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"What's In A Name?"
The Naming of West Virginia

From the
Debates and Proceedings of the
First Constitutional Convention

December 3, 1861

First West Virginia Constitutional Convention

MR. VAN WINKLE. If there is nothing else, sir, I will ask that the first report of the Committee on Fundamental and General Provisions be taken up and considered.

The motion was agreed to.

MR. VAN WINKLE. According to one of the resolutions passed at the instance of the Committee on Business, "Every report made by a standing committee shall, in its turn, be considered, and be open to amendment, section by section, but the vote on the passage of any section or clause shall not be final. The question shall recur on the passage or adoption of the whole report as amended, and motions to strike out and to insert shall be in order." This, sir, fixes the order of proceeding upon this and all subsequent reports that may be brought in by the standing committees. It must be taken up section by section, amended as we go along, until it is in a position to satisfy its friends or opponents, and then the vote will recur on the whole, and it will be still open to amendment by insertion or striking out. Will the clerk read the first section?

Peter Van Winkle
Peter Van Winkle
It was read as follows:

Section 1. The State of Kanawha shall be and remain one of the United States of America. The Constitution of the United States, and the laws and treaties made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land.

MR. SINSEL. Mr. President, in the first section I move to strike out the word "Kanawha."

MR. POWELL. I second that.

MR. VAN WINKLE. I should like, sir, to hear some reason assigned if there is any, why this name is not a good one.

MR. SINSEL. Mr. President, one reason I have for striking it out is that I am a Virginian; I was born and raised in Virginia, and I have ever been proud of the name. I admit that Virginians have done wrong - that many of them in this rebellion have disgraced themselves; but that has not weaned me from the name. When we look back to history and see the origin of the name - Virginia, from the Virgin Queen - the queen who swayed the scepter of England with so much glory and renown - we might almost go back a little further to Virginia, the Virgin. It always makes me think of the Virgin Mary, the mother of our blessed Redeemer. It is a name that I almost revere; and I am utterly opposed to leaving it out and substituting the name "Kanawha" in its stead.

MR. PARKER. It strikes me that there are other reasons than those offered by the gentleman from Taylor. There is within the boundary of the new State a large county of the same name as the one proposed for the State - the county of Kanawha, which has been one of the most prominent points within the boundaries of the new State. In looking over the United States, I believe we can find no instance where any subdivision of a state bears the name of the state itself. I believe - I have referred somewhat to the gazetteers, and from my recollection this is the case. Take it in the State of Ohio. We find no county, no town, no subdivision within that state bearing the name of the state itself. The State of Kentucky, the State of Massachusetts, the State of California, or any other state. Well now, this means something and it seems to me I discern the reason why it is so scrupulously guarded that to no subdivision whatever is there given the name that the state itself bears. Well, I suppose the reason is that it shall not create confusion, in postal and other connections with other parts of the country, and the outside world. And it seems to me that so prominent a county, known so well as Kanawha - the county of Kanawha is the prominent point in our new State.

Now, we get up the name of the State - we attach to it the name of Kanawha - well, it strikes me we can find some other, more proper name at this time. I go with my friend from Taylor for Virginia. I go - though but the adopted son of Virginia - I go for rescuing her and preserving her. But it seems to me as I stated in the first place, there is danger of confusion where we have a county as prominent in a state of the same name. Now we give the name of the State of Kanawha, to the county of Kanawha, to the post office at Kanawha court house, and it seems to me we shall get into confusion. Therefore I can see no peculiar claim that Kanawha has. There is a very pretty river there of this name - nice river - but there is no particular euphony in the name; or perhaps no claim from historical considerations. I do not know of any. Granville Parker
Granville Parker

MR. BROWN of Kanawha. In changing this name it seems to me the Convention ought to inquire as to the propriety of it, and whether there is any better name to be selected. In looking at our power in this matter I understand that we are called here in pursuance of law. I understand that we are not a heterogeneous mass of individuals assembled here to follow the bent and inclinations of ourselves, but assembled here in legal form, under a prescribed law of the State - a law emanating from a convention assembled in pursuance of and with the assent of the legislature as within that law, carried into effect and ratified so far as our action here is concerned, by the free will of the people. That ordinance prescribes definitely the name of the State proposed to be erected; and it becomes a question not whether this or that or any other name shall be the name of the new State but submits the question definitely to the people within the proposed boundaries whether they will form the new State as proposed with the name prescribed. I have understood from gentlemen who were in that Convention that the name itself was a compromise. But whether it were a compromise or not I maintain the people have ratified this question and have determined by our presence here that this new State shall exist and that it shall be called Kanawha.

That there is a very obvious propriety in that name seems to me very clear; because when we see the states of the Union that have been formed throughout the length and breadth of the land, following an almost unbroken line of precedents in naming the states after particular rivers within their territories, and generally selecting the most prominent, it must be considered a strong argument why we should do the same. We see that in the name of the state right across the way here; in our sister State of Kentucky, which was the daughter of Virginia; in the State of Tennessee named after the river of that name, - even changed in the case of Tennessee, for the original name of the territory was Franklin, and they began in the early stages of that territory to form a state of that name, but they afterwards changed it and adopted the name of Tennessee, after one of the principal rivers in the territory. You go into Nebraska - you find a territory there named after the chief river of that territory. We have the same thing in the State of Kansas. Pursue the cases around you, within these Western States, and you find that the chief rivers have been the chosen example for the naming of the states. There is an obvious propriety in it. It shows that the people look at home for names. It has been remarked that there was no instance, I believe, of a state being called after a small part or subdivision of it. The State of Kentucky has been alluded to. If I recollect aright Kentucky was but one of the counties of Virginia. The time was when Kentucky was a part of Virginia territory and when West Augusta covered all this portion of the State of Virginia, and the district of Kentucky covered all that portion of the state which now bears its name, and which through a subdivision of the State of Virginia has been erected into a commonwealth, and now wears the proud name of that subdivision - a name no less proud than that of Virginia whence she sprang.

James Henry Brown
James Henry Brown
It has been said by gentlemen that they cherish the name of Virginia, from the source, from the Virgin Queen after whom it was named, but, sir, when this was mentioned, I confess my mind reverted to the fact that that virgin was not above suspicion (laughter) that the history that tells the truth tells of dalliances not to the credit of that virgin, and we need seek no honor or pleasure in the recollection. I only regret that our old mother state has been caught in dalliance from which we are trying to rid ourselves by a division of our territory.

