previous next

House of Delegates.

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 1861.
The House was called to order at 12 o'clock M., by Speaker Crutchfield.

Prayer by Rev. Francis J. Boggs, of the Seamen's Bethel

Pardons, &c.--The Speaker announced a communication from the Governor, embracing a list of reprieves, pardons, &c, granted during the last year the Executive, amounting to thirty in number, accompanied by his reasons therefore.

Resolutions Offered and Referred.--By Mr. Jones, of Appomattox, of reporting a bill authorizing the County Court of Appomattox to raise $6,000 in the manner indicated in their petition, for the purpose of arming the volunteer and militia companies of said county; by Mr. Richardson, of amending and re-enacting an act, entitled "an act for the encouragement of certain volunteer military companies in the city of Wheeling, passed March 27th, 1858, of amending the 4th section of the act making regulations concerning licenses; by Mr. Newton, of incorporating the Richmond and Liverpool Packet Company; by Mr. Wood, of reporting a bill to establish a School of Military Science in connection with the University of Virginia; by Mr. Bisbie, of incorporating the Virginia Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Company; by Mr. Alderson, of constructing a turnpike from the mouth of Twenty-Mile Greek on the Western and Gauly Bridge Turnpike Company, by way of Clay C. H., terminating at the upper three forks of Sandy; by Mr. Bell, of changing the time of holding the Circuit Courts of Page county.

Petitions, &c., Presented.--By Mr. Graham, the petition of Solomon D. Maxwell and others, asking for an extension of the Black Lack and Plaster Bank Turnpike; by Mr. Jones, of Appomattox, the petition of members of the County Court of Appomattox, asking authority to borrow money for the purchase of arms; by Mr. Morris, the petition of Robt. Alexander and others, to release John Ray from the payment of a fine; by the same, the petition of W. H. Cecil and others, for releasing Henry Snider from the penalties of a conviction for permitting unlawful gaming at his ordinary, in Marshall county; by Mr. Lucas, the petition of citizens of Giles and Monroe counties for a turnpike road; by Mr. Friend, the petition of Jas. Wallace, a free negro, to remain in the Commonwealth; by Mr. Graham, the resolves of a meeting of Wythe co., held January 11th, in which they say "that it is the duty of the Governor of Virginia to protect the soil of Virginia from the tread of a foreign enemy, and that they regard the occupancy of Harper's Ferry by the Federal Government as an act of aggression upon Southern rights and a standing menace to the people of Virginia."

Appointment of Commissioners for Consultation.--Mr. Patterson offered the following resolutions, which, after being read, were, on motion, referred to the Committee on Federal Relations:

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Delegates. That Ro. M. T. Hunter, Wm. C. Rives, John J. Alien, and Geo. W. Summers, be and are hereby appointed Commissioners to open a correspondence with the Governments of all the States, to ascertain on what terms. If upon any, the present Union can be preserved; and if it cannot, then upon what terms and with what States a new Confederacy can be formed, which will secure to the people of Virginia the full enjoyment of all their rights; and that they be required to report the result of their proceedings to the Convention, to assemble on the 13th of February next.

Resolved, That the Governor be requested forthwith to apprise said Commissioners of their appointment.

Remains of Gen. Henry Lee.--Mr. Robertson, of Richmond, presented a petition of cavalry and other volunteer corps of Virginia, asking for the removal to this State of the remains of Gen. Harry Lee, of revolutionary memory. In doing so, he said he had the honor to present a petition, which, as well from the character of it as from the imposing auspices under which it came, demanded a brief remark. It asked, at the hands of the Legislature, the appropriation of a sum of money sufficient to remove the remains of Gen. Harry Lee, the famous "Light-Horse Harry," of the Revolution, from the soil of Georgia, where they repose, to that of his native State. It came from a vast multitude of petitioners — all the principal military officers of Virginia, and volunteers of every kind — but chiefly, as is natural, of the cavalry corps of the State, as being that arm of the service on which General Lee conferred such distinguished lustre — a lustre that justly entitles him to be called the Murat of the South. He was aware he was not strictly in order in submitting these remarks at this time, but hoped the character of the petition would justify a few observations designed to incline the House, in receiving it, to consider favorably the prayer of it. He moved its reference to a select committee.

Laid on the table for further action.

Bills Reported.--A bill to amend the act concerning District Free Schools in the county of Jefferson; a bill to amend the act incorporating the Lewisburg Female Institute; a bill authorizing the Clerks of the Supreme Court and the District Court of Appeals to take orders of publication in vacation; a bill to authorize the issue of Treasury notes to raise money for the State to an amount not exceeding one million of dollars at any one time.

