An Important Contribution To The "Missing Chapter" In The History Of The Formation Of West Virginia By An Eye-Witness.
Recollections And Narative [sic] Of A Member Of The May Convention Of 1861, The Restored Government And The New State - West Virginia
Copyright, 1913, by R. H. Sayre, New Martinsville, W. Va.
Published in THE BAR by permission.
This short nar[r]ative of the May Convention of 1861 is not written and published with any other object than to place both Mr. Willey and Mr. Pierpont in their true light before the citizens of the State and Nation. I think that every person who has read the history of the times from 1860 to 1865 must know and concede that if Mr. Carlile and Mr. Pierpont and their followers had had their way and prevailed, instead of the course marked out by Mr. Willey and his co-workers, we would today be part and parcel of the old State, and possibly a part of a Southern Confederacy.
The following were the accredited delegates to the May Convention from Wetzel County, Virginia:
F. E. Williams, John Murphy, Elijah Morgan, Wm. Burrows, B. T. Bowers, John R. Brown, J. M. Bell, Jacob Young, Reuben Martin, Robert Reed, Sr., Richard Cook, Andrew McEldowney, Butler VanCamp, John McCaskey, Stacey Stephens, R. W. Lauck, John Alley, Thomas McGowan, George W. Bier, William D. Walker and R. H. Sayre.
The following are the men who attended the Convention, as I recollect them:
F. E. Williams, William Burrows, John R. Brown, John McCaskey, R. W. Lauck, George W. Bier, William D. Walker and R. H. Sayre. Some other of the delegates may have attended, but I do not recall their names.
We took passage on the Wheeling and Parkersburg packet on the evening of the 12th of May, and arrived at Wheeling on the morning of the 13th, 1861, and went directly to Washington Hall, where the Convention was to be held. The convention was called to order by the Honorable Chester D. Hubbard. William P. Zinn, of Preston County, was named as temporary chairman, and George B. Latham was elected temporary secretary.
The permanent organization was made by the election of John W. Moss, of Wood County, president, and Chas. B. Waggener, of Mason County, Marshall M. Dent, of Monongalia County, and Gobson [sic] L. Cranmer, of Ohio County, secretaries.
The report of the committee on credentials showed 436 delegates in attendance. During the early proceedings of the convention, a committee on State and Federal Relations was appointed, consisting of the following named persons:
Campbell Tarr, Brooke; Waitman T. Willey, Monongalia; John S. Carlile, Harrison; General John J. Jackson, Wood; Charles Hooten, Preston; Daniel Lamb, Ohio; George McC. Porter, Hancock; Joseph S. Mathir, Mason; Daniel D. Johnson, Tyler; James Scott, Jackson; George W. Bier, Wetzel; R .C. Holliday, Marshall; Alexander Scott Withers, Lewis; E. T. Graham, Wirt; F. H. Pierpont, Marion; Spencer Dayton, Barbour; George S. Senseney, Frederick; John S. Burdett, Taylor; A. R. McQuilken, Berkeley; Friend Cochran, Pleasants; Irwin C. Stump, Roane; S. Martin, Gilmer; C. P. Rohrbaugh, Upshur; Captain Owen D. Downing, Hampshire; A. J. Foley, Doddridge.
During the first and second days of the convention, there was a great deal of excitement and ill feeling developed as between the different factions. The revolutionary element, led by Mr. Carlile and his followers, who were clamoring for the immediate formation of a new State or the division of the State of Virginia. The other element, led by W. T. Willey and others, which might be termed the constitutional or conservative element contending for such action as could be recognized by the Federal Government as being within the bounds of the constitution and the laws of the country.
During the second day of the convention there were three sets of resolutions presented to the convention outlining a certain procedure. The one presented by Colonel James S. Wheat, of Ohio County, was conservative in form, one that would meet with the approval of the government at Washington, and endorsed by and approved of by the loyal people of the State and Nation and the conservative -members of the convention.
