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Proceedings of the
Second Session of the
Second Wheeling Convention

August 17, 1861

The Convention met at ten, and was opened with prayer by Rev. D. B. Dorsey, member of the Convention from Monongalia.

Minutes read and adopted.

The resolution of the gentleman from Wetzel came up as unfinished business.

MR. WEST said the yeas and nays had been called upon the adoption of that resolution, he believed.

MR. VAN WINKLE had hoped a night's reflection would have induced the gentleman to withdraw the resolution. The gentleman from Harrison had spoken of the poverty of this government yesterday, and such allusions were calculated to bring the government into contempt. This resolution, too, he thought must have the same effect. Such playful resolutions in ordinary times could do no harm, but they should not be introduced here at such a time as this.

MR. CATHER hoped the gentleman would withdraw the resolution.

MR. WEST said he never intended to withdraw that resolution.

The order of the day came up.

MR. CARLILE said that the friends of division were willing to offer to the opponents a proposition for something like this:

Adopt the first section of the proposition of the gentleman from Upshur, which simply fixes the boundary lines, and then add an additional section making it the duty of the General Assembly at its next session, if the state of affairs would permit, to provide at an early day, for taking the sense of the people within the boundary.

MR. FROST expressed a willingness to meet the friends of division half way in any fair proposition of compromise. He had desired to speak upon this question, but as the Convention had already been worn down with speeches, he would forego any remarks, if the business could proceed and a vote be taken.

MR. BOREMAN did not know that he understood the proposition. He would like to have a little more time to look into it, and if it was what he thought it was, it would suit him. He should not say a word to the Convention, but from the fact that no gentleman had as yet taken up the substitute offered by himself, and defended it in its various positions. They seemed to have left this for him to do, and he asked indulgence to be allowed to make a few remarks in advocacy of that proposition.

Were they to be selfish in the view they took of this great question? No; he argued that all they did should be done in a spirit of magnanimity, of forbearance, of enlarged and comprehensive patriotism, and not allow that patriotism to be bounded by State lines. Let them recollect that they had a government, around which clustered the most glorious recollections and all their best hopes. They were here to do all they could to transmit this government to their posterity, and should not as good loyal men, look well to this very act, lest they should weaken the cause of their country and strengthen that of their enemies. He would say as Mr. Carlile had, that next to the success of the whole country, was the division of Virginia, because it was the interests of his people, the interest of the whole State, and his own personal interest. With respect the State debt, he did not look upon that question as many gentlemen did, Congress had nothing to do with our State debt. If they presented the question to them there, and Congress say that the two peoples could not live together in harmony, in justice to both they were bound to sa[n]ction the separation, and let the two States settle that question among themselves after the division was made. Congress had nothing to do with it. As for the time of division, he believed no man desired an immediate vote, because they were honestly convicted of the fact that they were not prepared for a vote at this time. The people could not vote. The number of rebel forces within the borders of the proposed State, prevented any meeting and discussing among the people, and must at this time effectually prevent any expression at the polls. And if a vote could not be taken now, when could they take a vote? If they could tell him this, he would answer the question put to them so often, how long they would propose to wait. He was satisfied they should not fix permanently upon a day at all. Because, as gentlemen have admitted by their own propositions we are now unprepared to take a vote. And then did they know they would be ready on a particular day? He had shown they did not. Then would it be right to fix a day when they had no assurance that the people could vote upon that day. The gentleman from Harrison (Carlile) wanted an expression of the people; and yet would he ask the people to vote upon a day when he knew they could not vote, or when it was uncertain at best. Why not provide for this disability and prepare for taking an expression at such time as it might appear hereafter the people could have an opportunity of doing so? The enemy should be driven out first; to offer them an opportunity to vote when they knew they could not would be little better than insult. The same reasons that were valid for postponing a vote were equally valid for postponing the formation of the constitution. Some gentlemen proposed to take the old constitution with some slight modifications; Why, sir, nothing could be more obnoxious to the people of Western Virginia than every line of that old constitution. But, sir, for a Convention of the whole State of Virginia to turn around and claim to be a Convention chosen by a portion of the State, to form a constitution for that proposed new State would be a monstrous proposition. The proposition offered by some of the substitutes, proposing to adopt an ordinance allowing certain counties not now to be included in the boundaries to vote upon the question hereafter, was a recognition of the fact that the people of these counties could not now vote upon the subject. Well now this was just his proposition with reference to nearly all the counties, and if the principle would apply to those counties, would it not apply equally to those? He wanted no expression at all until it could be a full and fair one.