The Alabama Commissioners.--One o'clock having arrived, the Speaker announced a suspension of business, in order to hear addresses from Hon. Arthur F. Hopkins and F. M. Gilmer, Jr.,Esq., appointed by the State of Alabama Commissioners to the sovereign State of Virginia, to consult and advise with her Legislature and Executive as to what is best to be done to protect the mutual interests and honor of both in the present crisis of National affairs — those gentlemen desiring to address the two houses of the General Assembly on the objects of their mission, and the hour above named having been fixed upon for that purpose.

The members of the Senate and officers of that body having been seated in the Hall of the House of Delegates, the Commissioners entered and were formally introduced to the General Assembly by Mr. August, of the Senate Committee, in a brief and pertinent speech, answered by one of welcome on the part of Speaker Crutchfield, who alluded to the willingness of Virginia to listen to the voice of Alabama from ties not only of identity of interest, but of consanguinity — the latter being "bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh."

Mr. Hopkins said, in substance, that the profound respect of Alabama for this old State--the largest and most influential of her Southern sisters — had induced his State to confer with her in the present emergency.--Alabama had adopted the course of separate State action, and withdrawn from the Federal Union on the 11th inst. Secession was a constitutional right — the result of the right of self-government, involving the right to change the Government when it ceased to answer the ends for which it was formed or become oppressive. The right of secession was proclaimed and established by the Revolution of 1776. The right of self-government was first asserted in the Declaration of Independence. Alabama relied on that declaration and on the construction placed upon it by each of the thirteen Colonies — that they were sovereign States. They were admitted to be sovereign States by the mother country in the treaty of peace which followed the Revolution. These sources exhibited the proofs of the absolute sovereignty of all the thirteen original States. They adopted the articles of Confederation which contained a declaration that the Union framed by them should be perpetual, and never altered except in a Congress under the Confederation, and any alteration thus made should be ratified by each State. These articles were short-lived Eleven States of the thirteen seceded from that Union in 1789, not only without the consent, but in opposition to the will of two States which preferred the Confederation--North Carolina and Rhode Island. They seceded by separate State action — each State separating decided in a Convention of its own whether it would ratify the present Constitution, which had been framed and proposed by the General Convention, but was not and could not be valid in any State till ratified by a Convention of such State, and by which a Union could not be formed till ratified by nine States. They did not require all the thirteen States. Then secession, therefore, was not by the consent of all.

The effect of the ratification by nine States was the separate secession of each of the nine from the articles. The act of ratification had the same legal effect that secession has — it released the State that ratified from the power of the Government of the Confederation, as secession does from the power of the Federal Government. The act of ratification was made separately, as the act by which each secedes is. Some of the States are, opposed to secession, as two of the States were opposed to the secession from the articles of Confederation. That opposition was not allowed to control the movement. The new Government was put into operation. The two opposing States were left out of the Union, of which the present Constitution was the bond. They were sovereign, independent States, and continued so for nearly two years, when they ratified the present Constitution and were admitted into the new Union as States.

Three of the States--New York, Virginia and Rhode Island--expressly reserved the right of secession by the terms by which each ratified the Constitution, and the reason, doubtless, why this reservation was not made by all was, that the right of secession was supported by the secession of most of the States (against the will of two) from the old Confederation. The declaration inserted by the States who then signed articles of Confederation, that there should be perpetual Union, amounted to a construction by them that the right was inalienable and was implied, and not necessary to be reserved expressly. Therefore, the States all ratified it, after the three mentioned, with an express reservation.--No State is bound to the Federal Union and Constitution by any stronger tie than every other State. There is an equality of obligations as well as equality of rights. As no one should doubt the right of secession, reserved expressly by three States, upon the principle I have mentioned, every other State is entitled to exercise the same right.

The present Constitution contains no declaration that the Union shall be perpetual. We have, therefore, the authority of each of the thirteen States that seceded from the articles of the Confederation, separately, for what we have done. The right to do so now is a constitutional one, because it was reserved expressly or implied by the ratification of each State. Each State had admitted every other State to be a sovereign State; but each State is entitled to exercise this right by the law of nations on such a compact as this for violations of it which the free States have committed.

