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Reorganized Government
General Assembly of Virginia

July 23, 1861

The special order of the day, it being the consideration of the following bill, with the substitutes for the same, having been taken up,


1. Whereas, it is represented to be the desire of the good people inhabiting the section of country lying west of the Alleghany mountains, known by the name of Western Virginia; that the same should be separated from this Commonwealth, whereof it is a part, and be formed into an independent member of the Government of the United States of America, and it is judged by the General Assembly, that such a partition of the Commonwealth is rendered expedient, from the fact, the Western part of the State is separated from the Eastern part by mountain barriers, which obstruct the exportation of her products; that the chief outlets of her staple commodities are by the Ohio River, and its tributaries, which enables her citizens to throw her coal, salt and oil into remunerative markets; and having no great outlets, only the rough channels leading into Maryland and other sections of the United States, and having little or no business transactions with the Eastern part of the State and being separated into two sections by the laws of nature - differing in climate, soil, pursuit and habits, and being held together by geographical lines, and not by any community of interest:

2. Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, That the Convention which met in the City of Wheeling, Va., on the 11th of June, 1861, which adjourned to meet again in the City of Wheeling on the 6th day of August, 1861, may erect the same into an independent State, on the terms and conditions following:

First, That the boundary between the proposed State and Virginia, shall run and be bounded as follows, to-wit: Beginning on the Tug Fork of Sandy River on the Kentucky line, where the counties of Buchanan and Logan join the same, and from thence running with the dividing of said counties, and the dividing lines of the counties of Wyoming and McDowell, to the great flat top mountain, and with the dividing lines of the counties of Raleigh and Mercer, Fayette, Nicholas and Greenbrier, Webster and Pocahontas, Randolph, Pendleton and Highland to the Shenandoah mountains, and with said mountains, following the dividing lines between the counties of Pendleton and Rockingham, Hardy and Shenandoah, Hampshire and Frederick, Morgan and Berk[e]l[e]y to the Maryland line.

Second, That the proposed State shall taken upon itself a just proportion of the public debt of the Commonwealth of Virginia, prior to the 23d of May, 1861, and receive an equitable distribution of the assets.

Third, That all private rights and interest in lands within the said proposed boundary of the new State, derived from the laws of Virginia prior to such separation, shall remain valid and secure under the laws of the proposed State, and shall be determined by the laws now existing in the State of Virginia.

Fourth, That the lands within the proposed State of non-resident proprietors, shall not in any case be taxed higher than the lands of residents within the boundary of the proposed State.

Fifth, That no grants of land, nor land warrants issued by the proposed State, shall interfere with any warrant heretofore issued from the land office of Virginia, which shall be located on lands within the proposed State, now liable thereto.

Sixth, That in any case any complaint or dispute shall at any time arise between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the proposed State, after it shall become an independent State, concerning the meaning or execution of the foregoing articles, the same shall be determined by six commissioners, of whom two shall be chosen by each of the parties, and the remainder by the commissioners so first appointed.

3. Be it further enacted, that if the said Convention shall approve of an erection of a new State, that they may change the boundary line of said State, so as to embrace other counties than those embraced in said proposed boundary, upon the terms and conditions set forth in this act, provided the people residing in said counties adjoining the dividing line, desire to be embraced in said new State, so as to include the same, upon the terms and conditions set forth in this act. They may proceed to fix a day posterior to this act, on which the authority of this Commonwealth and its laws, under the exceptions aforesaid, shall cease and determine forever over the proposed State, and the said articles become a solemn compact, unalterable by either, without the consent of the other.

4. Be it further enacted, that the said Convention shall have authority to take the necessary provisional measures, for the determination of the laws over the said new State; and to have full power and authority to frame and establish a fundamental Constitution of Government, for the proposed State, and to declare what laws shall be in force therein, until the same shall be abrogated or altered by the Legislative authority, acting under the Constitution, so to be framed and established.

5. Be it further enacted, that if said Convention, to meet as aforesaid, agrees to erect said Western Virginia into an independent State; the Constitution adopted by the Convention shall be referred back to the people within the limits of said State, to be voted on by the people legally qualified to vote according to the Constitution adopted by the Convention, at such time and places as may be fixed on by the Convention.

