Extracted from the Congressional Globe
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, December 10, 1862
ADMISSION OF WEST VIRGINIA.
Mr. BLAIR, of Virginia, demanded the regular order of business.
The SPEAKER stated the question in order to be the unfinished business of yesterday, being Senate bill No. 365, for the admission of the State of West Virginia into the Union, on which the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Segar) was entitled to the floor.
Mr. NOELL. I want to say a few words on this subject; and I hope the gentleman from Virginia will yield me the floor for that purpose.
Mr. SEGAR. I will yield the floor to the gentleman from Missouri if the gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Bingham,) who is to follow me, does not object.
The SPEAKER. The vote, by order of the House, is to be taken at two o’clock.
Mr. NOELL. Mr. Speaker, this question has been discussed so fully already that I do not expect to throw any new light upon it. I confess that I have had very serious doubts about the vote which I should give; but from a careful examination of the laws bearing on the measure, and from a consideration of the peculiar position in which the people of West Virginia are now placed, I have come to the conclusion that it is my duty to vote for it.
There are two clauses of the Constitution, sir, that I understand affect this question. It is provided in the fourth article of that instrument, that the United States shall guaranty to every State in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect them against invasion, &c. I believe that clause to mean, not only that the people of the State of Virginia are to frame and live under a republican form of government, but that the United States are to see that those people are placed in a position where they may exercise the privilege of framing and living under a republican form of government. The second clause of the Constitution, which has been so much discussed, provides that no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of another State without the consent of the Legislature of that State. Let me call the attention of the House to distinction that I draw between the precise phraseology of this clause and that which seems to be understood by many of the gentlemen who have already discussed the question. It is not provided here, as it seems to be understood, that this new State shall not be framed within the jurisdiction of another State, without the consent of that State, but that it shall not be framed without the consent of the Legislature of that State, and not without the consent of the State. I draw the distinction between the phraseology as we find it in this clause of the Constitution, and that which seems to be understood by the gentlemen who have discussed this question, and more especially the honorable gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. Crittenden, ) who seems to believe, from his argument made yesterday, that no new State could be erected within the jurisdiction of another State without the consent of the State.
Now, sir, if this legislative body in Western Virginia is the Legislature of Virginia, whether representing all of the counties of Virginia or not, if it I the constitutional Legislature of that State, the only anxiety that presents itself in the proper interpretation of the Constitution is, that we shall obtain the consent of that body. It has been already said, and argued sufficiently, that the Senate, that this House, that the whole Government has recognized the government inaugurated at Wheeling, in West Virginia, as the government of the State of Virginia. I say that there was an overwhelming necessity for such a recognition—such an overwhelming necessity as presents itself to our consideration at this time. What was it? We have undertaken, by the Constitution, to guaranty to every State a republican form of government. How are we to comply with the clause of the Constitution, when the organized government of the State of Virginia has gone into a treasonable conspiracy, and has undertaken to draw the whole State into the jurisdiction of a usurpation and of a foreign government? How are we to comply with this provision of the Constitution in guarantying to the people of West Virginia a republican form of government, unless we recognize in them a State in operation—a reorganization of the old system, still attached to the Union to which we belong? That is the only way in which we will be able to comply with this provision of the Constitution.
There was an overwhelming necessity in another point of view. What was the condition of the people of Western Virginia when the ordinance of secession was passed, and when the organized government of the State attempted to draw the whole of the “Old Dominion” into the southern confederacy? I speak as a matter of fact. Why, sir, the courts of Virginia, the laws of Virginia, and the whole social and political system of Virginia were broken, destroyed, perverted, and carried away; and the people of that section of the country were deprived of all means of regulating and controlling their own domestic affairs, for the machinery by which those things were to be accomplished was taken away from them. They were left without law, without courts, without officers, without everything, unless we undertake to say here that the State of Virginia was a State within the southern confederacy, and connected to it by the ordinance of secession and by the arrangement which was made by the commissioners with the confederacy. Why, sir, no right of persons, no right of property, no social or domestic affairs, could be regulated or controlled by the people of Western Virginia, under the circumstances in which they were placed, without recognizing the ordinance of secession, and acting as a State within the southern confederacy.
Therefore it was that there was an overwhelming necessity that this people should have the means to recognize the machinery of the old State government in harmony with the views which they entertained, and there was an overwhelming necessity, on our part, of recognizing what they did in that respect, so as to enable them to remain in the Union, and so as to secure to them the machinery of government by which they could regulate and control their own affairs.
But it has been said here that we should find ourselves in an extraordinary position when the whole State of Virginia shall have been reconquered, or when peace shall be restored, and she comes back to her allegiance, and asks to be considered as a State of the Union. If, by our action during her absence, she shall have been divided , and her territorial limits circumscribed, it is a consequence of her own acts. As a native of the Old Dominion, I feel some pride in her interest, and I would do nothing which is not right and proper under the circumstances. But it must be remembered that Eastern Virginia, under the administration of John Letcher, have done this thing for themselves. They have engaged in a struggle against loyalty and reason, backed up by an organized government warring against the Government of the United States. In that struggle they have torn the State asunder, and left this people west of the Alleghanies without a government and without any machinery by which their affairs can be controlled. If this state of things operates to diminish her power in this Government, if it impairs her dignity, the people who have dragged her into this condition are alone to blame.
At all events, the men who have remained loyal to the Government are not to suffer because the dignity of Virginia may be impaired. But I do not understand that Virginia is to suffer in the way of dignity or position by this division. Though the remaining portion of old Virginia may not have as much weight in Congress, yet the whole territory of the State will have more weight than she has now. She will have the same Representatives in this House as she had before, the two States being considered together. In the Senate she will have double power. (A Voice. That is why I object to it.) That is why I favor it, because I know that these two new Senators from Western Virginia will be identical in interest, feeling, and loyalty with loyal portion of this Confederacy. Therefore, it is that I would give that element additional strength in this Government, and weaken and impair the element which is calculated to break up and destroy this Union, as it is now engaged in an effort to do. I would, in these revolutionary times, do anything I could constitutionally do to weaken and impair the strength of the disloyal element in this Government, and build up, strengthen, and maintain the power of the loyal element. This is my position; and in voting to create a new State in Western Virginia, I think I am doing something to accomplish that purpose.
We are living in revolutionary times, and he who would undertake to apply measures of relief, such as are expedient in ordinary times of peace, is no statesman. We must apply a medicine suited to the disease, apply a remedy suited to the time; and we cannot afford, while the nation is trembling upon the brink of destruction, to split hairs on technical constitutional points. It I had power, I would save the nation’s life by the exercise of all powers necessary to the result; for such powers, whether expressed in the Constitution or not, are from necessity implied. I would save the nation, and would march with relentless step towards accomplishing its high and proud destiny. And I speak it as a member from a slave State. I am for the exercise of those powers which will accomplish he purpose. It is our duty to preserve the life of the nation, and it should not die for the want of the exercise of the proper power to do it. I believe that these people of Western Virginia are entitled to come into the Union as a State. I admit that I had grave constitutional doubts upon this question; but when I came to consider all the clauses of the Constitution in connection, and the condition in which I found those people placed in Western Virginia, I came to the conclusion that we had the undoubted right to do this act, and that it is our duty to relieve that people from the condition in which they are placed.
If, as remarked yesterday, we fail to bring Western Virginia into the Union, what will be the condition of that people when the war is over? We know the struggle which took place in Virginia thirty years ago upon the question of representation. The eastern portion of the State had a majority in the legislative body and in convention. I remember well the struggle then, for I was at that time in Virginia. The basis of representation fixed by an old constitution of Virginia is so arranged as to give to the slaveholding power of East absolute dominion over the people of Western Virginia. If they come back into the Union as a whole, the result will be, as remarked by the gentleman from Virginia yesterday, to saddle this revolutionary debt which has accumulated during this struggle, upon the people of the whole State, and place the people of Western Virginia at the mercy of the dominant power of that State, and subject to all the persecutions which they may choose to visit upon them. I would save them from that fate.
