Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
February 1864

Richmond Daily Dispatch
February 22, 1864

Mr. Carlile on "the State of the Union"--Virginia in his Debasement.

Mr. Carlile, (Va.) said that in these unhappy times, when good men were rendered odious and had men popular, when great men are made little and little men great, he who would serve his country best must be above personal consideration. He paid a glowing tribute to the State of Virginia, and said, that, even in her debasement, the challenged our admiration for the gallantry of her sons on many an honorable field. He did not believe there would be an early cessation of hostilities, nor did he believe that the starvation on which the rebels for three years have subsisted was likely to result in an early death. (Laughter.)

The Union could never be restored by the mere exercise of the coercive powers of the Federal Government. We had reached a point where the nature and character of this struggle must be settled definitely. Was this an exercise of the constitutional power of the Government to put down a rebellion against its authority, or was it a war of the Northern States against the Southern? If the former, then we draw all our powers from the Constitution. If the latter, it is a war by the States against the Constitution, leaving the States responsible alone to the judgment of the civilized world, for the manner in which the war has been conducted. Mr. Carille denied that any legislative powers were derived from the laws of war, and quoted the views of John Quincy Adams in support of his opinion.

The whole scope and plan of the powers of the Government was to operate on individuals and not on States. We had no power under the Constitution to coerce a State. To say that Congress had the power to legislate and inaugurate war measures would be to say that the men who formed the Constitution were ignorant. Our Government itself was the creature of civil war, and was established on the great principle that there would be a Government among States of different geographical location and separate domestic institutions for common purposes.

If the power proposed here was exerted it would be a declaration that, after seventy years of trial, the principle contended for in the war of the revolution was a failure, and we were now in 1864 contending for a homogeneity of interests.

We had just as much and no more right under the Constitution to say to one of the States that slavery should not be tolerated in its borders as we had to say that the Catholic religion should not be tolerated. We go outside of the Constitution to seek power for legislative action, and here we acknowledge that the experiment of free Government is a failure. He denied that the rebels were belligerents unless they became so by the acts of our war authorities.

In our legislative capacity he would never consent to acknowledge them as such. He though we could secure, and had the undoubted right to secure, the service of slaves without emancipating them. The power of the States had never been doubted to emancipate slaves, but he denied the existence of the power for their emancipation in the States by an act of the Federal Government. Such a power had never been invoked. He would go as far as the members from the loyal States, whose soll had not been made the scene of war, in exerting every power possible to put down the rebellion, but he could not consent to the exercise of powers clearly not within the scope of Congress and the Federal Government under the Constitution.

We should use force against force, and not resort to acts which would repel the love of the honest citizen of the South who had never gone willingly into the rebellion. We should not perpetrate acts like that recently perpetrated by that bad man, Butler, on the James river, where he sent his transports and seized the gram and pork of a widow, and then announced the enterprise as "a great Union victory." The people of the South were our kindred : bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh : and many of them are now compelled, on account of our present inability to crush the rebel authority, to acknowledge it as a de facto Government.

He had always maintained that the mere exercise of the coercive powers of the Government never would restore the Union. We should never inaugurate measures which would render death preferable to the Union. We should distinguish between those in arms and those who are willing and anxious for a connection with us. He would not, in his legislative capacity, interfere with slavery in the States, but as a military commander he would use the negro as he would a horse or a wagon abandoned by the enemy. We would be obliged to conquer our own prejudices before we could conquer the South. A war of conquest was always interminable, and the position of the seceded States rendered the Union as desirable to them as to us. We have for three years resorted to the coercive powers of the Government. Why not change our policy a little, and leave all these irritating subjects to the military departments, where they properly belong.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: February 1864

West Virginia Archives and History