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Reorganized Government
General Assembly of Virginia

July 10, 1861

Debate on Mr. Crothers' Resolutions, Instructing Our Representatives in Congress.

In the House of Delegates, Wednesday, July 10, 1861, Mr. CROTHERS, of Brooke, offered the following resolutions:

Resolved, by the General Assembly of Virginia, That our Senators in Congress be instructed, and our Representatives there be requested, to vote whatever amount of men and money may be necessary to enable the Administration to suppress the rebellion in certain portions of the South, and to maintain the integrity of the Union.

Resolved, That they be instructed and requested as aforesaid to oppose any plan of compromise that may be offered unless it be on the basis of an acknowledgment by the seceded States of the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved, That the Governor be requested to communicate the foregoing to our Senators and Representatives in Congress.

Resolved, That the concurrence of the Senate be requested in the foregoing resolutions.

Mr. VANCE having moved to lay the resolutions on the table, and explained his object in doing so,

Mr. MINER, of Fairfax, said: I am sorry to hear any objection to these resolutions. I did not think it possible that any man who could be in this Assembly would raise an objection to the vigorous prosecution of that war which is now commenced by the enemies of constitutional liberty. The resolution merely requests that our representatives be instructed to vote means to support the administration of our government in putting down the rebellion that exists in certain portions of the South. Can any Union man have any objection to such a resolution as that? Can he have any objection, in other words, to the government having full power to carry on this war to the utter extermination of this rebellion? Did not the patriots of the Revolution pledge their lives and fortunes and sacred honors to carry out the declaration contained in their immortal Declaration of Independence, penned by an illustrious citizen of Virginia? Can we, the descendants of such illustrious sires, refuse now to give means to the Administration to support those principles, now that their very existence is threatened?

I hope that the resolution will be sustained, and the motion to lay on the table voted down.

Mr. BOREMAN, of Tyler - I ask that the resolutions be again read.

The Clerk read them.

Mr. BOREMAN - I will just say that, for one, I am ready to give the resolutions my hearty support; and though it may not be necessary thus to instruct our representatives - though we believe that they will do just what we there instruct them to do, without the instructions, yet it says to the world that those are our sentiments; it shows our good will towards this movement for the suppression of rebellion, and our anxiety about the prosecution of this war, (if we so term it,) to suppress the rebellion in our country. If we lay it on the table, it will show to the world that we are not in favor of our Senators and Representatives thus voting men and means for the prosecution of this effort for the suppression of this rebellion. I hope that nothing will be placed upon the record here, that would give the least intimation to the world that we are in any degree opposed to the prosecution of this war - anything that would throw the least shadow of suspicion upon the sentiments of the members of this House and of the Senate here assembled. I hope the resolutions will pass, and not be laid on the table.

Mr. FARNSWORTH, of Upshur - I shall vote for the resolution and against tabling them, for the simple reason, if for no other, that if we table them, it does but express the fact that we are hesitating and halting between two opinions. It would be better, sir, to have the necessary amount of means appropriated for the speedy prosecution of this war. I am in favor that this war be prosecuted with vigor, with nerve, and with determination to bring it to a close, and an honorable close. And I am in favor, sir, that no compromise short of an acknowledgement of the Constitution and the constitutional provision of the Union, shall be admitted upon the part of this government. If we table this resolution, it does at least foreshadow that we would compromise with the South short of the constitutional provision of this Union. For one, I know my constituents never will be satisfied to compromise short of an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States in supporting and sustaining itself, its own constitutional liberty, and the Union.

I shall go for the resolutions most heartily; for with anything short of these things I know my constituents would not be satisfied.

Mr. VANCE of Harrison - I do not want gentlemen to understand, or argue upon the presumption, that because I moved to lay the resolution on the table I am in opposition to the prosecution of the war. I am as much in favor of prosecuting it to the bitter end as any member here - as decidedly in favor of the maintainance of the Union in its integrity as any one; but I do not see the necessity of this House passing a resolution of that kind instructing our representatives to do just what they will see they must do without instructions. I do not suppose one of our representatives would refuse to vote men and money for the prosecution of this war. Nor do I suppose they would vote for any measure of reconciliation recognizing the Southern Confederacy, nor for any measure that might bring peace unless it should acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution and its laws. The simple reason why I propose to lay the resolutions on the table is that there is no necessity for the passage of any such resolutions.