The following is the one presented by Colonel James S. Wheat and referred to the Committee on State and Federal Affairs:
1. Resolved, That in our deliberate Judgment the ordinance passed by the Convention of Virginia on the 17th day of April, 1861, commonly known as the ordinance of secession, by which said convention undertook, in the name of the state of Virginia, to repeal the ratification of the constitution of the United States of America, by this state, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said constitution, is unconstitutional, null and void.
2. Resolved, That the schedule attached to said ordinance suspending and prohibiting the election of members of congress from this state, to the house of representatives ot the congress of the United States, required by law to be held on the fourth Thursday of this month, is a manifest usurpation of power, to which we as Virginia freemen ought not, can not and will not submit.
3. Resolved, That tthe [sic] convention of the 24th of April, 1861, between the commissions of the Confederate states and this state, and the ordinance of the 26th of April, 1861, approving and ratifying said convention, in agreement by which the whole military power and military operations, offensive and defensive of the commonwealth; were placed under the chief control and direction of the President of the Confederate States, upon the same principle and footing as if the commonwealth was now a member of said confederacy, and all the actings and doings of the executive officers of our state under and in pursuance of said agreement are plain and palpable violations of the constitution of our state, and are utterly subversive of the rights and liberties of the good people thereof.
4. Resolved, That it be earnestly recommended to our fellow citizens of this state, at the approaching election to vindicate their rights as Virginia freemen by voting against said ordinance of secession, and all other measures of like character, so far as they may be made known to them.
5. Resolved, That it be also urged upon them to vote for members of congress of the United States, in their several distsricts [sic] , in the exercise of the rights secured to us by the constitution of the United States, and of Virginia.
6. Resolved, That it be also recommended to the citizens of the several counties to vote at said election for such presons [sic] as may entertain the opinions in the foregoing resolutions, as members of the house of delegates of our state.
7. Resolved, That it is the imperative duty of our citizens to maintain the constitution and the laws thereof, and all officers thereunder acting in the lawful discharge of their respective duties.
8. Resolved, That in the language of George Washington in his letter of the 17th of September, 1787, to the president of congress: "In all our deliberations on this subject, we keep steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our property, felicity, safety and perhaps our national existence." Therefore we will maintain and defend the constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof, and all officers acting thereunder in the lawful discharge of their respective duties.
The other resolution, being the one presented by Mr. John S. Carlile and endorsed by him and the revolutionary element of the convention.
The following is a copy of the Carlile resolution which was before the convention during the second and third days. It was never referred to the Committee on State and Federal Relations:
"Resolved, That the committee on State and Federal Relations be instructed to report an ordinance declaring that the convention of the counties of the state composing the Tenth and Eleventh congressional district, to which shall be added the county of Wayne, with the other portions of the state is hereby dissolved, and that the people of the said counties are in full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent state in the United States and subject to the constitution thereof; and that the said committee be instructed to report a constitution and form of government for said state, to be called the state of New Virginia; and also that they report a declaration of the causes which have impelled the people of the said counties thus to dissolve their connection with the rest of the state, together with an ordinance declaring that such constitution and form of government shall take effect and be an act of this day when the consent of the congress of the United States and of the legislature of the state of Virginia is obtained, as is provided for by Section 3, Article 4, of the constitution of the United States."
At the evening session of the 14th, Mr. George McC. Porter, of Hancock County, on behalf of the committee, presented a series of resolutions comprising those offered by Colonel, Wheat, with the addition of the following:
Resolved, That in view of the geographical, social, commercial and industrial interests of Northwestern Virginia, we pronounce the policy of the convention in changing the relation of the state to the federal government, and annexing us to the Confederate States, unwise and utterly ruinous and disastrous to all the material interests of our section, severing all official ties and drying up all the channels of our trade and prosperity.
"Resolved, That should the ordinance of secession be adopted, then we recommend to the several counties with us, to hold elections in the several precincts therein, on the 4th day of June, 1861, for delegates to a general convention, to be held at Wheeling on the 11th day of June, 1861, to devise such measures, and take such action as the safety and welfare of Virginia may demand; each county to appoint a number of representatives to said convention equal to double the members to which it will be entitled in the next house of delegates; and that the senators and delegates to be elected on the 23rd instant, to the next general assembly of Virginia by the counties referred to, be declared members of said convention.
