Meeting at Clarksburg - Davis and Vance Speak a Piece apiece.
February 13, 1863
Meeting at Clarksburg - Davis and Vance Speak a Piece apiece.
Clarksburg, Va., Feb. 9, 1863
About one o'clock to-day the court house bell announced to the citizens of this town that something was going to happen. Guess what? Vance and Davis, of Legislative fame, were going to make speeches explaining and justifying the course they pursued during the last session. They really wished to speak to defeat the new state of West Virginia. The time place and purpose of the meeting had been extensively advertised among the butternuts and rebels of the county, but the Union men in the town were to know nothing of it. They succeeded in part.
Without waiting for an organization of the meeting, Vance arose and said that he came before them, the people of Harrison county, for the purpose of giving a public account of himself, while a member of the Legislature. He intended to do so now. Little good had been done by said body; but little good could be expected from a set of men, of such limited experience [wonder where his immense stock came from] and so bigoted, who were willing to obey the orders of Gov. Peirpoint in everything; who would make laws agreeable to his wishes, no matter how odious they were to a free people. It was for these reasons, that he considered it his duty to resign his seat at the close of the session [why did he not resign a month previous, and thus save his honor and dignity? Simply, because it did not pay.] Gov. Peirpoint was then handled in an ungentlemanly manner for asking the Legislature for power to arrest "suspicious men." He did not say why he asked it, but remarked that the bill passed and now the Governor had the power to arrest everybody whom he suspicioned as disloyal. He (Vance) knew no such a crime as being disloyal. He fogot to tell his hearers, that the rebels drag loyal citizens away from their homes in Western Virginia and throw them into their Richmond dungeons for no other cause than their love of the Union.
He then wished to say a few words concerning the war. At the breaking out of the rebellion he had stumped the county against secession; he had told them that the war was only to be carried on for the restoration of the Union as it was and the Constitution as it is. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed so. It was he who, after getting 500,000 men in the field, changed the programme and is now carrying it on for the obliteration of all the State lines and for a central Government, that he was just as disloyal as Jeff. Davis, for both had violated the Constitution. He thus continued to abuse the President, Congress, the Governor and other officials in the severest and most treasonable terms until he finally arrived at the new State question. He pretended to have been at one time a friend of the new State, but believed this was not the time for it. He had heard that some citizens had been informed that, if they had taken the organized State oath, they could not vote against the new State. He wished it understood that such was not the case [all right for once] and hoped that everybody would go to the polls and vote his sentiments. He had also heard that the anti-new State men would be prevented from voting. If such was the case, he wished to know it so they could provide themselves accordingly. The time had come, when men should come and speak their sentiments, and he intended to do it, though it cost him everything, even his life. Pretending sickness [he really looked sickly and certainly out of place] and under the plea of wishing to give the floor to his colleague, who was better prepared to address the audience, he sat down with the evident satisfaction, that he had humbugged the people of Harrison county.
Mr. Davis majestically arose, saying he would make no excuse for speaking, but was not prepared, having had only a short time to prepare himself, and that the people might expect a disconnected rambling sort of speech. He then verified the above by saying, that several friends in the country had asked him to make a speech, as if this could be done in a few minutes. The course of the legislature was reviewed next. The repeal of the bill compensating masters for their slaves, provided the latter were executed for criminal offences, was particularly obnoxious to him. He said the first convention promised to let slavery alone, but this was the nigger era, and the legislature had the "nigger on the brain." He thought the original bill a wise one, as it prohibited masters from screening their slaves, if they committed any offence. He forgot to mention, that it is often a good way to get paid for a worthless negro." The several bills passed by the legislature were reviewed in a manner similar to that of his colleague, only more severe. He called the President a usurper, because he exercised powers not vested in him by the constitution; spoke against the suspending of the writ of habeas corpus; tried to prove Senator Willey to have been a traitor, while in Richmond, and ridiculed him for having voted for arming and sending into the field 150,000 negroes to suppress this rebellion; compared Peirpoint's Government with that at Washington, saying, the former was the shadow of the latter.
He, like Vance, pretended to have been once in favor of a new State at a proper time, but all States had been admitted on their own terms; so he considered it degrading, that Congress should dictate to West Virginians what kind of a constitution they should adopt, thus making it odious to a freeman to vote for the admission of the new State, whose constitution was altered by Congress. He would never vote for his own degradation, and the man who would support tyrants and de[s]pots by voting for the admission of the State under the Willey bill, was a slave and fit to be one. He counselled everybody to vote against the new State, or rather the odious Willey bill. The effect of said bill was to bring all the free negroes into West Virginia, and negro labor would take the place of poor white labor. Well might we pause and think. The recognition of the Southern Confederacy was possible and probable. If such a thing happened, a National Convention would be called, and did they think that West Virginia delegates would be recognized there? No! they would admit the delegates of the whole State, not Peirpont's, but Letcher's. Again, if the Confederacy is recognized, it will be because the South is superior to the North as a military power [true words well spoken] and did they think, that the 10,000 men of this part of the State, who have gone and taken up Confederate arms to break down the Union, will ever consent to have their homes taken from them? No, never!
In comparing President Lincoln with Jeff Davis, he said that the one was pretending to uphold the Union and at the same time violated the Constitution, while the other was manly and honorable enough to proclaim openly his intentions to break down the Union. He tried to say something of the Intelligencer, but, after saying that it ground sometimes, dropped the subject suddenly. Finally he announced his intention to canvass the county before the election in opposition to the new State, or rather the Willey bill. He warned all freemen, that their liberty was more in danger at present than at any time during the rebellion. No sooner had he done than everybody left the hall, for fear somebody might reply to them.
Some of the sentences uttered ruing that afternoon cause the blood to run to my face, to think that men live under the protecting wing of the Government, and at the same time are allowed to utter treason against it in public. In vain is it that patriots take up arms in defence of their country, when traitors are allowed to instill the deadly poison of disunion into the people, thus discouraging enlistments and aiding and abetting the rebellion. If it is the intention of the Federal and State Governments to protect such men in their treasonable business, well may the army retire degraded and dishonored.
If there is no power to suppress rebellion at home, why attempt to go South to suppress it. A stop must be put to this treason, and the sooner the better. They will cry, "freedom of speech." Never mind them. Rebels can claim no Constitutional treatment because they have violated the Constitution. A yard or two of rope for about ten minutes and freedom of speech afterwards, is what they deserve. Well may our army retire and the Confederacy be acknowledged at once, if not more stringent measures are adopted towards the rebels at home.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: February 1863