Mr. WEST, of Wetzel - It is, sir, certain that if these resolutions had not been presented the position of the gentleman from Harrison might have been correct; but here are the resolutions presented to this body, and this body refuses even to take a vote upon them. What would be the inference? I will admit to the gentleman from Harrison that we have good and true men in Congress, and who no doubt, will carry out and do all that is expected of them by their constituents, and that it may not be necessary to instruct or advise them in relation to their duty.

A message from the Senate interrupted for a few moments.

Mr. WEST, resuming - I was remarking, sir, I have no doubt our Senators and Representatives were all_________was expected they would carry out. But men are subject to changes, especially in the present crisis; and suppose that this should go to the world, that after they have received instructions at our hands, and knew what our wishes were, that a resolution reiterating the instructions was presented to the House of Delegates, and they refused to vote on it, and tabled it, do we not thereby advise them that we have changed our position, and unnerve their exertions whatever they might be, and by the very act that is no[w] proposed to be done, say to them that this General Assembly is now halting between two opinions, and that there is nothing decisive in the action of this body? It can, sir, say nothing less; and the tabling of that resolution is a death blow to the exertion that is now making; and I feel astonished that my young friend has presumed to make the motion he has made. But I hope this House will give it a quietus that never - never has been given to anything except it is by a unanimous vote; and thus show itself to approve the resolutions.

Mr. CROTHERS - As there is nothing contained in the resolutions that is thought to be offensive, I hope my friend from Harrison will withdraw his motion.

Mr. ARNOLD, of Lewis - I regret, sir, very much indeed that at the very moment I arrive here, resolutions of this kind should be presented. This body has assembled under peculiar circumstances. The legislature of Virginia called a convention at Richmond, that Convention took it upon itself to decide for Virginia that she had a right to secede from the General Government. The act of that Convention as we all know has been sustained by a very large majority in this State; notwithstanding the contrary opinion has been also sustained by a very large majority in Northwestern Virginia. I as one of that party have felt it my duty and right to oppose the adoption of that ordinance; and I come here to- day as a Union man, but I do not come here for the purpose of saying to my people - to Virginians - to those who have been misled by this thing, that we are in favor of adopting resolutions here that would repudiate the idea of a compromise. Now, sir, I will present the view I have always taken of this subject, and I do not know what gentlemen will think of me - whether they will think me secessionist or Unionist; but I am a member of this body, and I come here on my own responsibility and of my own free will and I intend to speak my sentiments on that resolution. I regret that it is thrust upon me just as I am here for the first time.

When the Convention last assembled here met, they proceeded to action, and elected Mr. Pierpoint Governor, according to the Rhode Island decision as I understand it. The Government of the United States had the power to decide between Mr. Letcher and Mr. Pierpoint

Mr. WEST (interrupting) - If the gentleman will give way, I rise to a question or order. That question of order is that the gentleman is standing at the table in front of us facing the Speaker, and we cannot hear him as we desire to do.

Having taken another position as desired,

Mr. ARNOLD resumed: The President having decided that question I considered that Mr. Pierpoint is the Governor de facto of Virginia, and that he had a right under that authority to convene the Legislature of Virginia. I came here having faith and confidence in that authority; but, sir, this body is composed of but a small portion of the State, and I did not suppose when we were called here to act, we were called here to advise members of Congress or Senators, to give them instructions on this great crisis. I regret very much on this occasion that these resolutions have been presented here.

