Hall
of the House of Delegates, and was called to order at 10 o'clock. No clergyman in attendance.
Communication from the Governor.
The President laid before the Convention
a communication from the Governor
of the Commonwealth
, enclosing a communication from the President
of the State Convention of Arkansas
, intended for the consideration of the General Assembly; but that body having adjourned, the Governor
deemed it his duty to give it this direction.
The communication from Arkansas
asks information as to what action Virginia
has taken, or proposes to take, in reference to the proposition to hold a Border Slave State Conference, at Frankfort, Ky.
, or elsewhere, during the coming spring
This information is sought with a view to guide the action of the Commissioners
or Delegates elected by the Convention
to said Conference, should one be held.
The communication also encloses a series of resolutions and an ordinance adopted by the Convention
Laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
, of Campbell
, offered a resolution to suspend the order for going into Committee of the Whole at half-past 10 o'clock, for this day, with a view to dispose of the unfinished business of Saturday last.
, of Wood
, moved to lay the resolution upon the table, and on that motion demand the yeas and nays.
, of Powhatan
, raised a point of order in regard to the reception of Mr. Speed
's resolution, which was overruled by the Chair.
, asked the gentleman from Wood
to withdraw his motion, in order that he might offer an amendment which he thought would be acceptable to all.
declined to withdraw his motion; he preferred to look straight ahead.
The roll was called, and the Convention
refused to lay the resolution upon the table — yeas 64, nays 64--a tie vote.
The question recurring on the adoption of the resolution, the vote was taken, and resulted --yeas 67, nays 64.
So the Convention
agreed to suspend the execution of the order of the day.
On motion of Mr. Wise
, the Door-keeper was authorized to admit to the lobbies a sufficient number of orderly persons to fill them, and no more — yeas 59, nays 44.
The Convention then proceeded to the consideration of the following preamble and resolution, offered on Saturday by Mr. Preston
in the opinion of this Convention, the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy which the Federal Executive
intends to pursue towards the seceded States, is extremely injurious to the industrial and commercial interests of the country, tends to keep up an excitement which is unfavorable to the adjustment of pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace: Therefore,
That a committee of three delegates be appointed by this Convention to wait upon the President
of the United States
, present to him this preamble and resolution, and respectfully ask of him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the authorities of the Federal Government
intend to pursue in regard to the Confederate States
, of Augusta
, approved of the patriotic motive of the mover of the preamble and resolution, but opposed their adoption in their present form, as calculated to do harm.
He read a proposition which he intended to submit as a substitute for the pending question, which he thought would meet the object in view.
Having asked Mr. Tyler
, as one who had filled the chief executive chair, to give his opinion of the manner of the reception by the President
of such a communication.
explained the course proper to be pursued in such matters, and said that in ordinary affairs the President
was shielded from making public any information that was necessary to be kept secret; but in this emergency he thought the public good required a full and unreserved disclosure, and if the request was respectfully made, a respectful answer would be returned.
He had no idea, however, of dictating to the President
of the United States
the policy that he ought to pursue.
, of Frederick
, intended to vote for the resolutions in some form.
He did not believe that the Administration contemplated any coercive policy towards the seceded States; but thought the answer would be such as to produce a soothing effect upon the country.--He differed with the mover of the resolutions in respect to the method of addressing the President
, and read a substitute which he (Mr. Conrad
) proposed to offer.
, of Fauquier
, heartily concurred in the object which the gentleman from Montgomery
) had in view.
He could not believe that the President
would hesitate, if approached respectfully, to give a full and frank response to the interrogatories.
But whether he did or not, Mr.
S. was in favor of the application, with a view to the government of his own action as a member of this body.
He was free to say that the moment it was disclosed to him that the President
intended to pursue an aggressive policy towards the seceded States, he would go for an ordinance of secession.
.--The lobbies will be cleared the moment that applause is repeated.
.--The applause came from the floor.
.--From the lobbies and floor both.
went on to declare his belief that the President
contemplated a peace policy.--He did not think the resolutions were at all disrespectful; he would even be willing to make use of stronger language — to let the President
know that upon his response depended the action of this Convention.