"Resolved, That inasmuch as it is a conceded political axiom, that government is founded on consent of the governed and is instituted for their good, and it can not be denied that the course pursuel [sic] by the ruling power in the state, is utterly subversive and destructive of our interests, we believe we may rightfully and successfully appeal to the proper authorities of Virginia, to permit us peacefully and lawfully to separate from the residue of the state, and form ourselves into a government to give effect to the wishes, views and interests of our constituents.
"Resolved, That the public authorities be assured that the people of the Northwest will exert their utmost power to preserve the peace, which they feel satisfied they can do, until an opportunity is afforded to see if our present difficulties can not receive a peaceful solution; and express the earnest hope that no troops of the Confederate States be introduced among us, and we believe it would be eminently calculated to produce civil war.
"Resolved, That _________ be appointed a committee to prepare an address to the people of Virginia, in conformity with the foregoing resolution, and cause the same to be published and circulated as extensively as possible."
I have a vivid recollections of the speeches made by the Honorable Waitman T. Willey throughout the three days of the convention, as he combatted the resolutions and conduct of John S. Carlile with all his power and ability, contending that to endorse them was only revolution and disloyalty to the Union, remonstrating against such action as was proposed by Mr. Carlile, asking that the convention proceed on a line of conduct as proposed by the resolutions submitted by the committee on State and Federal Relations.
I also recollect well the speeches of Carlile as he ridiculed and scoffed at the resolutions as proposed by Gen. John J. Jackson, calling them paper bullets, and what a terrible destructive effect they would have on the Rebel Government at Richmond.
During the 13th and 14th there was a great deal of excitement among the delegates and the people, both in and outside of the convention hall, the most excitable and revolutionary followers of Carlile making threats that Mr. Willey should be hung as a traitor to the cause on account of his constitutional, legal and conservative course of conduct. Not being satisfied with the threats of hanging him, they posted notices throughout the city calling a meeting at the court house to condemn him as a traitor to the cause of the Union.
If Mr. Carlile and his followers could have had full sway in the convention we would have had a counter-revolution, one that would have placed the loyal people of West Virginia at the mercy of the Rebel Government at Richmond, as the Federal Government could not and would not have recognized the Carlile revolt anything other than a counter-revolution.
During the first two days of the convention, Mr. Carlile appeared to have a majority of the delegates with him, so much so that the delegates that were opposed to the Carlile resolutions' were afraid to risk a vote on the evening of the 14th on the resolutions as reported by the committee on State and Federal Relations, for fear that they would be voted down and the resolutions of Carlile substituted in their stead. Having this in mind, as well as the fact that Mr. Willey was well nigh worn out by his labors of the last two days, it being late in the evening, and that he could not finish his speech, a motion was made and carried to adjourn until the morning of the 15th by the friends of Mr. Willey, in order that he might get some rest and that he might conclude his speech in opposition to the Carlile resolutions on the morning of the 15th; also that the delegates might have a night's rest and consider well a proper line of conduct, and not place the loyal people of West Virginia in as bad condition, if not worse, than the followers of the Richmond Government. But there was not much rest or sleep for many of the members of the convention or the citizens at large; all knew that there was too much at stake. All the delegates that were not carried away by the eloquence of Mr. Carlile knew that the passing of his resolutions meant revolution and disorder, and blasting all hopes of saving West Virginia to the Union.
The streets of the city were alive with people during the night of the 14th, many of the delegates not closing an eye in sleep, but put in all the night in arguing and pleading with the radical element of the convention not to endorse the Carlile resolutions, and appealing to all of the conservative delegates to stand by the resolutions as reported by the committee on State and Federal Relations, and thereby blast the hope of all lovers of the Union.
The morning of the 15th came, a splendid May day, one long to be remembered by the people of the State and Nation, the day of all others the loyal people of the State and Nation should not lose sight of, from which date the birth of a new State was made possible.
The convention was called to order at nine o'clock, and the secretary then read the journal of the preceding day.