He proceeded again to denounce the old constitution, and was interrupted in reply by Mr. West. He declared, in resuming, that to get rid of this constitution was one reason for his having long favored a division of the State. But, sir, if they went into the formation of a constitution for the new State, it was the formation of a government for it. A constitution was difficult to be changed. People would submit to them even if oppressive, rather than resort to revolution to free themselves from them. They had long done that thing in this State; but they had lived in hope that some day the fetters would be broken and they would be released from a most grinding oppression.

He took up the substitute offered by himself, and after reading it, proceeded to a discussion of its provisions. He had not offered it to kill off any proposition to divide the State or to destroy any measure proposing to take an expression of the people upon that question. It simply proposed to say that it would be premature and would be taking advantage of a portion of their fellow-citizens for this Convention to attempt the formation of a constitution now, and expressed a desire that the General Assembly, provided in their opinion the people could at that time vote, appoint an election on the first Thursday in January, to obtain an expression as to whether the new State could be formed or not.

As to boundaries, if the people would vote for it in those portions of the State, he would like to take all the territory proposed by the ordinance reported by the Committee; but he did not want to take in counties that might aid in voting down a new State altogether. He should not strenuously object to the fixing of boundaries now, but he believed it would be better to let that matter rest until the meeting of the Legislature, when they might be able to obtain more territory than it would be thought now advisable to take in.

In reply to the question, how does precipitate action embarrass the General Government, it would for one thing introduce the slavery question into Congress. If introduced, there and the Constitution should be rejected, it would be said they refused it because it was a Republican Congress, and it was a slavery Constitution; and it would foment such an excitement in Western Virginia as was never before witnessed.

Mr. LEWIS inquired whether that same difficulty would not have to be met, even if the application were not made till peace was restored.

Mr. BOREMAN said it would not then be so embarrassing because the government would not have so many and such great difficulties upon its shoulders, and it would then be a very different question. Just at this time it was a very unpropitious moment. If we now undertake to strike a line here as proposed would it not go forth that we were trying to aid the South, that this Wheeling government had abandoned its position and were preparing for a dissolution of this Union. Besides this movement then loses all its prestige in the other States. This is an auxilliary movement to aid the Government of the United States, and what must be the effect in Tennessee, and Alabama, and all over the country? They would say we had acted hypocritically, covering up the selfish design of building up a State for ourselves. It would be used by the secessionists everywhere to embarrass the Government and strengthen their own position, and would destroy the moral force and prestige of all we have done here. This proposition left all this responsibility of acting upon the Legislature.

Suppose they did divide the State, which was the old State and which the new State? Reorganize a new government here and what becomes of the old one? It revolutionizes this part, it drives out the old government. He would leave the question for gentlemen to answer it for themselves. This might be the grand reason why all secessionists were in favor of a division; because it would prevent the loyal people of the other seceded States from following our example in reorganizing the whole State government. It would demoralize the whole movement.

The gentleman from Upshur had said some members here were opposed to the whole movement for a division. He had not heard any members so express themselves; but he had heard them all say just the contrary. For himself, he was acting in good faith, and whenever the conditions would allow a vote to be taken he would go for a proposition for a separation of the State; and he intended to go home and support whatever decision this Convention might arrive at, let that be what it might.

Mr. CATHER followed, and in reply to what had been said about precipitate action said that none of them were for the taking of the vote at once. His own proposition was for the 4th Thursday of November. But he would vote for any measure looking to a division of the State. He would favor some measure that would compromise their differences.

Mr. Johnston believed that this question ought not have been introduced here. This was not the proper body to take this question of a division into consideration. He took substantially the same grounds occupied by Mr. Boreman. He alluded to what had been said about the possibility of the success of the Southern Confederacy, and said that the establishment of a boundary at this time between the loyal and rebellious portions of the State would be the drawing of the first line between the North and Southern Confederacies. He made the point that inasmuch as the Constitution of the U. S. guarantees to every State a Republican form of government, Congress could not admit a State which in its creation destroyed the only republican form of government there was in the State. He charged that the thing of taking advantage of the East, which many gentlemen proposed, would be dishonorable. Besides it was a revolutionary measure because it could not be carried out according to the spirit of the Constitution.

