Some Objections to the New State Considered.
March 17, 1863
Some Objections to the New State Considered.
To the People of West Virginia:
At this late day, when all argument has been exhausted, when even its enemies admit that the new State of West Virginia cannot be defeated, and when all opposition has practically ceased, it may appear like a work of superogation to examine with any degree of minuteness the objections that have been factiously urged against its erection. In relation to some aspects of the question, however, there yet appears to be something that ought to be said, not so much in answer to objections that have been made as in vindication of the great end to be attained and the means of its accomplishment.
The chief objection which the enemies of the new State relied on to defeat it before the people, was the emancipation amendment to the Constitution, suggested by Congress, for the reasons as they averred, that it was an unwarrantable and offensive interference by Congress in the domestic affairs of the proposed State, and that its operation would be to make West Virginia little better than a free negro colony. It is a significant fact that not even these objectors will declare themselves opposed to the new State in itself; and no better evidence could be desired of the eminent justice and propriety of the separation than the universal sentiment in favor of it, which their own tacit admission indicates. It is a sentiment they dare not run counter to, so they seek to mislead it. The real cause of their opposition has been, that they did not lead the movement. The people were ahead of some of their leaders who got stuck in the mud, and because they were not waited for and pulled out and put in the front of the team again they got stubborn and wouldn't pull at all - in fact pulled back the other way. Nothing was done right here at home because they didn't do it; nothing was done right for us by Congress, because Congress had lost their sympathies, for some reason not quite apparent. So then they tell the people that Congress in giving its consent to the erection of the New State imposed unpalatable conditions - interfered offensively with our domestic affairs, and that it would be a sacrifice of dignity and a surrender of rights on our part to accede to the proffered terms. Is this indeed true? Then must the New State and everything with it go; for the "Virginia pride" must not be humiliated and our "rights" must not be tampered with. Since matters of sentiment are to weigh against matters of State let us examine into this matter and see in what the offence of Congress consists. Congress has imposed a condition to our coming into the Union as a State, they tell us. Well, there is nothing dreadful in that. That is what Congress is for. It is to elect whether States may come in or not. The Constitution of the United States provides that "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the junctions of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."
Of course the power to give consent not only implies but confers the power to withhold it, and the power to do this includes that it may be given conditionally. The constitution does not compel Congress to admit States on application, but gives it as the representative of all the Sates which must always be concerned in any addition to their number, discretionary power to admit or exclude or admit on such conditions as the general welfare has a right to require. On the other hand, Congress cannot force a State to come in under the conditions it may impose. If the applicant would rather stay out than accept them, it is at perfect liberty to do so. If West Virginia would rather remain a part of old Virginia as it is than be a New State by the acceptance of the condition imposed by Congress, that body has no power to say she shall not have full benefit of her choice. But it makes us an offer and we may choose it or refuse it as seems best. It is argued that Congress has no right to go further than to see that the constitution presented by a State asking admission is republican in form. Such an argument carries its reputation on its face. Congress is expressly forbidden to admit a State unless its constitution is republican in form, but if it had no option in the matter of consenting to the admission it would be an absurdity of terms to talk about the "consent" of Congress at all. It would be no consent for the very term includes the right to deny; and there would be no power to reject applications for admission, if there were a hundred of them, provided they complied with the single requirements of having their constitution republican in form, no matter how objectionable in other respects. Such a principle would unsettle everything; and needs only to be stated to prove its error. Daniel Webster fully sustained the discretionary power of Congress in his effort in the Senate of the United States against the admission of Texas. It has always been not only the construction but the practice of American statesmen; and this new light on the subject comes in to say the least at a very late day. Too late, indeed; for the precedent is established by repeated acts which have become part of the country's history.
The history of Congressional action in reference to Kansas must be fresh in the recollection of every one, for it engaged a very large share of the public attention from its territorial formation until it was admitted. Kansas was admitted upon the "fundamental condition," as the act declares, that certain propositions should be submitted to the people of Kansas, in lieu of the Lecompton ordinance; and the distinct proviso was, that on the acceptance of these propositions Kansas should be admitted, "on the condition that the said State of Kansas shall never interfere with the primary disposal of hte lands of the United States" within its limits, and that no tax should be imposed on them. The case of Missouri has been before the country forty years. The Constitution on which Missouri made application contained a clause requiring the Legislature to enact laws to prevent the immigration of free negroes into the State; and the act admitting Missouri declare her admitted on condition that the clause should never be construed to authorize the passage of a law excluding any citizen of either of the State of the Union from the privileges and immunities of any such citizen under the Constitution of the United States; and on condition, further that the legislature of the State should declare by public act its assent to that condition. There is a great similarity between the case of Missouri and that of West Virginia, for the condition of Congress related in each case to the same class of persons; it having been part of the condition admitting us that the provision making a similar prohibition to that of the Missouri clause should be stricken out. (More of this in its proper connection)
Ohio was admitted, every one knows, on express condition that the people of that State should "never authorize slavery or involuntary servitude therein." Michigan was admitted on condition it should assent to certain regulations respecting the sale of lands, &c. Indeed, it appears that the entire absence of conditions in the admission of States has been the exception rather than the rule; and that the power of Congress over the subject has never before been questioned. We do not learn that the people of any of the States so admitted resented the annexing of conditions as unwarrantable or offensive, or as "Congressional dictation," in the current phrase of the anti-new State gentry. They may have preferred admission without them, but they preferred admission with them to exclusion on account of their rejection.
