July 2, 1861
House of Delegates assembled at 12 M.
Prayer by Rev. David Hervey.
The Clerk read the minutes of the preceding day.
J. G. West nominated for permanent Clerk G. L. Cranmer. There being no other nomination, the roll was called by Col. Leroy Cramar, when Mr. Cranmer receiving 31 votes (all that were present) was declared elected.
Mr. Moss moved that the election of Speaker be postponed until to-morrow at the usual hour of meeting.
Mr. West moved to amend by specifying the hour of 11 A. M.
Mr. Porter moved to further amend by substituting seven o'clock this evening, which with the motion as amended was adopted.
On motion the Assembly then adjourned.
The House of Delegates met at 7 P. M.
The Clerk read the proclamation of the Governor calling together the State Legislature.
The next business in order was the election of a Speaker.
Mr. PORTER, of Hancock, nominated Daniel Frost, of Jackson.
Mr. CRAMER put in nomination Fontain Smith, of Marion.
Mr. WILLIAMSON, of Pleasants, nominated J. G. West, of Wetzel, but at the request of that gentleman withdrew the nomination.
The roll was called and Mr. Smith received ten votes and Mr. Frost thirteen.
Mr. FROST was therefore declared duly elected Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia.
The Speaker was conducted to the chair, and returned his thanks for the honor conferred, in a few remarks.
On motion of Mr. ZINN, a committee was appointed to wait on the Governor and inform him that the House is now prepared to receive any communication he may see fit to send in.
Messrs. Zinn, Crothers and Cramar were appointed the committee.
The committee returned and reported that the Governor would send in his message in a few moments.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth brought in the message of the Governor, which was read by the Clerk as follows:
To the Senate and House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia:
GENTLEMEN: You have been convened in extraordinary session in midsummer, when, under other circumstances, you should be at home attending to pursuits incident to this season of the year. The exigencies with which we find ourselves surrounded demand your counsels.
I regret that I cannot congratulate you on the peace and prosperity of the country, in the manner which has been customary with Executives, both State and Federal. For the present, those happy days which, as a nation, we have so long enjoyed, and that prosperity which has smiled upon us, as upon no other nation, are departed.
It is my painful duty to announce that the late Executive of the State, with a large part of the State officers, civil and military, under him, are at war with the loyal people of Virginia, and the constitutional government of the United States. They have leagued themselves with persons from other States, to tear down the benign governments, State and Federal, erected by the wisdom and patriotism of our fathers, and under which our liberties have so long been protected and our prosperity secured. They have instituted civil war in our midst, and created a system of terror around us, to intimidate our people.
But while we are passing through this period of gloom and darkness in our country's history, we must not despair, or fold our hands until the chains of despotism shall be fastened upon us, by those conspiring against our liberties. As freemen, who know their rights, and dare defend them, our spirits must rise above the intimidation and violence employed against us; and we must meet and conquer every obstacle these men are attempting to interpose between us and our liberties. If we manfully exert ourselves, we shall succeed. There is a just God who "rides upon the whirlwind and directs the storm." Let us look to him with abiding confidence.
The fact is no longer disguised, that there has been in the South, for many years, a secret organization, laboring with steady perseverance, to overturn the Federal Government, and destroy constitutional liberty in this country. The various conventions held in that portion of the country, for some years past, ostensibly for other objects, have only been the means of feeling the public pulse to ascertain if there was sufficient disease in the body politic for dissolution. The cry of danger to the institution of slavery has been a mere pretext to rouse and excite the people. In abandoning the Constitution of the Union, the leaders of the movement must have known that they were greatly weakening the safeguards and protection which were necessary to the existence of that institution.
It has been urged that secession was necessary to protect the slave interest of the South. As a usual thing, those who are interested in a species of property, are the best informed in regard to their own rights, and the most tenacious in maintaining them. Secession has not originated among the large slaveholders of the South, nor has it found among that class its busiest and most ardent advocates. The sections of the country in which the largest slave interests have existed in this State, have heretofore been the most decided in support of the Union. The votes given at the last November and February elections in Eastern and Western Virginia, will show that the slaveholders themselves considered the safety of their property as dependent upon the maintenance of the Union. Another pertinent fact may be mentioned in this connection. It is, that in sections where slaves are numerous, it is always much easier to introduce a system of mob law and intimidation to control the votes of the people. The constant apprehension of servile insurrection makes the master an easy subject of control in a crisis like the present. Eastern and Western Virginia are illustrations of the truth of this statement.
