« PreviousContinue »
THE WHEELING CONVENTION. REORGANIZATION OF THE STATI
(VIRGINIA) BY THE LO Y ALISTS
An uprising of the loyal control and direction of the Movements of the
Movements of the element in Western Vir- President of the Confederate Loyalists.
Loyalists. ginia followed the reign of States, upon the same princi. tyranny inaugurated at Richmond. As al- ples, basis and footing as if the Commonwealth were ready stated, (pages 149–151,] steps were
now a member of said Confederacy, and all the acts taken by the inhabitants of the counties lying of said agreement and Ordinance, are plain and pal
of the executive officers of our State in pursuance west of the Blue Ridge mountains, early in pable violations of the Constitution of the United May (1861), to assert their legal rights. The states, and are utterly subversive of the rights and various town meetings sent delegates to a liberties of the people of Virginia. preliminary Convention, which convened at
“ 4. Resolved, That we earnestly urge and entreat Wheeling May 13th. A session of three days the citizens of the State everywhere, but more es. resulted in the appointment of a Central pecially in the western section, to be prompt at the Committee of nine-who were instructed to polls on the 23d instant; and to impress upon every issue an Address to the people setting forth
voter the duty of voting in condemnation of the Ordi. the views of the Convention and preparing nance of Secession, in the hope that we may not be them for the independent movement deter- involved in the ruin to be occasioned by its adoption,
and with the view to demonstrate the position of the mined upon. The resolutions adopted were
West on the question of Secession. strongly loyal to the Union in tone, and de
“5. Resolved, That we earnestly recommend to claratory of a purpose to resist the revolution
the citizens of Western Virginia to vote for members attempted, by demanding a separation from of the Congress of the United States and the State the Eastern section of the State. We may of Virginia. give place to the following, as illustrative of
“ 6. Resolved, That we also recommend to the the spirit which animated the people: citizens of the several counties to vote at said elec.
“1. Resolved, That, in our deliberate judgment, tion for such persons as entertain the opinions exthe ordinance passed by the Convention of Virginia, pressed in the foregoing resolutions for members of on the 17th day of April, 1861, known as the Ordi- the Senate and House of Delegates of our State. nance of Secession, by which said Convention under- “7. Resolved, That in view of the geographical, took, in the name of the State of Virginia, to repeal social, commercial and industrial interests of Norththe ratification of the Constitution of the United western Virginia, this Convention are constrained States by this State, and to resume all the rights in giving expression to the opinion of their conand powers granted under said Constitution, is un- stitutents to declare that the Virginia Convention in constitutional, nall, and void.
assuming to change the relation of the State of " 2. Resolved, That the schedule attached to the Virginia to the Federal Government have not only Ordinance of Secession, suspending and prohibiting acted unwisely and unconstitutionally, but have the election of members of Congress for this State, adopted a policy utterly ruinous to all the material is a manifest usurpation of power, to which we ought interests of our section, severing all our social ties, not to submit.
and drying up all the channels of our trade and "3. Resolved, That the agreement of the 24th of prosperity. April, 1861, between the Commissioners of the Con- “8. Resolved, That in the event of the Ordinanca federate States and this State, and the Ordinance of Secession being ratified by a vote, we recommend of the 25th of April, 1861, approving and ratifying to the people of the counties here represented, and said agreement, by which the whole military force all others disposed to co-operate with us, to appoint and military operations, offensive and defensive, on the 4th day of June, 1861, delegates to a General of this Commonwealth are placed under the chief Convention, to meet on the 11th of that month, at
Address to the
Address to the
auch place as may be designated by the Committee | knowing, dare maintain hereinafter provided, to devise such measures and them? If we are, we will take such action as the safety and welfare of the resist the usurpers, and people they represent may demand—each county drive from our midst the rebellion sought to to appoint a number of Representatives to said Con
be forced upon us. We will, in the strength vention equal to double the number to which it
of our cause, resolutely and determinedly will be entitled in the next House of Delegates; and
stand by our rights and our liberties, secured the Senators and Delegates to be elected on the 230 inst., by the counties referred to, to the next Gen- to us by the struggles of our Revolutionary eral Assembly of Virginia, and who concur in the
Fathers, and the authors of the Constitution views of this Convention, to be entitled to seats in under which we have grown and prospered the said Convention as members thereof."
beyond all precedent in the world's history. Several others were adopted expressive of We will maintain, protect, and defend that their wishes and purposes, and calculated to Constitution and the Union with all our forward the movement inaugurated.
strength, and with all our powers, ever reThe Address proposed membering that 'Resistance to tyrants is
obedience to God.""