But the very men who raise this objection betray their own insincerity. Mr. Carlile, the chief of them, is faced down by his own record. He drew the first bill for the admission of West Virginia, and in that (the theory of "Congressional Dictation" not having been elaborated at that time) he attempted more of it, than was ever attempted in any similar document in Congress. His bill started out by declaring that the State of West Virginia should be admitted &c. "on the following conditions:" the first of which was that the boundary should be so changed as to include a dozen more counties than the Legislature had consented to have separated; and the second, that a certain Convention which he provided for, and even went so far as to "indicate" the representation for (a sort of legislation altogether unheard of in Congress before,) should frame another Constitution and in it provide (the language is "shall make provision") for freeing all the children of slave mothers born within the limits of the State after the fourth of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-three. As if this were not arbitrary enough to satiate his greed for "dictation" he proceeded to declare that the usual formality of sending the Constitutions of applicant States to Congress, and admitting them upon their presentation by regular act, should in this case be dispensed with; and that although his new Convention was to frame a new Constitution, and Congress could know nothing of what it would contain except the single provision which they had declared it should contain, and although it might embody a score of most odious provisions, yet Congress was not to see it, not to act on it, not to admit the new State under it or refuse as might appear proper; but the people were to ratify and the new State was to be declared admitted, without action of Congress at all. It was a most extraordinary proposition. It was drawn by Mr. Carlile's own hand, without consultation with the rest of the Senate Territorial Committee, as its Chairman testified on the floor of the Senate; without suggestions from the New State Commissioners, or the friends of the New State from West Virginia, at that time in Washington, as they all testify; without consultation with his colleague, as he has borne witness to time and again; - entirely of his own motion and without the advice of any one, we are bound to believe, unless it was that derived in some secret caucus with some of those dastardly traitors from whom about that time he began to form intimate associations, and who being the deadly enemies of the general Government could not but be the enemies of a people proposing to erect a loyal State government under it. Such is the record of the man who while he could drive the new State wagon, went further than the furthest in proposing conditions of admission, but who when the reins were taken from him because he was driving over the precipice, raised the howl of "Congressional dictation" which has been caught up and echoes by all the little dogs from the Big Sandy to the Pennsylvania line.
In dealing thus minutely with this question we must not lose sight of general principles, or of the leading proposition which is before the people for consideration. The condition on which the New State was admitted is very similar to the least objectionable one proposed by Mr. Carlile, when he was yet the New State champion. Mr. Carlile's proposition was that the children of slave mothers born within the New State after the next fourth of July should be free from birth. The proposition adopted embraced the same with the addition that the slaves over 10 and under 21, at the time the Constitution should become operative were to be free on arriving at the age of 25, and those under ten at the same time were to be free at 21. There is but little difference, and so far as concerns the "dictation" there is not an iota.
The precise terms of the condition imposed by Congress are, first to strike out the 7th section of Article XI of the Constitution, which is in these words:
"No slave shall be brought, or free person of color be permitted to come, into this State for permanent residence."
And insert instead the following:
"The children of slaves born within the limits of this State after the fourth day of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, shall be free; and all slaves within the said State who shall, at the time aforesaid, be under the age of ten years, shall be free when they arrive at the age of twenty-one years; and all slaves over ten and under twenty-one years shall be free when they arrive at the age of twenty-five years; and no slave shall be permitted to come into the State for permanent residence."
The article to be stricken out is the same, except as to the importation of slaves, as the obnoxious clause in the Missouri Constitution. After one of the most memorable discussions that ever took place in Congress, the Legislature of Missouri was required to declare that the clause should not be construed as authorizing the passage of any law excluding free persons of color if by the laws of any other State they should be citizens of the United States.
The same objection was raised in this case, and if our admission had been pressed with that provision included, a similar discussion must have taken place, and our friends in Congress embarrassed, and the admission delayed, perhaps defeated. The friends of the new State, in view of this fact, were willing to forego this prohibition in the organic law, and the more so because the entire subject would be in the hands of the Legislature; and because, too, by the terms of the very next section the anti-free negro law of Virginia was put in force and so continued until the Legislature should see fit to alter it. It was thought, under these circumstances, that the surrender of this section was a very trivial matter in comparison with the advantage gained.
But here the objectors get foothoold [sic again, and we are told that by the striking out of this prohibition, the new State will be overrun by a free negro population. The statement just made, that the anti-free negro laws of Virginia are continued in force is a sufficient answer. But as so much capital is sought to be made of this objection in many quarters, and as it is a question in regard to which the strong prejudices of people render them open to imposition, it may not be out of place or time to examine this subject somewhat minutely.
It is urged that Congress has no right to interfere with slavery, it being a domestic institution, entirely subject to the control of the States tolerating it. Why this position is pressed with so much vehemence is not quite clear, for we are not aware that anybody denies it. It is a very prevalent error, and one that is sedulously cultivated, that this is a proposition for Congress to interfere with the institution of slavery amongst us. Not so. The proposition is for the people of West Virginia to interfere with it - not in Eastern Virginia or South Carolina, but within their own limits and among themselves. It is yet to be shown that non-interference by Congress compels non-interference by the States. Certainly each State is at liberty to do as it pleases with its own. Slavery within the forty-eight counties of West Virginia is the creature of the people within that territory, and it is nobody elese's [sic] business what they do with or about it. They have as perfect control over it as over any other species of property. They may regulate, establish, or abolish it, as may seem to them best. It is our domestic institution, and why shall not we regulate it as we see fit, subject only and always to the Constitution of the United States? Well, this is what is proposed. Congress, speaking for the whole nation, tells us that the existence of this institution amon[g]st us is an obstacle to our admission but that if we think a separate State government would be of more advantage to us without this institution than this institution without the separate State government, the choice is in our hands, and we may remove the objection by providing for the removal of the institution. Are we to be told that this is in effect the same - that it is only an indirect dictation - that such advantages are offered that self interest drives us to accept the proffer. The answer is, that if influences and motives are to be taken into account, every action of every man is "dictated" by something or somebody. But when it comes to such fine spun theories, the practical common sense view of the question is lost and it becomes simply ridiculous. If Congress compelled us to abolish slavery, and compelled us to become a State under such enforced condition, then there would be dictation of a very offensive sort. But it cannot do either. It can only suggest; and we may adopt or reject the suggestion as pleases us best. That is simply all there is of this much talked of "unwarrantable and offensive" interference by Congress with our domestic institutions. It may be very galling to the "lofty Virginia pride" of some people to have suggestions made them from any quarter, no matter how much they may be designed to benefit, but it is hardly worth while to pay attention to this class, for it will generally be found that their empty pride is about all there is of them. People of good sense can stoop to conquer in needful cases, though this is not one of them. If any false conception of our immense dignity and importance restrains us from adopting a suggestion that would confer a great public benefit, then there is something else we were as well rid of as of the unhealthy institution which engenders it.
It is proper to add that in our case, the suggestion of conditions did not originate with Congress. The suggestion was made to that body by those authorized to make it on behalf of the people of the new State - by our senators and representatives, by the New State Commissioners, and by prominent gentlemen from every part of it sent on for the purpose. Strangely enough the convention in framing the constitution had declined to act on the subject of slavery, though the people wanted that question settled, and all recognized it as the most important one to be dealt with. However, at the election on the adoption of the constitution the people in many counties took the responsibility of giving an informal expression in favor of gradual emancipation. The expression was so unanimous, and a corresponding feeling so general, that when the constitution went up to them, our public servants in Congress were so convinced that the convention had blundered, and so well assured of the wish of their constituents, that instead of pressing admission under the constitution in that shape, they asked that it might be secured to us on condition that the constitution should be sent back and corrected. Willing to oblige, rather than anxious to dictate, Congress agree to the suggestion, and gave the people of West Virginia admission on just such terms as its friends said they wanted it. In a few days you will tell with your ballots whether your wishes were truthfully represented. At present the best evidence of it is that when te convention was reassembled it confessed its error by adopting the suggestion with a unanimous voice. Coming fresh from the people as they did we may fairly assume that their action will be your action, and that no false pretences have been employed in inducing Congress to believe that the suggestion would be acceptable to you.
Some Objections to the New State Considered.
[Continued From Yesterday.]
March 18, 1863
Some Objections to the New State Considered.
[Continued From Yesterday.]
To the People of West Virginia:
It is scarcely necessary now to argue anew to the people of West Virginia the question of the expediency or inexpediency of the negro slavery in their midst. The argument has been exhausted. The time for it is past. It is rested and the verdict agreed upon. It is decreed by One whose decisions are far above those of earthly tribunals that the institution must be removed. Even now it lingers among us only as the barbarous relict of a past age. But a few more years and it will be extinct in the region between the Alleghanies and the Ohio. Causes and influences we could not control if we would have done the work. The question has now become one of policy as to how best to aid its removal, so as to give the least social and political shock. All things considered, the plan now submitted to us seems to be the best that could be agreed on. Of course there are differences of opinion, even among those who are agreed as to the result. Some want to go farther and faster; others prefer more leisure and caution. While it is true that some and no unreasonable objection may be made to the plan adopted, it is equally true that more objection was made to every other suggested. As the "golden mean" on which differences were harmonized, no friend of the new State will refuse to accept it; more especially - and let this be marked well - as this question has now come to that stage when it is this or nothing. There must be no more alliance. It appeals to us now for final decision. We cannot vote down this Constitution now and have it to vote for again at some other time or in a different shape. If we vote it down now, we shall sink it and the new State with it, and our prosperity, material and moral, along with both, if not forever, at least for a period none of us survive.
The proposed plan of extinguishing slavery in the new State is a magnanimous one to slave owners. It does not touch slaves over 21 years old. They will be slaves the rest of their lives, if nothing else transpires to change the relation. Slaves under 21 and over ten years old when the Constitution becomes operative will be free at 25, and those under ten years at that time will be free at 21. The masters will have a right to demand compensation for every slave so liberated. This was the almost unanimously expressed opinion of the Convention, it being required by provisions of both the United States and New State Constitutions, which declare that "private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation." [See New State Constitution Art. II, section 6.] Children that may be born of slave mothers within the State after its organic law goes into effect will be free from birth, will not be property in the view of the law, and will not therefore be the subject of compensation.
The census of 1861 showed a slave population of 12,600 within the limits of the new State. There has since been a large escapade of slaves, chiefly into Ohio, and in the disturbed districts most of the large owners have removed their slaves South. It is a safe estimate to say that there are not 5,000 now amongst us. That was an estimate submitted in the Convention by one of the most careful calculators in that body, and generally accepted by the members as within truthful bounds. At least 2,000 are over 21 years old, and not to be liberated and consequently not paid for.
Calculating now under the simple operation of this emancipation only and taking no account of auxiliary measures which will most certainly be adopted, here are 2,000 slaves, the subject of compensation. Of these the usual per cent will die before they arrive at the ages of 21 and 25 respectively. A large per cent will escape. A considerable per cent will be manumitted, and some will be sold out of the State. Certainly the number to be paid for would be reduced one-half from such causes, when we remember that their liberation stretches through a period of 17 years. Say then 1,500 will have to be paid for. What will be the cost in dollars and cents? Whatever they may have rated at in the market once, they are now almost valueless and sure to become more and more so from year to year. The estimate alluded to before named their value at $300 a piece. It is more than they will be worth. But at that price the 1,500 will be worth only $450,000; the payment of which is to be distributed through a period of 17 years. Supposing the liberation went on pari passu each year, this would require an annual payment of $21,4_8. Is that all? asks the almost incredulous man who never reduced this question to figures before. That is all and more than all. It is the outside allowance. What would $21,000 a year be out of the State Treasury, even if the State had it to pay? A mere trifle. Thus we see this institution, never great here but in its influence for evil, stripped by the logic of facts of its assumed importance, and the mountain of imagined difficulty giving way before an earnest attack and vanishing a mere molehill in the distance.
The owner of this species of property is firmly insured against possible loss as the result of this provision. The probabilities are, seeing that his property is rapidly diminishing in value, he will discover that the opportunity of selling out to the public good will be money in his pocket. For the slave owner there could be no more liberal, even generous, way of disposing of this question. To the ___ slaveholder this feature of it is somewhat objectionable, for if the State should have to make the compensation required by the Constitution, it would seem like injustice that he should have to help pay, (little as it would be) for that which, so far from ever benefitting him, only wrought his injury by its presence. But the State will not need to make the compensation. The General Government will gladly make provision for all such cases of voluntary emancipation. If this were not true, and compensation had to be made by the State, even supposing the cost were twenty times as great as it will be, it would be but a partial view of it that would make the non-slaveholder hostile to this proposition. The war has already demonstrated that it is cheaper to buy slavery than to fight it. As a matter of abstract justice to both the slaves and the non-slaveholding whites we might sever the relation by force; yet in view of the disturbance it would create and the opposition it would excite, out material progress would probably be retarded more than if we bought them out. Slavery is an institution that is surrounded by a crew of parasites and hangers-on, who seek to make it a political derrick to hoist them out of deserved obscurity. It is not the institution left to itself that is so unmanageable; it is not the master alone who are so obstinate; but it is the villainous crew of pandars and placemen and mischief makers who bank on the capital they are able to make out of it, and who, by keeping up a continual turmoil seek to rise on its favor to political distinction. This has been the feature - the political feature - of the institution that has so especially cursed the people of Western Virginia, where slavery has existed only nominally, only as the corporation of these scoundrelly speculators in public virtue. If in removing the institution the people banish this detestable school of politicians, they will be about as happily rid in the one case as in the other. Such a result would be cheap at any price.
There is a tendency to magnify the importance of this question. Slavery here is in truth a very small matter - though, like some of the smaller portions of the animate creation, a very troublesome one. If it were anything else involving only the same material interests, it would not be allowed to stand in the path of the new State a moment. It is this privileged interest only, like the spoiled child, that must be petted and favored to the last. There are but few slaves amongst us, and the number is rapidly diminishing. Their contiguity to the free States renders comparatively valueless those that remain. They are not, in truth, valuable if they were ever so secure. There is no adaptation in our circumstances to this kind of labor; and unless a master depends on breeding slaves for the Southern market (and even that exists no longer) the more he has of them the poorer he is. But barren and profitless as this property is, its simple presence, if it is to have the protection essential to its existence, renders necessary a system of laws odious and oppressive to every other interest - a system which not only keeps out labor and capital from abroad, but actually drives away the little that grows up amon[g]st us.
If every slave within the new State were to be taken from the master by force tomorrow, and the laws which sustain the relation as suddenly abolished and succeeded by such a system as now proposed, the property of the new State would be worth in the aggregate fifty millions more the next day than it was the day before. The grand result would be benificent, but individual injury (and perhaps wrong) would be inflicted. So the spoiled child must be denied nothing, even with the death rattle in its throat. The owners of this property are favored far beyond their deserts. The institution is to be removed with the gentlest hand compatible with the entire success of the measure. The individual interests of the owners are carefully provided for, and they are insured against the loss of a farthing, while the great mass of the non-slaveholding people have to stand by and wait, with hands off, till the work is accomplished. If any wrong is done it is to them. They have a right to demand the greatest good to the greatest number. Yet it is not they who complain. They are willing to give time, and money too if need be to secure these men against possible loss, but they require that at some specified and fixed time this odious and oppressive privilege shall be irreversably given up. The proposition is liberal beyond justice. But let this privileged class be warned in time. There is a point beyond which forbearance ceases to be a virtue. If this question is not settled now, the final settlement may be on different principles - when the long pent up cry for justice will be repressed no longer - when a whirlwind of wrath and indignation will sweep the curse from our soil and politically gibbet every man who has ever been or dares to be its apologist.
Contemplate if you please, West Virginia as the perpetuator of this institution - without adaptation of soil or climate - with free States on two sides, and only a river on the one hand and an air line on the other to separate her from them - mountain barriers and wilderness for her southern border - her rivers flowing and her commerce of necessity following to the north and northwest - with the minerals and water power to make a great manufacturing people - yet destroying every interest - repulsing every proffered benefit - driving out home-enterprise - and damming up every channel of prosperity by an odious system, that can at best inure to the supposed benefit of a privileged few. It would be madness and suicide. The future could only repeat the past, with all its sad experiences intensified. There would have to be an end to it some time; and the end to such an iniquity, if fostered and nurtured, must always be terrible. Do we want examples? There is no need to appeal to history. The awful tragedy of the slaveholders, rebellion around us is the living testimony.
In all this we have chosen to speak of the institution in a purely material point of view. It is always expedient to do right, but this view of the question may well be left to the moral sense of the people who are to deal with it. We seek to divest it of all theoretical features, and try its expediency by the material rather than the moral test. Because whether we recognize the fact or not, material and moral expediency go hand in hand, and whichever can be made most obvious to the greatest number, is the best argument to be used.
Some Objections to the New State Considered.
March 19, 1863
Some Objections to the New State Considered.
To the People of West Virginia:
Let us recur to the line of argument from which we have somewhat diverged, to examine the last objection stated, and the only remaining one that seems to merit examination: It is, that under the operations of this emancipation West Virginia is to be overrun with free negroes. This is a very effective objection, because there is a deep and universal prejudice against this class of persons. We are told that if we accept this Constitution was now amended, our territory will become the asylum of this unfortunate but undesirable class of population; and in some quarters it is asserted that this was the design of Northern men in Congress who insisted on striking out the prohibitory article of the Constitution. The only weak place about this assertion is that it is now true. We have already stated the amendment in explicit terms. Any one who is not quite clear as to its effect can turn back and examine the statement. The prohibition was stricken out, and for the reason there named; but all its force existed in the very next section, which was not stricken out. Section 8 of article XI, provides that "such parts of the common law and of the laws of the State of Virginia as are in force within the boundaries of the State of West Virginia when this Constitution goes into operation, and are not repugnant thereto, shall be and continue the law of this State until altered or repealed by the Legislature." The laws of Virginia in regard to free negroes are thus put in force in the new State. What are they?