I do not propose to detain the House with any further remarks. I simply desired to state the reasons why I hold that we have the power to admit this new State within the limits of the State of Virginia, and the reason why I thought the measure equitable and necessary.
Mr. SEGAR. I have no sympathy whatever with my State in the course of rebellion which, for more than a year and a half, she has been pursuing. I never have had any, and never can; and it will be but retributive justice if, before this unhappy conflict shall end, she shall be made to repent sorely and sorrowfully of her wickedness and folly. But, sir, overruling considerations of representative duty, and a regard for sacred and time-honored principles, which have ever challenged my reverence, leave me no alternative but to enter my protest against the passage of this bill, and to put the House in possession of certain extraordinary facts connected with its history, which, when known will, I am sure have no small influence upon its judgment in this grave and important matter.
I do not propose to discuss the legal and constitutional questions involved in this bill; that office has fallen into far abler hands than mine; and I must say that, according to my judgment, the legal argument is altogether against the admission of the new State. The lucid showing of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Stevens,) and the gentleman from New York, (Mr. Olin,) and my venerable and venerated friend from Kentucky, and the gentleman from Massachusetts, whom I believe I have had the good fortune to make a friend of, despite of some early prejudices towards me, and for whom I take this occasion to say I cherish the most cordial esteem, has placed the illegality of this measure on a foundation which can no more be shaken than the everlasting hills. What I purpose to do is to show that, from the facts the case, and on considerations entirely independent of, and separate from, questions of constitutional propriety, this bill ought not to receive the sanction of this body.
Mr. BROWN, of Virginia. Will my colleague at this point allow me to ask him a question?
Mr. SEGAR. I have very little time, and I must decline to yield.
Mr. BROWN, of Virginia. I understand that the gentleman declines to answer any questions. I suppose any colleague does not deny the constitutionality of the government of Wheeling?
Mr. SEAGAR. No, sir; I admit the constitutionality and legality of that government. I could not open this floor if I were to deny it. I shall take very good care to guard my consistency. I have done it pretty well all my life, nor do I mean to sacrifice it now; for I may well hold the Wheeling government to be a legal government, and yet deny it the power to divide the State of West Virginia. It may not have given a legitimate consent to the division, and that is precisely what I propose to show, and by that showing to establish the unconstitutionality of the measure proposed in this bill.
I believe it is a fundamental maxim in our political system, dating as far back as the Declaration of Independence, that all government derives its authority from the consent of the governed; in other words, from that source of all legitimate power, the sovereign people. Now, sir, this bill is in the very teeth, in direct subversion of this cardinal principle of republican, popular government. This new State proposition has not received the sanction of the people upon whom the new government is to operate. Casting out the calculation the whole rebel portion of the State, I propose to show that the consent of the north western people themselves has not been had. It is not founded on the consent even of the people whose government it is claimed to be, and who are to come within its rule. There has not been that general, close representation of the people included within the limits of the proposed new State, which is absolutely necessary to impart legality to all governments among us. A very large portion of the people there were never represented at all, neither in the Legislature which called the convention that ordered a vote to be taken on the new State question, nor in the Wheeling Legislature, nor in the convention that framed the constitution of the proposed new State.
Let us look to the facts. I find that of the forty-eight counties to compose the new State, eleven never had even the semblance of representation—had no part, nor lot, nor say in the establishment of the new government. The counties of Logan, Calhoun, Nicholas, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Webster, Morgan, and Pendleton, eleven in number, and containing a white population of 55,400, were never represented anywhere—neither in Legislature nor convention—in reference to the formation of a new State. They never cast a vote either for the election of a member of the Wheeling Legislature, or for the convention that submitted the question of the new State to the people, or for the convention that framed the constitution of the new State. Are these eleven counties, with these 55,400 white freemen, to be brought within the operation of a government which they had no part in making, and to which they have in no way consented?
Again, sir; the three counties of Hampshire, Hardy, and Morgan, holding a population of 27,509, where never represented either in the House of Delegates, or either of the conventions. Is it to be supposed that the people of these counties cared aught for the new government, when they would send representatives neither to the Legislature nor to the conventions acting in the premises? Are they to be bound by this new government under such circumstances? Is it their government?
Can it be said that they have given their consent to it through their Legislature, as the Constitution prescribes, when they were not represented there at all?
Still another test of the absence of popular, constitutional consent. On comparing the ordinary vote of the counties composing the new State with the vote actually cast for the adoption of the new State constitution, it will be found that there was only not a majority of the people, but a singularly small proportion of them that voted for the new State, and its new constitution. I submit a few particulars. In 1860, the county of Braxton cast a vote, in the presidential election, of 754; in 1862, on the vote for the new constitution, only 83, just one ninth of the population; Barbour county, 1,269 in 1860, and 459 in 1862; Boone, 566 in 1860, to 78 in 1862; Hampshire, 1,915 in 1860, to 157 in 1862; Hardy, 1,479 in 1860, to 192 in 1862; Pendleton, 929 in 1860, to 116 in 1862; and this proportion runs through the vote generally. Is the new government to be inaugurated by such a vote as this?
Yet, again; ten counties, to wit, Logan, Fayette, Wyoming, Mason, Mercer, Monroe, Webster, Morgan, McDowell, and Pocahontas, with a population of 50,000, did not cast a vote on the new State and constitution. Are these counties and their 50,000 population to be bound by a government about which they never cast a vote? Is it their government? Have they consented to it? Is this the way of carrying out the great and revered principle of civil liberty, that taxation and representation are to go together?
And I find the aggregate vote of the counties composing the new State to be, ordinarily, 48,000; while on the new State question, the entire vote was only 19,000! Does a government formed under such circumstances merit the name of government? Is it a government founded on the consent of the governed? Is the constitutional requisition of the consent of the Legislature complied with? Sir, I mean no disrespect to my worthy and esteemed colleagues from the northwest, who are sustaining this measure with so much ability and zeal; but I must say that my friend from Massachusetts (Mr. Dawes) was not far from the truth when he said that civil organizations, raised under such imperfect representation, were the merest mockery of the Constitution and of the elective franchise.
But the most remarkable anomaly involved in the measure embraced in this bill, I have yet to state. There are three countries embraced within the limits of the new State: those of Greenbrier, Mercer, and Monroe, with a population of 30,000, which are far removed from the neighborhood of the northwest, and which are totally dissimilar interest. They are on the line of the great Central Virginia railroad, running through the very heart of Virginia, and extending from the Ohio river to the sea-ports of Virginia. Their fortunes are indissolubly connected with the fortunes of Eastern and Central Virginia. You can no more separate their interests from those of tide-water and middle Virginia, than you can divide the interests of man and wife. Their market is in the cities of tide-water Virginia; that of the people of the new State is, by nature and by nature’s God, in the city of Baltimore.
Now sir, upon none of the laws of the human constitution or the instincts of mortal nature, can the people of these three counties assimilate with their fellow-citizens of the northwest. Nor is there one man or woman, in my opinion, in these three counties, who desires to be connected with this West Virginia government. I know something of the sentiment of the people of these counties, and on this personal knowledge of the sentiments of their people, I am prepared to assert—and I do not think my colleagues who spoke on yesterday in favor of the bill will convert the opinion—that the people there are as unanimous against this measure as any people ever were or ever can be against any measure whatsoever. If there is any portion of the people of Virginia who revolt and sicken at the idea of a dismemberment of the State, it is the people of these three counties of Greenbrier, Monroe, and Mercer. Their material interests, as I have already said, force them to eschew the new State. All the instincts of men forbid their union with West Virginia.
