Letter from the Hon. W. G. Brown.
September 11, 1863
Letter from the Hon. W. G. Brown.
The following letter, addressed to a member of the Legislature from the Hon. William G. Brown, is published by request:
Kingwood, Sept. 8, 1863.
Dear Sir: I received your kind letter last night, informing me that it was rumored in Wheeling, that I had on the first day of this month at Phillippi, made a copperhead speech, “urging the people to come out and vote at the coming election, that the war could not be ended by fighting, but that the ballot-box must terminate the war, and that I denounced the Administration.”
I was never more surprised in my life than when I received your letter, for if ever I made an earnest appeal in behalf of the Constitution, the Union and West Virginia, I did so on that day. The speech was made in the presence of Spencer Dayton, Esq., Lewis Wilson, Mr. Myers, the Clerk, Mr. Glasscock, the Sheriff, Judge Harrison, and a crowd of loyal men. I must have been very unfortunate in being understood if it was taken for an unsound speech. I tried to establish the fact, that before the rebellion we had the best government in the world, in proof of which, I pointed to our unexampled prosperity for the last seventy years preceeding the war; the evidence furnished by nearly all the nations of the world by sending their emegrants to settle among us; to the innumerable fourth of July speeches made by our best men in all parts of the country North and South, and particularly to the celebrated speech of the prince of rebels in Virginia – Henry A. Wise – delivered in Richmond in May 1859, who said:
“And if any would array this country in parts against each other in sectional division and strife, let them have no inheritance in the whole – the grand great whole but let them selfishly have a single small place for their safe keeping, a home made for treason, felony, or mania, a prison or a madhouse. They cannot destroy the Union without destroying the States and homes, and they cannot destroy homes and States without destroying the Union. By strengthening each part, we fortify the whole, and by fortifying the whole we protect each part. Each and all is ours, each and all belongs to all equally and alike in the part and in the whole all citizens are seized, all, all North and South, East and West, white and black, native and naturalized, bond and free, happy here as never men were happy elsewhere on earth, may say for the whole union of these States as this toast says for the blessed mother of States:
“Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own my native land.”
“I give you the Union and the Constitution of the United States as they are – the country, the whole country, ‘my own native land’ as it is.”
I then endeavored to show that no good cause existed for breaking up such a Government, and urged on all good men, and the great Union party in particular, to rally around the administration in its efforts to save such a government, and pledged myself to aid in giving it every element of power within the reach of the nation to accomplish so desirable an end. I urged upon the Southern sympathisers of Barbour, if any there were, to abandon forever and in good faith every disloyal feeing of their hearts, and return and help support the good old Government – to join the Union men in their efforts to bring back those happy days when we all could repose in peace, and safely worship “under our own vine and fig tree, none to molest or make us afraid.”
I tried to discourage every disloyal sentiment by showing the hopelessness of the Southern cause. I referred to the census of 1860 to show that the great States of New York and Pennsylvania contained a white population of six millions, six hundred and eighty thousand nine hundred and ninety-six white inhabitants, while all the eleven seceded States, which included all Virginia and Tennessee, had but five millions, four hundred and forty-nine thousand four hundred and thirty-two of like inhabitants – that the States of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois had a white population equal to all the seceded States; that there were still seventeen other loyal States and six territories to throw their power on the side of the Union, and that nothing but a miracle, such as we have not had in modern times, could enable the Southern organization to succeed.
With regard to the new State, I told the people that I was prepared to stand by them in its defence, and help defend it in the last ditch, and when this favored measure went down, I was prepared to go down with it. I did say to those who stood off and seemed cold towards the effort that had been made to restore the Union, and to establish the new State, that I thought they ought to go to the polls and help organize by electing their members of the Legislature, magistrates and constables. With regard to voting for Congressmen I said nothing, for in the earnestness of the moment, thinking of the bright prospect before us in the new government, I forgot to announce to the crowd that I was a candidate.
I have now given you a faithful sketch of my speech to which you allude, and if it was unsound I am incapable of making a sound one. I do not like to have “Greek fire” thrown into my camp; I will not return it on Union men, it should be reserved for the enemy. I have uniformly said of my competitors that they were good Union men, it should be reserved for the enemy. I have uniformly said of my competitors that they were good Union men, and if the people elected either of them over me, I would be the last to complain. If any one would tell me that either Zinn or Burdett had made made in some distant county a speech against the Union, the vigorous prosecution of the war to put down the rebellion, or against the New State, I would know from their cards and past records that it was a mistake.
Thanking you for your kindness in writing to me and giving me an opportunity of putting my myself right before my friends, I am
W. G. Brown.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: September 1863