In section 32 of chapter 198 of the Code it is provided that "no free negro shall migrate into this State. Section 31 of the same chapter provides that any person bringing a free negro into the State shall be fined and imprisoned. They shall not come in; they shall not be brought in. Section 1 of chapter 107 of the same declares that no free negro over 21 years of age shall remain in the State without lawful permission - that permission being whatever the Legislature sees fit to make it. They shall not come in; they shall not be brought in; and those already here shall not remain beyond a certain age, except upon permission, which would not, of course, be granted if we were to suffer from their presence. Finally, the same section and chapter as first quoted prescribes severe punishment for violations of these laws. Any one can turn to it and read for himself.
That is what we would call a tolerably strong anti-free negro law. Under its operation in the old State we have contrived to get along without being seriously overrun by this population. Certainly we ought to be able to do as much under its operation in the new State. Under the old, the negro population could be increased by the importation of slaves. Under the new this too is forbidden. There can be no increase of the element amongst us but that growing out of natural causes which legislation cannot reach. Then how are these apprehensions to be accounted for? Only upon the supposition that these gentlemen expect a tremendous natural increase. It cannot be supposed that they have any sufficient grounds for the anticipation.
In some quarters unscrupulous men have the hardihood to tell the people this law is not put in force because it is "repugnant" to the Constitution. There could scarcely be a more untruthful assertion. How repugnant? The Constitution of a State to the extent it goes is only a restriction on the powers of the people. If it is silent on any subject the power rests with them to be exercised through legislative agents. How else could it be? Where there is no restriction by the Constitution, the Legislature has unlimited power as the representative of the people. The 7th section of Art. XI having been stricken out, the Constitution is utterly silent in regard to free negroes, and it follows necessarily, logically and legally that the entire control of the matter rests with the Legislature. It is therefore impossible that any law it could enact in that regard could be repugnant to the Constitution for there is nothing for it to come in conflict with. The man who could make such an assertion in open day and in the face of the obvious truth to those who he thought knew no better, would do almost anything to deceive honest people. Not only is the present anti free-negro law of Virginia continued in force in the new State, but to the new State Legislature belongs full power to change or repeal it or to enact any and all laws on the subject it deems proper or necessary. There being no organic law on the subject it is all left to legislative enactment.
If there were no prohibition at all, there is no reason to apprehend that this population will seek our territory any more hereafter than heretofore. There are no attractions here for them. When we conquer the rebellion, the negroes liberated by the war in the South will remain there and many of them at the North will return. It is their natural home, and they never would leave it, except to obtain freedom. But this is a consideration that does not affect us, for if they sought to come in ever so much, they cannot. We have bolted and barred against even a hypothetical free negro immigration. Then where is the inundation to come from? Where is the free negro population that is going to overrun us, take the labor from the white man and the bread from his children, and overthrow the structure of our society? It is very difficult to tell. We have shown that it cannot come from abroad, as if it exists at all, it can only be within our own limits. In 1860 there were about 12,000 slaves in round numbers, and a few hundred free negroes within the new State. Following up the estimate hitherto made, there are 5000 slaves now amongst us and a decreased number of free blacks. There are, it is believed, not to exceed 500 free blacks in all the new State. Under this emancipation not a slave will be freed for four years - those under 21 becoming free at 25 - and therefore for this period no increase of free negro population, except the usual per cent in the natural way is possible. While they are forbidden to come in they are not prohibited from leaving the State. It is therefore a fair assumption that the present number will be greatly diminished in those four years by emigration. No one will assert that these 500 free negroes without law or prerogative in their hands are going to overrun and devour 330,000 white people who have all of both. We are inclined to conclude with the chap who applied to a very "ancient mariner" for a passage in his ark that "its not going to be much of a flood after all." At least if it is still to come; it was very obliging on the part of Congress to give us four years to prepare for it; and if all the Legislatures we can elect, having control of the whole question, cannot in four years fortify against any possible and now unseen danger from this quarter then we would almost deserve some such calamity as predicted.
