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Proceedings of the
Second Session of the
Second Wheeling Convention

August 13, 1861

The Convention met at 10 A. M.

Prayer by Rev. Wesley Smith.

Minutes read and approved.

The President presented a communication from Lot Bowen, of Harrison, resigning his seat in the Convention, in consequence of his relations with the United States Army preventing his attendance.

Mr. VAN WINKLE moved to lay the communication on the table.

Agreed to.

The order of the day, it being the ordinance reported by the Committee on a Division of the State, and the substitutes for the same, was taken up.

Mr. FROST moved to pass by the order of the day for the present, to enable some unfinished business to be considered.

Mr. WEST hoped the gentleman would not insist on that motion. He thought all other considerations subordinate to the question now before them.

Mr. FARNSWORTH asked the member from Jackson to withdraw his motion, for the present, to allow him to withdraw his proposition now before the Convention, and offer another as a compromisory substitute for the whole matter before the Convention.

Mr. FROST withdrew the motion.

Mr. FARNSWORTH asked leave to withdraw his proposition, which was granted.

He then offered his substitute, which was read by the Clerk, and ordered to be printed, not as a substitute for the whole, but simply in place of the one withdrawn, as a substitute for the report of the Committee.

The order of the day again recurring,

Mr. FROST renewed his motion to pass by for the present. He said there were some gentlemen who had not expected the discussion to come up till to-morrow, now absent, and he desired to afford them an opportunity to be present when it came up.

Mr. CRANE opposed passing by. The Convention were here on expense, and the gentlemen could get here before a vote would be taken.

The subject was one of great importance, and one upon which patriots and statesmen ought not to be divided. If now was not the time to consider it, would some gentleman tell him when would be the time? He believed the only questions that would divide them were the questions of boundary and of time, and he thought they might as well consider them to-day as any other time.

Mr. STEWART opposed passing by this morning. He wanted to act on the propositions at once, as they had already elicited one argument and soon would elicit others, to relieve gentlemen of their arguments as fast as possible, as he understood there were a great many who desired to be relieved. If the discussion was to take place the sooner the better.

Mr. WEST would prefer to proceed at once. He did not intend now to enter into the subject. He was sure if he did, the gentleman from Doddridge would take advantage of the opportunity offered him to make another speech. He would only say that it was a very important and interesting matter - the only subject, indeed, before the Convention that particularly interested the people. He was not particular whether it was passed by for one day or not, as there was other business that could very well occupy one day, and that would come up to-morrow. His own preference was, however to proceed.

Mr. SNIDER demanded the yeas and nays on the question of passing by the consideration of the order of the day, and being taken they resulted, yeas 8, nays 62.

So the Convention refused to pass by.

The question then recurred on adopting the report of the Committee on a Division of the State.

Mr. WEST presented as that report the following ordinance, which was read by the Clerk:


WHEREAS, It is represented to the delegates assembled in Convention at Wheeling, on the 6th day of August, 1861, that the people of a portion of Virginia are desirous of forming a new State out of that portion of Virginia lying North and West of the Allegheny Mountains, and whereas, in the opinion of this Convention, the social, commercial and political condition of said people would be greatly benefitted and their happiness promoted by such a division,