With these views, and this obvious propriety, and this precedent, I feel constrained to vote against the motion which the gentleman has made to strike out after the people have ratified the name of Kanawha.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. I do not like to be squabbling over names here, because I attach very little importance to the name myself individually. But I stand here to represent the views and wishes of my constituents. And when I recur to the fact that this name has been endorsed by the people of the proposed new State, I must be permitted to say that my people voted for the new State with a protest against the name - that there is not a citizen - not one solitary man - living within the boundaries of my county, although one of the most loyal in the State - that is not in favor of changing the name. I must insist that the fact that the people of the proposed new State have voted almost unanimously for it, is no reason why they must be considered as having endorsed the name proposed. I must say, sir, it is just the reverse. Then, sir, I shall vote for striking out "Kanawha", from the fact that I desire to represent the views and wishes of my constituents, and I think if every member is actuated by such motives that there will be no question about striking it out. Now, as to the reasons, Mr. President, that might be assigned why it should be stricken out, I do not deem it very important to assign them; and why the majority of my people appear so much attached to the name they desire to be placed here when "Kanawha" is stricken out, will come up, I presume, when we propose to fill the blank. I hold it is unnecessary to go into those reasons now, as I believe the Convention are prepared to strike out the name of "Kanawha" and I know they are, if they are prepared to consult the wishes of their constituents.

MR. POWELL. I must say that if we represent the wishes of the people of Harrison we will strike out the name of Kanawha. I conversed with a great many persons in that county in regard to the name, and it was the unanimous request that if this Convention had the power, that they change the name. Strike out the name of Kanawha and insert the name of Western Virginia. That was the almost unanimous wish. A large meeting of citizens of Harrison was held at one point, and I was there, and a resolution was passed unanimously that the name of Kanawha be stricken out and Western Virginia inserted. It was ordered that the resolution be handed to one of the delegates. It was not handed to me but to my colleague, it appears. But I do hope that we are prepared to strike out the name of Kanawha. I am sure if we feel a desire to represent the wishes of the people, at least so far as my knowledge extends, we will do so.

MR. TRAINER. Mr. President, I have no particular objections to the word "Kanawha." They have a very beautiful river down there, a very beautiful valley, and I suppose they are very clever people; but I think, sir, we may get a more proper name for this new State than Kanawha. I think that we can find a name that will identify us so that everybody will know who we are and where we are and the material out of which we are made.

And in regard to the wishes of the people, I wish to say that so far as the people of my county are concerned - and I believe I hail from as loyal a county as there is within the boundaries of this new State - that our people generally are opposed to this name. They have nothing particularly against Kanawha, but they do not like the name, and they want something else - something which they conceive would be more proper and would more fully present to the world, our position, place and relations. I shall vote in favor of the motion to strike out the word Kanawha.

MR. MAHON. Mr. President, I would say that so far as I personally would stand in reference to this name, I have no objections that I know of. But, I know the people of our county have great objections to the name. I have had no conversation with any citizens of our county to my knowledge but what had great objections to the name of Kanawha. Would much prefer Western Virginia, or New Virginia, or some other name; and on that account I shall necessarily have to vote for striking out.

MR. LAMB. Mr. President, it is well known by the members of this Convention that I was one of those who was decidedly opposed to entering upon the measure of instituting the new State at the present time. I thought the time was not propitious, that in every step which we took in reference to this measure we would find ourselves encompassed with difficulties and dangers; but when I found that a portion of the commonwealth was earnestly fixed upon inaugurating the measure at the present moment, I was one of those who agreed to the compromise embodied in the ordinance of August 20. And I am prepared now - I came here for that purpose - to carry out that compromise wherever it is practicable in good faith. The name which was given to the State was a part of that compromise. It was a concession, made by the one side to the other. The ordinance with that provision in it was submitted to the popular vote, and has been confirmed. That whole ordinance is a compromise; and so far as we can, so far as may be practicable under the circumstances in which we now find ourselves placed, I hold it is my duty to act honestly and fairly in carrying it out.

I have no particular fancy for the name which is proposed but there is evident propriety in it. If we will look abroad throughout the Union, we will find that many of the states are named after the principal rivers which run through their territories. Gentlemen have referred to Tennessee and Kentucky; there are Missouri and Illinois, Mississippi, Kansas, and Ohio, all named after the principal rivers of their territory - Arkansas, Alabama. It may be considered, in fact, the general practice in regard to ascertaining and determining the names of states.

But what have we here in western Virginia to attach us to the name of Virginia. Sir, I have been an inhabitant of western Virginia for thirty odd years. During that time what have we received here but oppression, and outrage I may say, from the State of Virginia. During that time our people having been constantly complaining of the course of policy that has been forced upon them. We have been denied by the State of Virginia, for many long years, our proper share in the representation and government of the State. Look at the policy of Virginia in regard to improvements. Loaded down with a debt from which she never can recover, the proceeds of that debt invested in public improvements and public buildings. Where is the one foot of these improvements - where is the one public building - within the borders of western Virginia? Is there anything in the proceedings of the session of the convention at Richmond that should attach us to this name? Was not every measure attempted to be forced upon us against the earnest protest of our people. Did they hesitate on our account to adopt a measure that would have ruined us forever? When they supposed, not that it was to the interests of the people, but to the interest of the conspirators who had been the leaders of the people heretofore in eastern Virginia? Aye, they would have transferred you without asking your consent, at once to the Confederate States; they would have been glad to transfer the war to the borders of the Ohio river.

