Governor Pierpont's Address
to the Reorganized Government of Virginia

May 6, 1862

Governors Message.

To the Senate and House of Delegates of Virginia:

Gentlemen: - In obedience to the wishes of your honorable body, and of the Convention which assembled on the 26th day of November, 1861, at Wheeling, from the Counties proposed to be embraced im the new State of West Virginia, I have convened you in extra session, the principal object of which is, to take final action on the proposed division of the State of Virginia as far as the Legislature is concerned.

A Convention, under legal sanction embracing certain counties principally West of the Alleghany mountains, assembled on the 26th day of November, 1861, for the purpose of making a Constitution for the proposed new State to be formed out of part of the territory of the State of Virginia. That Convention completed its labors on the 18th day of February 1862, by the completion of a Constitution and Schedule, which are herewith submitted to you. The Schedule provides that the Constitution should be submitted to the people embraced in the proposed new State, on the 3rd day of April 1862, for their adoption or rejection, and the returns of the election to be made to the commissioners named in said Schedule. Owing to the disturbed condition of the country in some of the Counties composing the new State, the vote was not as full as could be desired, but it is a singular fact in these revolutionary times, that the vote, while it is respectable in numbers, is almost unanimous in favor of the Constitution made by the Convention.

The Constitution of the United State provides that "no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, without the consent of the Legislature of the State concerned, as well as of the Congress." Therefore, to complete the work which has been commenced, of the division of the State, it requires the consent of the Legislature of Virginia and the assent of Congress. Of course your honorable body will take such action in the premises as shall seem meet to you.

Perhaps I have performed my duty in submitting the matter to you without saying more. But I am not willing to leave the question here. It is urged by some that the movement is revolutionary - Those who urge this objection, do not understand the history, geography and social relation of our State. Geographically, the East is separated from the West by mountains which form an almost impassible barrier, as far as trade and commerce is concerned. The barrier is so great that no artificial means of intercourse have ever been made beyond a mud turnpike road. All the trade and commerce of the West is with other States, and not with Eastern Virginia. The two sections are entirely dissimilar in their social relations and institutions. While the East is largely interested in slaves, the West has none, and all the labor is performed by freemen. The mode and subjects of taxation in the State have been a source of irritation and indeed of strife and vexation, between the two sections for many years past, as well as that of representation in the Legislature. The subject of the division of the State has been agitated at one time and another ever since I can remember. I have no doubt but the rebellion has somewhat precipitated action on the subject at the present time, but of the ultimate division of the State I have not doubted for years. While I can see no possible advantage of the State remaining a unit, I can see many advantages to both sections by division. It is thought by some that the agitation of the subject at this time is unfortunate on account of the restoring of the whole State to loyalty to the Union and the Constitution of the United States. This objection is more imaginary than real. The new State does not propose to go into operatio9n until the assent of Congress be given to the divisions. Before that time, the rebellion will be at an end all over the State. All the offices in each county will be in loyal hands, acting harmoniously under the old flag of our fathers. They can then take care of themselves.

While you are in session, I desire to call your attention to some subjects that require action at this time.

The counties in the Valley and the East are being re-organized. I find some opposition among certain leading men. In all the banks and branches in the State the stockholders have the appointment of a majority of the directors, I have found in one or two instances that the stockholders are secessionists, and they being in the majority have refused to recoginize directors that I have appointed. I would recommend that the charters be amended, giving the Executive power to appoint a majority of the directors in the mother banks and branches in which the State has an interest in the disloyal portions of the State.- Bank directors, with other s required to take certain oaths of fidelity, by the acts of the last Legislature, have attempted to set those acts at defiance, and persist in transacting business without oath or license, relying on evading the law by protracted litigation. I would respectfully advise that the law be amended so as to provide that any person required to take the oath prescribed, who shall refuse, and attempt to carry on or do business without taking the prescribed oaths, be declared to be acting seditiously, and, upon affidavit of that fact, that the Executive have the authority to have the party arrested and confined til the takes the oaths, or enters into bonds, with good security, conditioned to abstain from like offence. I assure you, gentlemen, that nothing but firm and vigorous action will subdue the proud, turbulent spirit of the rebels, and it will require a few examples in each section to quiet all cavillers.

The present tax of the State is levied with a view of defraying the current expenses of the State, to pay the interest on the public debt and about one million of appropriations for one purpose and another. None of the appropriations made by the Legislature which fixed the present tax will be paid. The current expenses of the State are only about $700,000, while the tax was to raise upwards of $4,000,000.-By a little energy, I think, nearly three millions of that sum may be collected by the 1st of January next. The only drawback is the large number of men who have large landed estates and are heavy tax payers, who have joined the rebellion and left home, and will not be here to pay. I would advise that in all such cases, where it is town property, it be made the duty of the Sheriff to rent the property at public auction, to the highest bidder, for a term of years, for the tax due to paid in hand, and to take bond and security for the payment of all accruing taxes on the property, for the term of the lease; and that where the real estate consists in lands, that he sell at public auction, on due notice, to the highest bidder, such part of the land as may be necessary to pay the taxes due, including commissions, advertising sale, costs of deeds and survey; that in all cases the land sold, be laid off by metes and bounds, and the purchaser take in fee simple, not subject to redemption by the owner. In this way a large amount of taxes will be secured to pay interest to the bond holders of the State. Loyal Virginia will never repudiate, whether one or divided. Rebel Virginia has brought great distress on the State as well as a partial suspension.

Gentlemen, if we could only get rid of the vast herd of the leaders in this rebellion in the State, and get their lands into the hands of honest, working men, I predict for the State a prosperity unexampled in its history. In ten years it would be more than a compensation for all that have gone, and all the slaves they have taken with them. I may have some other matters to submit to you, gentlemen, before you adjourn. If so I shall beg your indulgence and consideration.

Executive Chamber, May 6, 1862.

Chapter Twelve: Reorganized Government of Virginia Approves Separation

West Virginia Statehood

West Virginia Archives and History