Skip
Navigation

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
February 27, 1863


Wheeling Intelligencer
March 3, 1863

The Hancock County Meeting – How Sherrard Clemons was “used up” by Geo. Porter.

Editors Intelligencer:

On yesterday the 27th, at one o’clock, the good people of Hancock assembled at the Court House to hear the “green light” of West Virginia, Sherrard Clement, dissect and eviscerate the New State question, and to open the flood gate of his vituperation on its unoffending advocates in this country. As Mr. Clements invited discussion, and challenged refutation, it was accordingly accepted by the friends of the New State, knowing their cause could lose nothing by investigation, and Messrs. Porter and Donehoo entered the ring in defense of the question. We have never had a much larger assembly in the country. The Court House was filled to its utmost capacity, and the “Butternuts” from “Dan to Beersheba” honored the meeting with their presence; the first instance since the breaking out of the rebellion that they have mingled with loyal men, to any considerable extent in any meeting. But yesterday at the opening of the meeting there they were, smiling and jubilant, anticipating, no doubt, with ineffable pleasure, the stern rebuke and excoriation which their champion would administer to his opponents and their friends in handling the question. The proposition for debate was, “That the division of the State of Virginia was unconstitutional and inexpedient under the present circumstances.”

Mr. Clemens took the affirmative; Mr. Porter and Mr. Donehoo the negative Mr. Clemens opened his speech, and, indeed, devoted the entire time of his first speech, to discussing the constitutionality of the question. He took up the Rhode Island case. He told us nothing was a clearer case than that, the Rhode Island case was not a parallel with this of West Virginia, and yet so solicitous was the gentleman to impress it upon our minds, that he mentioned it not less than thirty times, and evidently could not get it arranged to his entire satisfaction. He had a great deal to say about the “de jure” and “de facto” Government of Virginia – denounced the Wheeling Government as being a government of force – and said Western Virginia was compelled to take some action of this kind in order to rescue herself from the artillery of the North, and deliver her soil and people from the desolation and devastation consequent upon invasion. The restored Government he called the de facto Government, but he would not admit that it was de jure Government of Virginia. But protested in regard to their usurpation of power by the minority, that the restored government was a minority government, and nothing like an equal expression of the sense of the people of West Virginia. But the government at Richmond, says Mr. Clemens, is the “de jure government of Virginia.” It holds a quorum of the legislature, and of course a quorum is necessary to the discharge of business; it therefore is the legal, rightful government of Virginia. And we, following the line of Mr. Clemens’s argument, must accept John Letcher as our Governor, and continue our allegiance to the authorities at Richmond, and repudiate Governor Peirpont and the restored government. The gentleman then referred to the opinions of some of the members of Mr. Lincoln’s Cabinet, whom he said were opposed to the New State on Constitutional ground. And I presume upon any other question than the admission of West Virginia, Mr. Clemens and his friends would be very reluctant to endorse the opinions of Mr. Lincoln or any of his Cabinet. The next argument he adduced, was that West Virginia, was too small for a State. These steep ridges and sterile knobs, those cranberry and huckleberry hills are not fertile nor productive, and we have not the financial resources or population essential to organizing and carrying on a new State, and defraying the expenses of a new government.

Mr. C. then, with his characteristic sarcasm, assailed the President and Congress for their monstrous usurpation of power in admitting into that body the Senators and Representatives of Virginia. He told us the story of the “Spider and the Fly;” how Congress had allured the immaculate Representatives of Virginia into the abolition den at Washington, and then played the part of the rapacious spider in devouring the delicate little fly. He told us Carlile was trying to extricate himself from this spider’s web; but no, he couldn’t do it. The Abolition lion, Ben Wade, put his foot upon him, and said: “You can’t go, Mr. Carlile.” Willey, the gentleman said, was the most obsequious and docile man in the world. He could endorse the Abolition bill of Ben Wade, and have it interpolated into the Constitution of West Virginia, with extreme pleasure.

The evening speech of Mr. Clemens was only a crusade against the Republican party. He resurrected it from its premature grave, and held up its dead carcass as a cloak under which to secrete his flimsy and empty pretexts against the New State.

So far had he been reduced by the facts and arguments made in the speeches of Donehoo and Porter, that he renounced the dictum of his own party, and sought protection and argument from the Republican party. Mr. Porter, in his elucidation of the Rhods Island case, proved that, by the decision of the Supreme Court; (the highest judicial tribunal in the land) whatever Legislature Congress recognized by admitting its Senators and Representatives, that was the de jure government of the State. – Mr. Clemons even denied the authority of Supreme Court or of Congress to determine this issue saying the people were the ultimatum in this matter, and this being a minority movement was revolutionary and illegal. But Mr. Porter removed the gentleman’s evident misunderstanding by producing the figures, which show that out of 28,000 voters included in the New State, exclusive of those in the Union and rebel armies, 19,000 voted in favor of division; and yet this is a minority movement; that a few citizens of Hancock, and a few of Brooke, and a small portion of the citizens of other counties, are going to disintegrate our State, and here in the Northwest establish a government of their own, even under the pressure of the incontrovertible arguments, the decision of the supreme court, the acts of Congress, and the cases in our national legislation, the inviolable adherence of the West to the Constitution and law, Mr. C. remained apparently undismayed and invulnerable, until lo! And behold ! they produced his old Lecompton record on the Kansas question, in contravention of her popular sovereignty doctrine, which he now enunciates in behalf of enslaved and oppressed West Virginia. Why, says Mr. C: You, fellow-citizens, submit to such congressional dictation and interpolation, allow yourselves to be denuded of the dearest rights of freemen without protest or residence, and tamely submit to having your local laws changed, you State rights violated, your liberties abridged, your constitution destroyed by the despotic encroachments. – Never will I submit to it, so not I. S. Clemens. I value too much these benign Institutions transmitted by patriotic fathers. I venerate those dear names; that constitution is the charter of my liberties, and never can I tacitly assent to its infraction without protest. Western Virginians! rise in your patriotism and devotion to constitutional liberty, and repudiate this iniquity that is being forced upon you by the abolitionist. Let not its filthy and polluting touch disgrace your soil.


Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: February 1863

West Virginia Archives and History