What has been the policy of Virginia throughout? Are we going to keep that policy along with the name, when we come here for the very purpose of revolutionizing that policy in every respect almost in which it is possible for us to do so? Are we still to retain the name? Are we to change everything in Virginia but the name? Shall we make a change in everything - in all the essentials - and yet stick upon this slight matter? Shall we proclaim in the very act which this Convention is now about to adopt that we feel grateful for the favor of the State of Virginia as heretofore bestowed upon us? No, gentlemen, no! I want to cut loose from these recollections. I want to have the new State, not merely in substance, but even in name. A resident of the state as I have been more than thirty years, I have no hesitation in proclaiming to this Convention and my constituents that there is nothing in the conduct of the State of Virginia to the people of western Virginia that entitles her or the name to our attachment. Daniel Lamb
Daniel Lamb

Gentlemen, this thing may have some practical effect. You are so attached to Virginia that you are unwilling to lose the name. You look for immigration from other states. Will it be one of the means of inducing them to come here that you tell them that this is Virginia still - that you are to create the impression that Virginia policy is still to govern? Gentlemen, let that impression go abroad through the land, and the very name of Virginia, the very idea that Virginia may still prevail over this portion of the State, will prevent hundreds and thousands from coming within your borders.

For one, gentlemen, I shall vote against the motion. I consider the name - though I have no particular attachment for that name - I consider the name selected peculiarly appropriate. There are two rivers Kanawha within our borders. The principal rivers within our boundaries are the Kanawhas - the little and big Kanawha. We are just pursuing the example which has been provided in a dozen or twenty instances around this country. But if Kanawha is stricken out, I do not want to see anything that has Virginia to it inserted in the blank.

MR. CALDWELL. I beg leave, sir, to remind the gentleman who has just taken his seat that previous to his making Virginia his domicil, this portion of the State, sir, had a name, was designated by its peculiar name and for years past has been designated by the name of Western Virginia. Now, sir, I am not in favor of the renovating or changing of names or even constitutions. We, sir, in western Virginia have been struggling for western Virginia rights ever since the oldest member of this Convention can recollect. Western Virginia has been made dear to all of us; and I think, sir, that for that reason, if no other could be assigned, Western Virginia is the most proper name for this new State.

The gentleman has adverted to the compromise action of the last convention. I was a member of that convention. I was not, however, a member of the compromise committee; and it is the first time, sir, that I have understood that we compromised away the name. The compromise as I understand it, sir, in part, or in chief, was to submit to the people whom we propose to comprise in this new State the question whether a new state should be formed or not.

Now, sir, members have risen here and told you - and I have no doubt about the truth of it, for I know how it was in my own county, - that they voted for this new State under protest against the name. As has been said it was not because of any particular objection to the name of Kanawha, but because they desired as west Virginians, in asserting western Virginia rights, should bear the name of Western Virginia. It is for this, sir, that I desire that the name of Kanawha shall be stricken out, and that an opportunity may be given to name the State, sir, Western Virginia.

MR. WILLEY. I do not propose, sir, to enter into any discussion particularly, this morning, in regard to this matter, but simply to state to the Convention what I understand to be the desire of the constituency which I represent. So far as I have had any communications with my constituency, I have understood from them that there was some reason why they were very much opposed to the name of Kanawha. Amongst some that they assigned is one that it is a very hard name to spell (Laughter). For myself, Mr. President, I will say that I have no objections personally. I have no objection to any name that is convenient, though I will say that in this case I think the rose would smell sweeter by some other name (Laughter).

The main object I have in view is to adopt such a course and policy as would result in securing to us a division of the state, and a separate commonwealth. Personally the name is a matter of no importance to me. There was a remark, dropped by the gentleman from Ohio which it appears ought to be considered, that in the last convention the name was a matter of compromise. Now, sir, if it involved any principle, every obligation of good faith after the election of members of this body under the ordinance of the last Convention, would indicate that we should adhere to that. But, sir, by changing the name, we violate, in point of fact, no principle; we inflict no wrong on the parties who entered into that compromise. Another remark of the gentleman I referred to and that is this: after recounting the wrongs which western Virginia had received from the unfriendly legislature of the East, he wished to cut loose from the recollections. Sir, behind that unfriendly legislation, there are recollections that I as a Virginian could stand up and be proud of anywhere on the face of this broad earth. It was the land of Washington and Henry - where the very principles that we are here today to vindicate received their first impulse - where the ball of the Revolution received its first propulsion.

And there is another remark I desire to make. My friend from Marshall (Mr. Caldwell) has said we have been contending for our rights as western Virginians, under the banner of western Virginia. In the short period of my life, I have been contending to the best of my abilities to vindicate those rights. That flag has never struck; it still floats; it is about to be victorious; and on our proud mountains I want it to wave still with New Virginia or Western Virginia inscribed on it. We have fought under that flag heretofore. We are about to triumph under it. Let us retain the name.

Why, sir, as I said but a moment ago, there is nothing in point of fact, in the name. I am willing to accept a new state under any name; but upon the whole it occurs to me that there is a propriety in reserving the name that has hitherto distinguished us. But especially, sir, I shall feel constrained to cast my vote by what I know to be the wishes of my constituents.

MR. LAUCK. I wish to reflect here in my votes and in what I have to say the views of my constituents. I know that they are opposed to a man - or at least I have heard no person in the bounds of our whole county that was willing, to the name. We are told that the name was a compromise. I must say when we went into the election in our county, we went into it with a protest against the name. The delegate that was in the convention that passed the ordinance for the new State told us it was a mere formal matter, and that it was expected this Convention would take action upon the name. In my talk with the people there during the canvass in reference to the new State, I was bound to pledge myself to them to use all the influence I had here to change the name. For they were not willing to have the new State at all if Virginia was to be stricken out.

Now, sir, so far as the name is concerned I care very little. Principles are what I care for. We are here to get a new state. But we must have some little regard for individual preference. There are other names aside from Western Virginia and New Virginia, perhaps which would be as proper as these. My friend from Ohio wanted nothing that had Virginia to it. The name I confess has lost many of the charms it had for me once. The sound of Virginia has not that effect upon my heart which it had a few years ago. And I would say if we retain Virginia a very proper thing would be Loyal Virginia (Laughter). But I think there are other names some of which might be adopted. Columbia would be a beautiful name. I am willing, though, when this name is stricken out to fill the blank with any the Convention thinks best.

MR. PAXTON. Mr. President, I have no special partiality for the name of Kanawha. I shall be as well satisfied and perhaps better with many other names suggested; but the difficulty that presents itself to my mind has been referred to before by gentlemen who have been on the floor. It is this: Have we a right to change that name? The ordinance of the Convention of the people which called this body into being prescribed the name. Are we not bound by that ordinance? And is it not our duty wherever it may be practicable to maintain it. If we depart from the text in this instance may we not do so in any and all other instances? Where would such a precedent lead us? Will not we be entirely at sea? However much I might be disposed to adopt some other name, I shall be constrained to vote against striking out the name of Kanawha unless I can be satisfied at least that we have a right to change the name and that such a precedent will not prove injurious and detrimental to our further action here.

