March 22, 1861
The editor of the Morgantown Star, who is a delegate to the Virginia Convention, writes home to his paper in the following strain. We are glad to perceive that there is some indication of manhood in the 10th Congressional District, and hope it may grow and spread over North-western Virginia:
Richmond, March 9, 1861.
Dear “Star:”—I have been waiting and waiting for something tangible to be done by this Convention, in order that I might communicate it to your readers, but in vain. When I first came here, I supposed that something would be done soon to relieve the anxiety and suspense of the people of Virginia, as there was such a large majority of Union men in the Convention, but I have been doomed to disappointment. Your readers cannot imagine the state of things here from the reports of the proceedings of the Convention in the newspapers. The process of precipitation foreshadowed by Mr. Yancey in his Slaughter letter, has been going on. Every means is used to intimidate the members of this Convention. Meetings are held nightly. Bands are hired who parade the streets followed by a motley crew of free negroes, boys and mad caps who go around to the different Hotels, calling upon the well-known secessionists for speeches—cheering South Carolina, &c, &c. Every allusion to the Union is hissed, and every Union man is denounced as an abolitionist! The members from the North West are compelled to daily hear citizens of Richmond, who are allowed privileged seats, point them out with the remark that “there is where the abolitionists sit,” “these are the abolitionists,” &c.—Even Alfred M. Barbour, who represents a county containing 5,000 slaves, is compelled frequently to hear himself pointed out by some vagabond on the street as an abolitionist, and simply because he is a Union man. How long, oh, how long will free people of the West submit to this thing?
When Mr. Willey made his speech the other day, he was hissed by a person in the galleries. Mr. W. retorted in a masterly manner. The President ordered the galleries cleared, but Mr. W. begged him not to do so, as he thought he had squared the account with the goose who hissed. Mr. Willey sustained his well earned reputation in his speech. His arguments against secession were unanswerable. The best compliment I can pay him is to say that he received the most universal attention, from both the Convention and the galleries, of any gentleman who has yet spoken.
Mr. Carlile, on Thursday, made a speech of two hours length, which struck the secessionists like a thunderbolt. It was decidedly the boldest speech of the session. It came right up to the point upon which the Union men are bound to stand. It was very effective, and though the galleries were not such much with Mr. Carlile as with Mr. Willey, (for he handled the subject without gloves,) still the Union members of the Convention were excessively pleased with Mr. Carlile’s effort. As Mr. Carlile was leaving the Convention, accompanied by two very respectable ladies from his boarding house, he was hissed by the crowd.—And this is your great city of Richmond where free speech is guarantied [sic] to every man by the bill of rights and the laws of his country.
I learn that Mr. O. Jennings Wise told a member of the Convention a few days ago that if this Convention did not pass an ordinance of secession, it ought to be driven from its hall at the point of the bayonet.
The Hon. Wm. G. Brown offered resolutions a few days ago requesting the Virginia Senators to resign. The next morning the Richmond Examiner abused him in the most villainous style, [d]enouncing him a brother, or son, or father of old John Brown. Wm. G. Brown, who has been a life long friend of the South and its institutions, to be abused in this style, simply because he chooses to advocate his sentiments and evidence his devotion to his country, shows that madness rules the hour.
This afternoon a crowd assembled at the old market and took down a Union flag, which had been floating there for many a day, and hoisted in its stead, amidst the cheers of the crowd, the rattlesnake flag. Speeches were made by several persons, among whom was Charles Irving, Mr. Clemens’ second in the duel with Wise. In the course of his remarks, Mr. Irving impressed upon the people that resistance was not enough, that the true policy was to drive the Convention out of the city at the point of the bayonet. Scarcely had Mr. Irving uttered these words when the mob shouted, “That’s it,” “That’s right,” “Drive them out;” and these cries were followed by deafening cheers. This is but a faint sketch of some of the indignities to which your representatives are subject in this land of freemen. We have fallen upon sad times. It is truly a reign of terror, but I hope it will not last forever.
The Union men have no paper here to represent or defend them. The Enquirer, Examiner and Dispatch are violent disunion papers, and the Whig, quasi Union. So the people of the Northwest will see, as anticipated by me. That the representatives from that section have not a very pleasant berth. The Convention ought to adjourn to some other place; but too many of the members are timid. They fear the denunciations of the papers here and the name of abolitionist. When will men become bold, free and independent again?
The members of the Convention from your Congressional district are as firm as the eternal hills, with the exception of Hall, of Wetzel, who is an out and out secessionist. Mr. Hall was elected by a plurality of seven votes, and four Union candidates in the field. He evidently represents but a meager minority of his people, and cannot be called a representative man. If he misrepresents the feelings of his people they ought to speak out. He was presented this evening with a splendid gold-headed cane, by the young men of Richmond, for his defence of the honor of Virginia, by advocating secession and denouncing the North-Western members as untrue to the institutions of the State. O. Jennings Wise made the presentation speech, to which Hall replied, accepting the present. I doubt much the propriety of a representative accepting a token of this kind from any except his constituents, as they are the best judges of his fidelity in representing them.
The Committee of Federal Relations reported to-day, and I hope to be able to inform you that “something has turned up,” soon.
Hastily yours, M. M. D.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: March 1861