Now, sir, will you, under these circumstances, compel these people to go over to this new, and, to them, foreign government? Will you, against their consent, without any semblance of consent, drive them from the government which is grappled to them by the strong hooks of interest and affection, to one which they absolutely abhor? Is this constitutional consent? Is this freedom? Is this an untrammeled exercise of the great privilege of the elective franchise? Is this a free, pure ballot-box? Sir is it not tyranny, tyranny of the deepest dye? Is it not oppression, oppression so intolerable that all freeman, all the Hampdens, and Sidneys and Russells and Pyms of our land, may rightly rise up on the majesty and might of freeman, and resist it at the cannon’s mouth and the bayonet’s point? Suppose the West Virginia tax gatherer goes to Greenbrier, or Monroe, or Mercer; why, sir, he will be as certainly resisted as day to bright and night is dark. Suppose you send them a judge or a governor, not of their own choosing, but one chosen for them by the people of the farther northwest: they will not recognize his authority. They will resist, and resist unto death. What then? Why, the military power of the new State is invoked, and its armies are marched to the distant and unsympathizing localities, to do what? To force upon an unwilling people a government they despise, and which they had no hand in making. And so this new State government will ingraft upon itself, inevitably and essentially, the principle of rebellion, will sow for itself, and those who shall live under it, the seeds of discord, disquiet, revolution, which will ripen into a bounteous harvest of war, blood, and desolation. You will have, on a small scale, precisely what you have now on a larger one in this wicked and bloody rebellion, which has ruptured all the sweet social ties, and filled the land with mourning and sorrow and ruin. My. Speaker, shall we, by passing this bill, do all this?
Sir, we talk of the tyranny of the mother country to her colonies in our revolutionary struggle, in attempting to fix upon them taxation without representation. It was tyranny, vile and wicked tyranny; tyranny that roused freemen in their night to put their Saxton heel upon the tryrant’s neck; that threw the tea overboard in Boston harbor, and led, finally, to the emancipation of a great people. Now, I undertake to say that this tyranny of the mother country to her colonies was no worse that the tyranny embodied in this bill, of cramming down the throats of a people a government they do not want, and never assented to, and never can agree to.
There is another great principle which is infringed by the provisions of this bill—a principle older that the Constitution—principle more jealously guarded by all the States of this Confederacy than perhaps any other one whatsoever—a principle which may be styled the great keeper of the national peace and quiet, and can never be departed from without risk—a principle that has challenged the willing assent of all parties that ever existed in the country—a principle dear to Democrats, Whigs, Federalists and Republicans alike, and that was in clear and distinct terms embodied in the Chicago platform itself—and the principle, that the States shall have the exclusive regulations of their own domestic affairs, and the formation for themselves of their own domestic institutions, free from all congressional interference. This bill casts to the winds this invaluable principle of our glorious institutions. It dictates to the people composing this new State of the character and the kind of their domestic institutions.
Though the Constitution requires but one condition preliminary to the administration of a new State, to wit, a republican form of governments, this bill prescribes to the people of northwest Virginia other conditions. It dictates a constitution to this people—makes a constitution for them. It says to them, “unless you frame your domestic institutions as Congress directs, and adopt a particular form of labor, you shall not come into the Union.” And the fact is, sir,that this bill calls for a different constitution from that which was adopted by the people of the northwest, and which has been brought here to this body as the constitution which they preferred and desired. The people of the new State made pro-slavery constitution. They retained their former status as to slavery, retaining the slaves now within their territory, and imposing no further restriction upon slavery than a prohibition upon the coming in the slaves and free negroes for permanent residence.
Now, sir, this bill requires the people of the new State to strike out the provision which they had thought fit to adopt in reference to slavery, and to substitute one for fast emancipation. In other words, the people made a pro-slavery constitution, but Congress has virtually made for them an anti-slavery one. Is not this a flagrant departure from the great doctrine that the States may of right manage their domestic affairs, and fashion their social institutions as they choose? I put no stress upon the fact that this interference with the principle had reference to the subject of slavery. In God’s name, if the people of the new State desire to abolish slavery let them do it, for it is their right; but I object to the principle of intervention against the choice the people actually expressed. It is dangerous infraction of a salutary principle.
I come now to the bearing of this measure upon the interests of my own constituents. Pass this bill, and what becomes of them? Where are we to go? The counties of Accomac and Northhampton have already adopted the Wheeling government. Their whole civil organization is under it. They are getting along with it very well. They are in far better condition than their rebel fellow-citizens of their State who have dared to commit the great sin of breaking up the noblest, best Government ever vouchsafed to man. They are quietly pursuing their usual a vocations, and are satisfied. Cut them off from the Wheeling government, and are they not left without a government at all? Are they not shoved out to sea without rudder or compass? Will this House do this? Their little bark is wafted gently and safely: will you wreck it on the shoals of anarchy? I ask again, what is to become of the people of the eastern shore, who have adopted, and of those of York and Elizabeth City counties, who propose shortly to adopt, the Wheeling government?
Mr. BLAIR, of Virginia. We will take care of them.
Mr. SEGAR. You take care of them? How? Why, you have taken very good care to put it out of your power to take care of us by banishing us from your jurisdiction. You take care of us by turning us over to the rebel government of John Letcher, a traitor Governor of a traitor State, which is doing all it can to subvert the noblest of human institutions, and to run up the flag of the confederate States of America in the place of the glorious stars and stripes, and which would provide halters for our necks instead of a kind and parental government. We want no such care taken of us. We would keep no such company.
And what is to become of all that portion of Virginia outside of West Virginia? Where will it go? Like my district, it must be set adrift, with no latitude or departure – with no government at all – turned over to rebel authorities, and to anarchy and lawlessness. As the matter now stands, we have a loyal government for the whole of Virginia. Francis H. Pierpont is the Governor of the whole State, and the code of Virginia is in force throughout her domain. But pass this new State bill, and we have a government only for the northwest portion. All the rest is left to rebellion or revolution, or, what is worse, to no law at all. See, then, how much better it is to let things remain as they are. In the one case, we have a government for the whole State; in the other; only for about a fifth of it.
Again: I am unwilling to give up West Virginia to a separate organization, because it is a Union nucleus, around which great Union mass will ultimately gather. The ball has been rolling, and is still gathering as it rolls. In its course it has already gathered up the counties of Accomac and Northhampton and Alexandria; and if its motion be not impeded, it will conglobe the whole of Virginia loyalty. This county and still another county, as loyalty is developed and protected, will be conglomerated with the Union nucleus at Wheeling. Destroy the nucleus and the Union gathering is dissipated, and rebellion, having all the nuclei, is triumphant .
And hence it is, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot gratify my northwestern colleagues by supporting this bill. Sir, I would if I could. Their constituents have, I must confess, much equity on their side. I sympathize with them sincerely and deeply. I know they suffer under many hardships, but that is the common doom of all whom this naughty rebellion has reached. And I admire and reverence that thrice-glorious of theirs, which has stood firm for the stars and stripes when the valley, and the southwest, and the south-side, and the tide-water region, would rear the treason-stained banner of the confederate States of America. I love them for that devotion to the Union of our godlike fathers; but, after all, I cannot go with them for this new State of West Virginia, because I know and feel that it will be the worst of policies, and operate as a premium on embitterment and rebellion. A gentleman from Ohio suggested on yesterday, by way of comfort to those who would be ousted of all civil government by the admission of the new State, that so soon as the admission of the State should be consummated, Governor Pierpont would remove to Alexandria, and there set up as Governor of all that part of Virginia not included in the State of West Virginia, and that in this way the whole State would be provided with civil administration. I felt comforted for a while, Mr. Speaker, but the information given by the gentleman from Ohio; but , on reflection, I came to the conclusion that there must be some mistake in the matter, for the idea is scarcely to be tolerated that any man should claim to be Governor of a people who had never cast a solitary vote for him for the station. And so my hope in this direction was destined to be early dashed. Sir, from what has been shadowed forth in this debate, I fear I see, and not in very dim light either, the hard fate that awaits us—territorial condition and government, or, that whichever has an awful squinting at despotism, a pure military government.