Now, sir, I would ask this body, is there a man in this House, or is there a man in America who, when he reflects in his sober moments, could say, "I would this country, and one people, should drench this soil in blood rather than compromise." You ask a resolution here to pass saying to the people who had fought for the liberties of this country, who had resisted the iron yoke of Great Britain - you would even refuse to lend them the poor boon of compromise, and thus save the blood of thousands of brothers and fathers. Now, sir, if these men in Congress from Virginia having met as they are, if they do not conceive it their own duty and patriotism, must a small body here assembled instruct them? They are where all things of public import are passing around them; they know what is done in and out. Must we call on the legislature to instruct them? They were not elected by the Legislature - the members of Congress, at least. They were elected by the people of their several districts; and it is for them and their people and not for this body to determine what they ought to do. Whatever private opinions we may entertain on this subject, it is not our duty - I did not consider it mine when I arrived in this place, that I came here for the purpose of carrying on a war and opposing compromise. My heart beats warmly for compromise and the saving of blood. I looked forward from the time South Carolina first moved in this matter, with zeal and desire, that this thing should be settled in some form or other. I spent the winter in the South. I was in Charleston the very day South Carolina seceded. I heard the sentiments of the people there and my heart ached with sorrow when I saw the probability of the destruction of this Union. Therefore I then regretted that the chances were against compromise; and I regret that the chances are yet against compromise; but yet I have a lingering hope, and so long as I breathe, I hope to God, this day, that that lingering hope may be restored to give peace and quietude to this country.

I ask none, what benefit will these resolutions have if they are adopted? Will they influence members to do more than they would do? Would not they move of their own action and judgement? They are not bound by the instruction of this House.

But there is another thing, my friends. We are right on the border of this great party strife; and I know better men never breathed the breath of life than are involved in this struggle; who knew nothing about its consequences and never conceived of it. Why, sir, the passing of that resolution would even say to them, "we are here as a body to blot you out of existence," because it may turn out that this war never will cease until there is an extermination of the South. I for one will never give my vote or my consent to indicate that I want to see any people exterminated. Notwithstanding, I believe this Union is intact to- day, that not one of the stars of the galaxy is obliterated, yet I am not one that is willing to say to them that "you, thousands and millions of you who have been misled by this thing - that you must humble yourselves before the altar before you can even have the small pittance of a compromise." My heart does not beat in that way, nor will my soul ever rejoice at such a thing. I hope, therefore, as there is some apprehension that the laying of this resolution on the table may be misconceived, that the gentleman will withdraw his resolutions.

Mr. WEST. I never did in all my life desire to impose myself upon any deliberative body: but sir, it is the next thing to an impossibility for me to refrain from some remarks in reply to the gentleman from Lewis.

However, sir, astonishing and astounding his remarks may be to this body under all the circumstances, yet his own declaration sir, is calculated to define his position. He freely and candidly says to this body that he has spent the winter in the South. It would perhaps have been well if he had remained there. I say with all deference to the gentleman that it might have been well if that gentleman had remained in the South. The gentleman has come to the wrong place sir for compromise. This body have set their stakes, and they are determined, whether it be for weal or woe that they will prosecute their course. There is no middle ground. No member holding a seat in this House can occupy a middle position. There is no neutrality here, sir. We have come here not to talk alone, but to act; and the action of this body is now defined and determined, and come life or death, be the destiny of this body whatever it may be under the circumstances we have taken our lives in our hands and laid them on the altar of our country, which is more sacred to an American citizen than his blood; and we are determined now to follow out our course to the end. Most astonishing that any gentleman elected to this body, who has had the honor conferred upon him of a seat in this legislature - would come here and ask less than he would be contented or willing to take - less than there is in those resolutions. Does that resolution propose to exterminate the South? Is there any clause in that resolution that intimates or intends anything of the kind? Is there anything more in it, Mr. Speaker, than ought to be accepted by every honest and patriotic gentleman on this floor? We only ask that the supremacy of the General Government may be acknowledged. Does the gentleman from Lewis want anything less? Is he willing to take anything less? Will he, as a Virginian, and member of this General Assembly, be contented with anything less than a fair and honorable adjustment of the difficulties that now exist? Is he willing, sir, to humble himself in this position to acknowledge the supremacy of Jeff. Davis' government? Can he do that? No, sir; I think he is not capable; he has too good an appearance. The gentleman has a good face and a big nose. This is always an indication of wisdom.