What affiliations this great conspiracy has had in the Northern States remain yet unknown. The spirit which has been roused throughout the North has carried all opposition before it. But the extent of the treasonable plot has not been fully developed. Before the designs of the conspirators were made manifest, thousand os good men sympathized with the effort as they regarded it, of the South to maintain their Constitutional rights; but these have all abandoned them when the true purpose was ascertained. If there are any in the North, or in the border States, who still adhere to the conspiracy, they will attempt to aid its object by indirect means; by opposing and ____ at the efforts to which the government, in a struggle for existence, may use in its own defence, and by attempting to raise a popular outcry against ____, and advocating a peaceable separation. A bold stand for secession would scarcely be attempted; but those who sympathize with the leaders of rebellion will seek by covert and indirect means to aid the object of the conspirators.
There is only one question now for each American citizen to decide in this controversy: Do you desire to stand by, and live under, the Constitution which has contributed so long and so greatly to the happiness and prosperity of the people, and to transmit its blessings to our prosperity? Or, do you desire the Union broken up, and an oligarchy or military despotism established in its stead? The leaders of the South are striving for the latter. The Government of the United States is exerting its whole force to maintain the integrity of the former. There can be no neutral ground. The secession leaders have declared that they desire no compromise, except the unconditional surrender to them of the objects they have been aiming to accomplish, and the consent of the Government to its own destruction. The very proposition of compromise places a false issue before the country. It implies that the Federal Government has committed some great wrong which ought to be remedied before peace can be restored; when in fact the leaders in the South have controlled the legislation of the country for years, and the laws now in existence were made, or suggested, by themselves, when in power.
The position of this State is a peculiar one at this moment. Last November, at the Presidential election, it gave upwards of sixteen thousand majority for Bell and Douglas, both Union candidates for the Presidency. Their principal competitor was loudly proclaimed as also true to the Union; and throughout the canvass, any imputation of favoring disunion was indignantly denied by the advocates of all the candidates. At the election for members of the Convention in February last there was a majority of over sixty thousand votes given to the Union candidates; and the people by an equal majority determined that no act of that Convention should change the relations of the State to the Federal Government unless ratified by the popular vote. Yet the Delegates to that Convention passed the Ordinance of secession, and attached the State to the Southern league, called the Confederate States; and to render the step irretrievable and defeat the whole object of requiring a ratification of the people to render such acts valid, they put them into effect immediately; and before the vote could be taken on the question of ratification, transferred the whole military force of our State to the President of the Confederacy, and surrendered to him military possession of our territory.
When the chains had been thus fastened upon us, we were called to vote upon the ordinance of secession. The same reign of terror which compelled Union men to vote as they did in the Convention, was brought to bear on the people themselves. Vast numbers were obliged by intimidation and fear of threatened violence, to vote for secession. Many did not vote at all. Many, no doubt, were influenced by the consideration that the measures already adopted had placed the Commonwealth helplessly within the grasp of the President of the Southern Confederacy, and that she could not escape from his power by the rejection of the ordinance.
It is claimed that the ordinance of secession has been ratified by a majority of ninety-four thousand votes. Had the people of Virginia then so greatly changed? The best evidence that they had not is found in the fact that, wherever the vote was really free, there was a much larger majority against secession than was given at the election in February to the Union candidates for the Convention. The means of intimidation and violence, which were resorted to over a large portion of the State, to compel an appearance of unanimity in favor of secession, show that the leaders of this movement felt that the hearts of the people were not with them.
The proclamation of the President calling for seventy-five thousand volunteer troops is commonly relied upon to justify the ordinance of secession. That proclamation was issued on the 15th of April, 1861. It must not, however, be overlooked that on the 6th of March, 1861, the pretended Congress at Montgomery, provided by law for calling into the field a force of one hundred thousand volunteers; and that on the 12th of April the Secretary of War of the Confederate States publicly announced that war was commenced, and that the capitol at Washington would be captured before the first of May. The intention to capture the capital of the Union was repeatedly proclaimed in influential papers at Richmond and other Southern cities before the 15th of April. It was in fact long a cherished object of the leaders in this great conspiracy. Did they expect the President of the Nation to yield the capital, and retire in disgrace, without adopting any measures of defence? Yet Virginia, we are told, seceded, because the President, under such circumstances, called volunteers to the defence of the country.
I need not remark to you, Gentlemen; how fatal the attempted disseverance of the Union must prove to all our material interests. Secession, and annexation to the South, would cut off every outlet for our productions. We cannot get them to the Confederate States across the Alleghanies. The Ohio river and the country beyond it would be closed to our trade. With Maryland in the Union, our outlet to the East would be interrupted; while we could not carry our products across the Pennsylvania line, by the Monongahela or other route. In time of war, we would encounter a hostile force, and in time of peace, a custom house, at every turn.
The interests of the people of Virginia were entrusted to the Richmond Convention. How have they fulfilled that trust? Why, if war was to come, was our land made the battle field? Why was this Commonwealth interposed as a barrier to protect the States of the South, who undertook to overthrow the Union in utter disregard of our remonstrances? In the position in which the Richmond Convention have placed us, our homes are exposed to all the horrors of civil war, while the President of the Montgomery Congress can announce to the people of the Gulf States that "they ____have no apprehension; they might go on with their planting and business as usual; the war would not come to their section; its theatre would be along the borders of the Ohio river, and in Virginia."