Mr. Willey then resumed his argument and addressed the convention at length in opposition to the Carlile resolutions, and asked for the mode of redress as proposed by the committee's resolutions; he would never lend himself to an insurrectionary or unconstitutional means of accomplishing an object which he thought could be accomplished according to law. After Mr. Willey finished his speech, Mr. Polsley, of Mason County, spoke in favor of the Carlile resolutions. John J. Jackson, Jr., proposed to go into secret session, but this motion was opposed and he withdrew it. Mr. Pierpont spoke in favor of the committee's report. Some of the delegates spoke on various subjects. On motion of John J. Jackson, Jr., the convention adjourned.
The convention met at five p. m., and was addressed by Mr. Latham, of Taylor County, and Mr. Holliday of Marshall County, and others. The convention then adjourned until seven P. M.
The convention met at seven P. M.
On motion the journal of the day's proceedings was read.
The final report of the committee on State and Federal Relations was reported and read as follows:
"1. Resolved, That in our deliberate judgment the ordinance passed by the Convention of Virginia, on the 17th day of April, 1861, known as the Ordinance of Secession, by which said convention undertook, in the name of the State of Virginia, to repeal the ratification of the constitution of the United States by this state, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said constitution, is unconstitutional, null and void.
"2. Resolved, That the schedule attached to the ordinance of secession suspending and prohibiting the election for members of congress from this state, is a manifest usurpation of power to which we ought not to submit.
"3. Resolved, That the agreement of the 24th of April, 1861, between the commissioner of the Confederate States and this state, and the ordinance of the 25th of April, 1861, approving and ratifying said agreement by which the whole military force and military operations offensive and defensive, of this commonwealth, are placed under the chief control and direction of the president of the Confederate States, upon the same principles, basis and footing as if the commonwealth were now a member of said Confederacy, and all the acts of the executive officers of our state in pursuance of said agreement and ordinance are plain and palpable violations of the constitution of the United States, and are utterly subversive of the rights and liberties of the people of Virginia."
"4. Resolved, That we earnestly urge and entreat the citizens of the state everywhere, but more especially in the western section, to be prompt at the polls on the 23rd inst; and to impress upon every voter the duty of voting in condemnation of the Ordinance of Secession, in the hope that we may not be involved in the ruin to be occasioned by its adoption, and with the view to demonstrate the position of the west on the question of secession.
"5. Resolved, That we earnestly recommend to the citizens of West Virginia to vote for members of the congress of the United States, in their several districts, in the exercise of the right secured to us by the constitution of the United States and the state of Virginia.
"6. Resolved, That we also recommend to the citizens of the several counties to vote at said election for such persons as entertain the opinions expressed in the foregoing resolutions, for members of the senate and the house of delegates of our state.
"7. Resolved, That in view of the geographical, social, commercial and industrial interest of North West Virginia, this convention are constrained in giving expression to the opinion of their constituents to declare that the Virginia Convention in assuming to change the relation of the state of Virginia to the federal government and not only acted unwisely and unconstitutionally, but have adopted a policy utterly ruinous to all the material interests of our section severing all our social ties, and drying up all the channels of our trade and prosperity.
"8. Resolved, That in the event of the Ordinance of Secession being ratified by a vote, we recommend to the people of the counties here represented, and all others disposed to co-operate with us, to appoint on the 4th day of June 1861, delegates to a general convention, to meet on the 11th day of that month, at such place as may be designated by the committee hereinafter provided, to devise such measures and take such actions as the safety and welfare of the people they represent may demand, - each county to appoint a number of representatives to such convention equal to double the number to which it will be entitled in the next house of delegates; and the senators and delegates to be elected on the 23rd inst., by the counties referred to, to the next general assembly of Virginia, and who concur in the views of this convention, to be entitled to seats in the said convention as members thereof.
"9. Resolved, That inasmuch as it is a conceded political axiom, that government is founded on the consent of the governed and is instituted for their good, and it can not be denied that the course pursued by the ruling power in the state is utterly subversive and destructive of our interests, we believe we may rightfully and successfully appeal to the proper authorities of Virginia, to permit us peacefully and lawfully to separate from the residue of the state, and form ourselves into a government to give effect to the wishes, views and interests of our constituents.