The Convention arranged for by the pripaper for the crisis. It adjured the people to enter at once upon the mary Convention, to be held on the 11th of great work to be done, to prepare for the June, was referred to as demanding for its struggle at hand with treason.
members the most resolute, temperate and
· Why should the people of Northwestern Virginia,” wise of the people for its delegates ; and the they said, " allow themselves to be dragged voters were besought to give their hearts, into the rebellion inaugurated by ambitious hands, souls to the work of representation and heartless men, who have banded them. The document closed :
“ Fellow-citizens of Northwestern Virginia : The is. selves together to destroy a Government
sue is with you. Your destiny is in your own formed for you by your patriot fathers, and
hands. If you are worthy descendants of worthy which has secured to you all the liberties consistent with the nature of man, and has, for sires, you will rally to the defense of your liberties,
and the Constitution, which has protected and near three-fourths of a century, sheltered you blessed you, will still extend over you its protecting in sunshine and in storm, made you the ad- xgis. If you hesitate or falter, all is lost, and you miration of the civilized world, and confer- and your children, to the latest posterity, are desred upon you a title more honored, respected tined to perpetnal slayery.”' and revered, than that of king or potentate This was signed by the entire Committee. -the title of an American citizen. Will Its wide circulation produced an exciting you passively surrender it, and submit to be canvass of the whole question of National used by the conspirators engaged in this ef- and State relations. Day by day the feeling fort to enslave you as their instruments by of loyalty gained in strength and soliility, which your enslavement is to be effected ?”
aided by the presence of Federal arms, which The question of secession was considered. had driven the emissaries of despotism from Local feeling against the domineering East- much of the northern section of the State. ern section of the State added keenness to Judge Thompson--whose
Judge Thompson's their invective against the conspirators who charge to the Grand Jury aimed to render Virginia the battle-ground. defining treason we haveal" Why should we thus permit ourselves to be ready referred to (page 151)--followed this tyrannized over and male slaves of by the address by a proclamation ordering the dis laughty arrogance and wicked machinations persion of armed rebels and disloyal combiof would-be Eastern despots ? Are we sub- nations. The Judge spoke as a justice on missionists, craven cowards, who will yield the bench, fully resolved upon preserving to daring ambition the rich legacy of Free- the peace, order and course of justice, dom which we have inherited from our fath- in the circuit over which he presided. His ers, or are we men who know our rights, and / words were those of a wise and resolute und
- willing to do justice / us to their own local and peculiar policy. With Judge Thompson's
even to those who pro- such a position as West Virginia occupies, sepa. nounced themselves ene
rated by vast mountain ranges from Old Virginia, mies of the old Government. Among other accessible to the whole West and the whole North,
the whole will be a unit in our defense. West arguments put with telling force against the eastern section of the State, and the Seces- Virginia never can be coerced or conquered. Her
streams may run blood and her households may be sionists, who threatened to subjugate the
desolated, and if this shall be so, it will be the work western section in event of its refusal to
of those in West Virginia who remain in arms to opaccede to the revolution, was this:
pose and resist the wishes of the majority of her “ To those citizens in Western Virginia who claim people. Retire, disband, and let us alone in peace, the right of secession, in like manner I appeal to under the Constitution and the laws, and do not relay down their arms against their brethren and fath quire those laws and Constitution to be maintained ers, and to subm to the judgment and wish their here at this mighty sacrifice." own people, in so large a portion of the State as
This strong document assisted materially West Virginia. If it is right for one portion of the people in mass to violate or set aside the Constitu
in consolidating the Union sentiment: applytion, so as to free themselves from political inter- ing the peculiar philosophy of secession, the course with other portions of the people of the Western portion of the Commonwealth had United States, surely it should be permitted to so a right to a separate organization if it so large a body of people as West Virginia, exercising willed. Immediately the sentiment of sepatheir sovereignty in a lawful manner under the Con- ration became paramount; and the election stitution and in support of the Constitution, to (June 4th) of delegates to the Convention of choose their destinies. This, at the late election, June th, resulted in the choice of such repthey have done in no equivocal manner. They resentatives as the Committee had called for should be permitted, and especially by you, their -brave, discreet and loyal men. brethren, exercising with such unanimity this sove. The Convention assemreign and constitutional right, to stand by the Con
Assemblage of the
bled at Wheeling on the stitution and the laws in peace; to maintain the
11th, and proceeded to bolemn integrity of the institutions under which they have grown and prospered. By this vote they
