February 2, 1861
The following address to the people of Virginia has been adopted by ten of fifteen of their Representatives in Congress. The paper was not presented to Hon. Wm. Smith, he being detained in Virginia by illness.
We deem it our duty, as your representatives at Washington, to lay before you such information as we may possess in regard to the probable action of Congress in the present alarming condition of the country.
At the beginning of this session, now more than half over, committees were appointed in both Houses of Congress to consider the state of the Union. Neither committee has been able to agree upon any mode of settlement of the pending issues between the North and the South.
The Republican members in both committees rejected propositions acknowledging the right of property in slaves, or recommending the division of the Territories between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States by a geographical line.
In the Senate, the proposition commonly known as Mr. Crittenden’s were voted against by every Republican Senator; and the House, on a vote by years and nays, refused to consider certain propositions moved by Mr. Etheridge, which were even less favorable to the South than Mr. Crittenden’s.
A resolution, giving a pledge to sustain the president in the use of force against seceding States, was adopted in the House of Representatives by a large majroity [sic]; and in the Senate, every Republican voted to substitute for Mr. Crittenden’s propositions, resolutions offered by Mr. Clark, of New Hampshire, declaring that no new concessions, guarantees, or amendments to the Constitution, were necessray [sic]; that the demands of the South were unreasonable, and that the remedy for the present danger was simply to enforce the laws, in other words, coercion and war.
In this state of facts our duty is to warn you that it is vain to hope for any measures of conciliation or adjustment from Congress which you could accept. We are also satisfied that the Republican party designs, by civil war alone, to coerce the Southern States under the pretext of enforcing the laws, unless it shall become speedily apparent that the seceding States are so numerous, determined, and united, as to make such an attempt hopeless.
We are confirmed in these conclusions by our general intercourse here by the speeches of the Republican leaders here and elsewhere, by the recent refusals of the Legislature of Vermont, Ohio and Pennsylvania to repeal their obnoxious Personal Liberty Laws, by the action of the Illinois Legislatu[r]e on resolution approving the Crittenden propositions, and by the adoption of resolutions in New York and Massachusetts Legislature (doubless to be followed by others,) offering men and money for the war of coercion.
We have, thus, placed before you the facts and conclusions which have become manifest to us from this post of observation where you have placed us. There is nothing to be hoped from Congress; the remedy is with you alone, when you assemble in sovereign Convention.
We conclude by expressiog [sic] our solemn conviction that prompt and decided action by the people of Virginia in Convention will afford the the [sic] surest means, under the providence of God, of averting an impending civil war, and preservion [sic] the hope of reconstructing a Union already dissolved.
J. M. Mason
R. M. T. Hunter,
D. C. Dejarnette,
M. R. H. Garnett,
Shelton F. Leake,
E. S. Martin,
H. A. Edmundson,
Roger A. Pryor,
Thos. S. Bocock
A. G. Jenkins.
Washington City, 22d January, 1861.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: January 1861