But, sir, the gentleman will find when he serves here a few days, that this body is inflexibly opposed to anything like an unmanly compromise. We are prepared to accept propositions of compromise, but they must be upon the broadest basis of equality and justice and honor. The honor of this great nation can never be sullied, or its integrity surrendered. No, sir, I would say, prosecute the war, and if it must become a war of extermination, and the South sees cause to persist, I say, in the name of God exterminate them! Never will this proud Government of ours condescend to yield to old Jeff. Davis and his followers.

That resolution asks nothing but fair and equitable compromise. It only instructs our Senators and Representatives in Congress to ask for that, and no more, and to vote money and means to carry it out. Does the gentleman want to starve our soldiers and officers? Does he intend to deny them the means of prosecuting and carrying on this war? Does he intend to say by vote on this floor, that he is in favor of a compromise on such principles as secessionism would suggest to this House or to our Congressmen? I trust he does not.

I will just say that I do hope this House will give the motion to lay on the table a burial, sir, that never shall have a resurrection, and let that go to the country - I mean a unanimous vote against the motion to lay on the table.

Mr. ARNOLD - I do not desire to procrastinate the expression of the views I might entertain on this subject. The gentleman I think presumes - he may have got into his head - that this is Congress, and that we have the power to appropriate money and carry on this war, and to indicate the terms upon which compromise might be made. Now, sir, this body has no power over the subject - non whatever. And for that very reason I think it is wholly unnecessary and impolitic in this body to undertake to indicate to Congress what she desires about it.

The gentleman remarked that I had better remained in the South. Well, sir, it may have been that I had; and perhaps if he had been there with me, he would have had more of the milk of human kindness running through his veins. But, sir, the very fact that I was in the South and saw all that progressed there made me more confirmed a Union man. I foresaw the destiny of this thing, and my very heart ached when I conceived that I would see that Virginia would secede. But, sir, I did not come here to assume the powers of Congress. I am not here for that purpose.

Mr. WEST (interrupting) - The gentleman will certainly not understand that we are assuming the powers of Congress, but if he will examine the proceedings of Legislatures he will find that this is nothing more than the usual course for a legislature to pursue, to instruct their Senators, and request their Representatives, in Congress to do such things as they may desire them to do; and especially if we have a right to do it at any time we have a right to do it at this time, at a period when they are looking for advice and instruction from us.

Mr. ARNOLD, (resuming) - Well, I know, sir, it has been the practice, and I understand that practice to be merely indicative of what the people through their representatives desire. But I do not suppose that it has ever been considered by any gentleman in a legislative capacity, that that was obligatory on Congress; and for that reason these preliminary proceedings were merely advisable.

But they seem to take the ground - the gentleman does - that unless this is done the members of Congress and Senators cannot do anything whatever - that they are standing there with their hands tied, and we may speak for them. Why, sir, if that is the case this body ought to have hesitated long before they would have sent such men there. If this body is to be the mere organ to speak for their representatives in Congress, why let them do so; but I do not consider it my duty, and I will never do it; and especially to advise them never to accept any terms of compromise.

Now we know that the North is a proud people, and the South is a proud people; and why would you call on members of Congress to enforce a requisition that moral man never was known to accede to. The Anglo-Saxon race is not of that mettle; and sir whenever you ask the members of Congress to be tied down to that principle, it is equivalent to saying, why we go for the extermination of the South before we will submit. Because every man who knows anything of the human race knows that they never will do on this earth. And why instruct your members to do what common sense and human reason knows never will be done. Why, sir, this very resolution whenever it goes forth tho the world will shock humanity. It will drive thousands of secessionists to the army and make the blood run cold in the veins of the conservative element of this Union.

For my part I will never vote for it while my head is hot or my heart beats. I do not think it necessary to multiply words.