MR. VAN WINKLE. Mr. President, I have listened with considerable interest to the remarks on this subject, and as near as I can find out with the exception of, I believe, two gentlemen on one side and one on the other, nobody cares anything about it. It seems to me that with the exceptions I have named, the gentlemen do not feel disposed to take exception to this name; it is their "constituents," or it is the desire for something else and really no objections to the name by itself as has been stated. I think perhaps one complained of its euphony. I think it is one of the most euphonious words with which I am acquainted. Almost every letter in it has a soft and musical sound. I did call upon the gentleman who made the motion to strike it out to give us some reason why the name Kanawha should be stricken out. It had been placed upon the proposed State as the result of a compromise in the committee of compromise in the August convention; the gentlemen here present who were members of that convention will remember that it was stated upon the floor of the convention by Mr. Carlile, chairman of the committee when the report of the compromise committee was brought in and it was proposed to change the name, that the name was a part of the compromise.

MR. LAMB (in his seat). Mr. Carlile was not chairman of that committee.

MR. VAN WINKLE. The gentleman from Ohio informs me that Mr. Carlile was not the chairman. Well it was so stated by Mr. Carlile and it was within the knowledge of every member of that committee of which the gentleman on my left (Mr. Lamb) was one. I was another, Mr. Ruffner was another, Mr. Farnsworth was another, Mr. Carlile was the fifth, and - I forget at this moment who the other member was. So far then as the action of the committee before the convention was concerned, they compromised that action by withdrawing the motion to change the name when it was stated that it had been settled as the result of compromise. So far as that goes I think the name ought to be considered fixed. I do not say, sir, that if there is any grave and important reason for changing the name that I might not yield; but until some reason stronger than any that have been offered here yet can be shown, I much prefer that the name fixed in the ordinance should stand.

Well, sir, one gentleman tells us that he is a Virginian. Now, what I very much fear from the indications thrown out all around us on this subject is that several gentlemen intend to be Virginians after we have separated from Virginia. Now, sir, I should like to know whether when we have organized a new state; when the wheels are all in motion; when we meet for the purpose of transacting business appropriate to our new State; when there comes before us questions for consideration such as we maintain our old Virginia is not able to dispose of - questions relating to our peculiar situation: when such questions come up I apprehend, sir, that we are to be told, they did not do so in old Virginia! I apprehend, sir, that if the feeling by which it is now attempted to fasten the old name on the new State - putting old wine into new bottles, old cloth into new garments - I say, sir, if this spirit with which it is now attempted to fasten the old name on us prevails, we shall have no precedent we will be free to refer to in the action of states all round, in the action of any communities anywhere, but we shall be told, this was not done so by old Virginia, which we are about to repudiate. Aye, sir, and if gentlemen do not mean that - if that is not to be the effect of it on the minds of gentlemen here - nevertheless, sir, it will be the effect produced on the minds of others outside. If we are so servile to old Virginia, now that we are about casting off the fetters, if we cannot forget our servile habits but must cringe and bow the knee to Old Virginia - I think, sir, this movement had better stop precisely where it is now.

Sir, we are like the Israelites of old, we have crossed the Red Sea, and whether Pharaoh and his hosts are drowned we have no precise information, but we have just entered upon the borders of the wilderness, upon that desert where we should call up all our courage in order to encounter what is inevitable, before we can reach the promised land. And, sir, as of old the cry is going up "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots and when we did eat bread to the full" (Laughter). We are only in the beginning of this effort, yet here is the cry going up, "Would God we were sitting in the shadow of the Richmond convention, with the peculiar guardians of the rights of the people - we who believe in the equality of citizens and are enjoying all the benefits they have conferred upon us for fifty odd years." This is the sense, sir, of any attempt to retain in the name of the new State, the name of the old. Those gentlemen who are so tender for their old mother, should be a little more magnanimous, sir, and when they are going to rob the old lady of her territory should not steal her name too (Laughter).

Sir, there is more in this than perhaps I have said. If you make an agreement with eastern Virginia that after the division takes place, one is to be called East and the other West, or one is to be called Old Virginia and the other New, there might be less impropriety in it; for then it would indicate a division of territory, but, sir, under any circumstances they are to retain the name. They are to be Virginia and we are to be Little Virginia or New Virginia, or West Virginia, or some other soubriquet which is to degrade us in comparison with them. That is what gentlemen are driving at, sir.

It has been said, sir, that there is to be a difficulty because we have a county called Kanawha; that the State should not be called by the same name; that it is unusual. I think the gentleman who employed this argument is not correct in this. There is in the State of New York, the city and county of New York. I think in the State of Ohio an attempt has been made to build an Ohio city, somewheres up towards the northwestern portion of the State. We have Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana; and the same thing has been done otherwheres. Further, sir, that objection is not one of sufficient importance to govern us in reference to this matter.

We are reminded of historical associations again. The gentleman from Monongalia has told us it was the land of Washington and Henry. Sir, if the gentleman is going to fix it upon that point, it was eastern Virginia that was the land of Washington and Henry; and I apprehend, sir, that Washington and Henry, and that galaxy of patriots at the same time that they are the most numerous and the brightest in the constellation that enlightened our Revolution, - yet I apprehend no man will say that Virginia or any other state has a right to appropriate them. Sir, these names are National. They belong to the United States of which we are and will be a part; and we can claim them as our own and so may every other citizen of the United States, I trust. And as for historical considerations, if that is the kind of historical considerations, sir, it is no wonder that this a perfect wilderness at the time these great names were making should not have produced a portion of those men. But, sir, it has its own historical considerations. If we will refer (I think) to the "Notes on Virginia" of Mr. Jefferson, we will see that there are some historical associations connected with the valley of the Kanawha, as we call it, but as he calls it or spells it "Kanaway" - with the accent on "Kan" and "way". Yet, sir, how does this affect the question one way or another? Does either name or any name perpetuate or make more potent those historical considerations, of actions of which we have all occasion to be proud? Certainly not, sir.