If either of the free States which have nullified the Constitution and the laws had been on the Continent of Europe and trampled upon a treaty — although no oath had been taken to observe its covenants — no nation on that Continent would make another treaty with it — the aggrieved party to the violated treaty would have a perfect right to treat it as a nullity. If one or two nations, civilized and Christian at the date of the treaty between them, should afterwards become piratical, or authorize her citizens to practice robbery, it would be sufficient cause for the other party to put an end to it. If in a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, between two States, one should not only fail in a case requiring it to send troops to aid the other, but add them to the force of the enemy of her ally, it would be most ample cause for the injured party to abandon the compact which had existed only to . In all such cases the aggrieved party has the right to put an end to the treaty forever, and reject all offers to renew the violated covenants. The covenant in the Constitution that one object of the Confederacy is to establish justice, has been by most of the free States construed, under their higher law, to mean that it is praiseworthy to steal negroes or to aid them in their flight — that the covenant to deliver a fugitive indicted for a crime against the laws of a slaveholding State is construed to mean nothing unless the act charged in the indictment be a crime also according to law against the State in which the felon has taken refuge. In the case of two of John Brown's followers, murderers and invaders of this State, the Governors of free States refused to deliver--one escaped to Iowa another to Ohio. The refusal was upon a pretext — the real ground, I believe, was because they had done nothing more than invade a slaveholding State, to incite a servile insurrection, which failed because the slaves would not enlist under them.

Another object of the present Confederacy was to secure domestic tranquility, which has been perverted by the believers in the "higher law," to keep up constantly excessive agitation on the most exciting subject, slavery; and, by way of variety, once in the last thirty years the leaders have treated us to the invasion of the most powerful of the slaveholding States.

The time for a general Convention of the slaveholding States is after the separate secession of them, or of as many of them as will secede. The right is a separate one; each State acceded separately to the Constitution, and each must secede separately. The right is founded on the right of self-government. If all the slaveholding States were to meet in Convention to decide on the question of secession, and agree to be bound by the will of a majority, the minority, whether for or against secession, could not exercise their right of self-government. If they were against secession they would be bound by the will of the majority to secede, as they would be if in favor of secession to remain in the Union if the majority preferred to do so. But in the Conventions of the States which have seceded there can be no danger to the right of self-government. The States are not in the Federal Union and they assemble to form a compact for another Union.

In the course of Mr. Hopkins' argument, of which the above is a mere outline, he said that the General Government was a mere creature of the Constitution — the federative agent.--Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison both believed in the right of secession. The doctrine had been maintained by the New England States in the Hartford Convention--the right of withdrawal, claimed by one State, entitled all to its use. The legislation of Congress was and had been offensive to the slave States. He cited violations of the Federal compact by the passage of Personal Liberty bills, &c., by non-slaveholding States; traced the rise and progress of the Black Republican party, and said that demagogues and fanatical preachers had created the material of which it was composed, and sent John Brown and other armed missionaries to propagate the new faith. Brown, the incarnation of all human wickedness, was impiously classed as a martyr. The Constitution that allowed the stealing of negroes, and the murder of Southern people, was not worth preserving.--He alluded to the plot in Texas by Northern emissaries, in the guise of preachers, for wholesale robbery, murder and arson, and said scarcely one of the Northern States (save those on the Pacific) had failed to pass laws designed to obstruct us in maintaining our rights. Alabama had withdrawn her delegated powers and resumed her sovereignty. The Northern people are paid a half million of dollars for catching codfish for their own eating — have a monopoly of the coasting trade, and yet repay these and other blessings with ingratitude. No individuals or States have ever shown more forbearance than the people of the South.--The time has come for us to dissolve. The General Government cannot make war on the seceding States. That power was asked for by Madison and Hamilton in the Convention which framed the Constitution, but it was denied them. He spoke of the mutual obligations to surrender fugitives from service, and noted its violation by Mr. Seward, (the present leader of the Republicans,) when he occupied the position of Governor of New York. The speaker desired the perpetuity of a Constitutional Union, but not the prolongation of that we now have, teeming, as it does, with broken promises and violated obligations. The fires of fanatical hate burning in the bosoms of our Northern "brethren" from childhood cannot be now extinguished, and our only safety from the flame is to be found in dissolution.

At the conclusion of Judge Hopkins' address. Mr. Gilmer, his associate, expressed his thanks for the cordial greeting accorded the Alabama delegation.

On motion of Senator Douglass, who delivered a few inspiring remarks, three hearty cheers were given for Alabama and her Southern sisters.

The Senators having retired to their Chamber.

The House adjourned

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 15th, 1861 AD (1)
March 27th, 1858 AD (1)
1789 AD (1)
1776 AD (1)
November, 1 AD (1)
February 13th (1)
11th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: