January 12, 1861
The People of Marion come together to hear about the State of the Country—Dr. Kidwell, fresh from Richmond, proceeds to Enlighten them—He draws a Highly Flattering and Veracious Picture of the Republicans, saying, among other things, that they are Thieves, Infidels, Abolitionists and Insurrectionists, and are very obnoxious to some Widow Ladies near Richmond—The Doctor is Replied to by the Douglas Elector, who changes the contour of his face.
[Correspondence of the Wheeling Intelligencer.]
GENTS: Last Monday was court day. A large number of people were in town, anxious to talk and hear about the destruction of the Government. I never saw as much anxiety in the face of the people of this county, as I saw on that day. Nor did I ever see men talked to with more undertone and button-holeing, than were the people on that day, by Breckinridge leaders, who indirectly favor secession. The masses of the people, left alone, are opposed to the whole movement. But the Breckinridge leaders are trying to make the impression that some terrible calamity has just been brought upon the country by the Republicans, is overwhelming the country—and that some great thing must be done, or the Union must be dissolved. More than ever, now, do they dread public discussion. Ask them if they are in favor of breaking up the Federal Government; they will say: “Oh, no; I am for the Union,” but throw in, at the same time, a number of provisos, that clearly indicate what their secret wish is. The only thing now is, to get the people with them, but to avoid discussion. The Union men are determined that the people shall understand the whole subject, if practicable. To this end, they labored earnestly to get some of the Breckinridge leaders to make speeches on Monday. Finally, they got Dr. Kidwell on the stand. The Doctor had just returned from Washington and Richmond, and was presumed to know all that was going on, at least among the disunionists. Kidwell, in his speech, deplored the condition of the country, attributed all our calamities to the breaking up of the Democratic party, and to that party’s going out of power. He regretted the election of Lincoln, and was very sure that if the election was to go over again, he (Lincoln) would not get three States in the Union. He then dwelt with great severity on the Republicans—characterized them as a body of infidels; that Burlingame wanted an anti-slavery Constitution, an anti-slavery Bible and an anti-slavery God; that Seward, Hale and Wade were no better; that the whole object of the party was to abolish slavery in the South. He told them about some widow ladies residing near Richmond, who owned slaves, and now had to have the Richmond police traversing the county to suppress insurrection; that the slaves were actually declaring that they were free now that Massa Lincoln was elected. Dr. Kidwell held up with great force the stealing propensity of the Republicans—said that he knew them well—had served four years with them in Congress; that they had stolen a large amount ($40,000,000) from the United States. And now that Mr. Lincoln was coming into power the condition of things would be deplorable indeed. He complained of the personal liberty bills of the North. He told us, and seemed to speak by authority, that Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri would be out of the Union in less than six weeks; that the Republicans down at Washington were holding secret meetings, and were now actually discussing the question whether they should inaugurate Mr. Lincoln at Philadelphia or New York. The Dr. stated that a State Convention would be called in a few days, represented on the white basis as now represented in the lower house of delegates; that Virginians were anxious to have the constitution altered so as to tax their negroes ad valorem. But the Dr. deplored the idea of giving the Convention power to so alter the constitution at this time.
Dr. Kidwell made allusion, several times the course of his remarks, to your humble servant, supposing, perhaps, that I would reply.—When he had concluded his remarks, I stated to the audience that I did not intend to make a speech, but as the Doctor had made personal allusion to me, I would notice two or three points he had made.
First, That the condition of the country was attributed to the breaking up of the democratic party. My answer was that the Union party had not broken it up; that the Republicans had not broken it up; that the Yancey-Breckinridge secessionists had broken it up. The logical inference, then, was that the democracy must rule or ruin the country; that they would break up their own party, and then break up the Government.
Second, That the Doctor had stated that if the election was to go over again, there would not be three States go for Lincoln. I asked if the people of the North have turned against the Republicans, what is the reason for fear? Hold on until another election, and they will be powerless.
Third, The Doctor charged the Republicans with stealing, large sums of money from the Government. This, to me, was strange, since the democratic party had been in office ever since the Republican party was formed. That they had no power in the Government, how could they steal the money?