Mr. Speaker, I had other points to make in this argument, which want of time compels me to omit more especially as I desire in courtesy to extend to the gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Bingham, ) full opportunity to be heard on this question.
I will only add, in conclusion, that my constituents, one and all, shudder at the idea of the dismemberment of the Old Dominion—“the good old mother of us all,” as we used to say in prouder and better times. They cling fondly to those bright memories that cluster, as was so eloquently said on yesterday, around the land of Washington, and Henry, and Richard Henry Lee, and Madison, and Jefferson, and Marshall. They want an unsevered State, and, I trust, an unsevered Union. They want back old Virginia as she has been for more than two hundred years, one, undivided and indivisible. And their humble Representative on this floor concurs fully with them.
Sir, above all things, I crave the restoration of the Union; next to that, I pray that my native State may be restored to that glorious Union undismembered. Sir, I love my State still. I cannot give her up. I deplore and condemn her suicidal and treasonable act of secession. She is next, in infatuation and folly, to the thrice-wicked State of South Carolina. She rushed headlong into ruin at the building of a State that is, in all respects, vastly her inferior, and whom she ought to have led, instead of following and being dragged. But I love her still. She is my natal land, though I am an exile from her. Beneath her sod my fore-fathers sleep, and there the bones of my dead children rest. I could not hate her if I would. The instincts which Almighty God has implanted in every breast, savage or civilized, bind me to her; and go, “with all her faults, I love her still.” And trusting that she may yet see the error of her ways, and that when this rebellion shall have closed she will return to her loyalty, I do pray God that this bitter cup of division may be allowed to pass from us forever. In God’s name, Mr. Speaker, in the name of all that is just and generous and noble, spare us this heavy and humiliating blow. Let us remain one and united, so that when the Union shall be reconstructed, we shall be once more a band of brothers. Let there not be two Virginias. Do not, Mr. Speaker, oh! do not break up the rich cluster of glorious memories and associations that gather over the name and history of this ancient and once glorious and noble Commonwealth.
“Woodman, spare that tree!”
Mr. BINGHAM obtained the floor.
Mr. SHEFFIELD. I ask that gentleman from Ohio to allow me a few minutes of his time.
Mr. BINGHAM. I will yield to the gentleman for a few minutes.
Mr. SHEFFIELD. I should not intrude myself upon the courtesy of the gentleman from Ohio, or upon the attention of the House, if I had not, after but a hasty consideration of this question, to be called upon to form a judgement and to cast a vote in its final decision. I frankly say to the House, that I am not content that the vote I am to give shall rest upon the argument or upon any implication from the argument which was addressed to the House by the gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Stevens,) when the bill was yesterday under consideration. If I understood the gentleman aright, he conceded that this bill was to contravention of the Constitution of the United States, and contended that the Constitution was abrogated so far as it was applicable to the States which are in rebellion against the Government, but that by the war powers which Congress possessed—whence derived he did not tell us—Congress has the power to admit this new State, and to do any other act in the rebellious States without reference to any constitutional limitations. I had supposed that this Congress, the Government, was limited in the exercise of their powers by the Constitution which brought both Congress and the Government into existence; that incident to the Government when thus created was the right of eminent domain, which is the right of self-preservation; and international law embracing the laws of war, that those laws of war were based upon the consent of nations; that Congress could not modify or change any international law without the consent of the other nations; that is was the duty of the Executive to execute every war according to the laws of war, and within the limits of those laws, without the interference of intervention of Congress. I had supposed that the Government derived the power to coerce this rebellion into submission from the Constitution, and that it was bound to do it in accordance with the Constitution. I had supposed that he Constitution and laws were now in force in the rebellious States, and that the Constitution and laws were still obligatory upon their people as they were obligatory before the rebellion; that although for the present the process of law was there suspended in its operation, and interfered with by fore, the people of themselves were still bound to obey the laws of this Government, and that they violated their obligations to do so when they ceased to obey them; and these are my views still; and I respectfully beg leave to differ from the gentleman from Pennsylvania in the view he takes of the matter.
So much for an incidental issue in approaching the question before the House. I agree with the venerable gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. Crittenden,) that is necessary to obtain the consent of the State within which the new State is sought to be organized, and also to obtain the consent of Congress before we may lawfully admit this new State into the Union. That is undoubtedly the law. And I agree further with the same venerable gentleman, that in this, as in other laws proposed to be passed by us, we should be governed by principle; that we should stand by the fundamental authority upon which this Government is based. But have we, in fact, obtained the consent of this State, from which it is proposed to take this new State, to the passage of this act? There was a State of Virginia organized under her ancient constitution as one of the original States of this Union. But in the course of events a portion of the people of that Commonwealth undertook to throw off their allegiance to this Government—and allegiance binding upon all the people of that State, and from which they had no power rightfully to absolve themselves. While that was being done another portion of her people resolved that they would stand by their obligations to the Constitution and the Union; that they would keep faith with this Federal Government; that they would remain true to their allegiance, though others proved false to the Government of the United States. To do this they were compelled to organize another government—according to the ancient forms of constitution, it is true, but they organized a government as a few colonists, who were twice exiled, organized the government of Rhode Island, which was based upon the then novel doctrines of absolute popular sovereignty and entire liberty in all matters of religious concernment; the people of Western Virginia organized a government as a necessity arising out of the then existing state of things. Then there were two Legislatures in the State of Virginia; there were two Governors there. The question was presented to this Government which it would recognize, the one which was in arms against it, striving to overthrow the Federal authority in Virginia, or the one which was loyal to the Federal Constitution and to is provisions. This Government decided, and I think wisely decided, that it would recognize that loyal government as the government of Virginia; and they recognized the loyal people as the legally constituted authority of that State, and as it seems to me it well might do; and if so, that settled the constitutional question.
The new Legislature of Virginia was the constituted authority, the rightful government of the State. I do not care if two thirds of the people of Virginia were in rebellion, so far as the passage of this bill is concerned. I do not care whether they have given their consent or not, so long as the legally authorized and recognized government of the State has given its consent. It may be said that it is hard for these two thirds to have us divide their territory without their consent. But, sire, they have put it in our power to do it by their own wrongful acts, and they are estopped from saying that it is unjust for us to do this thing. They may say it is hard. I have heard that “the way of the transgressor is hard;” but they are not in a condition to complain that this act is unconstitutional, or that this authority is not properly exercised by us.
Then, the whole question before the House resolves itself into a question of expediency. Is it expedient to create this new State? The people of Western Virginia have taken up arms nobly and patriotically in defense of the Government. The men in Eastern Virginia have taken up arms basely and treasonably against our Government. The people of these two sections have met each other upon the battle-field. Will the people of Western Virginia hereafter meet in harmonious counsel with the men who have slain their brothers and their sons upon so many battle-fields? Is it for the interest of this Government that we should force such men into such society? Is it right that we should put upon those men in Western Virginia the obligation to pay the debt contracted by Eastern Virginia for the purpose of maintaining a force in the field with which to slay the people of Western Virginia? Is that justice? Is that right? It is not right that we should do these things. I believe, with the gentleman from Tennessee, (Mr. Maynard,) that we are bound to sustain these loyal men in the border States by every means in our power; that we should hold out to them every encouragement we can to induce them to be loyal and earnest in the cause of the Government; that we should conciliate them rewarding them for their loyalty, their valor, and their virtues.