"10. Resolved, That the public authorities be assured that the people of the Northwest will exert their utmost power to preserve the peace, which they feel satisfied they can do, until an opportunity is afforded to see if our present difficulties can not receive a peaceful solution; and we express the earnest hope that no troops of the Confederate States be introduced among us, as we believe it would be eminently calculated to produce civil war.
"11. Resolved, That in the language of Washington in his letter on the 17th of September, 1787, to the president of congress: 'In all our deliberations on this subject we have kept steadily in view that which appeared to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, and perhaps our national existence.' And therefore we would maintain and defend the constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof, and all officers acting thereunder in the lawful discharge of their respective duties.
"12. Resolved, That John S. Carlile, James S. Wheat, Chester D. Hubbard, Francis H. Pierpont, Campbell Tarr, George R. Latham, Andrew Wilson, James W. Paxton and S. H. Woodward be a central committee to attend to all the matters connected with the objects of this convention; and that they have power to assemble this convention at any time they may think necessary.
"Resolved, That the central committee be instructed to prepare an address to the people of Virginia in conformity with the foregoing resolutions, and cause the same to be published and circulated as extensively as possible."
Mr. Poisley moved that the report of the committee be laid upon the table and published. The question of the adoption of the report of the committee was put, and carried with only two dissenting voices. The announcement that the motion had carried was received with tremendous cheering.
Mr. Willey, being loudly called for a speech, came forward in response to the call.
Then it was that the people heard the greatest and grandest man of his generation in the State, an orator and a statesman, a true patriot and a truly loyal and Christian citizen. That man was the Honorable Waitman T. Willey, of Monongalia County.
I can see him yet as he stepped on the platform that night to make the most eloquent, remarkable, patriotic and loyal speech that was ever delivered from any platform in the State, holding aloft the flag of his country and walking back and forth on the stage facing the delegates and the vast audience, proclaiming his loyalty to his country and her flag; he knew well that by his conservative, consistent conduct that he had saved a State to the Union; he knew that he had been threatened by a rope by a revolutionary element of the convention and the populace, to which he did not give the least thought, as he knew he was in the right; he knew that true loyalty, true republicanism, had prevailed over revolution and all that follows it; he knew that by his conduct that he had saved the convention from becoming revolutionists; he realized fully that he had been charged and accused with disloyalty to his country, which mattered little to him, as he realized the fulfillment of that which he had been battling for three long days and nights.
The following is Mr. Willey's speech in full as reported by the Daily Intelligencer on the night of May 15th:
MR. WILLEY'S SPEECH.
"Mr. President and Fellow Citizens:
"Whilst I appreciate with sentiments of heartfelt gratitude the compliment you pay me in calling me out at this period, in the deliberations of your convention, I am sure you would be disposed to excuse me If you were aware of the pain and suffering under which I am constantly laboring. Ever since yesterday morning at 7 o'clock, when I was attacked, I assure you most sincerely that I have been in the most excrutiating torture. Last night I slept scarcely one moment; and nothing but the heartfelt and deep and absorbing interest that I have felt in the deliberations of this body that has kept me on this floor until this time. But I tell you, fellow citizens, I have felt during all this trouble, from the time it began in the Virginia convention until now, something of the spirit of the noble Roman youth, who, cap a pie, mounted, armed and equipped for the sacrifice, voluntarily rushed into the open chasm of the forum, a voluntary victim to appease the gods of strife that were bringing desolation on his country. And I assure you tonight, if by laying down my humble life on the altar of my country I could bring back peace and harmony, and reorganize and restore the glorious Union which our fathers formed tor us, I would willingly as I ever sat down to partake of the dainties of life, render that sacrifice this day and this hour. (Applause.)