I said no more, and Fountain Smith, Esq., the Douglas Elector for this Senatorial district, was called for and took the stand. Mr. Smith stated that he had been reared in Eastern Virginia, and that he belonged to the National Democratic party. That he had been taught from his infancy to revere the institutions of his native State, &c. That while the North had passed their Liberty bills, the Federal judges, without exception, had treated them as a nullity. That secession is not the remedy to which the South and particularly the border States should resort for redress, because our condition after dissolution would be worse than at present. Now we have laws under the constitution, which (with a few exceptions) have been effectual for the recovery of fugitives from service. After dissolution the Northern States may be hostile, offering a safer asylum to the slave than Canada now does, which would render the maintenance of slavery in the border States impossible. Secession would be a death blow to the institution of the South. It would break the bond of mutual protection, and thereby expose the institution to the assaults of enemies at home and from foreign nations, which have upon divers occasions shown their uncompromising hostility to it.
That if this Union is divided all will be chaos, no human sagacity can foresee the result. Once dismembered and cast upon the ocean of uncertainty who can tell where it may drift; safety to the south may only be found in the fangs of the British lion! Whatever may be the interest of Eastern Virginia, secession is not the interest of the Northwest. Having two hostile States on our border we must forever be excluded from a participation in the institution of slavery. But if a Southern Confederacy should be formed, the cotton States would adopt their favorite policy of free trade, the effect would be ruinous in the extreme on us. It would bankrupt our capitalists, prostrate our manufactories, depopulate our towns, throw our citizens out of employment, and load them with taxation too intolerable to be borne. The wealth of the northwest consists in her rich pasture lands, her beds of coal and iron, manufacturing and artisan skill, all of which, so far as value is concerned, would be annihilated at a blow. Our remedies are in the Union—promote peace and home and industry. The resources of North Western Virginia ought, by a proper policy, to make Wheeling the Birmingham of America. But secession would make her mercantile and business houses a habitation for the moles and bats.
Mr. Smith spoke against a State Convention at this time, as impolitic and unnecessary. Because the popular mind is too inflamed—its nerves too much lacerated for cool and calm action, which the questions and interests of the times demand. If a Convention is called, it must do something. If it should, in common parlance, “bark down”—do nothing, it would lose its influence with the South.—If the Convention should take sides with the South it would lose confidence with the North. Therefore, it will be better for Virginia to take time—to deliberate—wait until the fog and mists which now environ us, have passed off and the political sky become clear. Then we can see with more certainty what are our duties,--and what course we should pursue. When the fury of the tempest has been spent at the South, and the obduracy of the North has, by time, become more flexible, then Virginia, with her sister border States, can say to the North and the South, you have both erred; “come, let us reason together.”
He said, the Government was intended to be perpetual—to promote the general good, and no state has a right to secede at pleasure. If the encroachments of the Federal Government upon the rights of the States were palpable, deliberate, too grievous to be borne, then the State might, and ought to maintain its rights under the Constitution, even to resistance. But there is no such complaint now, even South Carolina does not make any charge against the Federal Government. The complaint is against the action of some of the Northern States, and the election of Lincoln to the Presidency. During the canvass no speaker that he ever heard was frank enough to say that Lincoln’s election was cause for dissolving the Union. Mr. L. was elected according to the forms of the Constitution, and no law abiding citizen would murmur at his inauguration. If he violated the Constitution there were remedies for its infraction. Those who now are protesting against his inauguration, are those who, by their action in dividing the Democratic party, placed his election beyond a peradventure. They just got some of the Southern Legislatures to pass resolutions before hand, declaring the election of a Republican cause for dissolution. They then divided the Democratic party to secure a Republican President; and now, because he is elected, they will dissolve the union. Three months ago, Dr. Kidwell and the whole of the secession leaders in Virginia, denied that they had any intention to break up the Government if Lincoln was elected. But now they are bare-faced and flat-footed for forcing Virginia out of the Union before the 4th of March next. This either shows that they were then insincere, and knew they dare not let the people know their object, or that they are mere puppets in the hands of their South Carolina masters, to do their bidding. Mr. Smith appealed to his audience to know if they were ready to proclaim to the monarchs of the Old World, that our glorious Republic was dead!—take a leap in the dark with South Carolina, and with her draft on the dark and shoreless ocean of the future.