Have we done wrong in rejecting the authority of the men who have thus betrayed the interests confided to their charge?
Under these circumstances the people of the State who desired to preserve a Virginia in the Union, by their delegates appointed at primary meetings, assembled at Wheeling on the 13th of May last, to consider the measures necessary to protect their constitutional rights and liberties, their lives and their property. Before a frank comparison of views could be had, differences of opinion were to be expected, and such differences accordingly then existed. That Convention, however, after three day's mature consideration, determined to call upon the loyal people of the State, after the vote was taken on the Secession Ordinance, to elect delegates to a Convention to be held on the 11th day of June, 1861. All who witnessed the assembling of the last Convention, will bear witness to the solemnity of the occasion. Its action was attended with singular unanimity; and has resulted in the re-organization of the State government, as a member of the Union.
Their journal and ordinances will be submitted to you. Plain principles vindicate their acts. The Constitution of the United States was adopted by the people of the United States; and the powers thus derived could be resumed only by the consent of the people who conferred them. That Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution of the State recognizes it as such, and all the laws of the State virtually recognize the same principle. The Governor, the Legislature, and all State officers, civil and military, when they entered upon the discharge of their duties, took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. When the Convention assembled at Wheeling on the 11th of June they found the late Governor and many of the other officers of the State engaged in an attempt to overthrow the Constitution they had sworn to support. Whatever they might actually effect, with the aid of their confederates, by unlawful intimidation and violence, they could not lawfully deprive the good people of this Commonwealth of the protection afforded by the Constitution and laws of the Union, and of the rights to which they are entitled under the same. The Convention attempted no change of the fundamental law of the State for light and transient causes. The alterations adopted were such only as were imperatively required by the necessity of the case; to give vitality and force to the Constitution of the State, and enable it to operate in the circumstances under which we are placed. The[y] attempted no revolution. Whatever others may have done, we remain as we were, citizens of Virginia, citizens of the United States, recognizing and obeying the Constitutions and laws of both.
I trust, gentlemen, you will excuse me for dwelling so long upon these important topics.
Immediately on entering upon the duties of my office, I addressed an official communication to the President of the United States, stating briefly the circumstances in which we were placed, and demanding protection against invasion and domestic violence to which our people were subjected; and I am happy to inform you that the President, through the Secretary of War, promptly gave me very satisfactory assurances that the guarantee embodied in the Constitution of the United States would be efficiently complied with, by affording to our people a full protection. I transmit here with copies of these communications.
I also send you here with a copy of a communication received from the Secretary of the Interior at Washington, certifying officially the apportionment of representatives in the 38th Congress, under the census of 1860. Virginia has 13 representatives in the present Congress. Under the new apportionment she will have eleven only. Before the term of the 38th Congress commences, it will be necessary, therefore to redistrict the State, in conformity with the principles established in the 13th and 14th Sections of the 4th Article of the Constitution of the State.
The President of the United States has issued his proclamation convening an extra session of Congress, to meet at the National Capital on the fourth of this month. The two Senators from this State have vacated their offices. It is known to me that they are engaged in the conspiracy to overturn the Government of the United States, and in rebellion to its lawful authority. They have renounced the title of citizens of the United States, claiming to be citizens of a foreign and hostile State. They have abandoned the posts assigned to them by the State of Virginia in the Senate of the United States, to take office under the rebellious government of the Confederate States. I recommend, therefore, the election of Senators to fill the vacancies which have thus occurred.
I beg leave to call your attention to the subject of the Circuit Courts. Those circuits, as now prescribed by law, are too large to enable the Judges to efficiently perform the duties incumbent on them. In investigating this subject, you may find it not only necessary to reduce the size of the circuits, but to increase the number of the regular terms, or make it the duty of the Judges to hold special extra terms, at which the business before them can be disposed of. I would recommend, however, that any alterations you may make for the present, should be confined to that part of State in which the authority of this government is recognised.
I would also request your attention to the ordinance of the Convention to authorize the apprehension of suspicious persons in time of war, and to the provisions of the Code on kindred subjects. When a civil war is raging in the midst of us, an efficient system to protect the loyal people of the Commonwealth against the intrigues, conspiracies and hostile acts of those who adhere to our enemies, is necessary for the safety and good order of the community. Nor will the efficiency of the system be diminished, if it be conceived is a judicious spirit of moderation. I recommend that matter to your attention, trusting that any amendments which may be found necessary to protect the community, will be unhesitatingly adopted, but, at the same time, that all proper precautions will be taken to avoid any measures of unreasonable harshness.
