Editorials on the Declaration of the People of Virginia

Wheeling Intelligencer
June 14, 1861

The Wheeling Convention.

The adjourned Wheeling Convention, which met yesterday, is evidently bent upon taking decisive, practical action. It represents not only Western Virginia but the loyal citizens of several counties east of the Blue Ridge, and is unquestionably a genuine exponent of the Union sentiment in the State, so far as it has yet dared to manifest itself. It will, therefore, shrink from no just responsibility, and will interpose with the most positive measures to redeem the State from the treason which is hurrying it to destruction. Its first step will be to declare that the present State government has in effect abdicated its functions, and is no longer in authority. No man who recognizes the supremacy of the federal Constitution can question the political or the moral right of the convention to do this. Obedience to the State executive and Legislature, which are in league with rebellion, cannot be rendered without disloyalty to the Federal Government. - Submission to the two authorities is an impossibility, and therefore the recognition of the one necessarily carries with it the renunciation of the other. The loyal men of the State have, in fact, no alternative. But they are not only obliged to repudiate their derelict State Government; they must, in justice to themselves and to their cause, establish a new State Government. It is not sufficient that they merely have federal protection. They require positive legislation for their peculiar circumstances. Congress has not the local knowledge to enable it to supply this legislation, and even if it had the knowledge it has not the Constitutional power. The federal government cannot interfere against State taxation, or with any other of the adjuncts of State authority, and the loyal people of Virginia, though they may obtain personal security by the presence of the Federal armies, must rely upon themselves alone for the preservation of all their positive political powers in their State relations. To effect this they must provide for a new State Government, and, serious as the task is, we are glad to see that their representatives in this convention will promptly undertake it. Their plain is to form at once a provisional government, under which elections will be held for new State officers in lieu of those who have forfeited their places by retain[in]g service under the present treasonable regime, and for a new Legislature, which, besides supplying the enactments that shall be necessary to meet the edits of the usurpers and promote the general interests of the State, shall also elect two United States Senators in the place of Mason and Hunter, who have ceased to recognize federal authority. - There is little doubt but that, before the day designated for holding these elections, the federal troops will have advanced far enough down into the State to enable loyal men almost everywhere within its borders to take an active part in canvassing and voting. The rebels who hold out, of course, will not participate in the elections. An oath of allegiance to the Federal Constitution will be made a pre-requisite to the right to vote. The result must be a loyal sound State government, whose authority backed up, if need by, by federal forces, will be irresistible; and the whole crew of secessionists will very quickly get their final quietus in the Old Dominion.

This line of action is perfectly practicable, and involves no such violence to the federal Constitution as did the first project to detach Western Virginia, and erect it summarily into an independent State - the Constitution expressly requiring, for partition of a State, the consent of the Legislature of the State, as well as of Congress. Again, it makes the loyal portion of Virginia serve as a most potent instrumentality to cure the rest of treason. The tide-water region would never allow the west alone to do the legislation for the State. However sulky and perverse at first, its interests would soon costrain [it] to take its full part in the public councils. - far sooner than if left to its own independent movements. It is not improbable that the State may be ultimately divided. Its two sections are made up of very diverse elements, with very different pursuits, and probably each would prosper better if free from the other. But the time for this has not yet come. The authority of the Federal Constitution over the State in its entirety must first be re-established and put beyond future peril. When that is effected, there will be time enough for all parties concerned to decide calmly and wisely upon the expediency of a division.

- N. Y. World, 12th.

Wheeling Intelligencer
June 22, 1861.

[From the N. W. Commercial Advertizer]

Western Virginia.

The Times of this morning has fallen into a very serious mistake, when it asserts that the convention now in session at Wheeling have, "by a formal and unanimous vote, resolved to cut loose from the Old Dominion, and form for themselves a new and independent State. * * * The great State of Virginia is to be dismembered by the voluntary act of over half a million of her late citizens; and a new State formed from the Western part of her territory will claim a place in the Union."

