January 7, 1861
The meeting of the workingmen at the Atheneum, on Saturday night, was the biggest thing of the kind that ever assembled within the walls of the building.—The call was not even published in the papers, and was only announced by small handbills on the street, Saturday forenoon. Yet the crowd of people in attendance was immense at an early hour in the evening. It was made up of the real workingmen of the city—the bone and sinew of the country—and not a single politician, local or national, had anything to do with it.
The crowd became impatient before the meeting was called or order. The band struck up the “Star Spangled Banner,” when there was such a roar of applause as seldom falls upon mortal tympanums.—The “Star Spangled Banner” was followed by “Yankee Doodle,” during the performance of which hundreds of persons stood up, swinging their hats and cheering with the wildest enthusiasm.
The meeting was called to order by the selection of G. W. McClellan as Chairman and William Leonard as Secretary.
Messrs. H. H. Weeden, L. T. Dean, David Greer, Jacob Burkley, John Bear, Geo. Harrison and Henry Wallace, were appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting.
Mr. John Hubbard was called upon and addressed the meeting. He read the call of the meeting, stating that it invited all men to participate in the meeting except those known to be practical politicians.—He said he was a Virginian, but he was also an American citizen, and a Union man to the back bone. He was no speaker. He could shout the war-hoop over a yoke of oxen as well as “any other man” but making public speeches was not his forte. “But such as I have, such I give you.”—He spoke of South Carolina, and disapproved her action and attributed the cause of our present difficulties to designing politicians and wrong doing on both sides. He spoke of the guns that were being fired in honor of Major Anderson, from Chapline Hill, and wanted the reverberations to be heard over every hill and down every valley in Old Virginia. He spoke of the treasonable preparation that had been made to take posses[s]ion of the National Capital, and said that instead of Virginia’s participating in that business, he believed there were men enough in the State who would arm themselves and prevent it. Mr. Hubbard spoke earnestly in favor of the maintenance of the Union, and was warmly applauded.
Deafening calls were made for Judge Thompson, when His Honor came forward but announced that he was physically unable to make such a speech as would do justice to such a cause. His debility ought to have prevented his attendance at all, but he would have attended the meeting if he had had to have been brought there in his carriage and taken away in his hearse. He said both the people North and South had done wrong—both had violated the Constitution under which we lived in a common Union. The Constitution had always been his guide in politics and he stood by it now. He warned the working men the last time, perhaps, he should ever address them on a public occasion, to look well to themselves. The masses of mankind must look well that they do not follow designing and ambitious politicians. Judge Thompson took his seat amid loud applause.
Calls were made for Mr. Andrew Sweeney, but that gentleman failing to appear, Mr. John Hubbard read a portion of a speech delivered by Col. Anderson, of Texas, at the Alamo.
The Committee having returned, the Chairman read the following resolutions, which were adopted with a terrific shout of applause.
WHEREAS, It is apparent to every true lover of his country’s good, that the glorious confederation of states, under which we (as a people) have so long lived and prospered, is threatened with dissolution, and the magnificent Temple of Liberty erected and cemented by the blood and toil of our patriotic forefathers is shaken to its centre, midst the storm of treason and fanaticism, hurled against it by the shameless recreants, who, in the hour of their country’s peril, stand perjured before the nation and high Heaven by the betrayal of the high and important trusts confided in them by generous and over-trustful constituencies.
AND, WHEREAS, The world’s hope of freedom is centered in America, to which we with becoming and patriotic pride, have, for over three-quarters of a century, looked to as the asylum of the oppressed, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Shall that hope now be lost? Shall that freedom now be circumscribed and desecrated by the mad lunatics who rule the hour? Fanatics who with unholy zeal would plunge their country, their brothers, and kindred into the dark and fearful abyss of disunion and civil war.—God forbid it. Freemen, working men, brothers, patriots of Virginia, resist it unto the bitter end! Therefore
Resolved, That the doctrine of secession of a State has no warrant in the Constitution, and that such a doctrine would be fatal to the Union, and all the purposes of its creation; and in the judgment of this meeting secession is revolution; and while we fully admit the doctrine and right of revolution for the great causes set forth in the Declaration of Independence, or for others of equal force, and while we are grieved to say that the government of several of the free States, and more especially many of their citizens, have been guilty of flagrant acts of injustice, and in violation of the Constitutional rights of slaveholders, yet we cannot perceive that a state of a facts yet exists to warrant the extreme resort of revolution; indeed, we are fully persuaded that all our grievances may be redressed under the Constitution. We therefore earnestly deprecate the course of South Carolina, and protest against any Convention being called in Virginia to take into consideration Federal relations, as in our judgment it would necessarily give countenance to her conduct. 2d. We believe it to be the sworn duty of the President to uphold the laws by all the power of the Government, and in so doing, he is entitled to the sympathy and support of every good citizen, and we believe the Constitution and the laws of the United States are as binding on South Carolina now as they were before her pretended acts of secession.
