Berkeley and Jefferson Counties.
June 8, 1863
Berkeley and Jefferson Counties.
We are informed that at the late election, the people of the counties of Berkeley and Jefferson took a vote on coming into West Virginia, and voted to come in; and that they also elected delegates to our Legislature.
As there is an obscurity in the minds of some respecting the relations of these counties to the New State, we will briefly state what they are. The constitution provided for the addition of seven counties over there, on certain conditions. They were separated into two districts – Pendleton, Hardy, Hampshire and Morgan, the one, and Berkeley, Jefferson and Frederick, the other. If the four comprising the first district, adopted the constitution on the day fixed in the schedule for voting on it, (April 4, 1863,) they were to be included; and in case these four were so included and the other three composing the other district adopted the constitution on the same day, they too were to be included. The counties of Pendleton, Hardy, Hampshire and Morgan adopted the constitution and were included; the counties of Berkeley, Jefferson and Frederick did not adopt the constitution and were not included.
These counties were therefore left occupying the same relation to the New State as any others belonging to the Old State. Application was made last winter by Berkeley to the Legislature, for leave to separate from the Old State and join the New, and an act was passed January 31, 1863, “giving the consent of the State of Virginia to the county of Berkeley being admitted into and becoming part of the State of West Virginia,” and providing for taking the vote of the people of the county on that question at the May election. On the 4th of the succeeding February, an act was passed “giving consent to the admission of certain [other] counties into the New State of West Virginia,” among them Jefferson, and providing for taking a vote on the same day as in the case of Berkeley. The acts provide that if the election could not be held on the day named, the Governor of Virginia should have discretionary power to extend the time. But we understand the elections in these two counties were held on the 28th ult., and that the people of both voted to come into West Virginia; and that they went further and elected delegates to the West Virginia Legislature. Such an election of delegates if it took place was unauthorized, illegal and improper.
The provision of the Constitution in regard to the admission of counties is this:
“Additional territory may be admitted into and become part of this State with the consent of the Legislature. And in such case, provision shall be made by law for the representation of the white population thereof in the Senate and House of Delegates, in conformity with the principles set forth in this Constitution.”
It will require an act of our Legislature to admit these counties, and it will require legislation on its part to provide for their representation. After they have been so admitted, and their representation provided for, the number of delegates fixed, &c., they may hold an election under provisions of an act for the purpose, and send representatives to the Legislature.
This, it seems to us, is about the way the case of these counties stands. They may properly enough make application to the Legislature for admission. That is the next regular step, and one contemplated by the acts consenting to their separation from the old State; but the election of delegates, if any has taken place, was premature, and they, of course, could not be received.
The propriety of admitting these counties at all, will be a question for the Legislature when their application is made.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: June 1863