"And, fellow citizens, much as some of yon have misapprehended my soundness on this question, In this good city of yours, feeble as I am in health,, with a constitution broken hy the anxiety of the struggle of the last two-and-a-half months for the perpetuity of that very union, for a want of fidelity to which I am suspected at this time, I am ready when the hour comes - I am ready when the constitution has been exhausted, I am ready when it has been ascertained that the great legitimate agency of republican liberty is not sufficient to bring about the revolution that is to secure to us our just rights at the ballot box; - when the law fails, - when the constitution fails in securing these rights, I am ready to stand among the foremost of those who have been here today to suspect me. It is not because I do not love the Union that I have taken the conservative position on this occasion; It is not because I do not love my fellow citizens of Wheeling; not because I am faithful and true to the common principles to which you are engaged; It is not because I love Caesar less, but because I love Rome more. (Applause.)
"I have very little of this world's goods; but I have heritage enough - about the 27,000,000th part of the prestige and glory of him who can look upon the stripes and stars and call it his country's flag, (cheers,) and who, with the infiinitesimal [sic] particle of glory, is richer by far than he who, with the richest heritage that ever fell to the lot of man, did not have the name and prestige of an American citizen. (Applause.) I do not intend to surrender it until I am compelled - until I am subdued, heart, soul, fortune, and body. (Cheers)
"I do not despair of the Republic, either. If we could have two weeks longer until the election, I verily believe, the disheartening anticipation of my friend from Harrison to the contrary notwithstanding, to use a vulgar but expressive phrase, which may be applied to this Ordinance of Secession, we would 'knock it into a cocked hat.' (Laughter.) Why, sir, I am credibly informed that these soldiers of whom we have heard .so much, and from whom we anticipate so much danger, and who are said to be quartered and posted all over this state for the purpose of public intimidation, have pledged their lives that their own blood shall crimson the street, but they will cast their votes on the 23rd of this month, against the Ordinance of Secession. (Applause.) I am informed that one company, consisting of 90 men, of whom 80 are pledged to vote against the ordinance. You heard a voice today from old Berkeley. God bless her. (Applause.) And He will bless her, and all who think like her. God has blessed this country. God has blessed all the men who have loved this Union. His hand has been manifest in all our history. He stood by Washington, its great Founder and Defender. He stood by our forefathers in the establishment of this government, and by working out our glorious destinies thus far in the space of less than three-quarters of a century. God has made the American people the greatest on the earth; and I firmly believe in the hidden councils of His mysterious providence, there is a glorious destiny awaiting an united American people still. (Applause.) I take confidence in the cause as I look at the stripes and stars, and I remember the circumstance that gave rise to the beautiful motto that is as applicable to us today as when in the moment of inspiration it was penned:
"'Triumph we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, in God is our trust.'
(Great applause). I was just trying to catch from my memory a couplet from a poem which I read the other day in regard to the banner of our country. I think I can recall it in the sentiment if not in the language:
"'Forever float that standard sheet;
Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
With freedom's soil beneath our feet,
And freedom's banner streaming o'er us.'
(Mr. W. pronounced these lines with great vehemence, and when he had ended, there arose one universal, loud and thrilling cheer.)
"Fellow citizens, it almost cures one's backache to hear you applaud the sentiment. (Laughter and applause.) But then the time for speeches is done. Let me exhort you never to forget the counsels my much esteemed friend. General Jackson, of Wood, delivered to us tonight. Never forget to act upon them. I think I see yet sparkling in the old hero's eyes something of the ardor which he thought it not prudent to express, yet that even he was ready at his country's call to lead his sons and the sons of his countrymen whenever it may be necessary - whenever our liberties can not be secured to us otherwise - to lead us into the battlefield; - not to be carried to the polls to whisper his vote against the Ordinance of Secession, but to fall upon the field of battle, to wrap himself in his country's flag, and pledge his gratitude to God that he was deemed worthy at last to end an honored life by falling in defense of his country. (Applause.) We have worthy sires, my woung [sic] friends. Let us be sons worthy of those sires. Those sires were law-abiding, constitution-making, constitution-keeping men. They well knew that republican liberties, that tree institutions could only be established upon the law, and preserved by keeping the law; and that is the secret of the conservative position we have taken in this convention. I believe God's blessing will rest upon our action, and if at last, in the language of the Declaration of Independence, 'we have remonstrated again and again, we have petitioned and adjured,' and our prayers are all scoffed at and scouted - why, I think I see around me here tonight the men who know their duty -
"'Who know their rights.