3d. We are deeply impressed with the conviction that our national prosperity, our hopes of happiness and future security, depend on preserving the Union as it is and we see nothing in the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States—as much as we may have desired the election of another—as affording any just cause for the abandonment of what we regard as the best Government ever yet devised by the wisdom and patriotism of men.
4th. That in the opinion of this meeting, the proposed call of a Convention by the Legislature, for the purpose of considering what position Virginia shall assume in the revolutionary movements of South Carolina, is at the institution of the enemies of the Union, and intended as a means of precipitating the State into a connexion fatal to her credit, her prosperity and to the happiness of her people.
5th. That we believe the General Assembly has no constitutional power to call a Convention for the purpose of changing the relation of the State to the Federal Government; but in the event of a call of such a Convention by the Legislature, the delegates should be chosen on the basis of the free white inhabitants of the commonwealth.
6th. That we will be bound by the acts of no Convention, no matter how called or organized, the purpose of which is to alter, or in any manner change the relation Virginia bears to the Government of the Union, unless the proposed alteration or change is first submitted to the votes of the people, and sanctioned by them after full discussion and ample time for consideration.
7th. That any Convention which may be called should take such action to amend the Constitution of Virginia as to base representation in the General Assembly upon the free white population of the State, and ultimately establish the ad valorem principle of taxation as well for slave as for other property.
8th. That the Senator from this District and the delegates from this county be, and are hereby instructed to lay the foregoing preamble and resolutions before the Senate and House of delegates, and that they be requested to sustain the sentiments thereof.
Resolved, Further that a Committee of five be appointed by the chairman to draft and circulate for the signatures of our citizens a memorial to the Congress of the United States, praying that in the mode provided by the Constitution, the amendments proposed by the Hon. John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, by his resolutions offered in the Senate of the United States on the 3d inst., or those of Mr. Rice may be submitted to the people for their ratification and approval.
Resolved, That we, the working men of Wheeling, will not support for office any man who is known to entertain disunion sentiments.
Resolved, That all papers who are for preserving the Union be requested to publish the above.
Somebody voted “no,” when a cry of “put him out,” was raised and there was a considerable amount of hustling and excitement in the back part of the paraquette.
The reading of the seventh resolution was greeted with a special round of applause.
The people, as if determined that Mr. Sweeney should speak, again called for him and were this time more successful than before. Mr. S. appeared and made a brief speech, and though he said he was not in the habit of making speeches, no one would have thought so from the manner in which he started off. The only difficulty was he did not speak long enough, but what he did say was most heartily received. He proposed that in the 9th resolution, the words “or Mr. Rice’s,” be inserted after Mr. Crittenden’s. The vote was taken and the words added. After Mr. Sweeney, Mr. H. H Weeden was called for and answered in a brief speech, breathing the real sentiment of Union and Compromise. Three cheers were then given for Major Anderson, three for Judge Thompson, three for the Union, and three for the glorious star-spangled banner. All this was done with the most hearty and vociferous enthusiasm that we ever saw manifested on any occasion, and told plainly enough on which side the working men of Wheeling may be found. After the adjournment it was fully half an hour before the crowd could get out of the Hall. There must have been nearly three thousand people present, and nearly all were men who seldom take any prominent part in politics. The meeting was a thorough and entire success.
The chair appointed the following committee in compliance with the 9th resolution. H. H. Hubbard, John Bishop, Joseph Britt, Henry Wallace and David Greer.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: January 1861