April 17, 1863
Pending the consideration in the House of Representatives of the bill authorizing elections for members of Congress, and upon Mr. Russell's motion to except Virginia from the general ticket system, that gentleman made the following remarks:
I regret that some gentlemen have thought proper to make invidious allusion to the small number of votes from my district, polled at our first election, to point their arguments in favor of applying the "general ticket system" to Virginia. If they would infer from the small number of votes and from the choice made of myself, that such constituencies ought not to be instructed with the right of election, it does not become me to defend the choice which they have once made. But I must take some notice of the allusion to my district.
It must be known to the House that even before the war began that district was occupied by hostile troops. From that day until now not a Confederate soldier has ever been within the district, or within a hundred miles of the place of my residence, except as a prisoner in the hands of the enemy.--Even before our ordinance of secession was ratified, there of my constituents who desired to join the army of the State were compelled to escape by stratagem through lines guarded by the enemy. So brief was the warning, so unexpected was the invasion, and so difficult was escape, that only a few were within our lines at the time of our first election. The number is now much greater, although our Government has never been able to protect that country, or to keep open communication with it. The few who were first driven from their homes by the approach of the enemy were mainly representative men. Intelligent, influential and prominent supporters of the Southern cause, they were specially obnoxious to the hatred of the invaders and traitors. At the first approach of invasion they were compelled to choose between submission and exile.--They promptly gave up their homes, property, and nearly all that men hold dear, saving for themselves nothing but the precious liberty of serving their country during this terrible war.
Of the little band of voters from my district, whose mea number has been the subject of such slighting allusion the number has already become less since our last election. Not all their names are now heard at morning or evening, when the rolls of our renowned armies are called. Some of them have made the last sacrifice a man can make for his country. They have fallen on battle-fields drenched with crimson showers of their own blood and the blood of their comrades and their enemies. They have left a noble memory as a rich legacy to their families and their country. Of the survivors, many bear honorable scars, the best testimonials of their gallantry and patriotism, if not also of their right to vote for members of a House whose chief duty is to promote the efficiency and comfort of the army. Almost all have gallantly ought under the flag of the Confederacy in a score of great and bloody battles, besides many minor combats. Veterans and heroes of a war for liberty, I am not ashamed to hold my seat by the suffrages of such men, whether their numbers be few or many.--Those who since the former election, have turned their backs upon the double despotism which oppresses our district, and have come through hostile lines and over the mountains of Western Virginia to fill the ranks which death had decimated, are worthy to stand beside the veterans whom they have joined for they are equally intelligent, patriotic, and brave. Whoever shall be chosen by such a constituency, if he is worthy to represent them, will be the peer of any member of this House in all qualities that adorn the character of a patriot.
I desire that a portion of the representation in this House shall be elected by those who appreciate the peculiar interests of Northwestern Virginia, and whose devotion to the entire State and to the whole Confederacy has been so splendidly illustrated. I am opposed to the general ticket system in Virginia because the State has made ample provision for all her elections, and because that system is inconsistent with her ancient usages and settled policy, and with sound political principles.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: April 1863