, of Richmond City
, argued that we had a right to know whether the military expedition, now fitting out at New York, was intended to operate against the Spaniards or against the seceded States.
treasure contributed to the support of the Federal
forces, and some of her most gallant sons were among those forces.
She had therefore a right to make a respectful demand upon the President
for this information.
We know that there are numerous natives of Virginia
in all branches of the service, and they are now ordered, without the means of getting off, upon an expedition which might have for its object the subjugation of the Southern States
He hoped the committee would not only request a plain declaration of the President
's policy, but also that all Virginians
might be relieved from service against any Southern State during the pendency of efforts at adjustment.
favored the proposition; he contended that the country ought not to be kept in this state of suspense.
He concurred in every sentiment expressed by the gentleman from Fauquier
, (Mr. Scott
,) but the question arises what is to be considered aggressive policy?
He asked, why would the President
evacuate Fort Sumter
, for instance, and occupy the Tortugas and Fort Pickens
If this question were asked him, he would say, perhaps, that one was an inland fort, while the others were necessary to the free navigation of the Gulf
and the Mississippi river
, and were therefore as national.
In what relation does that put Virginia
She stands, with her Fortress Monroe
, in the same position that Florida
stands towards the Tortugas.
We were directly involved in this question.
He hoped that any resolution here passed would not only express the desire that the President
's policy should be pacific, but also institute such inquiries as might enable Virginia
to judge for herself of the nature of his policy.
, of Prince George, opposed any proposition which contemplated the sending of Commissioners to Washington
Gentlemen had predicted what was going to happen, before the President
was inaugurated, and now they tell no that they don't know what is going to happen, and propose to send messengers to Washington
to find out. He opposed the movement, as another effort to fire the Southern
The course of events thus far had been as the harpoon driven into the vitals of the whale, and it was natural that the blood should spout and the waters be discolored; but if the Union
men stood firm, the whale would soon show the white of his belly.
[Laughter.] He did not want to go home and tell his constituents that he got so frightened that he had to send men right off to Washington
as hard as they could rip, to see what Mr. Lincoln
was going to do. He opposed secession, opposed coercion, and believed that the course of Virginia
, thus far, had stayed the hand of civil war.
, of Pittsylvania
, was not among those referred to by the gentleman who had just taken his seat.
He had come here with a view to make every honorable effort to adjust the difficulties, on condition that a policy of peace was to be preserved.
Unusual events were now transpiring, and it was the duty of Virginia
to make a respectful request of the President
for information which would materially affect the future action of this Convention.
He was opposed to an adjournment until the suspense now hanging like a dark cloud over the country, was relieved in one way or another.
Should it be the policy to hold and reinforce the forts, and coerce the seceded States, he (Mr.
T.) would not hesitate to declare his opinion that Virginia
ought to take her place in the Southern Confederacy.
If he declined to make any answer, and gave a good reason therefore, the Convention
must judge of it. At all events, he could see no harm in making the inquiry.
, of Petersburg
, favored the ob-
ect of the proposition.
He thought the better plan would be to frame a proposition upon which the whole Convention could unite.--He thought the action of the Convention
thus far had been wise and proper, (he was not speaking now under instructions, but upon his own ground,) and personally he agreed with the course of proceedings.
Recent events; however, called for some decisive and united action, and he hoped the Convention
would vote down the call for the previous question, and let the whole matter go to a committee.
, of Amelia
, would not have said a word upon this question but for the remarks of the gentleman from Prince George (Mr. Rives
.) It was a matter of indifference to him whether the Commissioners
were sent to Washington
or not; he believed that sooner or later Virginia
would find her true position.
He had risen to disabuse the minds of the members of the impression sought to be created, that he and his friends had anything to do with inaugurating the movement.
In offering an ordinance of secession.
he had thrown the responsibility upon the majority who voted it down, and he was now prepared for any proposition that met his individual sanction.
He would vote for the resolutions, but opposed anything that contemplated a humiliating or crouching attitude.