But, said he, if a convention is forced upon us, let the conservative men of all parties guard well the interest of the country, their homes and their family alters—and send none to that convention but conservative men, devoted to the country, the Union and the Republic. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, who profess love for the Union, with their lips, with their hearts are for disunion and secession. He believed that the mass of the Breckinridge men in this county were honest, Union-loving men, who appreciated the glorious Federal Constitution, the consummation of the labors of our revolutionary fathers, and that the object of their leaders was to destroy it. Who, after hearing Dr. Kidwell to-day, could doubt it? He appealed to them to rally around the Constitution and the laws of the land. That secession was treason.
The above is only an outline of Mr. Smith’s speech. He spoke an hour. The audience were so hearty in their applause that he frequently had so [sic] stop until they ceased. One droll friend of mine asked me, when it was over, if I saw Dr. Kidwell’s face while Smith was speaking—He said, “it looked as if he had the neuralgia.”
There was a meeting appointed to be held at Fairmont on the 15th of this month, to hear further discussion on the subject. The Doctor opposed this meeting, on the ground that discussion would tend to delay. Yancey said, “precipitate revolution.” Haste is the watchword of the secession leaders.
F. H. Peirpoint.
Fairmont, Jan. 10, 1860.
January 18, 1861
Fairmont, Va., Jan. 15, 1861.
Editors of the Wheeling Intelligencer:
Gentlemen:--A communication in your daily issue of the 12th, headed “A great day at Fairmont,” over the signature of our fellow-citizen F. H. Pierpoint, and purporting to detail a discussion here at our last court, fails to do me justice, or the positions I then took.
My whole effort was directed to a favorable consideration of Mr. Crittenden’s plan of adjustment. I urged it upon our people irrespective of party or of party considerations. In speaking of the Personal Liberty Bills of some of the Northern and Western States, I did state that Virginia had lost forty millions of dollars worth of slaves, and quoted a late speaker on national sins; that it really seemed the philanthropy of some consisted alone in stealing or secreting negroes. Mr. Ps’s stealing-in-Washing[ton] clause had this statement for its foundation.
In a few lines below the statement here corrected, Mr. P. says: “He (Dr. Kidwell) told us, and seemed to speak by authority, that Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri would be out of the Union in less than six weeks.” Here, too, Mr. P. is at fault. I said: unless a satisfactory adjustment is effected soon (and I may have said in six weeks) the border States named would all be in Convention, as Virginia has since ordained, devising ways and means of safety. One State since then has taken the action indicated and it remains to be seen if the balance will go and do likewise, or remain inactive, contrary to the assertion made by me. We will see.
I did assert that a Convention of this State would be ordered by the Legislature, and based on white population; both of which have since taken place.
I also said: Many leading men of Eastern Virginia regreted the difference made in our Constitution between the taxing of slaves and other property, and desired uniformity in the premises. I apprehend but little difficulty in this matter. But Mr. P. says: “The Dr. deplored the idea of giving the Convention power so to alter the Constitution at this time.” Here, as usual, Mr. Peirpoint is greatly mistaken. I wish it had been uniform from the first, and I now desire it remedied as soon as it can be—both because of being right, and to secure the peace of your correspondent of the 12th. I did object to putting anything in the way of a speedy settlement of our national affairs, or mixing national and State affairs, knowing, as I did, it was a resort of our enemies in this crises to thwart State action altogether. I will be greatly gratified if the Convention, after first acting on national difficulties, will turn its attention to a settlement of this inequality in taxation, and arrange it to the satisfaction of all. I so expressed myself here in the meeting.
Having placed myself right, Messrs. Editors, I trust you will find no difficulty in admitting my communication to your columns. I seldom attempt such tasks, but the present occasion is one demanding of all men feeling and interest in our country’s welfare—an honest expose of sentiments. And since Mr. Pierpoint was giving notoriety to the meeting held here at our Court, it is certainly proper for me to be right on the record.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: January 1861