Four years after the constitution becomes operative the emancipation of the 1500 slaves will begin. If they had all been born at the same hour and would all be liberated at once, it does not appear that the consequences would be very frightful considering that they are scattered over 25,000 square miles of territory and among twenty times their number of white people. But even this will not happen. The emancipation will be emphatically "gradual." It will run through a period of seventeen years. There will not be a hundred freed each year; and a very large proportion of these will leave the State within a year afterwards. So that in fact the number of free negroes amongst us will not be perceptibly increased, if actually increased at all. The few who remain with us will seek menial employments as they always and everywhere do; and the very last possible thing that could grow out of it would be any supplanting of the white labor of the country by free negro labor, because first there won[']t be any free negroes to labor, and second because they wouldn't labor at the employments of white men if there were. So small will be the number and so slow the emancipation that it will not half supply the demand for the kind of labor they seek and which white men will not perform. Can any man in whose breast there lingers a spark of manly self-respect or respect for truth have the effrontery in the face of all these facts to stand up and utter the enormous and inexcusable falsehood that under this emancipation West Virginia is to be the asylum for the free negro population of the North? Shame herself would hang her head in confusion to hear it.
Such is to be the operation of this emancipation if left to work out its own results. Yet who doubts that five years will find the institution practically extinguished amongst us. Perhaps even by the time the operation of the clause begins it will simply by reason of its certainty have accomplished the whole work, and more than it alone would have done. Before that time the owners of slave property will have discovered that it is their time to sell and the United States government will have bought them out root and branch. They do not hold on now because it is profitable, but from the idea that it is their right under the law, and they will be bankrupted rather than surrender a "constitutional right." But mighty changes of opinion are going on, and when they find the whole tide setting one way they will be eager to fall in with what they have hitherto been determined in resisting, and will go as fast and far as the next in doing what they may have firmly and deeply resolved they never would do.
There are other, though trivial, objections made to the adoption of this Constitution. It is not within the purpose of this paper to notice them all. They are simply factious, and it would be unjust to the subject to deal with them as if honestly and sincerely raised. One remaining objection is - and under the circumstances it comes with a very bad grace from any Western Virginian - that it is proposed for the people of West Virginia to evade by this separation the responsibility of their share of the State debt, piled on their shoulders as it was by Eastern extravagance and corruption. It is a complete refutation of this simply to appeal to the fact. The Constitution explicitly declares that "an equitable proportion of the public debt prior to the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, shall be assumed by this State." [Art. 8, sec. 8] The language needs no comment save this: that there has been no public debt of Virginia created since that time. The usurpation at Richmond has created an immense debt to promote the rebellion, but nothing but force could ever fasten that debt upon the loyal people of Virginia. We are in no way responsible for any part of it, and no man but a rebel will claim the contrary. As the separation is to be accomplished without violence, so it is to be without fraud. The creditors of Virginia, actuated by self-interest alone, ought to be it friends, for through its accomplishment they secure a part of what without it they would have lost all of; for if we hold together the State must sink into an irretrievable bankruptcy; the yet prosperous West must be dragged down by the superior weight of the East into a common ruin and ultimate repudiation. Cut the fastenings, and we shall ride buoyant through the storm and clear the whirlpool of the descending wreck.
Here we may safely rest our cause in so far as these objections endanger it. There exist no valid reasons why this great act should not be consummated. Justice to ourselves demands and equity to others authorizes it. While it is to work the infinite advantage of the West no wrong is to be done the East. It is no interference with them or theirs. It is only severing the unnatural ligature that fastens us to them, the living to the dead. Neither is there any principle of law, written or unwritten, that forbids it. No mere ingenuity of argument can shake the impregnable truth - no sophistry withstand its irresistible logic. It marches on to triumphant vindication over the men who are damning themselves to everlasting fame - who will be remembered only to be execrated along with Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold and Jefferson Davis, when West Virginia will be a great, free and prosperous State.
It is not, and cannot be, within the province of this brief essay to discuss the schemes which the consideration of this question presents. Volumes could not exhaust them. It is not even proposed to review elaborately any of the advantageous results of this separation. For twenty-five years they have been household words on the lips of this people. They have been canvassed on every hill and in every valley of West Virginia for twenty months past. Other and abler pens have examined, and it may be exhausted, these topics. This attempt has had the humbler design of traveling a less frequented path, and clearing away some of the things that embarrassed if not hindered progress. Yet since no sufficient objection can be found, we may in this conclusion at least glance at some of the most obvious of the manifold benefits to raise from the adoption of the Constitution now submitted for final choice.