He was satisfied that Virginia
would, sooner or later, go with the Southern States
, of Portsmouth
, explained his position.
He had originally favored the proposition, but the course of argument here to-day had led him to doubt the propriety of making any such movement as the resolutions contemplated.
He was opposed to anything that looked to more than a respectful request to the President
to indicate his policy.
He was solicitous that the information should be obtained, but entirely repudiated any such course as had been suggested by gentlemen this morning.
The plan presented by the gentleman from Augusta
) met his views, as calculated to attain the object in view.
It was to authorize the President
of the Convention
to communicate to the President
of the United States
the wishes of this body.
, of Halifax
, was surprised at the opposition which the resolutions of the gentleman from Montgomery
, by an overwhelming vote against an Ordinance of Secession, on Thursday last, fully indicated to the President
the policy which she intended to pursue, and why should she not respectfully ask of the President
information concerning his policy?
He could not account for the change that had come over the minds of members since Saturday evening, and thought it exhibited something like the story of the cat in the meal tub. The purpose of the resolutions was not to bring about an Ordinance of Secession.
He was ready to vote for anything that the honor of Virginia
demanded, at the proper time, as much as he should deprecate the necessity.
, of Augusta
, said that in offering the amendment which was accepted by the gentleman from Montgomery
, he did not regard himself as committed to any particular plan.
He was struck with the course of argument pursued this morning.
If it was in the mind of any member that the object of the mission went further than to make a respectful request of the President
, and indicate that the desire of Virginia
was that a peaceful policy should be adhered to, he hoped they would be disabused.
He was opposed to the foregone conclusion that, if the President
were to decline to disclose the secrets of State, it should be regarded as sufficient reason for Virginia
to assume a hostile attitude towards the General Government
, of Powhatan
, said if the vote had been taken on Saturday evening, he would have unhesitatingly voted for the proposition; but upon further reflection and information since received, he doubted its propriety.
Alluding to the late news from Washington
, he asked what could be gained by seeking information when there was every probability that it would be refused.
He intended, nevertheless, to vote for the proposition, for he desired that the President
should be informed of the tone and temper of this Convention.
, of Harrison
, said that he opposed the measure on Saturday evening, and was strengthened in his opposition this morning.
He was satisfied with the disclosures of the President
's policy already made.
He claimed that the paralyzation of commerce and industry was the result of the action of the seceded States.
and those who sympathized with them, and went on to comment upon a "sensation dispatch" in "the leading disunion and sensation journal of the country, the New York Herald
, as showing the efforts making to fire the Southern
heart, after the failure of the Ordinance of Secession.
He declared his loyalty to the Union
, and his affection for all the States, and would consent to no abandonment of the posts intended for the protection of the commerce of the country.
, of Richmond
, argued that if the policy of the Administration were known to be peaceful, in less than thirty days trade and commerce would be revived, and harmony prevail in the country.
He therefore thought it important that the policy should be known with certainty.
He was in favor of trying the experiment, for if no specific information could be obtained, we should stand precisely where we stood now. He did not agree with the gentleman who preceded him (Mr. Carlile
) that the course suggested would farther paralyze the interests of commerce, but would, on the contrary, tend towards their revival.
, of Smythe
, alluded to the importance of the subject under discussion, and to the preparations for war, in which Virginia
was interested as a member of the Union
If it was a foreign war, we had a right to know it. There was an ominous silence at the North
, and nothing had come from that quarter to show that our action thus far had met with a response.
If all the warlike preparations to which he had referred were intended to reinforce the forts or to subjugate the seceded States, or to enforce a collection of the revenue, it was of the highest importance to Virginia
that she should know it, and why should she not make the respectful request conveyed in the resolutions?
, of Campbell
, viewed the passage of the measure as of the highest importance, claiming, as he did, to be a conservative.
Gentlemen had said they had no fear of any warlike movement on the part of the authorities at Washington
, and yet they had given no reason for their confidence except that no force had yet been exercised.
