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Chapter Fifteen
West Virginians Approve the Willey Amendment

Senator Waitman T. Willey
Senator Waitman T. Willey
West Virginia was required to submit the revised constitution containing the Willey Amendment to the Constitutional Convention for approval. The delegates reconvened on February 12, 1863, and listened as Senator Willey argued for approval: "Why should we hesitate to accept the great advantages before us? We have complied with every requisition of the law. We have fulfilled every constitutional obligation. And now wealth and popular education, and material and moral progress and development, and political equality, and prosperity in every department of political economy, so long withheld from us, are all within our grasp. "

A committee appointed to consider the Willey Amendment was asked to study the possibility of compensating loyal slave owners for their financial losses, but the resolution was tabled. On February 17, the delegates unanimously approved the amendment. Despite efforts by Carlile and others to convince West Virginians to oppose support, the voters of the new state ratified the revised constitution on March 26 by a vote of 28,321 to 572. Upon receiving the results, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation on April 20, 1863, declaring that in sixty days, West Virginia would become the 35th state in the Union.

Primary Documents:

Debates and Proceedings of the First Constitutional Convention of West Virginia
Resolution of Committee to Seek Compensation for Loyal Slaveholders
Report of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Elections, Christopher Grafflin
Vote of Delegates on Revised Constitution
Statehood Proclamation

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