I am a Virginian. I love my country and my State. I love it because it gave birth tot he Father of his country; I love it because it gave birth to the author of hte Declaration of American independence; and I love it yet more because it gave birth to that great charter of our liberties, the Constitution of the United States, which I admire and love and am willing to live and abide by it through all time. But, sir, we should say to our Representatives, "We want peace," and it would be equivalent to saying so to the people of Eastern Virginia, our neighbors and friends; but to adopt that resolution would be equivalent to saying that we want nothing but avenging blood. I can say for one, and I hope this body may say it, (that they want peace,) and while they love their country and government and the Constitution, and recognize it as the supreme law of the land, yet they love their neighbors and their brethren.

FONTAIN SMITH, of Marion - I am at a loss, sir, to see what there is in these resolutions so very objectionable. What are the resolutions? They ask that our representatives in Congress and the Senate, be distracted to vote whatever amounts of men and money may be requisite to prosecute this war; and secondly, that no compromise be sustained by that body that shall to any extent recognize the existing rebellion and the pretended government of the Southern States.

Now, Sir, what is the state of the country? We have the Confederated States, so called, at the South and we have the government of the United States; and the one is waging war upon the other. The one, sir, is beginning to mark our country with the foot-prints of desolation in blood - has mad war upon the government of the United States and upon the loyal people of all the States. For, let me say, sir, that this war is prosecuted not only against the government of the United States, but against every man, woman and child who will not enter into the rebellion. Western Virginia has not felt it incumbent on her to take sides with the rebellion. A portion of the Southern States, she has asked protection of the General Government, and it has responded to the appeal and thrown its strong arm around us. And let me ask the gentleman who preceded me, by whose privilege does he occupy that seat upon this floor? What has guaranteed the right to sit here? What has secured peace and tranquility at home? Nothing, sir, but the protecting wing of this benefi-___What, upon the other hand, has driven Union men from their homes and made their fire sides desolate? Why, sir, is the hammer silent upon the anvil, and the shuttle motionless in the loom? Why is it our commerce is cut off, trade stagnated; that business in all its ramifications has been stopped; that sack cloth and mourning are spread like a pall over this once peaceful, beautiful and happy land? It is because rebellion has made war upon the government and upon all the interests of the country - on your interests and mine, and everybody's. Why is it that men have been torn from their homes, their wives and children; that the light of domestic happiness has been ruthlessly extinguished; that homes are desolating, harvests neglected and destroyed, and ruin staring our people in the face? It is because there is a spirit abroad in the land that wars upon every interest in the country. And now, sir, will we compromise with that? [A member, "no sir."] Can we compromise with it? Did I understand the gentleman to say that he never, whilst his head was warm and his heart beat, would vote for any resolution that said in substance that we should not compromise? Let me ask him, can truth compromise with error; can religion compromise with sin; can virtue compromise with vice? Sir, there are no concessions to be made. What would you think of a minister of the Gospel, clothed in all the sanctity of his holy profession, with the sacred volume of inspiration in his hand, meeting the devil in some out-of-the-way place and endeavoring to patch up a compromise with him.

The gentleman says, sir, that the Southern people can never be conquered - that they never will be exterminated. I does seem to me that there is a very great misapprehension in relation to this word "extermination." We never use this word, for we do not mean to exterminate any one. But in the Sunny South, they use such terms; they use the word "coercion," and "subjugation" - words unknown to us in this latitude. They are stricken from our vocabulary. Our object is not to subjugate but to protect; not to trample on rights, but to restore the rights of civil and religious liberty under the constitution. And, sir, if there be a man in the beautiful Sunny South for which my heart bleeds, who will not sacrifice his life for civil or religious liberty, or who is in rebellion against both, I will say with the gentleman from Wetzel, that I for one will sacrifice myself on the altar of my country but that he shall be exterminated. [A member, "that's the doctrine."] Not exterminate his constitutional rights, but exterminate him who is desirous of exterminating your constitutional rights, and the constitution which has secured respect to us everywhere and guaranteed to us rights and property at home.