I have little sympathy with gentleman upon this side of the House who sometime say things of those gentlemen which I do not think is becoming or proper. The trials of the border State men are severer than ours. They have given evidence of their devotion to the Constitution and the Union, such as their northern traducers could not offer.
Mr. BINGHAM. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that if the House were to adopt the position which has been assumed by some of the gentlemen of this body who have opposed this bill with great earnestness, that all seeming and alleged constitutional difficulty to the admission of this State of West Virginia would vanish at once. The position, which has more than once been assumed in this debate, that there is no State there, but that what was once the State of Virginia is now only a Territory of the United States, within the limits of a former State organization, relieves this House of all constitutional difficulties upon the question of the admission of a new State organized therein. Sir, it is to late for any man in the American Congress to rise in his place and say that before the people of any Territory of the United States can organize and establish a constitution and form of government, preparatory to admission into the Union as a State, and “enabling act” of Congress is necessary. There are too many States represented upon this floor, and in the Union to-day, which were organized into States and admitted as such by Congress without the authority of any enabling act, to admit of any such position being maintained in this House. If no State formed or organized within the territory of the United States, could be admitted into the Union without the previous authority of an “enabling act,” what becomes to-day of the Representatives upon this floor, and upon the floor of the Senate, from the State of Michigan? There are no enabling act there. The people, in the exercise of their inherent power to form their own local government, organized for themselves within that Territory a form of State government, by the adoption of a written constitution, sent it to the Congress of the United States for their approval, and which approval was all that was needful to give full and legal effect to their act.
The whole question which has been brought into this debate touching the necessity of an “enabling act” was, upon the application of Michigan for admission into the Union as a new State, ably discussed and fully and carefully considered in the Twenty-Fourth Congress. There was first on that occasion, if I recollect aright, the opinion of the Attorney General that no such act was needful, and which recited the precedent of Tennessee, which had been admitted as a new State without such an “enabling act.” The question was brought to the consideration of the House and the Senate, and, after an exhaustive debate, a direct vote was taken upon it whether the new State could be organized and admitted into the Union without a previous “enabling act.” If any one will consult the record of that vote in the Twenty-Fourth Congress upon the admission of Michigan, he will find that it was decided by a very strong majority in favor of the right of the people to frame for themselves a State constitution and government preparatory to admission as a State into the Union without a previous “enabling act.” This right of the people can no more be taken from them by Congress than can the right of petition. It was because this right is inherent in the people of every national Territory that Michigan was admitted as a new State into the Union against the objection that there was no “enabling act.”
I might go further in this connection, and remark that in the instance of the State of Michigan, while it was yet a Territory of the United States, and before admission by Congress into the Union as a State, the constitution which the people had adopted was put into operations; the people under it organized their courts of justice, and assumed to exercise, and did exercise, the highest powers of sovereignty—the powers of legislation. Congress, by the act of admission, gave effect not only to their constitution, but, by relation, gave legal effect and validity to all that had been done by the people under their new constitution. With such a precedent unchallenged to this day no further word need be said in support of the proposition for which I contend, that the people of any Territory of the United States may, without an enabling act of Congress, frame for themselves a constitution and State government, and be thereby, with the consent of Congress, admitted as a State of the Union.
What, then, becomes of the objection to the admission of the new State of West Virginia, because there was no enabling act, if, as the objector asserts, Virginia is to-day only a Territory? Why, sir, if Virginia is only a United States Territory, it results that the people of that Territory, who apply for admission into the Union under a constitution adopted by themselves, are exercising only the right of petition—a right which no man can question. If the fact be as asserted, then the only question for this House to determine is, not whether it is constitutional, but is it expedient to grant the prayer of the petition, and thereby give effect and validity to their constitution. There is the end of the argument, so far as the constitutionality of that question is involved, if we adopt the assumption that Virginia is but a Territory of the United States.
I think it proper, before proceeding to consider the weightier questions which have been raised here, to notice the objections made by the Representatives from the Accomac district, (Mr. Segar,) who has just taken his seat. His argument, in my judgment, was a felo de se—a self-destroyer. In one breath he says that the convention which met at Wheeling was a constitutional convention, and the Legislature there assembled a constitutional Legislature; in the next breath he denies that these bodies are constitutional or legal bodies. If it be the constitutional Legislature of the State of Virginia which assembled at Wheeling; then it had the power to provide, as it did provide, for the action of the people touching the adoption or rejection of this constitution, and the organization of the proposed new State within the limits of Virginia. And yet the gentleman, further on in his speech, came to the conclusion that this legislative body at Wheeling was informal; that it was unconstitutional; that it was tyrannical and oppressive; and he asks this House to interpose its shield between the outraged people of Virginia and this tyranny. A constitutional Legislature who, by a constitutional act, authorized the people to vote for or against a constitution framed by their own delegates to enable them, if they see fit, to organize for themselves a new State, and to petition the Congress of the United States for its admission into the Union, a tyrannical body?
It is the first time I have ever had a Representative upon this floor venture so far as to say that an act authorized by the Federal Constitution, and within the express reserved rights of the people of every State, is an act of tyranny. The gentleman says that in the convention which convened the Legislature of Virginia, eleven of the counties within the proposed State were not represented. What of that? Does the gentleman mean to say that it makes invalid all that has been done under that convention? Let him remember if he pleases, when he makes an argument of that sort, that that convention, which was an original act of sovereignty of the people themselves in Virginia, appointed the very Governor of Virginia under whose proclamation he ventured to become a candidate for a seat in this House, and under whose certificate he ventured to present himself here for admission. He cannot be allowed to blow hot and cold in this way upon a question of this sort. If the convention was invalid, then their appointment of a Governor was invalid, and his proclamation for the election, under which the gentleman claimed his seat, was also invalid. The election proclamation of Governor Pierpont, if I recollect the record aright, was issued before the people of Virginia were permitted to speak by ballot on the question whether Governor Pierpont should be their executive or not. It was the act of the convention itself that appointed the Governor of Virginia under whose proclamation the gentleman was elected; of that very convention which the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Segar) stands here this day to repudiate.
There was one other objection in the gentleman’s argument—if it may be called an argument—which I desire to notice, and that was that there was not a sufficient number of votes given at the election to justify the House in concluding that this constitution is the act of the people. It is the first time, I may be permitted to say, that I have heard any man say that the neglect or refusal to vote of part of those duly qualified to vote invalidates an election which in other respects is legal. If that were so, then it would be impossible for the people in the State of Virginia, as long as there rebels choose to remain rebels, to reassert their rights. As to the way in which the minority may assert their rights against a majority of rebels, I shall have something to say hereafter.
If the gentleman honestly entertains the view of the subject which he has expressed, and to which I have just referred, that an election legally held is made invalid because the great majority of the voters choose not to attend and vote, then with what propriety did the gentleman come here from a district in which there are fifteen or twenty thousand voters, backed by the pitiful vote of only twenty-five citizens, and ask a seat upon this floor? (Laughter.) A man capable of playing that role might be capable of betraying in his place, after he is admitted, the reserved rights of the people whom he represents.