business on the day following. Forty counhave solemnly said they have no cause of revolu- ties were represented, in the proportion of tion; they are satisfied ; let them remain in peace. their representation in the State Legislature. If you are dissatisfied, go in peace; go where you Arthur J. Boreman, of Wood county, was will have the snpport and sympathy of those whose chosen permanent chairman, and delivered cause yon espouse; and in God's name, in the name an address which gave the key-note to the of our ancient friendships and fireside relations, in proceedings to follow. It was patriotic, loyal the name of that peace, the skirts of whose robe and firm. The programme arranged for acwill be dabbled in blood, if you remain in arms; in tion contemplated the organization of a Provirtue of the holy ties of relationship, and for the visional Government for the State : the depreservation of whatever of Constitutions and the
position of the old State authorities, and the laws are left, while yet the ruin has not reached you and us; while the vengeance of civil war has not
entire reorganization of the Municipal branchbroken up all domestic ties, and the sword of pri
On the second day of the session a resovate revenge has not crossed your own thresholds lution was introduced and unanimously adoptand sprinkled it with blood, and left your homes ed, thanking General McClellan for 'invading' and your households in ruin; by all the solemn Virginia, commending the bravery of the galmemories of the past and the obligations of the pres. lant Colonel Kelley and his regiment, &c., &c. ent to recognize the wishes of the people of West Vir- The Committee on Business, through its chair ginia to seek their own happiness and welfare in a
man, John S. Carlisle, reported on the 13th., lawful and peaceful manner; in the solemn majesty
a Declaration, reviewing the unhappy condiof those laws, and in a higher appeal of justice and tion of the State, setting forth the usurpathe cry, depart, depart in peace, and give not up tions of the Richmond Convention, offering a West Virginia, which otherwise will remain in
bill of rights, repudiating allegiance to the safety, if not repose, to the horrors of a terrible
Southern Confederacy, and vacating the With such a large majority, neither Eastern Virginia nor the South, will be disposed to coerce
oflices of all who adhered to it, wliether legis
lative or judicial. The reading of this was leading objects of the Convention, after the listened to with profound interest, not a dis- establishment of a Provisional Government, stating opinion being expressed. It was was to provide for the separation of Western
made the special order for from Eastern Virginia. This, after a warm Proceedings of the
the 14th. Various other contest, was adopted by a vote of fifty-seven Wbeeling Convention,
resolves were sprung-all to seventeen. proving the feverish anxiety of the members The 19th being set apart
Proceedings, &c. for action. In the debate which followed, on for the consideration of the the Declaration, Mr. Dorsey of Monongalela, Ordinance of Reorganization, the Convention took strong grounds for an immediate divi- proceeded with the important discussion. It sion of the State. Mr. Carlisle took the was finally passed, nearly as it came from the ground that Congress, at the coming session, Committee. It providedwould not be likely to recognize the division 1st. For the appointment by the Commit(which recognition was necessary) until the re- tee of a Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, bellion in the Southern States was put down, to act until their successors should be duly the object of Congress being to restore every elected. original State to the Union. Congress would 2d. For a Council of Five, to be appointed recognize the Provisional Legislature, and by the Convention, to act as advisers with with the consent of the Legislature and Con- the Governor, and to aid in executing his gress, separation could be effected at an early official orders. day. This view did not disconcert those 3d. For the recognition, as the Legislature, members who were for immediate division of of those members elected to the State Genethe State and its admission to the Union as ral Assembly May 23c, 1861, who should the State of Kanawha.
subscribe to and qualify themselves by takAn ordinance was reported, on the 14th, ing the oath or affirmation prescribed.* from the Business Committee, reorganizing 4th. Defined the oath and provided that all the State, vacating the seats of all State offi- State officers, Legislators, Judges, Clerks, cers in rebellion against the United States; Sheriffs, Commissioners, Justices, &c., shouli providing for a provisional government and take or subscribe to it before being qualified for the election of officers; also providing to discharge the duties of their office. that the State, county and municipal officers
5th. Declared all offices vacant of those who immediately take the oath of allegiance to refused to take oath, and provided for an the United States. This was made the spe- election to fill the vacancy. cial order for June 19th.
It was announced, on the 14th, that five * The oath adopted read as follows: hundred stand of arms had arrived at Wheel- “State of Virginia, Ohio County, ss. : ing, as a loan from old Massachusetts, to arm
“ Before the subscriber, a Justice of the Peace the Home Guards—that fifteen hundred more
for the county aforesaid, this day in my said county, were on their way--an item of news which came A. B., and took and subscribed the following
oath : sent a thrill of patriotic joy through the assembly.