6. Be if further enacted, that all cases now pending in the Supreme Courts of Appeals of the Commonwealth, in case of a formation of a new State, shall be where the parties reside in the limits of the new State, transferred to some point to be fixed on by the Convention, within the limits of the said new State, there to be decided according to the laws governing each case when the appeal was taken.

7. This act shall be transmitted by the Executive of the Commonwealth to our Representatives in Congress who are hereby instructed to use their best endeavors to obtain a speedy act to the effect above specified.

Mr. Ruffner said: The question, as I understand is on the further consideration of this bill. I made a motion yesterday to substitute the minority report on this subject. As that motion was not properly before the House then I make the motion now. I move the minority report of the Committee on a Division of the State, as a substitute for the original bill.

Mr. ARNOLD - I am really so unprepared to argue this question that I do not know what position this places the bill in. I suppose the proper way is to offer this resolution as a substitute here, and then the question comes up whether that shall be substituted for the bill.

THE CHAIR - The question is shall the report of the minority be substituted for the bill. The bill is now before the House for an amendment.

Mr. ARNOLD - I would suggest out of courtesy to the House that the gentleman would withdraw his resolution until the bill is amended and made complete; and then his substitute can be offered and the question be discussed on its merits. I hope he will do this in order that the House may have a fair discussion on the complete bill.

Mr. RUFFNER - I have attended to the remarks of the gentleman, and will say to him and to this House that it was to avoid discussion that I moved this substitute; and for the purpose of taking the sense of the House whether they will go into a general discussion of the question. For my part I wish to avoid it, and I think the majority of the House wish to avoid it. I therefore decline to withdraw the substitute.

Mr. ZINN - I hope it will not be the pleasure of the House to adopt that substitute in lien of the bill that has been presented by the Committee. That substitute declares it inexpedient to legislate upon the subject at this time. Should that resolution go to the world, it does seem to me that it will be carrying upon its face the evidence that this House considers this not the time to take this great and important subject under consideration, when I am well aware that the whole people in all my section of country, and in all the counties surrounding the county which I represent here, is looking with anxiety every evening for the proceedings of this legislature on this great and absorbing subject. Let the result go out that we declare it inexpedient to take the subject under consideration, and it will cast a gloom over their feelings, and a discouragement that they, perhaps, have never experienced before. It was the subject of a division of the State that caused the people in Northwestern Virginia to assemble the Convention which assembled here in May last. They looked at that time for direct action on that subject, and when that Convention returned to them and assigned the reasons why that subject was not acted on; that there were good reasons for delay; that immediate action might, perhaps, endanger the final success of the great object they had in view, the people acquiesced in that decision, and considered it all right at the time. The second convention was called here on the 11th of June. The great mass of the people of the country looked upon this as being the time when the division of the State could be brought about. When the members of that convention returned to their people and gave their reasons for non-action, they were still satisfied. But when this Legislature came here the eyes of the whole country were turned upon it as being the very body through which a new State was to be brought into existence. Gentlemen now think that a movement in that matter would be injurious, inasmuch as the Administration of the government of the United States might not favor it; but, sir, I cannot see for my life in what manner our action can have any effect in any way upon the views or feelings of the Administration. We only ask by this bill to organize a new State, to frame a Constitution and submit it to our people for ratification or rejection. After the consent of the Legislature, preparatory to laying the whole matter before the Congress of the United States, had been obtained; after this had been done; after the bill had been presented; after the Constitution had been prepared by the convention and submitted to the people for their ratification, and all things prepared and got ready to lay it before Congress any time we see proper, we would still have the State of Virginia in progress of rebuilding the government of the State; and it could not have an effect towards the injury of that great object until we had been recognized as a new State by Congress. That might be done at any future time - even during the next session. By moving in this matter now we only prepare the subject and have it ready for future action. We do not know what the future may produce. In the state of revolution like that which is now upon us, we do not know what changes may come over the Government or the country. All we ask is to prepare the whole matter and have it ready, then we can let it lay as long as we please until the proper time comes for submitting it to Congress; and to do this would not in my humble opinion injure our object of rebuilding this government in any manner. I do hope, sir, this House will take some steps to satisfy the people that we design doing what we were first sent here to do. But adopt that resolution, let it go to the country, place ourselves upon the record that action is inexpedient, and it will cast a damper upon the whole subject everywhere.

The question on the adoption of the substitute for the bill, was ordered.

Mr. RUFFNER called for the yeas and nays.