We shall have for the basis of all our legislation, equal instead of partial representation; a good instead of a bad system of State finance, based on uniform instead of discriminating taxation; a prudent and economical instead of reckless and wasteful administration of the various departments of government. Instead of a constantly accumulating debt we shall have a continually growing treasury. At the same time the taxes will be light instead of oppressive. We will have an excellent free school system and general intelligence instead of no school system at all and prevalent ignorance; ballot instead of viva voce voting - perfect freedom of franchise instead of the old constraint. We shall exchange the present for a system under which there shall be no favored classes, no privileged few - in which every tub shall stand on its own bottom and every man on his own legs. All the white people shall have an equal voice in incurring expenses and an equal share in paying them, and the varied interests of the State shall be equally fostered by its legislation. We shall substitute the admirable township system of the free States which Mr. Jefferson once zealously sought to make the system of Virginia, for the cumbrous abortion of our county Courts; under which the whole people shall legislate by direct vote on all their county affairs instead of confiding them to half a dozen men with mixed functions, legislative and judicial. We substitute laws for the encouragement of free labor and enterprise for those that oppressed both, and as the consequence we shall have an immigration instead of an exode of population; material progress instead of material retrogradation; railroads instead of mud turnpikes; canals in place of creeks; mines where before the surface was as unbroken as when the savage roamed our forests; mills and manufactures where untamed nature now reigns solitary and supreme; and the steam engine will shriek along rivers and wake echoes in vallies where only the silence of the wilderness dwelt before. And above all we shall have a teeming, busy, intelligent, prosperous and happy population to develope and adorn a region blessed with as great a profusion of natural beauties and advantages as any that ever came from the hand of the Creator.
West Virginia! When Nature embellished the tint
Of thy fields and thy mountains so fair,
Did she ever intend that a tyrant should print
The footstep of slavery there?
We shall throw off these dark shackles that have hitherto bound and yet bind our commerce. At the same time the act that divides us from our natural enemies shall ally us to our natural friends. We shall have political equality, commercial freedom, and material prosperity and moral and intellectual encouragement - and these embrace everything beneficent to a people.
Was ever a more magnificent destiny due to any people? When Mirza viewed from the mountains of Bagdad the islands of the blest that dwelt in the sea beyond the cloud, he longed for the wings of an eagle that he might fly away to them. But the good genius that inspired his vision told him none could reach them but through the dark tide he saw rolling between. It is not so with us. There is no gulf between us and the land of our promise. We may go forward and possess it, though we cannot turn back and desert it. We dare not even stand still, for there is an angry tide sweeping on behind us, and the choice is between perishing in its breakers or by a single step further reaching safety and reward. It is the "ides of March," for us approaching, to be more memorable in our history than it was made of old in the history of Rome by the tragedy in her capitol.
After long years of tyranny and insult which would have been creditable to a Bomba - long years of patient endurance and faithful hope - the hour for which, like captives, we have longed and waited has come at last. The day of deliverance is not far away. The "pipes of Lucknow" are already heard faintly on the air. The song of Miriam is even now trembling unuttered on the lips of a people standing on the threshold of a great deliverance. It only wants a day's achievement to make it the victorious voice of triumph - the hosanna of a glad and grateful people.
"Who then shall return to tell Egypt the story,
When all her brave thousands are dashed in the tide?
Fellow citizens of West Virginia, this is no hour for dissentions. This is no question for divisions. Whatever we do, we must all alike enjoy its benefits or suffer its consequences. We are all in the same bark and must sink or swim together. However we may divide upon more matters of policy we must not fall out about a question so vitally affecting us all alike for weal or woe. If we get a New State its worst enemy will be benefitted as much as its best friend. If we lose it, its friends will suffer no more than its enemies. But we will not lose it; that is decided. No man who lives on the soil of West Virginia and means for his children to live there after him, can be indifferent however much he may affect it, as to whether we succeed or fail in planting our government on the firm basis of enlightened equality, justice and independence. It is of vital moment, and we all have as much stake in it one as another. After we shall have established our New State on immovable foundations, provided for our political and social safety against oppression on the one hand and anarchy on the other, we may go back if we choose and quarrel over trivial matters as heretofore. But not now. It would be a grave, and might be a fatal, error. By all the humiliating remembrances of the past, - by all the glad promises of the future - by every consideration of interest or obligation of duty as men and citizens - in vindication of ourselves and all whom we hold dear, and in justice to those to come after us - we are conjured to rise to the greatness of the occasion, such as comes but once in the history of any people, and looking away beyond the mere passions and prejudices of the hour, to act as if we were acting for future ages, and as if we were to revisit the earth and dwell forever without posterity. One week this day, if we but strike the decisive blow, the shackles fall, "the pride of the Tyrant is broken" and we are forever free.
By the hope within us springing,
Herald of to morrow's strife;
By that sun whose light is bringing
Chains of freedom, death or life -
O! remember life can be
No boon for him who lives not free.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: March 1863