Why, sir, look at our own beautiful Commonwealth. I love her in my heart of hearts. I love her sunny hills, her fertile plains and shining valleys. I love her spreading lakes, her verdant woods, her blue mountains and her rolling rivers. I love her history and its associations, and her memories of the past. But let me say to you that Virginia, now desolated, corrupted and debauched as she is with treason, is an object of commiseration. Sir, those who have wrought this ruin are in arms against you and the General Government, and while thus in rebellion we cannot compromise with them. But we will say to them "ground the arms of your rebellion against our constitution, our government, our rights and interests, and you shall be respected and your rights respected; but as long as you make war upon the government and our rights we cannot compromise with you, because this government must be sustained and anarchy and confusion quelled." Is there a man here who would not sacrifice everything he possesses to sustain this government? Is there a man who would not give up every object he holds dear, much less that little price of feeling to which the gentleman referred in such pathetic terms, that "we are a proud people." O, yes, I know we are proud, and pride is an inseparable companion of sin. The proud man has generally a corrupt heart, and this pride must be subdued. This feeling of rebellion must be subdued, and there is no way by which it can be done than by obeying the dictates of that resolution, and voting men and money to the government by which its constitutional provisions may be extended over all the States, and the people restored to their constitutional rights. I have said - for I believe - that this government never intended to encroach on a single constitutional right of any State. If it did I would not sustain it. If it intended to make war on any institution guaranteed to a single State, I would not; but when I believe that the object of this government is to restore all the States to their constitutional rights and liberties, I would sustain this government if it were in my power by voting men and money for its support.

A few words and I shall have done. What is the state of the case, I ask again? Men are in arms against your interests and mine; and, sir, just look for a moment at the history of this old commonwealth; look back to the 6th of last November, when all was peace and prosperity over this beautiful land - when our bills were at par, when the clink of the spade was heard on our internal improvements - when our name was respected abroad and Virginia was indeed looked upon as the mother of States and statesmen., exerting an influence exercised by no other member of that glorious family. How is it now, sir? Her bonds are worth 36 cents on the dollar; all her internal improvements in ruin; Harper's Ferry and Gosport Navy Yard lost to us; the song of the reaper has been supplanted by the tramp of armed soldiery; our citizens exiled and their property destroyed, their firesides desolate, and ruin in all its shapes stalking over our land. And yet we are asked to compromise with the rebels who have done all this?

The leaders of this rebellion in our section of the country maintain that the institution of slavery was endangered - that it would be attacked by the government at Washington. Why sir, South Carolina, who had for 30 years watched an opportunity to inaugurate this movement utterly discarded that idea. She said from the first that she wanted no compromise. She disdained all compromise. She cared nothing about the institution. She did not believe its rights would be endangered, and she did not want any new guarantees or concessions. Now the voice of South Carolina is to come here and we are to compromise with her when she told us she wanted none in any form. For thirty years they have been instigating this rebellion and now when we are about to put it down with a strong hand, they come to ask for compromise.

As for me I am determined to place myself on the record, and I here say with my heart bleeding with sympathies - for I have reason to believe that I have friends in the secession army, that those near and dear to me are there - yet I say that if the only boy I have in the universe - and whom I love dearer than life - were in that army, I would see him sacrificed rather than that this government should be broken up. And why, sir? All that I hope for is in this government. If I possessed the wealth of the Indies, the diamonds of Golconda, the rubies of Peru, I would rather make that son a beggar, and confer upon him the priceless inheritance of an interest in this great and benificent government than with all that wealth to place him in the army of rebellion, to beggar him and humanity by the destruction of that government.

I will stand by this government and would vote any amount of men and means to carry on this war. In saying this I represent the feeling of the people I represent, and I think in a short time I will represent the feelings of entire Virginia. I tell you away beyond those, your blue hills that so gallantly kiss the clouds, there are warm, generous hearts looking to us for sympathy and asking for help. Here is a noble State separated from us only by this beautiful river pouring her sons into your land for your protection and the gallant men have left their firesides in old Pennsylvania for the same purpose - and yet we stand here and talk about compromise with this rebellion. Within the hearing of the rolling drum and the shrill fife of the men who have come here to protect us we are asked to come up and compromise with these rebels who have murder in their hearts against the best government the sun ever shone upon. I hope the sentiment will not be entertained for a moment.

[As the report of yesterday shows, the resolutions were adopted.]

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Chapter Eight: Legislature of the Reorganized Government of Virginia

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