Be it therefore ordained by this Convention that the people of Virginia lying North and West of a line beginning on the top of Clinch Mountain, on the line dividing Tennessee and Virginia; and running thence with the top of said mountain, so as to include all that part of the county of Scott lying North and West of said mountain, thence with the top of said mountain, including Russell county; thence with the top of said mountain to the county line of Giles county; thence with the county line of Giles and Tazewell to the county line of Mercer county; thence with the top of Wolf Creek Mountain to the top of Salt Pond Mountain; thence to the top of Potter's Middle Mountain; thence with the top of Rich Mountain to Allum Rock; thence to the top of Mill Mountain; thence with the top of said mountain to Augusta county line; thence with the dividing line between Augusta and Bath counties to the top of Shenandoah Mountain, and with the top of said mountain to the Hardy county line; thence with the county line between Hardy and Rockingham counties to the Shenandoah county line; thence with the county line between Hardy and Shenandoah to Hampshire county; thence with the county line dividing Frederick and Shenandoah to Warren county; thence with the county line dividing Warren and Clark county to Fauquier county; thence with the county line dividing Fauquier and Clark county to Loudon county; hence with the county line dividing Loudon and Fauquier county to Fairfax county; thence with the county line dividing Fairfax and Prince William county to the Potomac River; be authorized and directed, on the fourth Monday in November next, to open a poll at each election precinct embraced in such boundary to ascertain the will and wish of the people upon the question of such division. The County Courts of each County, embraced in said boundary, shall appoint Commissioners and Conductors of Elections and the duties of such Commissioners and Conductors, shall be the same as now prescribed by law in other Elections. On the said fourth Monday in November, there shall be a poll opened by the Commissioners and Conductors so appointed, at every precinct, in each County embraced within the said boundaries. On each poll book there shall be two columns; one headed "Division," and the other "No Division." Those voting in favor of a division, shall be recorded in the column under the head of "Division," those voting against a division shall be recorded in the column under the head of "No Division." It shall be the duty of said Commissioners, to have all who are legally authorized under the constitution and laws of Virginia, within said boundary, and who may offer to vote, property recorded on said poll books, and it shall be the duty of said Commissioners of each County within five days after said election, to certify to the correctness of said poll books, and file one copy of said poll books, in the Clerk's Office of the County Court of such County, and one copy certified as aforesaid, shall, by said Commissioners, be forwarded to the Governor of Virginia, at Wheeling, whose duty it shall be to count the vote upon said question, and make an immediate proclamation of the result of said vote.

2. Be it further ordained, That, in case it is found that a majority of the votes case in said boundary, be in favor of the division as proposed; that then, the present Constitution of Virginia, as modified and changed by the ordinances of this Convention, shall be adopted as the Constitution of the proposed State, which shall be called the State of New Virginia.

3. Be it further ordained, That the State Legislature of Virginia, be requested to give their consent to the formation of such new State, as prescribed and laid down in said boundaries, and submit the same to the Congress of the United States for their ratification.

Messrs. Brown, Kramer, Flesher, and Zinn asked and obtained leave to withdraw their substitutes for the report of the Committee.

Mr. EVANS, on behalf of Mr. Dorsey, also withdrew the substitute offered by that gentleman.

Mr. WEST, as chairman of the Committee on a Division of the State, proceeded to address the Convention in advocacy of the report of that Committee.

He did not propose to make a lengthy speech at this time; perhaps he should have occasion to participate somewhat in the discussion that might ensue upon this question hereafter. It had been said, and very properly, that there were but two questions of real difficulty in the consideration of this subject, and they were the questions of time and boundary, for he believed there were none or at least very few on this floor opposed to a division at all. If such there were, he accorded to them honesty of motive, but he did not know what could be the ground of their objection to the formation of a new State.

First, then, in relation to time. He believed that now was the time. He would set out on that ground. He had occupied that ground and he expected to continue to do so. He had never yet had a good reason from any one why they should not proceed at once. This was the accepted time if they ever expected to complete what they had begun. He observed that all the opponents of action had different reasons for their opposition, and although they might be honest, yet they had no common justifiable reason for not proceeding at once. For himself, from the very beginning of this controversy in the Legislature and the former Convention, he had not swerved from his purpose of obtaining preliminary action for a division of the State. Every step he had proposed was a progressive step, as gentlemen here could testify. He had offered a proposition in the Legislature which he still believed was the best that could have been adopted, but when it was defeated, he voted willingly for the next best. He had believed, and did yet, that it was important, though not essential, to have had some expression to least from the Legislature. They had no such expression, however, and a majority of the Convention had decided he believed that they could proceed without it, and such being the case, he was with them, and would be the last man to back from the position he had taken.

And what objection could be offered to doing so? He asked gentlemen to say, why they should not take action just now on this most important matter. It was true there might be some of the counties in the proposed boundaries that might vote against immediate action or against any action at all, but if they would postpone till doomsday, and then propose to act, some one would object. There was one plan of action that was always safe, and that was never to put off what can be done now.

But it was argued that it would leave Eastern Virginia without a government; even if it did they would only be in the same situation they left us in, and they could do as we did - go to work and make one. But they say that they have a government and we have no government; they boast of their government, and if you would go to Richmond and say they have no government your neck would pay the penalty. Let them take care of themselves as we have done. He could not sympathize with those who wanted to cut his throat if they had an opportunity, and they did not ask any of this sympathy which some gentlemen were disposed to bestow upon them. They despised us and our government.

