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Proceedings of the
Second Wheeling Convention

June 14, 1861

The Convention met yesterday at the usual hour and was opened with prayer by Rev. David Harvey.

The minutes of the preceding day were read and approved.

COL. KRAMAR, of Monongalia, who was present for the first time, came forward and took the oath of office.

MR. CARLILE, from the Committee on Business, reported the following ordinance. On his motion it was ordered to lie on the table and be made the order of the day for to-morrow at eleven o'clock.


The people of the State of Virginia, by their delegates assembled in Convention at Wheeling, do ordain as follows:

1. A Governor and Lieutenant-Governor for the State of Virginia shall be appointed by this Convention to discharge the duties and exercise the powers which pertain to their respective offices by the existing laws of the State, and to continue in office until their successors be elected and qualified.

2. A Council, to consist of five members, shall be appointed by this Convention to consult with and advise the Governor respecting such matters pertaining to his official duties as he shall submit for consideration, and to aid in the execution of his official orders. Their term of office shall expire at the same time as that of the Governor.

3. The Delegates elected to the General Assembly on the twenty-third day of May last, and the Senators entitled, under existing laws, to seats in the next General Assembly, who shall qualify themselves by taking the oath or affirmation hereinafter set forth, shall constitute the Legislature of the State, to discharge the duties and exercise the powers pertaining to the General Assembly. They shall hold their offices for the terms for which they were respectively elected. They shall assemble in the city of Wheeling on the ____ day of ____ and proceed to organize themselves, as prescribed by existing laws, in their respective branches. A majority in each branch of the members qualified as aforesaid shall constitute a guarantee to do business. A majority of the members of each branch that qualified, voting affirmatively, shall be competent to pass any act specified in the twenty-seventh section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the State.

4. The Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, members of the Legislature, and all officers now in the service of the State, or of any county, city or town thereof, or hereafter to be elected or appointed for such service, including the Judges and Clerks of the several courts, Sheriffs, Commissioners of the Revenue, Justices of the Peace, officers of city and municipal corporations, and officers of militia and volunteers of the State not mustered into the service of the United States, shall each take the following oath or affirmation before proceeding in the discharge of the several duties:

I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the laws made in pursuance thereof, as the Supreme law of the land, any thing in the Ordinances of the Convention which assembled at Richmond on the 13th day of February, 1861, to the contrary notwithstanding; and that I will uphold and defend the Government ordained by the Convention which assembled at Wheeling on the 11th day of June, 1861, and the Legislature, Governor and all other officers thereof in the discharge of their several duties as prescribed by the last mentioned Convention.

5. If any elective officer who is required by the preceding section to take said Oath or Affirmation, fail or refuse so to do, it shall be the duty of the Governor, upon satisfactory evidence of the fact, to issue his writ declaring the office to be vacant, and providing for a special election to fill such vacancy, at some convenient and early day to be designated in said writ of which due publication shall be made for the information of the persons entitled to vote at such election, and such writ may be directed, at the discretion of the Governor, to the Sheriff or Sheriffs of the proper County or Counties, or to a special Commissioner or Commissioners to be ordered by the Governor for the purpose. If the officer who fails or refuses to take such oath or affirmation be appointed otherwise than by election, the writ shall be directed to the appointing power, requiring it to fill the vacancy.

He also from the same Committee reported back the resolution submitted by Mr. Frost, of Jackson, on Thursday, commanding the dispersion of seditious assemblages, &c., with the recommendation that it pass.

On motion the question was put and the resolution adopted.

MR. LAMB, from the Committee on Credentials, reported that John Love, of Upshur county, had presented proper credentials entitling him to a seat in this Convention from that county, and he moved that his name be entered upon the roll as such.

The report as far as made was adopted. Mr. Love's name was entered upon the roll, and he came forward and was qualified.

MR. BARR - The Committee also instructed me to report that Nathan H. Taft is entitled to represent the people of Barbour county as one of the delegates in this Convention, in the place of Spencer Dayton, who has been heretofore admitted as a member. He moved that Mr. Taft be received in place of Mr. Dayton.

