States Rights Meeting in Harrison
May 7, 1861
States Rights Meeting in Harrison
Pursuant to public notice, a meeting of the people of Harrison county was held Friday, the 5th of April, 1861.
The meeting was called to order by Mr. Robt Johnston, who nominated as Pres., Ex-Gov. Joseph Johnson. He was elected unanimously. On motion of Mr. Beverly H. Lurty, Dr. James McCally was elected VP of the meeting.
On motion of Mr. James M. Jackson, Wm. P. Cooper, Norval Lewis and Wm. P. Gordon, Jr., were elected Secretaries.
The president having explained the object of this meeting,
On motion of Mr. John S. Hoffman:
Resolved, That a Committee of fifteen gentlemen be appointed to prepare resolutions for the consideration of this meeting.
The President appointed the following gentlemen such Committee:
Messrs. John S. Hoffman, Robert Johnston, James M. Jackson, Aaron Criss, Eli Marsh, James Y. Horner, Isaac Fl. Randolph, Abel P. Bond, Jacob M. Eib, Elias Bruen, Alexander M. Austin, William M. Late, Uriel M. Turner, Jefferson B. West, and Augustine J. Smith.
The gentlemen of the Committee having withdrawn, Col. Lewis A. Phelps and Dr. James McCally addressed the meeting in their absences.
The Committee having returned, reported the following preamble and resolutions:
Whereas, impelled by the long continued hostility of the Northern people and States of the Union to the Southern people and States, and the oft repeated aggressions of the former and of the Federal Government upon the latter; the elevation by the electors of Northern States alone, against the vote of every elector of every Southern State, of a man to be President of the whole country, who had no other claim to public notice than his opposition to all the Southern States, and his invention of the doctrine of an irrepressible conflict between the people of the Northern and the Southern States of the Union, evincing the generality, the intensity and the perpetuity of such sectional hostility, and indicating the renewal and augmentation of such aggressions; the people of seven States, by their constituted authorities, resumed the powers which they had delegated to the federal Government, disclaimed and renounced all benefit therefrom, solemnly declared and published to the world their independence thereof, and formed a new confederation for themselves.
And, whereas, the people of Virginia, by the almost unanimous vote of their Delegates and Senators in the General Assembly, declared, that the Union being formed by the assent of the sovereign States respectively, and being consistent only with freedom and the republican institutions guaranteed to each, could not and ought not to be maintained by force; that the government of the Union had no power to make war against any of the States which had been its constituent members; and that when any one or more of the States had or should have determined, under the circumstances, to withdraw from the Union, the General Assembly was unalterably opposed to any attempt on the part of the Federal Government to coerce them into reunion or submission, and that they would resist the same by all the means in their power: And the people of all the other southern States remaining in the Union whose Legislatures were in session, declared substantially the same deliberate determination.
And, whereas, the people of Virginia, by their Convention elected and assembled to consider of the same subject among others, by votes approaching unanimity, declared, that, deeply deploring the distracted condition of the country, and the wrongs that had impelled some of the States to cast off obedience to the Federal Government, but sensible of the blessings of Union, and impressed with its importance to the peace, prosperity and progress of the people, they earnestly desired that an adjustment might be reached by which the Union might be preserved in its integrity, and peace, prosperity and fraternal feelings restored throughout the land: That the people of Virginia recognized the American principle that government is founded in the consent of the governed, and that they conceded the right of the people of the several States of the Union, for just caused, to withdraw from their association under the Federal Government with the people of the other States, and to erect new Governments for their better security, and that they would never consent that the Federal power, which was in part the power of Virginia, should be exerted for the purpose of subjugating the people of such States to the Federal power; That the people of Virginia would await any reasonable time to obtain answers from the other States to their propositions, but that they would expect, as an indispensable condition, that a pacific policy should be adopted towards the seceded States, and that no attempt should be made to subject them to the Federal authority, nor to hold any of the forts situated on the main land or within the harbor of any of the seceded States, nor re-capture the forts, arsenals or other property of the United States within their limits, nor exact the payment of imposts upon their commerce, nor any measures resorted to justly calculated to provoke hostile collision; and that the forts, arsenals, magazines and other places ceded to the United States and situate on the main land, or for the protection of the harbors of the seceded States, ought, for purposes of pacification, to be evacuated by the authorities of the Federal Government.
And, whereas, the President of the United States, in his inaugural address, in contempt of the declarations of Virginia and the other Southern States remaining in the Union, announced that he would employ the power of his government to execute the laws thereof against the people of the States that had declared their independence, and coerce them, after they had renounced the benefits of this government, to pay tribute to that government, and that he would hold, occupy and possess the fortresses and strongholds within the territory of those States. And, in pursuance of this declared purpose, he collected together, fitted out, organized and sent large forces of armed men, vessels of war, and other military implements, to those States for the subjugation or destruction of their people: And, again, when the Convention of Virginia had appointed a Committee of Delegates to wait on the President and respectfully ask him to communicate what course he intended to pursue, and the Committee did so, he, in total disregard of Virginia’s earnest and repeated efforts to adjust the difficulties that distracted the country and threatened its ruin, and in outright defiance of her most deliberate determination and solemn declaration to the world, with words of taunt and insult, replied that it was his purpose to pursue the course marked out in his inaugural address, and recommended to Virginia a careful consideration of that document. And, having sounded his call for armed men to fight this unholy battle—to which multitudes of Northern men now rally with an alacrity never shown by them when called to fight the battles of their country against their country’s enemies—thereby evincing more conclusively than Northern men had ever done before, the fierceness of their hostility and _____ of their hatred to the Southern people. And having proclaimed a blockade of all the ports of the States of the new Confederacy, he is now actually waging a determined war with arms, ships, engines and fire, not only against the Confederate States, but against the Commonwealth of Virginia.