Mr. DORSEY, moved the previous question.

Mr. LEWIS suggested after the question was put that a recess be taken.

Mr. HARRISON called for the yeas and nays on the main question.

Mr. WEST hoped the House would vote down the motion.

The vote was taken and the main question ordered to be put.

The main question was upon the substitute of the gentleman from Tyler, Mr. Boreman.

Mr. FROST moved to reconsider the vote by which the main question was ordered, which he afterwards withdrew.

Mr. STEWART moved a reconsideration and the President decided it out of order.

Mr. STEWART appealed from the decision of the Chair - and on that Mr. Van Winkle called for the yeas and nays.

Mr. WEST moved to lay the appeal upon the table, and upon that Mr. Frost called the yeas and nays.

The time fixed for adjournment having arrived, the Convention adjourned without a vote.


The Convention re-assembled at half-past two.

The President said the question when they took a recess was on laying the appeal on the table, but as the occasion for it had passed it had been withdrawn.

The yeas and nays upon the substitute of Mr. Boreman having been called were taken and resulted as follow:

YEAS - Messrs. Atkinson, Boreman of Tyler, Barns, Boyers, Burley, Broski, Barrick, Crothers, Crawford, Close, Caldwell, Caskadon, Copley, Flesher, Gist, Graham, Harrison, Hubbard, Hall, Hawxhurst, Johnson, Koonce, Logan, Lamb, Mason, Montague, Nichols, Polsley, Price, Ritchie, Smith of Marion, Slack, Stewart, Tarr, Trout, Van Winkle, Withers, Wetzel, Watson, President (Boreman of Wood). - 40

NAYS - Messrs. Berkshire, Brown, Burdett, Brumfield, Cather, Carlile, Drane of Preston, Crane of Randolph, Dorsey, Downey, Davis, Evans, Ferrel, Farnsworth, Foley, Fast, Fleming, Hale, Hooton, Howard, Jackson, Cramer, Lewis, Love, Martin of Wetzel, Myers, Michael, Paxton, Parsons, Smith, Scott, Snyder, Smith (J. L.), Swan, Taft, Vance, West, Williamson of Pleasants, Wilson, Zinn - 42.

The question recurring upon the substitute of Mr. Carlile for that of Mr. Farnsworth, he proposed as an additional section the following, prepared by Mr. Lamb, at the end of the same:

"The government of the State, as reorganized by the ordinance for the re-organization of the State government, shall retain the powers and authority undiminished and unimpaired until the proposed State shall be admitted into the Union by the Congress of the United States."

Mr. FARNSWORTH accepted the substitute with this addition, in lieu of his own proposition.

Mr. CARLILE took occasion to make some remarks urging the adoption of the proposition, and appealing to them all, whatever the result might be, to go away from here resolved to act in unity and use their best efforts to carry out the objects of the Convention and unite their people in their support.

After Mr. Carlile had finished his remarks,

Mr. HALE moved the previous question.

Mr. LAMB said if they were thus to be met with the previous question on all occasions he hoped the gentlemen who had acted with him upon this question would leave the Convention and let gentlemen upon the other side raise a quorum the best way they could.

Mr. HALE subsequently withdrew the demand.

MR. NICHOLS offered the following as a substitute for the second section of Mr. Carlile's substitute:

Sec. 2. Be it further ordained, That the General Assembly shall provide for taking a vote within the boundaries aforesaid on the first Thursday of January next, if the state of affairs will admit of a full and free expression of the popular sentiment within four of the counties above named, and if not then, as soon thereafter as possible, on the question of the formation of a new State, and also for the election of members of a Convention for the purpose of forming a Constitution for the proposed State, in which Convention each county and election district shall have the same number of representatives to which it will be entitled at the next succeeding session of the House of Delegates.