MR. STEWART, of Doddridge, wished to know some of the facts in the case. He was not aware that the Committee had the power to displace a member already qualified. He thought such action irregular.

MR. LAMB said the facts were briefly these:

The appointments in that county had been made by subscription. Mr. Shuttleworth was upon all the subscription papers presented to the Committee. When we first acted upon the case and presented that roll of members to the Convention, Mr. Taft had not his papers to lay before us. We therefore presented the name of Mr. Dayton, because he was the only second name appearing upon the papers we had to act upon. Mr. Taft, upon due notice to Mr. Dayton, has since brought forward his papers, and it appears now by the whole of the papers which we now have before us, that Mr. Taft is appointed to represent that county, by a larger number of citizens than Mr. Dayton. Mr. Shuttlesworth is unanimously appointed, and the county is entitled to but two members.

MR. STEWART renewed his objection on the ground of irregularity. Mr. Dayton had been qualified, and there should be some regularity in the mode by which he should be displaced.

MR. LAMB referred to the proceedings of the day before. The claim of Mr. Taft had been regularly referred to the Committee. A consideration of it necessarily involved a contest with Mr. Dayton. Under order of the Convention, it was incumbent on the Committee to report on the respective claims, and they had done so.

Mr. STEWART said he had understood the resolution of yesterday (submitted by the gentleman from Taylor) to express that Mr. Taft should be entitled to take his seat as a representative in the Legislature, and not whether he or Mr. Dayton should take a seat here as delegate to this Convention only.

The Secretary read Mr. Burdett's resolution. It is as follows:

"That Nathan H. Taft be admitted to a seat in this Convention, as the delegate from Barbour county to the Legislature."

Mr. BURDETT said that at the time he submitted that resolution, was not aware that Mr. Taft had credentials showing him regularly elected. He had not offered it to give Mr. Taft a seat in preference to Mr. Dayton, but he thought the Committee on Credentials had full power to determine and decide who are delegates to this Convention, particularly with the concurrence of this body itself.

Mr. FLESHER, of Jackson, inquired if they could both hold seats in the Convention.

The Chair said that was a matter for the Convention to decide.

Mr. MOSS, of Wood, moved as a substitute for the report of the Committee, that the office of delegate to the House of Delegates for Barbour county be declared vacant, and that Mr. Taft or Mr. Dayton be declared such delegate.

Mr. CARLILE said there was no power in the Convention to appoint a delegate for the county of Barbour. Neither was there any power to increase the number of representatives to which she is entitled on this floor. He trusted the gentleman from Wood would withdraw his motion, and allow the report of the committee to be adopted.

Mr. DAYTON, who was present, took occasion to express his willingness to acquiesce in the action of the committee. He had come here, determined that Barbour should be represented, and without being aware that any gentleman except Mr. Shuttleworth would be here. There was no contest between himself and Mr. Taft. He would already have resigned in favor of that gentleman (having since his arrival here become acquainted with his superior claims) but that he should have been subjected on his return home to the imputation of having shrunk from taking part in the action of the Convention. He desired, therefore, that when he retired that it might be by the action of the Convention. With this explanation he would let the matter rest.

Mr. MOSS withdrew his motion.

The question was taken on the report of the Committee, and it was adopted.

Mr. PAXTON moved to reconsider the vote by which, a few minutes since, the report of the Committee on Business was made the special order for to-morrow at eleven o'clock. The printed report could not be in the hands of the members before that hour. He wished to substitute a later day.

Mr. CARLILE remarked that the suggestion met the concurrence of the committee. He hoped a later day would be named.

The question was put and the vote reconsidered.

Mr. PAXTON then moved that the ordinance reported by the Committee on Business be made the special order for Monday at 11 o'clock.

Mr. CRANE, of Tucker, moved to amend by substituting Wednesday for Monday. He was obliged to absent himself till that time, and was very desirous of being present when the consideration of the ordinance came up.

MR. PAXTON accepted the amendment and the motion as amended was concurred in.

The order of the day was called.

MR. LAMB moved to suspend its consideration until the Committee on Credentials could conclude their report.

The order being suspended.