On what authority these assertions can rest we are at a loss to know. Most assuredly the late "declaration" contained no such ideas, either expressed or implied. That document, as temperate in tone as it is unanswerable in argument, simply declared that their dearest rights demanded "the reorganization of the government of the commonwealth," and declared, that "all acts of the said (Richmond) convention and Executive tending, to separate this commonwealth from the United States, or to levy and carry on war against them, are without authority and void; and the offices of all who adhere to the said convention and Executive, whether legislative, executive, or judicial, are vacated." In all this there is not a particle to arrant the conclusion drawn by our contemporary.

Further, the very same number of the Daily Times contains a despatch from Wheeling that a resolution, presented by Mr. Farnsworth, of Upshur county, declaring one of the leading objects of the convention, to be the separation of Western from Eastern Virginia, was tabled by a vote of fifty-seven to seventeen! In other words, only two-sevenths of that body are in favor of dividing the State. All the speculations about the name to be given this unborn babe, or its recognition by Congress as a legitimate child of the Union, are necessarily to be of no purpose. There will be no separation in fact, no secession even on paper, other than in too hasty metropolitan dailies.

We take this occasion to express our warm admiration for the wisdom and love of country which have characterized the proceedings of the Wheeling convention up to the present date. That the people of that section have labored under grievances many and oppressive, has been shown abundantly in the columns of this paper. A state debt of over twenty millions of dollars has been contracted within fifteen years for works of internal improvement, nearly every dime of this sum having been expended in the insatiate Tide-water region. In political appointments we have also shown that the West has been completely ignored. The machinery of taxation has been so beautifully adjusted, that the large planters should escape nearly "scot free" for their two-legged property, which is the most difficult and expensive to protect. In every respect the trans- Alleghany section has seen itself neglected, despised, and over-burthened. It had every possible provocation to retaliate upon its late domineering rival, now that the opportunity for turning the tables has arrived.

But the convention felt satisfied that separation would not be an act either of good faith or sound policy. Their honor stands pledged for the redemption of the state debt, and the word "repudiation" is not in their vocabulary. It is a weed which grows only on disunion soil; but will not bear transplanting to the breezy uplands of Virginia, Kentucky or Tennessee. Constitutionally the Western counties have no right to secede, and their people will not furnish Charleston and Richmond with an argument which might be employed with fatal effect against the federal government in the great question now undergoing the arbitration of public opinion and the sword. Their separation, even with many just grounds of complaint, would reduce them to a level with the rebels of the cotton states. Secession has not such an agreeable odor now-a-days that the loyal citizens of the "Pan Handle," of the Great Kanahwa [sic], of the Greenbriar, must cull a boquet from its leaves and flowers to wear in their bosoms or their flowing locks.

And they are wise as well as right and loyal in so doing. Western Virginia, with its progressive and tolerant ideas, is henceforth to be the State! Richmond may continue to be the seat of government, where the capital, the archives, &c., of Virginia will remain; but the power of that tyrannical clique of noisy, restless, extravagant politicians, such as wise, Mason, Hunter, Pryor, Letcher, and their compeers, is gone forever. This rebellion will consign them to political destruction as certainly as did the first French revolution the old noblesse of that country. The latter permitted themselves to become mere cyphers annexed to the regal power, and abandoning themselves to the licentiousness which reigned at Court, ripened rapidly for the sickle of the guillotine. In like manner the F. F. V.'s of Eastern Virginia have linked themselves to the slave propagandism of Calhoun and his school until their insolence and corruption became no longer tolerable. As a class they are doomed to speedy extinction. The rule will pass out of their hands, and that for ever. It was bad enough when they spouted treason in the thoroughfares and in the halls of legislation; but when they proceeded to carry this into actual rebellion, they placed "the last straw on" the patient "camel's back," which is broken and can never be untied. Central and Western Virginia will henceforth rule the Old Dominion. Their far-seeing political leaders apprehend the certainty of such a glorious revolution, and will not undo the good work already accomplished, by calling for separation from the East. But they will quietly tell its besotted engineers and firemen, who have caused this lamentable collision, to take a back seat in the rear car, while they take charge of the locomotive and conduct the train safely to its destination.

Chapter Seven: First Session of the Second Wheeling Convention

A State of Convenience

West Virginia Archives and History