Mr. NICHOLS followed in a very forcible speech of some length, in opposition to a division of the State, and was followed by

Mr. SNIDER, who replied to Mr. Nichols and others, who had preceeded him. He favored immediately having an expression of the people, and made some very spicy remarks in reply to what had been said about his hint at a counter revolution among the people in case no action was taken.

Mr. FROST succeeded, upon the same side of the question as Mr. Nichols. He concluded by declaring that whatever should be the action of the Convention, he would give it his entire and hearty support, and he hoped all would do the same.

After some further remarks by Messrs. Nichols, Cather, and Barns.

Mr. Martin of Wetzel, called for the previous question. The demand was sustained.

The previous question was put and the main question was ordered.

The main question upon the amendment of Mr. Nichols, was then taken by yeas and nays and resoluted, 34 nays yeas 42.

Mr. POLSLEY, offered the following as an amendment.

That five commissioners from as many different counties be appointed by this Convention who shall meet in Parkersburg on the first Monday of _____, and appoint a day for the holding of said election if in the opinion of a majority of them, a free and fair election can be holden in four-fifths of the counties within the boundaries of the State to be fixed.

Mr. POLSLEY spoke briefly in advocacy of his amendment and was followed by Mr. Burdett in a very spicy little speech in favor of a division of the State and in opposition to the amendment. In the course of his remarks in alluding to the objection made that the slavery question must be dragged into this controversy in forming a constitution, he said that although he was as good a pro-slavery man as any one in the State, he would see that whole institution abolished before his country and its government should be destroyed. He loved his country more than he loved the institution.

Mr. FARNSWORTH called for the previous question, which being sustained, the question upon the adoption of Mr. Polsley's amendment was taken and lost by yeas 31, nays 45.

Mr. STEWART proposed to strike out the boundaries proposed in the substitute, and insert the boundaries proposed in the report of the Committee.

Mr. FARNSWORTH rose to call the previous question. This was only another dodge to kill the bill.

Mr. STEWART appealed to the House for a few moments to speak upon his amendment.

The call for the previous question was sustained, and upon the question, Shall the main question be put? Mr. Stewart called for the yeas and nays, which being taken, the call was lost, by yeas 32, nays 42.

MR. CROTHERS moved an adjournment.

MR. CARLILE arose to say a few words by general consent, for the benefit of his friend from Ohio and others.

The President said it could only be by general consent.

Several members objected.

MR. CARLILE said he must say it, and amid great confusion and cries of order, he proceeded to say that if this course was to be pursued by the opponents of compromise after the offer he had made to meet them upon a compromise, he would now take it all back, and if they would and must have war, they could have it.

Some member said "and war it shall be!" another said "We will meet you."

Mr. FROST arose and said he too would take back all he had said of a willingness to meet the advocates of a division upon compromise grounds.

Mr. CROTHERS withdrew his motion, and

Mr. STEWART proceeded to make a speech upon boundary; after which the yeas, and nays, having been demanded upon the question of adopting Mr. Stewart's amendment, were taken and resulted yeas 38, nays 37.

So the amendment was adopted, being decided by Mr. Atkinson changing his vote.

The question recurred upon the substitute as amended, and Mr. West proceeded to address the Convention on a variety of subjects, but chiefly in relation to boundary.

Mr. CARLILE said he had stated repeatedly that he should yield a willing acquiescence to whatever might be the conclusion of the Convention. He regarded the adoption of this amendment as equivalent to an indication that the Convention had determined not to adopt any measure that would result in the division of the State, or that the voice of the people within what should be the legitimate State, should at this time be heard. They all knew that territory was thus included which must vote down a proposition for separation, and be presumed it was so intended. He was now willing to accept this as an expression of the Convention and as such he would acquiesce in it. Amended as it now was he must vote against the substitute which he himself had offered, still hoping that at some future day they should be able to accomplish the much desired end now, as he was willing to regard it here defeated.

Mr. TARR, with a hope that a little time and reflection would tend to produce a better feeling among members, moved to adjourn.

MR. FARNSWORTH said they now had no further business here, and he moved to adjourn sine die. Several members cried out, "Yes let's adjourn and go home." We have no more business here," &c.

The President decided the motion out of order - the motion to adjourn taking precedence.

This motion was put, and the Convention adjourned with much disorder.

August 6
August 7
August 8
August 9
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