MR. LAMB said that he had been instructed additionally to report that Wm. F. Mercer, of Loudon county, claims a seat in the Convention; that the Committee regard the credentials offered by Mr. Mercer as insufficient and so report to the Convention. He asked that Mr. Mercer himself be heard.

MR. MERCER spoke at some length in support of his claims.

MR. CARLILE read the credentials of Mr. Mercer, and made some remarks refutation of his claims and urging that the duty of the Convention required them, however much their sympathies might be enlisted, to strictly require that none but such as were regularly appointed should be received as delegates.

MR. STEWART supported Mr. Mercer's claims in a few remarks.

Mr. BURDETT submitted a motion that the gentleman from London be declared a delegate of this Convention; which he afterwards withdrew.

The question of the adoption of the report of the committee was taken and the report was adopted.

Mr. CARLILE read to the Convention an invitation for them to attend a strawberry festival given by the Union ladies of Wheeling in the evening at Washing Hall. He hoped all would go.

He also announced that the Central Committee, appointed by the May Convention, had taken such steps as enabled them to announce that 2,000 stand of good arms had been procured, 500 of which arrived in the city to-day, and the other 1,500 to be here this evening or in the morning.

The order of the day was then again taken up.

On motion of Mr. Dorsey it was postponed until 2 o'clock P. M.

The Convention then took a recess until 2 o'clock.


The Convention assembled at two o'clock.

Mr. HAGANS asked and obtained leave to introduce the following resolution:

Resolved, That, in consideration of the peculiar circumstances that have surrounded our loyal brethren of Loudon county, as well as of their geographical position, this Convention now extends to them a cordial and special invitation to accredit and send their number of delegates as soon as possible, and that Wm. F. Mercer be made the medium of this invitation.

The resolution was adopted.

Mr. TAFT, of Barbour, then went forward and took the oath of office.

The Chair then announced the order of the day to be the Declaration reported by the Committee yesterday. The question is on its adoption.

Mr. DORSEY, of Monongalia, said he had no special objection to this declaration of itself. He thought there was an error or an inadvertency in the wording of one sentence:

"The act of the General Assembly, calling the Convention which assembled at Richmond in February last, was therefore a usurpation; and the Convention thus called has not only abused the powers nominally entrusted to it, but, with the connivance and active aid of the executive, has usurped and exercised other powers, to the manifest injury of the people, which, if permitted, will inevitably subject them to a military despotism."

This sentence gave peculiar force to the one which precedes it, which reads thus: "The Bill of Rights of Virginia, framed in 1779, re-affirmed in 1830, and again in 1851, expressly reserves this right to the majority of her people, and the existing constitution does not confer upon the General Assembly the power to call a Convention to alter its provisions, or to change the relations of the Commonwealth, without the previously expressed consent of such majority." Taken in connection with the one first read, this seems to mean with the previously expressed consent of such majority, the General Assembly has the power to change the relations of the Commonwealth, and if that means the Federal relations, this is a virtual concession of the doctrine of secession. The objection, however, which he had to this document related to its connection with other documents reported to this Convention by the Committee on business, as being a part of a systematic plan which had been prepared by the committee reporting the declaration - a plan which he objected to and to which he would report his objections.

[Mr. CARLILE then entered at some length into an explanation and refutation of the objections of the member from Monongalia, which, together with the reply of Mr. Dorsey, we will print in full on the outside of our next issue - it having been impossible to transcribe them for this morning's paper.]

Mr. VAN WINKLE of Wood, followed Mr. Dorsey. He took substantially the grounds occupied by Mr. Carlile, in favor or re-organizing a government for the whole State, and in opposition to Mr. Dorsey, who had favored the immediate division of the State. In the course of his remarks he said, however: "I have been long convinced, Sir, that every interest of N. W. Virginia demands a separation from the East, and under other circumstances I believe such a separation ought to be effected in a friendly manner." But he urged they could not now know where the boundaries of a new State could be ___, and he never could consent to go and leave behind the people of those loyal counties that were not yet represented here in the convention. "Whenever the time comes I am willing to do everything to effect a separation. I admit that everything is in danger, still there is something like a moral obligation, a pledged faith, and I cannot consider it in any other light than that we are bound by this single county of Loudon, and by the other loyal counties now in possession of the secessionists."