Mr. Speaker, I come now to the other question that has been raised in this debate. No one could be more surprised than I was to see the venerable gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. Crittenden,) upon whose head time, with its frosty fingers, has scattered the snows of more than seventy winters, and who, for nearly half a century of public service, had had so much of opportunity to learn the true theory of our Government, come here and ignore its very first principles altogether; and that, too, in the teeth of his own manly utterances made no longer ago than the last session of this House. He uttered a great truth at the last session, in speaking of the reserved rights of the people of Virginia, when he said that the convention of that people to reorganize their State government was an original act of sovereignty. It has always been so held. The very Constitution under which the American Union exists this day; the very Constitution under which every Representative upon this floor holds his seat this day, came to be by virtue of that original sovereignty in the people which they have not surrendered, which they could not surrender if they would, and which they should not surrender if they could. There is not a man familiar with the history of this Government but knows the fact that the Constitution of the United States was formed and ratified by the people, and put into full operation and effect in direct violation of the written compact between the several States of the Confederacy. By what authority? Let him who called “the father of the Constitution” answer that question himself.
When the Constitution was on trial for its deliverance before the American people, the enemies of the great instrument pointed to the fact that if it were adopted, it would be adopted in direct contravention of the written compact of perpetual union between the thirteen States; because it was provided in the instrument itself that the ratification of nine States, no matter if every man in the four remaining States protested against it, should give effect to the instrument, and make it the supreme law, to the entire exclusion of every provision of the Confederation within the limits of the States adopting it. The question was asked, how can you abrogate the compact without the consent of all the parties to it? What was the answer to this question given by Madison, and addressed to the listening people of all the States of the Confederacy who were about to pronounce judgment upon the Constitution? He said:
“The question is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case, to the great principle of self-preservation, to the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”
And thus was the question raised by the enemies of the Constitution answered; and by acting upon the great principle of “self-preservation,” the people ordained the Constitution and superseded the Confederation.
There is nothing in the Federal Constitution to take away or limit this right of self-preservation in people; nor is there anything in that instrument that is contravened by this action of the people of Virginia. Need I stand here to argue that there is not one line or letter in the Federal Constitution that pretends to grant any power to the people of any State to organize a State government for themselves, especially the original States? Their State government existed before the Constitution was made; they continued after the Constitution was made—not be the grant of the Constitution, but by the inherent power of the people themselves, a power which they have never surrendered, and which they can never surrender. No truer utterance was ever made on the floor of the American Senate that that of the late Mr. Benton, when he said that the people of any State might alter and amend their constitution at their pleasure, without consulting anybody outside of the State.
Mr. DAWES. Provided it be republican.
Mr. BINGHAM. Certainly, provided it be republican. There is that limitation. And provided further, if you please, that it does not contravene any of the guarantees of the American Constitution to the citizens of t he United States, or any of the restrictions upon the States. I agree that there are limitations imposed by the Constitution beyond which the people of a State may not go; but I am speaking of the power of the people in the States to reorganize their State governments at pleasure, always in subordination to, but not by grant of, the Federal Constitution. My position is, this power is inherent in the people, and does not exist by virtue of grants for the Constitution. It is a right in the people themselves. We come now to the great point in discussion here. Who constitute the State of Virginia? I beg leave here to thank my friend from Massachusetts (Mr. Dawes) for suggesting what was essential to the line of my argument. The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Stevens) said the majority of the citizens of the United State within any State are the State. I agree to that, sir, subject to this limitation, that the majority act in subordination to the Federal Constitution, and to the rights of every citizen of the United States guarantied thereby.
But, sir, the majority of the people of any State are not the State when they organize treason against the Government, conspiracy against the rights of citizens. The people of State have the right to local Government. It is essential to their existence. To-day, as the law stands in this country, and by the uniform construction of the powers of this Government, there is no law by which the midnight assassin of a mere private citizen can be brought to judicial trial, to conviction, and to judgment within any State of this Union, save the law of the State. Your Federal tribunals under existing laws have no cognizance of the crime if committed within a State on a private citizen, and can do nothing in the punishment of it judicially.
Now, sir, I beg leave to ask, can the majority of people of a State, by the act of the majority committing treason, and taking up arms against the Federal Government, be stripped of their right within the State of protection, under State laws, in their homes and in their persons, even against the hand of the assassin? Am I to stand here to argue such a question as that with intelligent representatives? I say, that if the majority of the people of Virginia have turned rebels, as I believe they have, the State is in the loyal minority, and I am not alone in that opinion. I repeat, where the majority become rebels in arms, the minority are the States; that the minority, in that event, have a right to administer the laws and maintain the authority of the State government, and to that end to elect a State Legislature and executive, by which they may call upon the Federal Government for protection “against domestic violence,” according to the express guarantee of the Constitution. To deny this proposition is to say that when the majority in any State revolt against the laws, both State and Federal, and deny and violate all rights of the minority, that however numerous the minority may be, the State government can never be reorganized, nor the rights of the minority protected thereby so long as a majority are in the revolt. In such an event, the majority, being rebels, must submit to the law of the minority, if enforced by the whole power of the national Government. That is no new idea, even. It is as old as the Constitution. I ask gentlemen to refer to that remarkable letter of the Federalist, addressed by Mr. Madison to the American people, wherein he discusses the fourth section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States, to wit:
“The United States shall guaranty to every State in the Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the Legislature, (or of the executive, when the Legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence.”
As if that great man had been gifted with the vision of a seer, standing amidst his own native hills of Virginia, he foretold that it might come to pass that a majority of the people of a State might conspire together to sweep away the rights of a minority, and break down their privileges as citizens of the United States. In that paper Mr. Madison says:
“Why may not illicit combinations, for purposes of violence, be formed as well by a majority of a State as by a majority of a county or a district of the same State? And if the authority of the State ought, in the latter ease, to protect the local magistracy, ought not the Federal authority, in the former, to support the State authority?”
That is precisely the question here to-day. That is precisely the condition of things in Virginia. The majority have become traitors. When the Representatives whom they had erected, who were required by the existing constitution of Virginia, as well as by the Federal Constitution, to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, went to Richmond, joined in this conspiracy, lifted up the hand of treason and rebellion against the Government, foreswore themselves, and, in short, entered into a deliberate article of bargain and sale with Alexander H. Stephens, vice president of the southern confederacy, transferring the State of Virginia to the confederacy, they surrendered all right to represent any part of the people of Virginia; as a Legislature they utterly disqualified themselves to execute that trust. But, sir, what are we told? According to the logic of some gentlemen, it would seem that because the Legislature at Richmond turned traitors, because every man of them, except those few escaped for their lives from that doomed city—as I trust it is a doomed city—joined in this re-handed rebellion, therefore, the people could have no legislation. I appeal to the immortal words of the Declaration in refutation of that conclusion. “The legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise.” No matter, sir, who turns traitor, the legislative powers are incapable of annihilation. Now, what but this power remained to the people of Virginia? Their Governor and Legislature had turned traitor. You say that no special election could be had under the constitution of Virginia without a proclamation from the Governor, in vacation, or without a writ of election issued by the Legislature. What was to be done? I say that the power remained with the loyal people of that State to call a convention and create a provisional government, which they did. On the 23rd day of May, 1861, the people of the State of Virginia, invited by an original convention of the people themselves, met at the time and place specified in the existing law of that Commonwealth, and elected a Legislature.
Is it said that a majority of those chosen on that day, including those chosen by the rebels, took the road to Richmond, and took the oath of treason against the Government of the country? Then I tell gentlemen who make that remark that these members elect never became part of the Legislature at all. The original convention of the people declared, in 1861, that only those who are elected, and who qualified, should be the Legislature of the State. I might go somewhat further with this argument. I say that the ultimate power to decide that question, “which of these bodies is the Legislature of Virginia?” is in the Congress of the United States. What is the lawful Legislature of the State? Although they were literally chosen under the amended constitution of Virginia, (adopted in 1851,) and the statute of the State, nevertheless I say that it is competent for Congress to say—and it is not only competent, but it is the imperative duty of Congress to say—that not a man of them who refused to take the oath prescribed by the Federal Constitution, and who took the oath of that treasonable conspiracy at Richmond, ever become a member of the Legislature of the State of West Virginia. Who then are the Legislature of Virginia? Only those who qualify in pursuance of the requirements of the ordinance of the people themselves, by taking the oath prescribed by the Federal Constitution, and by the Virginia constitution. If those gentlemen had chosen to observe that form they might have constituted a majority of the Legislature; but they did not do it, either at Wheeling or at Richmond. They violated the constitution of their own State, as well as the Federal Constitution, when they went to Richmond and took the oath of treason.