He contended that the course of the Administration was equivocal, and it was important that the people should have an interpretation of it.--He hoped no one would vote against the measure on the supposition that anything unfair was intended.
desired to bring the question back from the discussion debate, to the real object of the resolutions.
The gentleman from Harrison
had read a dispatch from a newspaper with regard to some movement at Washington
, and he (Mr.
P.) desired to know if he insinuated, directly or indirectly, that that movement had any connection with the measure now before the Convention
had alluded to the dispatch merely to show the means used by a sensation paper, to keep up an excitement after the conciliatory action of this Convention on Thursday last; and his purpose was also to show, that if no contradictory action was had here, after the vote of Thursday, harmony would have been restored.
.--Then I understand the gentleman to disclaim any purpose to connect the present measure with the movement alluded to at Washington
then went on to speak of the responsibility that rested upon himself and those who thought with him, after the vote of the 4th of April. He was willing to do everything that honor required for the adjustment of difficulties, and he thanked God that he was one of those upon whom the responsibility rested.
They had taken the ground that the interests of Virginia
were safe within the Union
; they had a set of propositions which they hoped would be accepted by the North
; and the silence of the President
he considered unaccountable.
The language of the original resolutions was that of courage and respect; for he could use no other language.
What hope was there, he asked, of a favorable response to the propositions for adjustment, if the Northern
mind was in such a state that they would not permit their President
to speak the word of peace?
If, as claimed by gentlemen here, the President
would thus refuse to dedicate himself to the measures of adjustment proposed by this Convention, to be carried out during the ensuing summer, the game was up, and we might as well go home.
briefly urged the adoption of the resolutions, and gave reasons why the request should be made through a delegation rather than through a communication from the President
of the Convention
(Calls for ‘"question,"’ ‘"question."’)
moved that the Convention
adjourn, but withdrew the motion.
desired to give notice that if the previous question should not be sustained, he would offer an amendment, both to the preamble and the resolution.
, by the courtesy of the Convention
, went on to explain his proposed amendment, urging such action as would place Virginia
in possession of information to guide her movements in the future.
objected to the latitude of the gentleman's remarks, for if it were permitted, others were entitled to an opportunity for reply.
said he would suspend his remarks until the general merits of the question were discussed, when he would be happy to go into the ring with the gentleman from Augusta
asked the extension of the usual courtesy to him, to enable him to read
that portion of the dispatch in the New York Herald
which the gentleman from Harrison
(Calls for ‘"Question,"’ cries of ‘"Leave,"’ &c.)
said he should claim the privilege of reply.
After some difficulty, and against the protest of Mr. Hall
, of Marion
, Mr. Harvie
succeeded in obtaining the floor.
He said the gentleman from Harrison
had taken occasion to make a fling at those with whom he (Mr. Harvie
) acted, by bringing in an extract from the New York Herald
He would summon the witness back into court, to show the character of those who were engaged in getting up these sensation dispatches.
He then read the whole extract, showing that a special meeting of the Cabinet
was called to receive an important communication from a delegation of the Virginia Convention, and to consider a letter from Governor Letcher
, insisting upon a peace policy, &c., &c. Mr. Harvie
produced in connection therewith a dispatch in the Philadelphia Inquirer
of the same date, giving the names of the "delegation"--Messrs. Chand
, ler, Segar
He then read a dispatch just received from Washington
, in these words': ‘"All Southern men, and many others in Washington
, consider war imminent.
The only question is where the blow shall fall."’
replied, relieving himself from any charge that he had a special purpose to conceal any portion of the dispatch.
He did not believe there was any truth in it.
Brief speeches were made by Messrs. Baylor
, and Hall
having meantime raised a point of order as to the debate now going on, which the Chair overruled.
, of Loudoun
, said he was authorized to state that there was no truth in the report recently alluded to here, of a correspondence between the Governor
of this Commonwealth and the President
He then moved an adjournment, but withdrew it at the request of Mr. Macfarland
, who desired to make a correction of the journal.
The motion to adjourn was renewed by Mr. Macfarland
, and voted down.
On motion of Mr. Morton
, the Convention
took a recess till 5 o'clock, P. M.