August 2, 1862
As we noticed yesterday a large and very enthusiastic meeting was held at West Liberty, in this county, on Thursday last. The large hall of the Academy building was filled, and among the audience were a considerable number of ladies from all parts of the surrounding country. We have not seen at West Liberty so large a political gathering for years, and it was truly creditable to the zeal and patriotism of the people of that neighborhood that notwithstanding their yet unfinished harvests, they turned out in such large numbers.
The meeting was organized by calling Joseph Waddle Esq., to the chair and the appointment of Dr. English as Secretary.—Auditor Crane was then introduced to the audience by the chairman, and requested to address the people.
Mr. Crane opened his remarks with a very calm and happily worded review of the situation of the country. He congratulated the people upon all the evidences of prosperity, intelligence and comfort which he saw around him and which he had witnessed on his ride from Wheeling. It was the first time that he had had the pleasure of seeing that immediate part of the country, and certainly it was one of the most beautiful and richly endowed sections of the State of Virginia. He proceeded to contrast its peace and prosperity with those counties of Western Virginia but a little way South of it. His own county (Randolph) had been overrun by the rebels and they had laid waste his home and that of many of his fellow Union men. He was afraid that the people of the exempted counties did not appreciate rightly the frail tenor by which they were yet enjoying their usual prosperity. It was time that all who had thus far escaped should examine well the circumstances of their situation. Events were rushing upon events; dangers were heard in the distance like a coming storm. We must prepare to meet them. They might be upon us in such a day and such an hour as we think not. There was no telling what would be the situation of those he saw about him in a month hence. The harvest might not pass nor the summer end ere the desolation of guerrilla raid or organized war should sweep over them.—Now was the time to prepare. Forewarned was forearmed. It was time that the people of the border were organizing and arming and drilling. The tocsin of war was sounding near and nearer each day. Men were again fleeing their homes in Western Virginia. Supiness [supineness?] and indifference were now suicidal. We must awake, arouse and arm, or we must yield our country and our liberties.
In this strain Mr. Crane opened his remarks. He appealed to the people to shake off every feeling of false security; to come forward at once for their own protection. Western Virginia was yet crying for aid from the Government. The Government could not give it to her. Troops were needed elsewhere. We must depend on our strong arms for protection. We must hurry up our quota of enlistments and send them forward to the places in Western Virginia now held by the Government forces, and these forces must be sent forward to the fields before Richmond. Western Virginians must defend Western Virginia. It was as little as they could do, and it was about all the Government expected them to do. The great States of the North and West had up to this time protected us.—Their soldiers had come to our rescue in our early troubles and they had remained with us. They had nobly stood by us.—Now we had organized a State government for ourselves and now we must play the part of patriots. We must show to the world that we are not so abject as to be incapable of defending our own homes.
In the close of his remarks Mr. Crane turned his attention to those men who while he was speaking were hatching scorpion eggs of treason at Indianapolis, in the State of Indiana. And in humiliation of soul, he said, let it be told that John S. Carlile, the traitor to his constituents and his country, was there among them. The man whom the people of Western Virginia, but a few short months ago, had delighted to honor, and whom they had exalted to a position that his own merits would never have reached, had, false to all his pledges, false to his honor, false to his country, taken cowardly counsel of his forbodings and gone to make fair-weather with the allies of Jeff. Davis. When the people were bowed down in sorrow, when good men were consolidating together for a yet grander stand for the liberties of the nation, when patriots were rallying the loyal hosts to the rescue of the land, John S. Carlile was selfishly, treasonably and infamously plotting to thwart all their efforts and to secure for himself fellowship with the rebels. He had betrayed Western Virginia, and was now betraying his country. Let him go—let him go, like Judas, and sink, to find at last his own level. It was a source of inexpressible happiness for him to believe that the efforts of the traitor would be thwarted in Western Virginia. The people were everywhere repudiating him. County after county were showering their indignant anathemas upon him. There was but one but one paper in all the length and breadth of Western Virginia that had taken part with him and apologized for him, and that paper was the one that was feeding and fattening off your State printing—the Wheeling Press.
Mr. Crane’s speech was very earnest and impressive throughout, and was listened to with great interest by the people, and at its conclusion was warmly applauded.