Mr. CARLILE followed in some remarks strengthening his former remarks by following the position taken then. [We will append this to the first and print it all as one speech.]

Mr. NICHOLS, of Brooke, succeeded. He favored the plan of the Committee. Among other things he said: "The people of Brooke feel in relation to a division of the State like my friend from Monongalia. They feel that they have no identity of interest with the eastern part of the State, and have song sought to effect the purpose indicated by that gentleman. But we feel at the same time that owing obligations to the Constitution of the United States as the supreme law of the land, there are steps that cannot be taken at this preliminary stage of the proceedings. We owe constitutional obligations to the federal government. Where would we of Western Virginia have been to-day but for the protection of the Federal Government. We must consider whether our acts will contravene the acts of the Federal Government. We cast off our allegiance to the Southern Confederacy; we do not care for their protection, but we do care for the protection of the Federal Government, and about sustaining it in its constitutional obligations, and we do know that it cannot extend its arm or afford any protection to us except it treads upon every plank in the Constitution, the great platform of our national liberties. The plan proposed by the committee is the only one which we can adopt at this stage of our proceedings, to insure recognition and continued favor with the General Government."

MR. DORSEY, wished to explain that he had not favored (as they all seemed to have understood him) a violent and informal separation of the State without any intervention of any preliminaries whatever. He disclaimed any such purpose, in particulars and in general. I propose to go on with the plan so far as it is necessary to the reassembling of the Legislature, then to propose this matter of dividing the State to that legislature; then submit its action to Congress for ratification, in accordance with the spirit and very litter of the Constitution of the United States.

MR. STEWART, of Doddridge, differed in many respects with the gentlemen who had addressed the Convention. He thought this talk about the division of the State was rather out of place. He have loyal men from extreme portions of the State who are here claiming our protection. He was favorable to a division of the State if it could be done by the agreement and consent of the loyal people of the whole State; but he never would consent to cut loose from our loyal friends in the east who are helping us to aid the Government of the United State[s]. He never wanted to separate from that part of the State that held the remains of Washington and Jefferson. They were here to frame a State Constitution, and when their brethren in the eastern portion of the State were freed from the rebellious reign of terror they were willing to come into the Government the Convention was assembled here to establish.

Mr. Crane, of Tucker, in a brief speech assured the convention that although his people occupied the Southern extreme of Northwestern Virginia, and from their position the most exposed part of the border, yet he was authorized to say that his people were not only willing to a separation of Western from Eastern Virginia, but they want nothing short of a separation. He was ready, and his constituents were, to go in any direction, in arms or peacefully, for their deliverance from the bondsmen of Eastern Virginia. Nevertheless he pledged himself and his constituents to go along with the movement which was proposed here. It was, he believed, the best that could be inaugurated at this juncture.

On motion of Mr. Lamb, the Declaration was made the order of the day for 11 o'clock to-morrow and thereafter each day until disposed of.

Mr. STEWART moved that when the Convention adjourn to-morrow it be to meet on Tuesday next. Many of the members had come unprepared to stay for a great length of time, and it was necessary for them to go home to make necessary arrangements for a prolonged absence.

Mr. LAMB objected to the motion on the ground that if the convention adjourn till the time named the committee would have to suspend their labors meanwhile.

Mr. DORSEY suggested that the order of the day for next Wednesday was the ordinances reported this morning by the committee, and if he understood the motion making it the order for Wednesday the object was to give the convention time and opportunity to discuss the declaration now before the body, and he thought it would occupy all the time allotted to it. He thought it would be improper to adjourn over.

The question being taken on the motion to adjourn till Tuesday, it was rejected.

On motion the Convention then adjourned.

June 11
June 12
June 13
June 14
June 15
June 17
June 18
June 19
June 20
June 21
June 24
June 25

Chapter Seven: First Session of the Second Wheeling Convention

A State of Convenience

West Virginia Archives and History