He used to be opposed to a division of the State, and always had, up to the time this great emergency had been forced upon our people. But now the time had come to look to our own interests, and disregard the interests of those who wage a war against us.

But it was objected that we were thrusting ourselves upon the General Government. He would be the last to do this after all the government had done for us in Western Virginia, but they were not forcing themselves upon the government, and it was not so regarded anywhere except by the gentlemen who raised the objection. If it could be proved he would abandon the project, but not until it was done. But he had the best authority for saying that this was not the case - but that Congress would admit the new State, was ready, willing and waiting to do so whenever application was made. He had talked with the Hon. Wm. G. Brown, on his return from Washington a few days ago, and Mr. Brown had told him the quicker the better; that a proposition for admission would not have lasted two days while he was there; that a recognition would have been given at once. They all know what Mr. Carlile says, that he corroborates the testimony of Mr. Brown. They were the best authority, and so much for this objection. There was nothing in the way in that direction. He had never been willing to admit for a moment that there was any danger of a reverse as had been intimated upon this floor; but he would have them act, now that they had the power, lest by some possibility they should lose it. It might be a little selfish, but he was willing to be that selfish - their welfare and the welfare of the people demanded it.

As for boundary, he was not a stickler for any particular scheme. He preferred that reported by the committee, because it includes a neck of country lying down next to the Tennessee line, which was left out by other propositions, and which naturally belonged to us and should be included, notwithstanding the people might not now be quite as loyal as they should be. The ordinance also proposed after running the main line on the top of the mountain, which the Almighty had reared as a natural boundary, to take in the counties contiguous to the Capital of the Country - and especially he liked it because it would take in the grave of Washington. He spoke of the advantages that would be apparent in running the line so as to make the loyal State take in the territory opposite and adjoining Washington, and said that proposition would cause our admission to be looked upon there with more favor than it would otherwise be.

He would like to know now why it was that gentlemen here disregarded the plain wishes of their constituents. If they had instructions from them to oppose action he would like to see them. He had seen nothing of the kind, but he had seen letter after letter to members urging them to take some action.

But suppose they should make their application now to Congress, and Congress should lay it aside for a time, how much worse off would they be than before. There would be the same proposition, upon which they would act whenever, in their opinion, the proper time should arrive, and they would have the matter always before them until disposed of.

The people were now anxiously awaiting the action of this body, and if the word were to go out that they had refused to take any preliminary steps towards a separation, they would hang their harps upon the willows, and their lips would be mute and voiceless on the question in which they had taken so much interest.

After Mr. West concluded,

On motion, the Convention took a recess till two o'clock P. M.


Convention re-assembled at two P. M.

Mr. BARNES, of Marion, obtained the floor, and proceeded to speak of the impropriety of proceeding at this time to the division of the State. There had been no uprising of the people in favor of it in many portions of the State proposed to be included in the bounds of the new State. They had not met in mass meetings and demanded that this Convention should take precipitate action. It was true it was the desire of the people of his own county to have a separation; for himself personally he was anxious for it. But there were difficulties in the way. In the first Convention which met here in May, many were in favor of immediate action. Prudent counsels prevailed, however, and the obstacles in the way rendered it necessary to call another Convention. This met in June, and some of the members were in favor of at once proceeding to a division. But it was thought best to pursue the course they deemed in accordance with the Constitution. Besides the Convention thought it best not to endanger the existence of our very nationality itself, by action that would be calculated to produce discord as this would have done.

He said there were difficulties now. According to the spirit of the Constitution not only the people in that portion of the State out of which the new State is to be formed, should give their assent, but also the other portion, which it might be supposed would oppose it - that the consent of the whole State should be given so far as a representation of the people of the whole State can be obtained. This they knew could not be obtained now. Action here could only be preparatory at best. After the Convention had adopted measures, the assent of the Legislature must first be had, and afterwards that of Congress. Would Congress admit a State formed on a mere technicality? Would not they require that the people of the whole State should be consulted? He thought unless they could have the consent of all the loyal people of the State, it would prejudice our admission by Congress. It would be regarded on a principle similar to that on which the secessionists have acted, and that we had not exhausted all the peaceful and legal means of obtaining a separation. It was better not to make the trial now and fail and be distracted by the failure, but to wait until the fruit should be ripe and ready to fall into our hands. There were loyal people in Southern and Eastern Virginia looking to them and praying to be released from their present thralldom. In the midst of the great struggle that was now going on for the maintainance of the Constitution amongst us, we are asked to raise an exciting and grave question, such as that of dividing the State. The time had not come yet for the agitation of that question. He had no objection to an expression on the subject by the Convention, but he was not willing that the matter should be thrown upon the people to agitate and distract them at this time.