And, whereas, the people of Virginia, having no longer any other alternative but to bear intolerable wrongs to themselves—to allow their citizens and their money to be required and employed for the destruction of their friends and brothers—and thus to submit to absolute dishonor and utter degradation: We are informed that he people of Virginia, by their delegates in Convention have, by an ordinance for that purpose, withdrawn the powers that had been conferred on the Government of the United States, and resumed their independence as a State among the other Nations and States of the earth—subject, however, to the direct ratification of the people by a vote upon that subject; and we are confident beyond a doubt that the people will ratify the ordinance of separation by an overwhelming vote.
And, whereas, the Governor of Virginia has issued his proclamation ordering all armed volunteer regiments and companies within this State to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders, and prepare themselves for immediate service. Now, therefore, be it resolved,
That we thoroughly approve the principles and action of the General Assembly, the Convention and the Governor, as hereinbefore set forth: we reprobate and detest the baneful principles and atrocious action of the despot at Washington who now exercises the power of a military Emperor: And we solemnly pledge ourselves, in this hour of trial and of peril, by our countenances, our suffrages and our persons devoted to the service, to sustain our own cherished State of Virginia in her determination to resist the concentrated despostism that threatens the free government and enlightened institutions of the Southern States.
That we regard it our duty, and we earnestly recommend that all citizens loyal to the Commonwealth should at once, in the manner presented by the laws of the land, organize themselves into volunteer companies, procure arms, and prepare themselves and stand ready to fight the battles of Virginia against her hostile foes,
And, whereas, we have learned with profound mortification, that in this are citizens in a few of the Northwestern counties of the State, who forget the wisdom, patriotism and prowess of our ancestral dead—the exalted sense of honor which the memory of those inspire—the security, strength, greatness and influence which her integrity affords—and who would cut off a petty fragment from the land of our fathers and attach it to that of our most inveterate enemies—would form from a few of the Northwestern counties of Virginia a fragmentary bastard corner of Pennsylvania or Ohio, or else remain alone, a petty, feeble, helpless, renegade community, on the border of two great Confederacies, despised by that to which it should attach itself for protection:
And we have discovered, moreover, with unutterable chagrin, that the leaders—or at least some of them—propose, not to appeal to the Convention of Virginia now in session, which has the power to act on this subject, and in which the West has a preponderating majority and can carry whatever measure it pleases—not to appeal to the Legislature—not to allow even the people of that section which is to be segregated to be consulted and express their preference as to their destiny—but to hold a convention in the city of Wheeling, and there, without law or authority, to form a provisional Government, not to be sanctioned or accepted by the people to be governed, but to be enforced upon them by the people of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the President, and the partisans of the measure in this section with arms furnished by the people of those States, said to be already deposited in the city of Wheeling—thus inaugurating a civil strife in our very midst, which must assuredly commit our families and our property to murder, rapine, fire, and general devastation.
Therefore, be it Resolved, That while we utterly condemn the proposition to divide the State, and in our inmost souls we loath and abhor the diabolical manner in which it is proposed to effect it, and the degrading connection sought to be formed with a hostile State, yet we believe that but a few of the citizens of the Northwest favor even a regular and legal division of the State, and that but a small number of those who do, have thought seriously of the character and consequences of that measure; and we are thoroughly satisfied that a still smaller number have been made aware of the manner in which it is proposed to accomplish it: And we would solemnly warn and fervently implore our fellow citizens to inform themselves, and think and reflect for themselves on this and other subjects of vital public importance, and not allow themselves to be seduced by wicked and reckless men to their own infamy, the degradation of their families, and the destruction of their country.
The preamble and resolutions as reported were adopted unanimously.
The meeting was addressed by Messrs. Robt. Johnston, John S. Hoffman, James M. Jackson and Governor Johnson.
On motion of Mr. Augustus J. Smith, Resolved, unanimously, That we deeply sympathize with our gallant sister State of Maryland, bearing as she does the onset of a tyrannical government against a free people; and that if we had arms and opportunity, we would gladly rally to her assistance.
On motion of Mr. Virginius P. Chapin: Resolved, That copies of the preceedings of this meeting be forwarded to the Convention of Virginia, the Legislature of Maryland, and the newspapers in Richmond and those in this and other counties in this section not inimical to our cause.
On motion of Mr. John M. Wier, the meeting adjourned.
JOSEPH JOHNSON, President
W. P. Cooper, Norval Lewis, W. F.Gordon, Jr., Secretaries
The meeting was one of the largest we have ever seen in the county, and was composed of the very best and most intelligent and substantial of our citizens. They wore the most thought aspect, and in every respect manifested the most profound interest in the subject of the meeting.—[Ed. Clarksburg Register]
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: April 1861