But to come down now to the bare point of getting a name, I think it is an indication or evidence of the poverty of the country in seeking to avoid the rule that has been adopted in naming States elsewhere. I do not mean poverty in the world's goods, but in its home literature, or something of the kind. We have the names of all the capitals of Europe repeated in this country, some of them describing villages, with a church, black-smith-shop and a house. The old Roman and classical names are repeated in this country, and such is the dearth that we have them forty times over. Look at this naming of places one after another as it has been exhibited in this country. We have Springfield, Massachusetts, Springfield, a town of some note in Ohio, Springfield the capital of Illinois, Springfield in Missouri, and so on. Again, Charleston, South Carolina, Charleston near Boston, Charlestown in Jefferson county and Charleston on Great Kanawha, and there is a little bit of a Charleston somewhere on the Missouri river. And when you take up a paper to read, there are so many places of the same name, you cannot tell which you are reading about, until you see certain circumstances detailed, and then you can give perhaps a good guess that it is not the one you thought it was (Laughter). This imputation does not apply to the general government in naming our ships of war. Systems have been pursued which have given them names that always sound well when you hear them. The ships of the line I believe are named after the states. The frigates, or another large class of vessels are named after the rivers; and, sir, within a few days we have heard the Wabash and Niagara and other of those beautiful names taking their part in fighting the battles of the country.

Again, sir, in naming the states, new states have almost always taken their names from the territories christened by Congress. A system has obtained and has been very regularly carried out to name them from the principal river or some other great natural feature. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Lamb) has named several of those names, and they have been alluded to by others. There are several others that have not been named by gentlemen here. There is Michigan, named from its lake, and Iowa and Minnesota, and Nevada and Utah, territories, from their principal rivers. Here is a system then that has been established, and one that has been admired, which gives you a name that is simply a name. It is not essential that a name should have any particular meaning attached to it. It is a name simply to be for use in referring to and so on. We merely ask that the State may be named in accordance with this system which has prevailed since the formation of the government after its principal river. It is true, sir, we have a part of the Monongahela in our borders, but that runs into Pennsylvania. There may be other rivers having their rise within our bounds but I do not remember any considerable one. There are no other rivers of any magnitude that are entirely within the territory of the proposed State. In the late convention, in a substitute that was offered was the name Allegheny. The name of the mountain range was adopted. The substitute, however, as a whole was defeated, and when we came into committee the question was between Allegheny and Kanawha; and, sir, (I suppose I may state without violating any propriety) on account of the limits we were then giving to the boundary, in many places not touching the mountains at all, it was thought that name would be inappropriate and by general consent Kanawha, derived out of the general system that had obtained in the United States, was adopted.

I do not know, sir, that it is worth while to dwell any longer on this subject. I have, and I wish it to be understood, - I have a positive objection to adopting anything which compels us to attach a Virginia to it. If we could have Virginia by itself I would take it and be thankful for it; but if we must have West Virginia or New Virginia, or, as the world will think, Little Virginia, I shall most certainly feel if it is persisted in after the discussion that has taken place, and under the circumstances - that it comes before us as a compromise - I certainly shall think that at least there is a strong affection somewheres for the fleshpots of Egypt (Laughter).

MR. HERVEY. I shall vote for striking out; first for the reason that my constituents are opposed to the new name. Second, because I am opposed to it myself. Third, because neither myself nor my constituents knew anything about this compromise. I have the further reason that I do not understand we are bound by any particular rule as to precedent; that we are free to choose our own name. I therefore feel free to declare to the Convention that I shall vote for the change, believing that I am bound to do so.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. I had not, Mr. President, intended to make any further remarks on this question; and had it not been for the particular mode of argument of my friend from Wood, who seemed to impugn the motives of gentlemen here, who advocated this change, I should not have added a remark. The gentleman has predicated his arguments on the technical ground that this name was a matter of compromise in the committee. Well now, Mr. President, is this body to stultify the voice of their constituents - the whole people of northwestern Virginia - from the fact that four or five in a committee room made a compromise? I do not care, sir, how honorable that committee may have been, I do insist that we shall not stultify the voices of our people simply to accommodate the views of a little committee that met in a dark corner of this building. Those are my views on that. I do not wonder that the gentlemen who have taken the opposite side of this question are not so much attached to the name of Virginia as some of my constituents are. I can fully and freely apologize for you, gentlemen. But that you should attribute wrong motives to us, is something I am not so free to excuse.

MR. VAN WINKLE. I impugn the motives of no one.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. Yes, sir; but you say our motives should be impugned because we want to strike out this name on account of the wishes of our constituents, that we are longing for "the fleshpots of Egypt" &ampc. I do not think, sir, that it applies at all. I must admit that I love the name of Virginia, as indicated by my friend from Monongalia; and I believe, sir, if the question was propounded as to who is entitled to the name that it would be accorded to this people. The fire and patriotism that animated our fathers who fought for our liberties appears to have settled down on the people of northwestern Virginia; and here it is, sir, that Virginia appears in her true and noble character. Certainly, we are entitled to the name.

I am not actuated alone by a wish to conform to the wishes of my constituents, but, from my heart I love the name of Virginia; I love the people and the territory of Virginia; and I am unwilling to array all the wrongs and evils she has done, and look at the dark side of Virginia alone; but I would sometimes look at the brighter side, and that is the side my people look upon. And they are attached to the name; and I will say, sir, that although I am attached to the name of Virginia, I would be as far from wanting to sit under the shadow of Richmond, this day I believe, as my friend from Wood. And I know, sir, it is not the wish of my constituents. It is a familiar name. It is a name I have listened to ever since I have been able to speak - that of West Virginia. It is familiar all over this broad land of our country - West Virginia. Something attaches to the name that ennobles us in the eyes of the country. I intend so far as I am concerned, that we will have it.

Now, sir, I think the technical objection raised by the gentleman from Wood should have no bearing or weight before this body - that a little committee should stultify the voice and wish and will of their constituents. If we change the name and submit it to the people within the proposed boundaries of the State, and they adopt it, it becomes the will and wish and pleasure of the people. We stand here to represent them. We are the people; and if we think it is their pleasure that the name be stricken out we act as the people; and certainly when it is endorsed by the people it is legitimate and proper and there can be no technical objection to it raised.

