February 21, 1861
[Special Correspondence of the Intelligencer.]
Some of the Western Members—The Effect of the Tennessee Election—The Committee on Federal Relations—The Secessionists Down in the Mouth.
Richmond, Feb. 16, 1861.
One of the most noticeable and, when you get acquainted with him, one of the most noteworthy, men in the convention is Gen. John J. Jackson, of Wood county.—He occupied a conspicuous position among the Western delegation, and is, par excellence, the Union man of the whole crowd. You will remember him as the author of the Parkersburg Resolutions—model resolutions, and remarkable for their spirited and terse reprobation of the doctrine of secession. He is a man between sixty and seventy years of age, yet active and nervous as a cat; is noted for his severe virtues, his unbending will, and his uncompromising devotion to Western interests. He is reckoned as one of the big guns of the Convention, and when the time comes will make a mighty quaking among the dry bones. Just now the General is suffering from acute throat indisposition, and is fearful lest he may not have his powder dry when his part in the play comes round. He visits Mr. Clemens’ room a great deal, which, by the way, is a sort of headquarters for the Western delegates, and when he drops in every body subsides in order to hear the latest phase of the Union question—and failing in hearing anything in that way, to get a reminiscence from the General of some dead and gone political character. I was a good deal interested the other night in hearing him tell the [unreadable] history about the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. He said that Senator mason, (of whom he has no complimentary opinion,) had boated in Parkersburg, that, with the help of old Davy Atcheson and the Missouri “border ruffians,” slavery could be carried into Kansas despite of the people, and that with these helps they intended to plant it there, then legalize it, and rush the territory into the Union as a slave State.
Another member from the west, who has already excited marked attention, is John S. Carlile, of Clarksburg—one of the strongest pledged Union men in the Convention. He was a member of Congress from ’55 to ’57, being the only American member who was elected during the Know-Nothing excitement. He was subsequently beaten by your distinguished friend Albert Gallatin Jenkins, who now holds the seat. Carlile is a man of fine talents—a ready, keen, solid, and impressive man. He came a parliamentary dodge on Montague, (secessionist) yesterday, which excited that fire-eater’s ire to an unusual degree. In personal appearance, he is somewhat singular looking, being very sallow and angular in his face, flat on his head, compact and well knit in his framework. He has a rich deep voice, fine power of expression, imperturbable coolness and a great deal of tact. He treated Governor Wise to a small broadside today, and will increase his metal on him as occasion may require.
Colonel Ben Wilson, Carlile’s colleague, from Clarksburg, you know, I presume. He is tall, square, rather a commanding looking man, quite amiable and conciliatory in his manners, and very pleasant in conversation. He is reported to be a man of ability and force, and is the author of the resolution which was offered yesterday, calling on the Peace Commissioners from Virginia, at Washington, to report what was the prospect. He occupies an equivocal position on the Union question, or did when he was elected, but I suppose, in common with others elected on the same platform, has experienced the stiffening influence of the Tennessee election.
And speaking about that election, reminds me of the salutary effect which it has had on even the secessionists here. It has done good like a medicine, and has put disunion at a discount. It is funny how “people in this world go like Brown’s cows—in a drove”—but it is even so—and men who were elected as ultra men to this Convention, have, of their own accord, hauled in their horns to a very noticeable extent. I heard two secessionists, to-day, talking quite vehemently about the prospects, and one of them said, “Its all up—Virginia cannot be kicked out of the Union.” This remark, when you paper gets here, will be recognized by some of our Western delegates, who can give you, if you desire it, the continuation of the sentence.
The President, the first thing to-day, announced the Committee on Federal Relations—twenty-one in number. Mr. Clemens was originally appointed as one of its members, but declined, on account of lameness and consequent inability to attend the meetings of the Committee. This Committee is considered one of the most important features of the whole Convention—in fact, “the wheel within a wheel,” and an appointment on it was an honorable preferment. Mr. Clemens declined in favor of General Jackson, who was appointed in his place. The names of all the members are as follows:
R. Y. Conrad, of Frederick; Henry A. Wise, of Princess Anne; J. B. Baldwin, of August; Robert E. Scott, of Fauquier; William Ballard Preston, of Montgomery; Lewis E. Harvie, of Amelia; J. J. Jackson of Wood; William H. Macfarland, of Richmond; William McComas, of Cabell; Robert L. Montague, of Matthews and Middlesex; Samuel Price, of Greenbrier; Valentine W. Southall, of Albemarle; Waitman T. Willey, of Mongalia; James C. Bruce, of Halifax; W. W. Boyd, of Botetourt; James Barbou[r], of Culpepper; Samuel C. Williams, of Shenandoah; Timothy Rives, of Prince George and Surry; Samuel McDowell Moore, of Rockbridge; Geo. Blow, Jr., of Norfolk city; Peter C. Johnston, of Lee and Scott.
The committee is a very strong one—comprising some of the best names in the Convention—and its announcement fell like a death knell on the ears of the secessionists who now stigmatize it as a strangling machine. They, however, in some sort, expected no favors at the hands of Janney, the President, whom they by a close combination, and very unexpectedly to the Union men, came near defeating for the Chairmanship. They recognize the fact that their hope is all, indeed, in the hands of this committee.
Gov. Wise pitched in again to day, after the same style as yesterday. He did not hold the attention of the Convention ten minutes—they commenced reading their newspapers or writing letters, and manifested, as plain as could be, that the Ex-Governor was a played out institution around Richmond. I, myself, listened attentively all the way through, because Wise was a new actor on my hands; but I felt as if I had been sold when he wound up, and as if I had not begun to get my money back. I am told that he does not consider that he has commenced speaking as yet, but expects to say something when the Convention gets under way.
The Commissioners from South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama are to have the attention of the Convention on Monday, at which time I expect to hear the genuine thing—the real double-distilled, simon pure secession. I shall notice such points as I think will interest your readers. C.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: February 1861