Gov. Peirpoint, who had only arrived just as Mr. Crane concluded, was at once called for by the people. He came forward amidst the heartiest applause. He told them of the deep interest he felt in the success of these meetings throughout the different counties. Had it not been for that interest, he should not have been with them to-day. He was pressed with business in his office, more than he could attend to. But these were no days for office business alone. The hour called for action among the people. He felt it his duty to leave all and go among the people, and life his voice among them, and do all that he could towards securing an answer from Western Virginia to the call of the nation for more troops. Now was the tremendous hour of the republic’s fate, now was the time when all good and devoted men must band together, must rise together, must arm together, and save the last hope of freedom throughout the world. It was the sublimest hour of all history. The world never saw such a sight. Our sacred liberties—the priceless boon of our inheritance in self-government, the whole future of man, hung trembling in the balances. The exigencies of the hour were awe inspiring. Would to God we could rise to an appreciation of them. There was no hope for us unless we did. The people must rouse; they must leave off all selfishness; money must not be their God.—This was no time to be meditating new gains; new farms; new houses and more stocks. Alas! Alas! this has been in the months past the great evil of the land. We have been resting under false security; we thought the war nearly at an end; we looked for speedy peace in all our borders. Recruiting had been stopped. The near prospects of peace had awakened all the old ideas. Danger had been dismissed for our apprehensions. How little we knew the realities of the situation. Now we see our delusion. We see that the enemy have improved their opportunity. They have rallied in great strength at the vital point. They have outnumbered us there. We can not cope with them unless we withdraw troops from the States and points we have taken. Some of these troops have been taken already from Western Virginia. The enemy have stepped into their places, and they are now driving out loyal men, confiscating their property and laying waste their harvests. These wretches must be driven back, and we of Western Virginia must do it. The Government only asks us to help protect ourselves. In God’s name shall we do it. Can we not raise men who will hold and occupy the exposed places in our own frontier counties. This is the design of the new levies. They are to relieve the drilled troops so that they may be sent to the vital point near Richmond. Two thousand and eighty men are all the government asks of us. We must raise that number and we must raise it now at once. The reproach of a draft must be avoided. The great States to the north and east and west of us are nobly and grandly responding to the call of the government. Shall we lag behind? Shall it be said of us that after all that has been done for us we were too mean to do anything for ourselves. No! no! My fellow citizens we must respond. The enemy are improving the hours of delay. See their emissaries of treason now at work. Look at what they are to-day endeavoring to do at Indianapolis. They are lying to the people about the designs and intentions of the government. They are sowing discord and dissension. This is what that traitorous crew are doing. They are cloaking their treason under the mask of anti-abolitionism. They are prating about the constitution. What right have the wretches to mouth the word constitution! They are destroying it utterly. We are laboring to preserve it and our liberties. In preserving these liberties we cannot break the constitution. It is absurd to talk about such a thing. Does the constitution prevent us from using any and every means to save the government. No! fellow citizens, no! The men are traitors who tell you such stuff. They are using the prejudices of the people about abolition to serve their devilish purposes. They want to divide you so that the rebels in arms, their allies, can make sure work of you. This has been their hope from the beginning. Be not deceived. The stake is too awful for self-delusion. Throw away your prejudices.—Strike down the men who are trifling with you. They will bind you hand and foot, and hand you over as the price of their own ransom to the despotism of Jeff Davis. My heart goes out to the people of Western Virginia in this contest. My life has been their life. From my boyhood days I have participated in all that concerns them. I have worked on the farm and in the shop. I know the heart of the people. I know that they love liberty. I learned to love it from the poor and humble among whom my early life was cast, and among whom I have grown up, and by whom I have been honored. I cherish these glorious principles of liberty. They are all that makes life enviable. Let them go and all is lost.—We shall be as Mexico or South America. In God’s name my fellow-citizens I conjure you to rouse to their rescue.—Let not the efforts of miserable traitors divide or distract your attention from the one great danger. Scorn all their cant about “Abolitionism.” What do we care about the niggers of rebels? Let their niggers go along with themselves, and all be exterminated in a pile together, if it is necessary to save the nation. We will use all the means that God and nature have put into our power to put down the rebels. Niggers shall not stand in our way. They shall not cry Constitution on us and claim its benefit for their niggers. No! fellow-citizens, we will drive the war home to them, regardless of consequences to them or their negroes. If slavery can stand the shock, let it stand. I don’t care a fig for it. If it can’t, let it go. I don’t care whether it goes up or down. I feel no solicitude about it, so that only the liberties of white men are preserved. The danger is not that slaves are to be made freemen, but that freemen re to be made slaves. This is the great danger and the only one, and these Vallandigham traitors well know it. Here in Western Virginia we owe nothing to slavery; we owe it nothing but ill-will. It has been our curse all the days of our life. And yet these devilish rebels attempt to rob you of your liberties—of your future peace and prosperity—of all that is dear to you as freemen, under the pretence that some infernal rebel’s niggers will be hurt. Who cares for what happens [to] these rebels. Let them take all that comes.
In the foregoing report we have attempted only an imperfect outline of Governor Peirpoint’s speech. It was too long for our columns. No mere sketch can do it justice. It was a most thorough speech, and one worthy of being produced word for word. Its patriotism and its earnest eloquence, its sincerity and its anxious and tersely expressed apprehensions and hopes went home to the hearts of the people. It cannot but do great good.
After the conclusion of the Governor’s speech, Prof. Ross, from the Committee on Resolutions, reported the following, which were unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That the war should be prosecuted until the Government shall have been restored to its rightful authority over all the seceded States, and the Constitution fully vindicated.
Resolved, That we will stand by the Government in its struggle to put down the rebellion, and whatever sacrifices it calls upon us to make, we will make them, and whatever burdens it may entail upon us we will bear them, assured that the blessings of a free Government as constructed by our fathers, is the best legacy that we can leave our children.
Resolved, That we have no fears for the Constitution in the custody of our present Chief Magistrate, except from the action of those who would embarrass the action of the Government in its struggle with treason by disseminating among the people mawkish apprehensions in regard ot its safety. When the majesty and authority of the Constitution shall have been fully vindicated by the arms of the Union, we will then examine it to ascertain whether it may have received a flaw or a crack, in the process, assured that then, and only then, we will have the opportunity and material with which to mend it.
Resolved, That this rebellion should be put down by all the means which God and Nature have put into the hands of the Government, no matter who may be hurt of who may lose his niggers in the process.
Resolved, That this meeting heartily responds to the call of the President for additional troops to sustain the integrity of the Union; and in this view cheerfully endorses the action of the mass meeting at Wheeling in petitioning the County Court for a levy to provide a bounty for volunteers.
Resolved, That this meeting fully endorses the course of Senator Willey in the Congress of the United States in regard to the admission of West Virginia into the Union, and as fully condem[n]s the course of Senator Carlile, by which it is believed that the admission was defeated for the time being.
Resolved, That these proceedings be published in the Wheeling papers.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: July 1862