And knowing dare maintain.'
"Fellow citizens, the first thing we have got to fight is the Ordinance of Secession. Let us kill it on the 23rd of this month. (Applause.) Let us bury it deep beneath the hills of Northwest Virginia. Let us pile up our glorious hills on it; bury it deep so that it will never make Its appearance among us again. (Applause.) Let us go back home and vote, even if we are beaten upon the final result, tor the benefit of the moral influence of that vote. If we give something like a decided preponderating vote of a majority in the Northwest, that alone secures our rights. (Applause.) That alone, at least, secures an independent state it we desire it.
"Fellow citizens, I am trespassing upon your patience." (Cries of "Go on! go on!") I am going up to Marion county to assist my friend Hall in canvassing that county. Monongalia is a fixed fact - like the handle of a jug, all on one side. (Laughter.) - Not all on one side, either; but on all sides, all over, and under, and in, and out, and through and everywhere. (Applause and laughter.) But I want to help Hall a little. Want to take Frank Pierpont along over there too. They have threatened to hang him out there, and I am sure if he gets strung up first he will break the rope and I will escape. (Laughter.)
"We have to go to work now. We must appeal to the people; appeal to their patriotism; and let us defeat the Ordinance of Secession in Northwestern Virginia at least. My advices from the valley are ,that where, some weeks since, a Union man dare not hold up his head, he has come out now, and is shaking his fist at his adversary. They are getting bold and numerous; and I should not be surprised if the upper and lower valley, even Jefferson county, right under the shadow of - or rather casting its shadow upon - Harper's Ferry, and under the influence and intimidation of the soldiery there, and old Louden, with Janney at its head, should all give majorities against this ordinance. They say that even in Alexandria the old Union spirit is reviving. Let us hope then - 'hope on, hope ever'. Let us work In season and out of season.
"And now, fellow citizens, good-bye till we meet again, with all our hopes realized, as I trust, under fairer auspices. May we meet together with gratulation and congratulation, that our old and beloved commonwealth, the mother of states and statesmen, whose fame is as wide as the earth - every inch of whose soil I love, her mountains and valleys, from the seaboard to the Ohio border - shall be restored to peace and prosperity; until all this land in all her waters, shall reflect back peacefully the stars on the floating banner of our country, re-established as the ensign of universal liberty." (Great Applause.)
Extract from the story of the first convention at Wheeling, May 13, 14 and 15, taken from a newspaper of recent date:
"His greatest fame (speaking of Senator Willey) was as an orator, and his platform triumphs were among the most numerous and conspicuous in an age when oratory was in flower. Together with his powers as an orator, Mr. Willey combined those solid traits which go to make the real statesman."
When Mr. Willey had finished his speech, Mr. Carlile was called for and responded in a short speech as follows:
"Mr. President and Fellow Citizens:
"Unity of action and singleness of purpose, I have been taught to believe, will accomplish all that is in the power of man to accomplish., when wisely directed. I therefore concur most heartily in the suggestion made by the gentleman from Wood that this convention should not separate without first invoking the blessing of Heaven upon the labors inaugurated by it, and which will grow day by day more arduous, in order that we may have that wisdom which is so necessary to direct us through the momentuous [sic] trouble In which we are about to engage. But If we meet it as brave men should; if we meet It with a determination to accomplish our purpose or die in the effort, success will as certainly crown our efforts as that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. While it has been well remarked we have yielded each to the other for the purpos[e] of harmonizing, and have thus been enabled to come to the conclusion to which we have arrived, we must remember that the same object is still in view, and the same effort is required to accomplish the purpose, although it may be postponed a few days longer than some of us desire. And it may, gentlemen, require at our hands more arduous efforts than it would it we had earlier entered upon it. Be that as it may, let us go home with a determination to succeed, and let us inspire the same determination in the breast of every citizen in each and every county here represented, and all other counties in which we may chance to be between this and the hour of trial.