Mr. BOREMAN - I expect to vote for this substitute. My reason is this. I want to consult my people. I consider it not the time to act on this subject, and I think best to return to my people, and see what they desire me to do, and let them, through their Convention here, request the Legislature to act. This Legislature might adjourn over to some day when we know the Convention would be in session. That was my intention; and if the matter had not been brought to a close so suddenly, I should have proposed an amendment of some kind, that the Legislature might adjourn to a day when we knew the Convention would be in session, and then act on this matter, if the Convention desired it. Thins have changed and are changing all the time. I am for a division of the State, and my people are; but I desire to see and consult them, and know what their feelings are on this matter.

The roll was being called, when

Mr. ARNOLD - I should like to give my views on this thing. I have some authorities down at the house I desire to have here, and I am not prepared to speak now. I move a reconsideration.

The CHAIR - It is entirely out of order. The yeas and nays are being taken.

Mr. SNYDER - I expect, sir, to vote against this resolution as a substitute. I believe, sir, that the contract is now nearly completed, to sell me and my constituents; and I wish to utter my eternal protest against the sale before it is finally completed.

The yeas and nays were finished, and resulted, yeas 14, nays 16; so the substitute was rejected.

Mr. ARNOLD - I propose to amend the bill in the first section, by substituting after the enacting clause, the words, "That the consent of this Legislature is hereby given to form a new State, to be called West Virginia, embraced in the following boundaries to wit;" and by striking out all after the word "first," in the succeeding paragraph, to the word "beginning," and adding at the conclusion of the same paragraph, the following: "and that the Convention which met in the City of Wheeling on the 11th of June, 1861, and adjourned to meet again on the first Tuesday in August, 1861, shall and may frame and propose to the people within the boundaries of said new State, a constitution for the erection of a new State, called West Virginia, upon the terms and conditions following."

Mr. PORTER moved to strike out "shall," in the last sentence of the last amendment, after "1861;" which was agreed to.

Mr. LOGAN moved to recommit, but at the request of Mr. West, of Wetzel, withdrew the motion.

The amendments offered by Mr. Arnold were adopted.

Mr. ARNOLD offered the following additional amendment in lieu of the "second" clause of the contracting section:

"Second, That when the new State shall be formed, all property of the Commonwealth within the limits of such new State, shall belong thereto, without any other conveyance or transfer than this act, including among other things, its share of the State literary fund, any funds the Board of Public Works may have, any stock of bank or branch, bridge, turnpike, or railroad company within the new State; and all claims of the Commonwealth against any person who, at the time of the passage of this act, may have resided within the territory which shall be set apart to the new State; and that the proposed State shall take upon itself a just proportion of the public debt of the State contracted prior to the 23d day of May, 1861"

The amendment was adopted.

Mr. FARNSWORTH - Is it in order to offer a substitute for the bill? I here have printed bill No. 20, and now propose, sir, that it be adopted as a substitute for the gentleman's bill.

The Clerk reported the substitute as follows:


WHEREAS, It is necessary, with the consent of the Legislature, for the people of a State, in compliance with the Constitution of the United States, to form a new State out of parts of one or more States, and be admitted as such into the Union upon an equality with the other States. And, whereas, the long continued inequality of taxation and representation, existing between Eastern and Western Virginia, and the hostile feelings of the Eastern part of the State, now in rebellion against the Government of the United States, and the re-organized government of the State, and being alienated, not only in feelings, but separated by natural boundaries.

Therefore, be it,

Resolved, With the concurrence of the Senate, that we give our consent and recommend to the Convention that reassembles in the City of Wheeling on the 6th day of August, 1861, to take into consideration the propriety of dividing the State, by fixing the lines and boundaries as in their wisdom may seem best, and to frame a Constitution to be submitted to the people for their ratification or rejection, subject to subsequent Legislation, and be submitted to the Congress of the United States.

THE CHAIR - The question is on the adoption of the substitute for the original bill.

Mr. FARNSWORTH - I wish to make a single amendment to my substitute. I move to insert in the second sentence of the preamble, after the words "reorganized government of the State," the words "render such a separation necessary."

The amendment was agreed to.

Mr. WEST - I wish to inquire whether it is in order to amend the substitute.

THE CHAIR - Yes, sir, it is.

Mr. WEST - I have a substitute for the substitute, or for the whole bill, which I desire to offer.

THE CHAIR - It is in order to offer a substitute for the substitute.