Now, who are the judges of this matter? I intend, if I can, to strip from every member of this House all attempts to disguise his responsibility here. I am not going to quarrel with good friends if they differ with me as to final conclusions, but I am not going to stand here and allow the Representatives of the people, on a question of this magnitude, to shirk their responsibility. I say it without the fear of contradiction, because it has been affirmed by every branch of this Government, legislative, executive, and judicial, more than once, that when the storm of revolution shakes the civil fabric of a State of the Union, the ultimate and final arbiter to determine who constitute the legislative and executive government of that State, and hold its great trust of sovereignty, is the Congress of the United States, or the President acting by authority of an act of Congress. The great case of Luther and Borden must be fresh in the mind of every Representative of the people, and that was the very question which was then and there decided. What did the court decide in that case? Luther brought his action for trespass to his domicile in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Rhode Island. He charged the defendant in that case with having broken open his residence, which every man knows is, under our laws, his castle. He charged in his declaration that defendant not only broke into and entered his house, but went through all his rooms, from garret to cellar, in search of his person; that he had violated, if you please, his sacred right of domicile.
Now, I may be pardoned for reminding gentlemen here that there is no right known to the citizen, under the American law, or under the law of any country beneath the sun where the principles of the common law obtain, which is looked upon as more sacred than the right of domicile. You know that by the common law it is held so sacred that he who invades it without the leave of the owner, and especially menacingly, is not entitled to the benefit of the rule that the party whom he assails must flee to the wall, but he may suffer instant death, and the owner is justified before the law, because his hearth-stone is not to be violated by a malicious intruder against his protest and against his consent. There was a strong case against defendant on that record if he had not justified the act. But he did justify—and how? Rhode Island has been in revolution. Two opposing governments had been in operation. Who has to decide which was the lawful government? They first said that the courts were to decide. They asked the courts of Rhode island to sit in judgment upon the question whether the government under which they held their commission was a government at all. The Chief Justice of the United States, with bitter irony and sarcasm, remarked that he did not “see how the question could be tried and decided in a State court;” for that, whenever they arrived at the conclusion that the government to which they owed their existence was no government at all, the court itself ceased to be a court, and could not pronounce the judgment. The breath of life would go out of its body instantly. This action, however, for trespass, was instituted in the United States circuit court for the district of Rhode Island.
The defendants, by their plea, justified the trespass on the ground that plaintiff was engaged in insurrection, together with others, against the State; that the State was, by competent authority, declared under martial law; and that defendants, being in the military service of the State, by command of their superior officer, broke and entered plaintiffs denied the authority, and replied it was defendants’ own proper wrong. In other words, was the government against which the plaintiff was in insurrection the government of Rhode Island?
The case finally came up to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice (Taney) in delivering his opinion, said that it was a political question, and that the decision of it by the Federal Executive, under the authority of Congress, was binding on the judiciary. He also said the power to decide the question which of two governments in a State is the true government is in Congress.
That decision amounts to just this, and that is what gives importance to it in the discussion of this question: if the Congress of the United States solemnly decide, as they are the ultimate arbiter of this political question, that the people of Western Virginia have no right to maintain the government which they have established, and under which they have made this new constitution, and apply here for admission, they thereby decide that it is void. All remains is for the Executive to follow your example, and leave that people to their fate.
What is the effect of such a decision by Congress and the Executive? It is to bind your own judiciary to hold the legislation of that people for the protection of their lives and property void. You bind the judiciary of the State itself. You bind everybody who is appointed to execute the laws within that State. While you pretend to be for the Constitution as it is, say to this people, that inasmuch as they are in a minority, and inasmuch as the majority have taken up arms against the Government of the United States and of the State of Virginia, they are without the protection of local State law; that their representatives duly elected are not and cannot be called the Legislature of Virginia.
I think I have said enough to satisfy the gentlemen who have done me the kindness to attend to what I have said, that the Legislature which assembled at Wheeling, Virginia, was the Legislature of the State of Virginia; and that it remains with you alone to determine whether it shall be or not. If you affirm that it is , there is no appeal from your decision. I am ready, for one, to affirm it, and upon the distinct ground that I do recognize, in the language of Mr. Madison, even the rights of a minority in a revolted State to be protected, under the Federal Constitution, both by Federal law and by State law. I hold sir, that the Legislature assembled at Wheeling, then, is the legal Legislature of the State; that it had power to assent to this division of the State of Virginia; and that it is wholly immaterial to me whether a majority of the counties of that State refused, by reason of their treason, to cooperate in the election of Delegates and Senators to that Legislature. On the subject of granting the admission of the proposed State, to which that body has assented, it is enough for me to know there is a sufficient number of loyal men within the limits of this proposed State to maintain the machinery of State government, and entitle them to Federal representation. That is the only rule heretofore recognized by Congress in the matter of admitting new States duly organized.
It may be urged here that this Legislature, before asserting to the division of the State, should have met at Richmond. It is hardly worth while to follow out such an argument. Gentlemen might as well allege that if the forces of the rebellion took possession of this capital, the American Congress could not meet and lawfully exercise its functions in Philadelphia. I do not expect to argue any such question. I undertake to assert that the power exists—that there is nothing either in the Constitution of the United States, or in the laws of the United States, to make invalid the meeting of Congress elsewhere within the limits of the Republic than the city of Washington. If you assert the contrary conclusion, then all Jeff Davis has to do in order to annihilate the legislative power of the Government is to take possession of this capital. I am not ready so to stultify myself.
Now, this Legislature of Virginia has passed an act, in due form of law, assenting to the erection of a new State within the limits of that State; that is all which is required by the Constitution of the United States on the part of the State of Virginia. It remains to be determined then whether Congress will grant its consent.
This State, which is proposed to admit into the Union, is three times as large in territorial extent as the State of Massachusetts. It has an area of 24,000 square miles, and a free population of 340,000. The question then comes up whether the Congress of the United States ought to grant the prayer of the people of Virginia. Will Congress admit the new State upon the constitution as framed and proposed by the bill to be amended?
The gentleman on the other side who professes to represent Virginia in this matter, (Mr. Segar,) says that we should not admit this new State because there were eleven counties in which there was not a single vote for the constitution. Well, there were fifty-two counties which voted. But he has not informed us how many votes were cast against it. It so happens that there is a return of some 19,300 on the adoption of the constitution in the form as it originated in the convention, and only 500, in round numbers, cast against it. You must consider that at the time this vote was taken a large portion of the male population were in arms, protecting the frontiers against the inroads of this armed rebellion. Yes, sir, my friend tells me not less than seventeen regiments, in other words, 17,000 men, were in the field.
That object is easily answered, however; for it is expressly provided in the Senate bill, which is now before the House for consideration, that the new State shall not be organized nor the constitution adopted until there shall be another election by the people. They will have an opportunity then to vote it down. You give it the sanction of law by passing the Senate bill, which provides that it shall not take effect until an election he held, and that the constitution as amended by this bill shall be ratified by the people. They will then have an opportunity to determine, by ballot, whether they will come into the Union as a free State, or whether they will remain in the State of Virginia as now organized. I submit that I am justified in saying that the objection raised by the gentleman from Virginia falls to the ground, unless he is indeed unwilling to trust people. This is precisely the difference between him and myself. I have an abiding confidence in the people, and that confidence shall remain unshaken until that sad day comes, which I trust never will come, when a majority of the people in every State shall initiate the bad example of a majority of the people of the State of Virginia. That would indeed be a calamity for which our matchless Constitution provides no remedy, and for which “no possible constitution can provide a cure.” The people will then have consented simply to national suicide and self-destruction.
