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Chapter Fourteen
Lincoln's Dilemma

December 1862

When President Abraham Lincoln received the statehood bill on December 22, 1862, he was deeply distressed. He asked the six members of his cabinet for written opinions on the constitutionality and expediency of admitting West Virginia to the Union, but they divided evenly. Lincoln had supported the creation of the Reorganized Government of Virginia, but recognized the statehood bill as being forced upon him by Radical Republicans in their effort to use the war to end slavery. Lincoln recognized the questionable nature of the state's creation, noting that "a measure made expedient by a war, is no precedent for times of peace." Despite reservations, on December 31, 1862, Lincoln signed the bill because he could not afford to lose the support of loyal West Virginians. In his opinion, he wrote:

"Doubtless those in remaining Virginia would return to the Union, so to speak, less reluctantly without the division of the old state than with it; but I think we could not save as much in this quarter by rejecting the new state, as we should lose by it in West Virginia. We can scarcely dispense with the aid of West Virginia in this struggle; much less can we afford to have her against us, in Congress and in the field. Her brave and good men regard her admission into the Union as a matter of life and death. They have been true to the Union under very severe trials. We have so acted as to justify their hopes; and we can not fully retain their confidence, and co-operation, if we seem to break faith with them."

President Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln

Primary Documents:

Opinions of Lincoln's Cabinet on the Admission of West Virginia
Opinion of Abraham Lincoln on the Admission of West Virginia
Accounts of Lincoln's Signing of the Statehood Bill
Jacob Beeson Blair's Role in Lincoln's Approval of the Statehood Bill

Other Sources:

"Lincoln and the Vast Question of Slavery"

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West Virginia Statehood

West Virginia Archives and History