Mr WEST - I offer the following:

Resolved, That, in the opinion of the General Assembly of Virginia, all the great industrial and commercial interests both of the east and the west, imperatively demand that at the proper time the State should be divided. But while they entertain this opinion, they are also of the opinion that it is inexpedient at this time to legislate upon the subject, and the preliminary proceedings should emanate from a Convention and not from the General Assembly.

Resolved, That the General Assembly, now in session, recommend to the Convention that is to assemble here on the 6th of August next to take such preliminary steps for a division of the State as they in their wisdom think best to secure the same, and report to the Legislature at its next annual session in December next.

I have, sir, as there is a division of opinion, an honest division of opinion, in relation to the propriety of speedy action and delaying action, hastily prepared this substitute in order to endeavor to reconcile the two parties. I am, sir, in favor of a division of the State; but, under all existing circumstances, I am not in favor of speedy action. I think, sir, it might be hazardous; it might prove finally to be very ruinous, and prevent the object we all have in view. I don not wish sir, to delay to relieve myself of any responsibility involved in immediate action; but I think, sir, the substitute I have presented will compromise the conflicting division and portions of this House. It provides for a division of the State. There is I think, sufficient evidence in this substitute to prove conclusively that the Legislature intends to look forward, sir, to the time when this desirable object can be safely effected. But I am of opinion, sir, that this is not precisely the body in which preliminary proceedings should originate. I think they properly belong to the Convention, and that is my reason, sir, for introducing that portion of the substitute. I think, sir, when the Convention will assemble it will have in it perhaps all of this body. They will be there, sir, in conference with the Convention that may assemble. This Legislature constitutes a part and parcel of that Convention; and when there is an opportunity of comparing views, and giving time for reflection, I think the Convention can come to such a conclusion as will be satisfactory not only to the Convention itself but to the country at large. The Convention having come to that conclusion, they are then prepared to present the results of their deliberations to the next meeting of the General Assembly. There may be, sir, the preliminary steps taken conclusively. They may recommend some other means to the General Assembly, so that body will have all the grounds necessary for it to act upon at our annual session in December; and taking the whole into consideration I think, sir, that is about the best we can do. I do not, sir, in presenting my substitute wish to dictate to this House, but only throw it in as a compromise; and I know there is a portion of this house desirous for immediate action, and there is another portion, sir, that are of opinion that we had better defer action on this subject. I throw in a substitute sir, that seems to be as accommodating to both parts or opinions of this House as any other proposition that can be offered. We have only time to go home and confer with our constituents. They advise us and instruct us what we shall do, and then we shall come back to the convention with the subject fresh in our minds. Circumstances may change, and the opinions of the masses may change. If ever at any time in the history of our country there has been any circumstances calculated to change the opinions of the masses themselves, it has, sir, occurred within the last few hours. We now go home and return to the convention with our minds refreshed by the instructions received at the hands of our constituents. They will advise us; they will tell us what they desire that we should do. We come here, sir, not only advised by them, but we come here, sir, with time to reflect; we calm down; we come here cooly; we understand what we are coming for, for the express purpose of shouldering a responsibility whatever it may be, and under the circumstances, sir, we are prepared to act.

I trust, sir, that the substitute I have had the honor to present, as occupying a middle ground, may meet with the approval of this House, and that we may at once decide on this important question, acquiesce in it for the present, and go home and consult the interests of our constituents.

Mr. BOREMAN - I do not see that the action of this body at this time can influence the action of the convention. I do not know of any right we have to confer power upon a convention sent here by the people. I do not see that any boundary we may fix, short or long, large or small, for their action, can control it in any degree. Why, sirs, we ourselves are a part of that convention - part of that convention assembled here in the capacity of a Legislature, to fix the right and authority to act on certain subjects for the larger body, that comes from the people, most of whom are now at home with the people, and who know perhaps more certainly the feelings of the people than we do.

Mr. WEST (interrupting) - If the gentleman will give way one moment I will refresh his memory, sir.

The CHAIR - Does the member from Tyler yield the floor?

Mr. BOREMAN - I do not like to, but will, to allow an explanation.

Mr. WEST - I am sorry, sir, to trespass upon the liberties and time of the gentleman. I will just say, sir, that I rise for the purpose of refreshing his memory with the fact that my substitute only recommends - simply a recommendation that they take this great question into consideration.