It is because I have confidence in the people that I am willing to send this bill to them. I want to see them vote on it, from the base of the Alleghanies to the beautiful waters of the Ohio. I have been among that people. I know something of their character. I have sent eight or ten thousand of them in convention assembled, for the laudable purpose of holding up the arm of the Government against this unmatched treason and rebellion. I believe that they are loyal. I believe that they are the friends of free institutions. We have some evidence of it in the constitution now before us; and we will have additional evidence in that instrument as they will amend it, if you pass this bill. If it be argued that this bill, because it imposes conditions on the State, is without a precedent, I beg leave to say that it is not without a precedent. There is scarcely a single bill which has passed the Congress of the United States for the admission of a new State without conditions annexed, and without the future acceptance of which by the people of the proposed new State the State could not come into the Union.
The question has been asked, is it expedient to admit this new State? Is it expedient to unite the people of that valley as one man in support of the Government? Is it expedient to give validity and legality to the acts of lawful Legislature? That is an important question for us to consider. I trust that all men in favor of liberty regulated by law, will say that it is expedient for the American Congress, if possible, to sanction their action and give force to their laws. I fear that the chief objection, at last, to the organization of this new State, and to its admission into the Union, however gentlemen may disguise their thoughts, and shrink from a manly avowel of them, is not that there is any constitutional objection to it—that there is anything inexpedient in it, when you take into consideration the whole interests of the whole people of the Republic—but simply that it is an inroad, which will become permanent and enduring if you pass this bill, into that ancient Bastile of slavery out of which has come this wild, horrid conflict of arms which stains this distracted land of ours this day with the blood of her children.
I have no doubt—I have no authority from any of their representatives to say it—but I have no doubt from what I know if that people, that if you give them the authority by passing this bill, that they will not only ratify this constitution, but they will be glad to accept the terms of the President’s emancipation proclamation. I believe that many moons will not come and go before the Commonwealth of West Virginia will stand amongst the free Commonwealths of the Union.
I have no doubt about the general sense of the people of Western Virginia, and that if this bill passes in its present shape there will be no slave born there after the 4th day of July next. I am not ashamed to say that I esteem liberty as above all price, and that I count it a great privilege to be able to secure to any man who is guiltless of crime his liberty, though to be a slave. I would contribute to that great end of our free institutions—freedom to all , and personal security to each. Without this men, may as well not be.
Under this bill, it is provided that no person born in that State after the 4th of July next shall be a slave; that all persons held in slavery within the limits of that State under the age of ten years shall be free at the age of twenty-one, and all over ten and under twenty-one at the age to twenty-five years. God knows, I would have preferred that the House had the courage to have said that every human being should be free now and forevermore within the proposed State, upon the adoption of the constitution. I intended, at one time, to have offered an amendment to the bill, but I had not the opportunity given me. I choose to follow the express will of a majority in that respect.
If I could not give liberty to-day to all the slaves in Virginia, I consider it my duty to give liberty ultimately, as this bill does, to nine tenths of the slaves within that State, and to forbid the increase of slavery therein the great hereafter. I think he would be a poor Representative of free men and free institutions who would stand here and say, upon an occasion like this, that because he could not secure liberty to every slave within the State, therefore he would refuse liberty to nine tenths of them, especially when he has the opportunity at the same moment to declare that no person born within the limits of that State after the next anniversary of our independence shall be held as a slave.
I trust, then, the bill will pass; I trust it will pass, as I said before, because I have an abiding confidence in the people themselves, that they not only will ratify what you will do, but speedily avail themselves in their legislation of the opportunity presented to them by the President’s proclamation to inaugurate immediate or ultimate emancipation for every slave within the Senate.
Refuse to pass this bill, and if they attempt, by their present Legislature, to adopt the emancipation policy of the President, you will have the argument thrown back into your faces that that is not the Legislature of the State, and had no power to consent to the proclamation of the President of the United States; and therefore you will be required to repudiate it. Pledge yourself to do this. Declare that the Legislature of the State, and upon that hypothesis admit the State, and, of course, once admitted, its own Legislative Assembly will be beyond question; and when the new Legislature under the new State of Virginia shall accept the President’s proposition, as stated in his proclamation of the 22d of September, all doubters about the constitutionality of the act will be silenced; and whether they be silenced or not, there will stand the record of the majority of this House to give validity to their act, and from which there can be no appeal.
The SPEAKER. The hour of two o’clock having arrived, debate is closed by order of the House, and the question recurs upon the third reading of the bill.
The bill was ordered to be read a third time; and it was accordingly read the third time.
Mr. WICKLIFFE. I call for the yeas and nays upon the passage of the bill.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The question was put; and it was decided in the affirmative—yeas 96, nays 55; as follows:
YEAS—Messrs. Aldrich, Arnold, Babbitt, Baker, Baxter, Beaman, Bingham, Jacob B. Blair, Samuel S. Blair, Blake, William G. Brown, Buffinton, Burnham, Campbell, Casey, Chamberlain, Clark, Clements, Colfax, Frederick A. Conkling, Covode, Cutler, Davis, Duell, Dunn, Edgerton, Edwards, Eliot, Ely, Fenton, Samuel C. Fessenden, Thomas A. D. Fessenden, Franchot, Frank, Goodwin, Gurley, Haight, Hale, Harrison, Hickman, Hooper, Horton, Hutchins, Julian, Kelley, Francis W. Kellogg, William Kellog, Killinger, Lansing, Lehman, Loomis, Lovejoy, Low, McKnight, McPherson, Maynard, Mitchell, Moorhead, Anson P. Morrill, Nixon, Noell, Olin, Patton, Timothy G. Phelps, Pike, Pomeroy, Porter, Potter, John H. Rice, Riddle, Edward H. Rollins, Sargent, Stedgewick, Shanks, Sheffield, Shellabarger, Sherman, Sloan, Spaulding, Stevens, Stratton, Trimble, Trowbridge, Van Horn, Van Valkenburgh, Van Wyck, Verree, Walker, Wall, Washburne, Whaley, Albert S. White, Wilson, Windom and Worcester—96.
NAYS—Messrs. William J. Allen, Alley, Ancona, Ashley, Baily, Biddle, Cobb, Roscoe Conkling, Conway, Cox, Cravens, Crisfield, Crittenden, Delano, Delaplaine, Diven, Dunlap, Gooch, Granger, Grider, Hall, Harding, Holman, Johnson, Kerrigan, Knapp, Law, Mallory, Menzies, Morris, Noble, Norton, Odell, Pendleton, Price, Alexander H. Rice, Richardson, Robinson, James S. Rollins, Segar, Sbeil, Smith, John B. Steele, William G. Steele, Stiles, Benjamin F. Thomas, Francis Thomas, Train, Vallandigham, Voohees, Ward, Chilton A. White, Wickliffe, Wright, and Yeaman—55.
So the bill was passed.
During the call of the roll—
Mr. DAWES stated that he had paired off upon this vote with Mr. Walton, who would have voted in the affirmative, while he should have voted in the negative.
Mr. FRANCHOT stated that his colleague, Mr. Wheeler, was absent on account of sickness in his family.
Mr. BINGHAM moved to reconsider the vote by which the bill was passed; and also moved to lay the motion to reconsider on the table.
The latter motion was agreed to.
US House Debate on West Virginia Statehood