“1, A. B., solemnly swear that I will support the Mr. Dorsey, above referred to, brought for- Constitution of the United States, and the laws ward his Declaration of Independence (June made in pursuance thereof, as the supreme law of 17th) looking to a division of the State. It the State of Virginia, or in the ordinances of the
the land, anything in the Constitution and laws of was supported by Pierpont and others, and, Convention which assembled at Richmond on the after an interesting debate was adopted 13th of February, 1861, to the contrary notwithunanimously. This Declaration was signed standing : And that I will uphold and defend the on the 20th, by fifty-six members—the same Government of Virginia as vindicated and restored number attached to the glorious instrument by the Convention which assembled at Wheeling on of 1776.
the eleventh day of Junu, 1861.
A. B.' On the 18th, Mr. Farnesworth, of Upshur “Given under my hand, this 5th day of July, 1861. county, offered a resolution that, one of the
Address of the Con.
On the 20th the Western Virginia Decla- | dence of the substitution of ration of Independence was signed. It was a tyranny for the voice of. an impressive scene. The roll was called by the people. “This bold ascounties, and each member came forward to sumption of authority," it said, “was followed the Secretary's desk and signed the parch- by numerous acts of hostility against the Uniment.
ted States, by the levy of troops to aid in the In the afternoon, Frank. H. Pierpont, of capture of the National Capital and the subMarion county, was unanimously elected Gov- version of the National authority; and, to ernor; Daniel Palsley, of Mason county, Lieu- crown the infamy of the conspirators, with tenant-Governor, and Messrs. Lamb, Paxhaw, whom the Executive had now coalesced, by Van Winkle, Harrison and Lazar to form the an attempt, without even the pretense of the Governor's Council. The election of an At authority or acquiescence' of the people, to torney-General was postponed.
transfer their allegiance from the United The Governor was formally inaugurated States to a league of rebellious States, in arms during the afternoon, when he delivered his against the former.” The document then Inaugural Address. It was brief but patri- proceeded to cite the incidents of the mockotic, calling upon the people and their repre- voting on the Ordinance—how Judges chargsentatives to be firm, while he himself promed Grand Juries that opposition to the revoised to be true to the great trust reposed lution would be punished as treason to the in him.
State--how “armed partisans of the conspiThe new Government, now fully launched rators in various places arrested, plundered upon the sea of trvable, moved forward with and exiled peaceable citizens for no other a firmness, a prudence, a foresight which did crime than their adherence to the Union." not fail to command the approbation of the These and other causes led loyal Virginians President of the United States and of all to resent the outrages, the indignities, the loyal people. In that reorganization was the usurpations heaped upon them, and the movegerm of Virginia's regeneration and restora- ment inaugurated resulted in the calling of tion to the Union.
a Convention to legislate a new Government On the 24th, a Commit- into existence, under which they might find tee, (of seventeen,) previ- protection and retain their old relations to
ously appointed, reported the Federal Government. The question of an address to the people, explaining and jus- the right of secession was referred to only to tifying the acts of the Convention. The ad-be denounced. Only the people of the United dress, at considerable length, sketched the States could dissolve the compact of the history of late events in Virginia, reciting the Union. " The ratification of the Constituinfamous course of procedure in the Rich- tion of the United States by our own Commond Convention, by which the State was monwealth, in express terms, reserves the forced out of the Union — how the whole right to abrogate it to those by whom it was thing was done in secret session, against the made, the people of the United States; thus protests of more than one third of the mem- repudiating in advance the modern doctrine bers present. “Up to this day,” said the of separate State secession. This is in strict address, “the debates which preceded the accordance with the views of our elder statesvote are concealed from the people, who are men, whose patriotism and ability are held thus denied a knowledge of the causes which, in reverence, not only by us and by our felin the opinion of the majority, rendered se low-citizens of the Union, but by good men cession necessary and justified so gross a dis- throughout the world. It is the logic of regard of their lately expressed will." But, every honest heart, that a contract, a comeven though thus illegally passed, the Ordi- pact, or call it what you will, can only be set nance had no effect until ratified at the polls aside by the joint act of those by whom it by the people. Yet, prior to that ratification, was made.” This strong argument was folopen violence and acts of treason were com- lowed by others, proving the impolicy of semitted, to which the address referred, as evi-) cession even if a right existed ; and, partic
Address of the Con