The subject of the revenue will demand your attention. A recklessness has characterized the legislature of the State for the last ten years, that has involved us in a most onerous debt. For many years past the Western part of the State has been contributing, in an unequal and unjust proportion to the revenue, which has been largely expended on internal improvements for the benefit of our Eastern brethren, from which the West has received no advantage in any form. The proceeds of the heavy debt contracted on State account have also been applied to Eastern railroads and improvements from which the West derives no benefit. The leaders of Secession in the Gulf States have adroitly involved Virginia in an immense expenditure in support of their treasonable schemes; and to save their own people and property, have managed to transfer the theatre of war to our territory. Before they are driven out, the whole of the material interests of the State East of the Blue Ridge will probably be destroyed, including the Internal improvements upon which such lavish expenditures have been made.
I can only recommend to you a vigilant attention to render effective the collection of the taxes already imposed, and the utmost economy and prudence in their expenditure. Under the circumstances of our people, no increase of taxation should, I think, be attempted.
The suspension of specie payments by the banks of the State has been already legalized by the Legislature. Under present exigencies, the measure was, I think, unexceptionable. If specie payments were continued among us, during the existence of civil war in our midst, the coin would soon find its way into the hands of those who would board it up. The banks would be deterred from using their own notes by constant demands upon them for coin, while the coin would be concealed and laid away, thus ceasing to answer the purposes of circulation. The Banks too would have to press collections from their debtors, without discounting any; and the result would therefore be a general oppression of the debtor class of the community and a _____ of any kind.
I would recommend you to authorize the banks to issue notes of a less denomination than five dollars but not less than one dollar. There must be some medium of change. I would not limit them, however, for the present, in the amount of small notes, further than the limitations already imposed by law upon their total circulation. The denominations of the notes to be issued, not less than one dollar, may be properly left to their discretion. The demands of business will regulate the matter; and if it be found they are abusing the privilege, proper regulations can readily be adopted to correct such abuse.
There is a great aversion among business men to stay laws. It may be admitted that, under ordinary circumstances, they are unwise. But at this period, the mass of debtors in this State are, from necessity, otherwise engaged than in making money to pay their debts; and none of the debts now contracted were made with a knowledge of the present state of affairs. Rigidly to enforce the collection of them would ruin thousands of worthy men. But I recommend especial caution in reference to any law you may adopt on this subject. It often happens that such laws are so framed as to furnish a strong inducement to the creditor to prosecute suits, and costs are accumulated, so that both creditor and debtor are the losers and nobody benefited but the officers of the law.
The Board of Public Works should, I think, at once be abolished, and its powers conferred on the Executive. Our pecuniary difficulties commenced with its organization. I wish they would end with its abolition. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the abolition of the Boards.
You have met, gentlemen, in the midst of civil war, but I trust you may yet be assembled under happier auspices, when the strife shall be over, and peace and prosperity be restored to this once happy country.
All which is respectfully submitted.
F. H. PEIRPOINT.
Mr. West moved to lay the Message on the table and print 10,000 copies.
Mr. HOOTON, of Preston, moved to substitute 5,000, which motion was adopted.
The Clerk read a communication from the Auditor, which, on motion was laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
The House then proceeded to the election of Sergeant-at-arms.
FONTAIN SMITH nominated Evans B. Fogal, of Monongalia, and there being no other nomination, the roll called, and Mr. Fogal having received 24 votes was declared elected.
Mr. CROTHERS nominated for First Door Keeper, James O. Hawley, of Wheeling. No other nominations being made, the Clerk called the roll, when Mr. Hawley received 23 votes, and was declared elected.
Mr. SMITH nominated for Second Door Keeper, James Musgrave, of Wetzel county. No other nominations being made, the roll was called, and Mr. Musgrave received 24 votes, and was declared elected.
Mr. PORTER moved that a committee of five be appointed to revise the rules of this house, and report them to-morrow; which motion was adopted.
Committee - Messrs. Porter, Moss, Davis, Ruffner and Logan.
Mr. CRAMER offered the following resolution which was adopted:
Resolved, That the Speaker of the House invite the ministers of the gospel of the several christian denominations in this city, to open the sessions each day with prayer. Adopted.
The following order submitted by Mr. Crothers was adopted.
Ordered That the Chair be instructed to procure an authenticated copy of the census of this State for 1860 and report to this House the same, showing the total number of the white, free colored, slave, and total population of each county, and the federal numbers of the several counties; also of the several districts of Northwestern Virginia, Southwestern Virginia, the Valley, Piedmont and Tide Water districts.
The House then adjourned.
The Senate organized permanently by electing Wm. M. Lewis, of Doddridge, Clerk, and Jesse S. Wheat, of Wheeling, Sergeant-at-Arms.
The President of the Senate delivered a brief address.
The Governor's message was read at the same hour as in the House.