Chapter Five
First Wheeling Convention

May 13-15, 1861

On May 13, 1861, delegates from twenty-seven western Virginia counties assembled at Washington Hall in Wheeling to consider responsive action to the Ordinance of Secession. William B. Zinn of Preston County was appointed temporary chairman of the convention, and George Latham of Taylor County was selected as temporary secretary. George Latham
George Latham
General John Jay Jackson
General John Jay Jackson
An immediate debate ensued over which delegates should be allowed to participate in the proceedings. General John Jay Jackson of Wood County favored the seating of all attendees from northwestern Virginia, but John Carlile urged that the convention be "composed only of gentlemen who come clothed with the authority conferred upon them by the people of their counties when they appointed them." Finally, a proposal by Chester D. Hubbard of Ohio County to create a committee on representation and permanent organization was adopted, ending the debate.
After this issue was resolved, the delegates focused on the proper response to the crisis. General Jackson, Waitman Willey, and most of the other delegates believed that any steps taken prior to the May 23 statewide vote on the Ordinance of Secession would be premature and "altogether unwise." Others, however, including John Carlile, sought immediate action. "Let us act," Carlile stated, "let us repudiate these monstrous usurpations; let us show our loyalty to Virginia and the Union; and let us maintain ourselves in the Union at every hazard. It is useless to cry peace when there is no peace; and I for one will repeat what was said by one of Virginia's noblest sons and greatest statesmen, 'Give me liberty or give me death!'" John Carlile
John Carlile
New Virginia
Proposed State of New Virginia
On May 14, John Carlile proposed a resolution for the creation of the new state of New Virginia. Opponents deemed this proposal revolutionary, and the majority of the delegates supported resolutions offered by the Committee on State and Federal Resolutions, which recommended that if the people of Virginia approved the Ordinance of Secession on May 23, western Virginians would elect delegates to a Second Wheeling Convention to begin on June 11, 1861.

Primary Documents:

Proceedings of the First Wheeling Convention
Delegates to the First Wheeling Convention
"Recollections and Narative [sic] of a Member of the May Convention of 1861..."

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