MR. LAMB. I do not rise for the purpose of repeating to the Convention any of the considerations which I have already urged upon this question, but simply to draw their attention more distinctly to the attitude in which the question presents itself before them; to draw their attention more distinctly to the provisions of the ordinance of August 20th. The first clause of the first section of that ordinance reads as follows:

"The people of Virginia by their delegates assembled in Convention at Wheeling do ordain that a new State to be called the State of Kanawha" should be instituted. Then in the second section of that ordinance a provision is contained that "on the fourth Thursday of October following a vote should be taken on the formation of the new State" as hereinbefore proposed.

The June convention, sent here by the people of Virginia to take such measures as their safety and interest might require, assuming to act in the name of the people of Virginia, ordained that a new state should be formed under the name of "the State of Kanawha." The question upon the fourth Thursday of October was distinctly put to the people: shall a new state be formed as proposed in this ordinance? and by an overwhelming vote of the people they have ratified and confirmed this action of the June convention.

Daniel Lamb
Daniel Lamb
The question is a very pertinent one as proposed by the other member from the same county as myself: are we at liberty to set aside not merely the ordinance under authority of which we are assembled here, but to set aside the compromise, and the direct confirmation of that act by the people themselves. I admit, gentlemen, if there was any necessity for it; if any great interest would be sacrificed by adhering in this matter to the ordinance of August 20th - that the safety and interest of the people would justify us in disregarding it, I should feel free to act if the case presented to me was of such a character - free to act for the interests of my constituents. But as the question is presented to this Convention I see no propriety whatever in the assumption of power proposed.

MR. POMEROY. I move we adjourn till three o'clock. It is nearly one o'clock, and a number wish to speak, the gentleman from Monongalia among them, as I understand. The motion to take a recess was agreed to.


MR. VAN WINKLE. Before the gentleman from Monongalia proceeds, I would take this opportunity to explain the "imputation" which the gentleman from Doddridge says I cast upon him and others. I had no intention, sir, to impute any improper motives to anybody. I think I somewhat guarded my language against such a conclusion. I wanted to warn gentlemen against the bias that might be on their minds owing to the circumstances. The gentleman from Doddridge very cleverly returned the "imputation." I do not see him present. I regret it. He instanced almost by name, by an indication as good as if he had named the names, myself and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Lamb) sitting by me, as a plain reason for the course we were taking, that we did not happen to be born on the soil of Virginia. Well now, sir, it might be, if I was in the habit of taking offense at such things or carping at them, I might ask the question whether it is to be hereafter in the new State as heretofore in the old one, that a person who did not happen to be born on the soil is to be ostracised to any extent whatever. The gentleman from Ohio said that he had been here over thirty years. I have lived in Virginia for twenty-six years, have had children born unto me here; my dead are here; all that I have and all that I expect, in the way of property in the world, is here; and if that evidence of attachment to the soil, evidence to satisfy any person of the inducements at least if not a patriotic feeling towards the soil on which I reside, I shall always be unable to furnish it.

MR. WILLEY. The remarks of my friend - and I hope I am authorized, as I feel proud, to call him so - have made it unnecessary for me to occupy the floor in making even the few remarks which I had intended to make.

I am very glad to understand from that gentleman that he did not intend to impugn the motives or impeach the loyalty and fidelity of the members of this Convention, to the interests of western Virginia or to the obligations resting upon them as faithful members of this body. I am all the more willing, sir, to accept the explanation of the gentleman from the fact that a contrary interpretation would be utterly at war with all my previous knowledge of his gentlemanly bearing and perfect courtesy. As to the other matter to which the gentleman adverted, I had nothing to say, and have nothing now to say. I am willing to accord to him or to any other member of this body loyalty and fidelity to and identity in interest with western Virginia, the same as if they had been born upon her soil. The idea of the place of nativity has no weight with me.

I desire to notice the argument which was adduced on the other side; but I shall certainly not be drawn out into any extended remarks about any subject connected with this matter.

It is objected that the people whom we represent, already ordained in the previous Convention that this State should be called Kanawha; and that they subsequently ratified by their vote the ordinance as made by their delegates in the previous convention. Well, sir, if we were to receive that as a test of the wishes of the people in regard to the name, it would be at once conclusive with me; but knowing my constituents as I do, and knowing their wishes in the premises, and hearing as we have all heard from many members of this body the views of their constituents in the premises, I am induced to believe sir, that a large majority of the people within the limits of the proposed new State are not satisfied with the name of Kanawha. Representing my own constituents, I, however, undertake to speak only for them; and I know that with scarcely a dissenting voice in the twenty-four hundred votes of Monongalia county, they are dissatisfied with the name. As to myself, I can say in all sincerity that it is to me a matter of the most perfect indifference. Give me a new State and call it whatever name will be acceptable to the people, and I am satisfied.

As to the power of this body, I think it complete. We are as sovereign as the Convention that made the ordinance alluded to. We are the people as much as that body was the people; and our action is no more final than the action of that body was final. Our action, as the action of that body did, has to go back for the sanction of the people.

It occurs to me, sir, without extended argumentation, that our power in the premises is perfect; and that settling this question on any other interpretation of our powers would very much hamper us in regard to projects of vastly more moment that will be before the Convention. We are proposing absolutely and unconditionally to include in the new State a very considerable number of other counties than those included by the ordinance. Yet I think we have the power to do so. It is to go back to the people. They are to determine it at last. So much, sir, for my views of our power, and for an answer to the argument used in opposition to striking out the word Kanawha.

As for the "fleshpots of Egypt," my friend and I used to be down there and I think we can both say we got enough of them (Laughter). We got a dose of them in 1851 that has lasted us ever since. I am very willing, sir, to place myself under my provisional Moses from the county of Wood (Laughter); ready to follow him in this new enterprise of ours; and I hope he will be more successful than his predecessor and not only get a sight of the "Promised Land," but will go over Jordan with us (Renewed merriment). I will say this, however, that it matters not to me whether you call this West Virginia or New Virginia or Kanawha or Potomac or Augusta or Allegheny, or any other name. I am satisfied, however, that my constituents would be best pleased with the name of West Virginia.