Mr. BOREMAN (resuming) - I was arguing, sir, that this body could not confer power, in my opinion, on the Convention; has now power to do it; has no constitutional or legal right to confer a power upon a body of men sent here by the people to act as the Convention. Now, sir, take this bill as it comes from the hand of my friend from Lewis, and what is it? As to the amendments, I do not know anything about them. I do not have any idea that anything the Legislature may do, will be anything more than a recommendation to the Convention. As to conferring power on that Convention, clearly, in my opinion, it is something we have no authority to do. But suppose we had, the Constitution says we must have the consent of the Legislature to establish this new State; that we must obey a provision of the Constitution of the United States; that we must have the consent of Congress and of the Legislature, before we can erect a new State out of part of the old one. Suppose we say to them, they may form a new State according to this bill. The bill says that after we act here, the Convention may alter that boundary at their pleasure. Suppose they do alter it. Then our consent would be to the formation of no particular new State, but a new State to be formed somewhere inside of the State of Virginia, without stint or limit whatever. Is that such leave as the Constitution of the United States contemplates the Legislature shall give to the formation of a new State? I think not, sir. When that Constitution says the Legislature may give consent to the formation of a new State inside of an old one, it means that that Legislature shall know the fixed boundaries of that State when it gives that consent. What would the consent of Congress be to establish a new State inside of Virginia, without establishing any boundaries, but saying you may form a new State out of certain counties, and enlarge as you please. Why, sirs, that would not be within the spirit and intention of the framers of the Constitution; but when that authority is given by that instrument to Congress to give its assent, and to the Legislature to give its assent, it means that this body shall know the definite and fixed boundaries of that State when you do give consent. Otherwise, they are not giving their consent to the formation of a State out of any particular portion of territory. Hence, the consent is not such as the Constitution contemplates. That is a sliding scale of giving consent for the formation of a State, and I think is in violation of the spirit of the Constitution itself. We cannot give our consent on a sliding scale, as the English corn markets run, up and down as circumstances may require; but when we give our consent it must be for the formation of a particular State. We must define the boundaries, or else it is not the consent contemplated by the Constitution, or within its spirit. Then the whole bill of my friend from Lewis amounts to nothing only a kind of recommendation to the Convention to take some action on the subject. As we are part of the same Convention, if they have any authority to act at all they can act without us. If we were fresher from the people than they are, and were a distinct body, we could come up from the people and instruct them, advise them and request them to do certain acts, but we are a part of the same Convention and we have no more authority upon the subject than they have here in this body at this time. In this shape it seems to me to be doing a thing wholly unnecessary to say the very least of it; and we are trying to confer authority upon a Convention which we have no right to confer. If they have that authority they have it without our consent; if they have not we cannot bestow it upon them. I hope I may be understood in regard to this consent of the Legislature. If it is intended now to form a new State with the consent that this bill proposes, it is unconstitutional, because it fixes no boundaries, but says to the convention that they shall enlarge and change its boundaries. If they do it it would certainly be necessary for the Legislature to take action again on the subject, and give their consent to the formation of the State as proposed. Because any other consent by the Legislature is not the consent within the spirit of the Constitution.

The substitute of the gentleman from Wetzel in the spirit I believe I could vote for. There is a portion of it, though - the latter part - I think should be struck out; and I would make that motion, that it be amended by striking out all after the word Legislature in that last line. I make that motion.

Mr. PORTER - I submit to the gentleman from Tyler that it is not in order at present. It is an amendment to an amendment to an amendment - goes too far down.

THE CHAIR - The question is upon the adoption of the substitute of the gentleman from Wetzel for the substitute of the gentleman from Upshur.

Mr. VANCE - I rise, sir, for the purpose of moving an indefinite postponement of this whole matter. It is well known that I belong to that party known as the immediate division party in this body, but I see the introduction of the bill will require another day to be devoted to it, and the Legislature has already determined to adjourn to-morrow. This bill is calculated to protract discussion, and if we stay here till we consider this bill to its perfection, we will not get away for two weeks. That is evident. I move an indefinite postponement of the whole matter, and I believe that motion is now debatable. That is I call for the previous question.

THE CHAIR - The gentleman can make either motion, but his motion is double. It is moved by the gentleman from Harrison to indefinitely postpone the further consideration of the bill and substitute.


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Chapter Eight: Legislature of the Reorganized Government of Virginia

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