Mr. MARTIN, of Wetzel, said the gentleman had said that now was not the time for a separation. Before the ordinance of secession was voted upon there was a call for the people of Northwestern Virginia. The first call was from Harrison county. Other counties responded, and a convention met in Wheeling in May last. In that Convention it was fairly understood that the object was a division of the State. They concluded it could not then be done constitutionally, but when we could have a legislature recognized as such we would then be prepared to go into a division. Such was the understanding all over Western Virginia. The Government of the United States has acknowledged this Convention as a law making power because this convention called the Legislature, which has been recognized in the person of the Senators it elected. While the Government recognizes this as the whole government of the State, it will also acknowledge us when it comes to a division of the State. But there were representatives here from Eastern Virginia. If a division could not now be had constitutionally, when could it be had?

Mr. BARNS said, when the secessionists are driven out of the State.

Mr. MARTIN said the secessionist were in rebellion against the United States, hence they had declared themselves aliens, and not citizens of Virginia or the United States. Secession was unconstitutional, and every citizen that upheld secession had thrown off their allegiance, and we had nothing to do with them, as it regards our rights and interests in Western Virginia.

We were at one time without a government. We met here to establish one through this Convention sent here by the people of Northwestern Virginia, and we are here at their will and bidding, and we have a right to carry out the views we advocated before them. He declared before ever that Convention was held at Richmond for a division of the State, and he was elected here with the knowledge of his people that he was so in favor of a division. Therefore, he would go for a division, not only because of more recent wrongs, but because he had long been convinced that our interests required it. Our money had been used to make improvements east of the Alleghanies. We have no connection with Eastern Virginia; the God of nature had made a line between us, and their interest and our's were antagonistic and this was once reason for wanting a separation; and while they were setting up a government in opposition to the United States, he claimed the right to set up an independent government separate from them. The people expected nothing less of this Convention than a division of the State, and if a foundation was not here laid for an immediate separation the people would be disappointed, and never would call another Convention for a division. The people of Wetzel had instructed her members to go for an immediate separation. But what he meant was that this Convention should go on with its work, and when the Legislature meets next December, to ask for its assent, and when this shall be granted, then to apply to Congress for its assent. This would be the constitutional way.

It was said this movement would embarrass the government and our friends in Eastern Virginia. Nothing short of the power of the United States could ever crush out secession in Eastern Virginia. How, then, could it embarrass the government? or how disenable us to aid the government in this work? The argument had no weight in it.

After we get the assent of the Legislature, if we deem it impolitic to apply to Congress at once for an admission, we can do it at any time it might be deemed best.

Mr. POLSLEY proposed to amend the ordinance by inserting in the first line of the second section, after the second "that," the words "a free and fair election has been held in three-fourths of the election precincts of the boundary."

A parley arose as to the regularity of proceeding and the amendment was lost sight of.

Mr. CRANE moved to go into Committee of the Whole on a Division of the State, but subsequently withdrew the motion and moved an adjournment, which motion was lost.

Mr. BOREMAN, of Tyler, offered a proposition which was ordered to be printed for the information of the Convention.

Mr. MARTIN, of Wetzel, withdrew his amendment to the report of the committee.

The withdrawal of this left only the substitute of Mr. Burley, and the minority report of Mr. Johnson.

The question was announced on the adoption of Mr. Burley's substitute for the original ordinance.

Mr. VAN WINKLE moved to strike out in the substitute the name, "New Virginia," proposed for the new State, and substitute "Alleghany."

The motion was agreed to.

Mr. FARNSWORTH then presented the proposition offered by himself in the morning session and ordered to be printed, as a substitute for the substitute of Mr. Burley, and with the consideration of this pending Convention adjourned.

August 6
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August 10
August 12
August 13
August 14
August 15
August 16
August 17
August 19
August 20
August 21

Chapter Nine: Second Session of the Second Wheeling Convention

A State of Convenience

West Virginia Archives and History