And while I am up I will take occasion to say that although I am done with the "fleshpots of Egypt," and hope to sever political connections as a state with eastern Virginia. I am nevertheless, ready, sir, to take anything good from them or any other place where I may find it. I am not to be frightened from what is right and proper and means good by any imputations meant or unmeant - by any prejudices whatsoever. I will take what is right and what is proper let it come whence it may; and if I can find anything in the old constitution that is best, I am willing to adopt it - anything in the policy or history of old Virginia, I am willing to adopt it.

Sir, there are cherished memories connected with that old state in old times that will never be obliterated while memory holds her seat. Whatever may have been the course of Virginia towards us in recent times, even West Virginia owes a duty which she ought to have the magnanimity to acknowledge. On her soil our own goddess of liberty was born; and however much her devoted followers may have discarded her worship by the introduction of false gods, still I cling to the memories of the past, and I shall cherish that until memory is no more.

Moreover, sir, we have fought this fight under the name of West Virginia. We are known and recognized as West Virginia - on the continent, over the sea, in Europe, and everywhere, we are spoken of as West Virginia, and as men rising up in the majesty of our love of right and of liberty and periling our lives and our fortunes and taking a stand in defense of our rights. We have been called and designated as western Virginians; and if I were to make a selection of all the names it seems to me that of West Virginia would be the most proper. We are not adopting the principles of old or east Virginia with the name. Such a conclusion is utterly illogical. We are standing by the principles upon which we have been fighting hitherto under the name of western Virginia; and we can stand as steadfastly and loyal hereafter when we are utterly cut off from political connection with east Virginia while the name is Western Virginia as under any other name.
Waitman Willey
Waitman Willey

I conclude, sir, for fear of my going off into an argument - by saying that personally it is a matter of the most perfect indifference to me what the new State is called. It is a matter of taste. It involves no principle; and I think the guiding fact which should influence our action here, is what name on the whole would best suit the majority of the people included within the new State. I believe, sir, West Virginia would do that. I believe Kanawha is not suited to a majority of them, and therefore for the present shall vote for striking it out, and I am perfectly willing any other name shall be inserted. That Kanawha shall be retained - I am perfectly willing to that personally, but I wish to consult the wishes and feelings of my constituents.

MR. SINSEL. After hearing the apology from the gentleman from Wood, I wish to make a few remarks.

MR. VAN WINKLE. No "apology", sir, I made an explanation. I offer no apology for anything I do.

MR. SINSEL. I was just going to reply to the remarks of the gentleman from Ohio in reference to this ordinance being binding. I had always understood or been taught to believe that when the people assembled in the capacity of a convention in a country like this, that there was no law to restrain them only the Constitution of the United States, the laws of Congress, and the treaties made under them - that it was presumed that we had resolved ourselves into our original elements, and that we could form any kind of a constitution that might suit the delegates best. We are, then, responsible to no other than our constituents. If we do a work here which does not give satisfaction to them, why they will vote it down. They have finally to decide this question. Then, if we are in our original elements how can the Convention that preceded us be above us? It is true we are dependent on the legislature of Virginia for our compensation. That is a small matter though. So I think that the ordinance passed last August surely cannot trammel us in the least. We have a perfect right to make such a constitution, and give such a name to the new State as we may think best, and submit it to the people for ratification or rejection. They finally pass upon it. We do not act finally in the matter.

MR. CALDWELL. I would ask, Mr. President, for the ayes and noes upon the question.

MR. PAXTON. Mr. President, before the call of the ayes and noes, I was going to ask the privilege of a single remark. It is not because I care for the name, but because I believe there is an important principle involved in this - a principle that will have a bearing - an important bearing - on our future action.

If we now vote to change the name, do we not declare at once, by the very first vote we take here - the first action towards making a Constitution - do we not absolutely ignore the ordinance which called us into being? It appears to me we do, sir. It appears to me we declare at the very outset that we are not going to be controlled by that ordinance. Is that not a very dangerous precedent to establish in the beginning of our proceedings? I appeal to gentleman to know if it is not? Shall we establish that precedent now, that that ordinance is in no manner binding? Because if we can depart from it in this instance, we can do so in other instances where there is the slightest pretext for doing so. For one I desire to enter my protest against that departure. If we adopt that course, for the future we shall be entirely at sea, without compass or rudder, and it will be a miracle, sir, if we are not wrecked on some shoal.

Gordon Battelle
Gordon Battelle
MR. BATTELLE. I desire to make a single remark, assigning the consideration that will chiefly control my vote on the matter now before the Convention. It is this: not only did the ordinance passed by the former convention fix the name, but it has been ratified by solemn vote of the people. And I find, so far as I understand my powers and duties here, no power to go behind that vote of the people. It may be very probable that there is some dissatisfaction with that name - that some individuals prefer a different one. But they have not in any authorized form expressed that wish to the Convention, and until they do so I shall be compelled to vote for what the people themselves have ratified by a solemn vote.

I will further say that should it be the pleasure of the Convention, in the exercise of a very questionable power, as it seems to me, to strike out Kanawha, I shall be opposed to substituting either New Virginia or West Virginia. We are now forming a new State. I for one would want a new name - a fresh name - a name which if it were not symbolical of especially new ideas would at least be somewhat indicative of our deliverance from very old ones. But the consideration I have first named is the one which will control my vote in opposing the striking out of the name of Kanawha.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. Do I understand that the ayes and noes are demanded?

MR. PRESIDENT. It is withdrawn.

MR. CALDWELL. No, Sir, I did not withdraw it.

The demand for the yeas and noes being seconded the vote was taken and resulted:

YEAS - Messrs. Brown of Preston, Brumfield, Caldwell, Carskadon, Cassady, Dille, Dolly, Hansley, Haymond, Hubbs, Hervey, Hagar, Lauck, Mahon, O'Brien, Parsons, Powell, Parker, Pomeroy, Sinsel, Simmons, Chapman J. Stuart, B. F. Stewart, Sheets, Soper, Taylor, Trainer, Willey, Walker, Wilson - 30.

NAYS - Messrs. John Hall (President), Brown of Kanawha, Brooks, Battelle, Chapman, Harrison, Irvine, Lamb, Montague, Paxton, Ruffner, Stevenson of Wood, Van Winkle, Warder - 14.

So the word "Kanawha" was stricken out.

MR. VAN WINKLE. I move to fill the blank by inserting "Alleghany."

MR. HAYMOND. I move to amend by making it "Columbia."

MR. HERVEY. I move to amend the amendment by substituting "New Virginia."

MR. STUART of Doddridge. An amendment cannot be made to an amendment.

MR. VAN WINKLE. It is clearly proper to amend an amendment. The amendment to an amendment has the same status as an amendment to a motion.

MR. CALDWELL. I suppose the first vote will be on the amendment to the amendment. I give notice that if that amendment is defeated I shall move to amend with the name of "West Virginia."

MR. STUART of Doddridge. I would like to know, Mr. President, what is the question now.

THE PRESIDENT. The gentleman from Wood proposes to fill the blank with Alleghany, -

MR. STUART of Doddridge. I understand that.

THE PRESIDENT. And the gentleman from Marion has amended it by proposing Columbia and the gentleman from Brooke has amended the amendment of the gentleman from Marion by proposing New Virginia.

MR. WILLEY. Mr. President, I understand the question to be this: The gentleman from Wood moved to fill the blank with Alleghany. The gentleman from Marion moved to amend that by substituting Columbia, and the gentleman from Brooke moved to amend that by substituting New Virginia. So the question, as I understand it is on New Virginia.

MR. LAMB. When we cannot untie a knotty proposition, it may be better to cut it. I should move, if it would meet with general concurrence, that members write upon separate ballots the names they prefer, that those ballots be handed to the clerk to be by him counted and the name which has a majority in its favor be inserted.

MR. CALDWELL. I second that, sir; it is a perfectly fair proposition.

MR. POMEROY. If I understand that it would be this: the clerks would take down all the names proposed and get an assistant, and one call the roll and the other record the vote; and then according to the rules the one having the lowest number would be dropped until we reached the majority vote. I would by no means be satisfied to let this matter be decided by a mere plurality. That would be the quickest way; and then every man would vote his own sentiments; and then after the whole thing is decided I think we will all agree to be satisfied if we do not get just the name we wish.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. I think the question is on the motion of the gentleman from Brooke. That is the only question that can be entertained by this body.

THE PRESIDENT. The Chair doubts much whether the motion of the gentleman from Ohio would be in order.

MR. CALDWELL. Only by general consent.

MR. LAMB. It was not a motion so much as a suggestion. I did not consider myself as making any motion. The amendments might be withdrawn to allow us to fix on a mode of taking the vote.

THE PRESIDENT. Will the gentleman from Brooke accept?

MR. HERVEY. I have no objections.

MR. STEVENSON of Wood. I would move, to lay the motion of the gentleman from Wood with the amendments, on the table, in order to get at the other matter properly. If that does not carry it will show the house are in favor of taking the vote in this way.

MR. POMEROY. The gentleman from Brooke yields to let the vote go in this way.

MR. HAYMOND. I withdraw my amendment.

MR. VAN WINKLE. Since the gentlemen withdraw their amendments, I withdraw my motion. I would like the mode to be distinctly understood.

Then we have nothing but the proposition of the gentleman from Ohio before the house.

MR. LAMB. The proposition then would be to let the roll be called, and that each member in response to the call of his name mention the name he would prefer for the new State, and that if any one name have a majority it shall be adopted.

William Stevenson
William Stevenson

MR. BROWN of Kanawha. It was impossible to hear the gentleman who just took his seat. I wish distinctly to understand the question before I vote.

THE PRESIDENT. The Chair understands the proposition to be this: that persons having preferences for different names - New Virginia, West Virginia, etc., will name them, and the vote will be taken, every person voting for that name he prefers the new State to have.

MR. BROWN of Kanawha. Each gentleman will then vote for the name he prefers?


MR. BROWN of Kanawha. And if any name has not a majority of the whole House, the lowest one be dropped?

MR. LAMB. That would be the fair method of putting the question: drop the lowest until a majority can be had.

THE PRESIDENT. The lowest will be dropped until some one name has a majority of the vote of the house.

The question is on the motion of the gentleman from Ohio.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. I rise Mr. President, to know what the motion of the gentleman from Ohio is. (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT. Will the gentleman from Ohio reduce it to writing?

MR. LAMB. I have attempted to state it several times. It is, that the roll should be called, and that each member in answer to his name should mention the name he preferred for the new State, to be taken down by the Secretary, and that if any one name has a majority of the votes of the members in its favor, that shall be adopted as the name of the new State, but if no name has a majority of such vote, the lowest shall be dropped and the roll shall be called again, and so on until such majority is obtained.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. Well, in order to get some sort of action, I move to amend by saying the blank shall be filled by West Virginia. I want to get some definite proposition.

MR. VAN WINKLE. We withdrew our motion in order that this motion might be put. If it is to go in that way, then my motion to insert Alleghany has the preference. The Convention can take the vote whether they accept the amendment of the gentleman from Ohio or not.

THE PRESIDENT. The Chair is of opinion that the motion of the gentlemen from Doddridge would not now be in order.

MR. STUART of Doddridge. I do not wish to be out of order. I withdraw it.

The motion was adopted and the vote taken with the following result:

For "West Virginia" - Messrs. John Hall (President), Brumfield, Caldwell, Carskadon, Cassady, Dille, Dolly, Hansley, Raymond, Hubbs, Hervey, Hagar, Irvine, Lauck, Mahon, O'Brien, Parsons, Parker, Sinsel, Simmons, B. F. Stewart, C. J. Stuart, Sheets, Soper, Taylor, Trainer, Willey, Walker, Warder, Wilson - 30.

For "Kanawha" - Messrs. Brown of Kanawha, Battelle, Chapman, Harrison, Lamb, Montague, Paxton, Ruffner, Van Winkle - 9.

For "Western Virginia" - Messrs. Brooks and Powell - 2.

For "Allegheny" - Messrs. Pomeroy and Stevenson of Wood - 2.

For "Augusta" - Mr. Brown of Preston - 1.

So it was determined to fill the blank with "West Virginia".

Chapter Eleven: First Constitutional Convention of West Virginia

West Virginia Statehood

West Virginia Archives and History