"I feel that upon us of Northwestern Virginia, and upon our efforts, depend to a very great extent, the restoration of harmony to the whole of our beloved land, and the preservation and perpetuity of those free institutions under which we have been born and reared. This is a government of love; and I can not for a moment contemplate its destruction without feeling as I never deemed myself capable of feeling in contemplating a new subject short of utter annihilation. When I left the Virginia convention, on the evening on which the Ordinance of Secession was passed, and walked solitary and alone to my lodgings, and felt that a home and a country remained not to me, I felt as sad at heart as I could have felt had I just returned from the burial ground, having deposited in their last resting place my wife and children. Entertaining these sentiments, placing this estimate upon this government, I have resolved to do all that I can, in any and every position, to preserve it, and aid and co-operate with my fellow citizens in its preservation. And I believe that preservation is to be secured through and by the agency of this portion of Virginia; by and through the erection of a new state; by and through, it may be, scenes of blood, accomplished by deeds of daring, but deeds that will result to effect its accomplishment. Let each and all determine for himself, and get his neighbors to determine with him. Be the means to be used what they may, come life or come death, it shall be accomplished. (Applause.) I have not voice to say more. I speak with much difficulty. I return to you my sincere thanks for the kindness received at the hands of each and every member of this convention; and I assure you I justly appreciate the compliment shown me by calling me to the stand. The associations I have formed here, will always be remembered by me as among the most pleasing reminiscences of my life." (Applause.)
I do not wish to detract from the great services of Governor Pierpont, neither do I wish to see the greater service of the Hon. Waitman T, Willey, which was rendered, to the State during the eventful days of 1861, passed by in silence and contempt.
I have read carefully the history of the unveiling of the Pierpont statue, and I can not understand why Governor Glasscock and Thomas C. Miller and others pervert historical facts in order to give Mr. Pierpont a place to which he is not entitled, in so far as it relates to the May convention, the restored government, and the formation of the State of West Virginia, and pass by the great services that the Honorable Waitman T. Willey rendered the State and Nation during the May convention. If other counsel than that of his had prevailed, we would not have had a restored government or a West Virginia; neither would there ever have been a Governor Pierpont.
I have also read carefully everything that I could find which has any bearing on the convention of May, 1861, the restored government and the new State, and it appears to me that in order to give Mr. Pierpont a prominent place in the establishment of the restored government and the formation of the new State, it has been a studied effort to conceal from the people the true position of Mr. Pierpont. On the 17th day of June, 1861, he made a speech in the second convention opposing the formation of a new State, but was for it at the proper time, which was when all of the State was back in the Union, and we all know when that was the case all hopes of a new State would be past, that the eastern portion would never agree to division, - we all knew that; that could only be done as it was when part of the people were in rebellion.
If Mr. Pierpont had had such definite and pronounced views as is claimed for him by his friends as to the restored government and new State, why was it not made known during the first two days of the May convention, May 13th and 14th? The truth is that he never raised his voice in opposition to Mr. Carlile's resolutions or revolutionary conduct during the first and second days of the convention, although he was a member of the committee on State and Federal Relations, and that committee made a report on the evening of May 14th in direct opposition to the line of conduct proposed by Mr. Carlile. It is also true that during the forenoon of May 15th he spoke in favor of the adoption of the report of the committee on State and Federal Relations. It is also true that during the convention of May 13th, 14th and 15th he never once raised his voice in favor of a new State. It was well known that during the night of the 14th a change had taken place in the minds of the members of the convention and the people at large,, [sic] brought about by the unanswerable speech of Mr. Willey, delivered on the evening of the 14th and morning of the 15th, as well as the pleadings, prayers and arguments of such men as the Rev. Peter T. Lashley and other conservative men with the delegates during the night of the 14th and the morning of the 15th.
Every member of the convention that had given the proceedings of the convention proper attention could see and feel that a change had come over the spirit of the convention, and the people, and that Carlile would lose out and that he could not carry his point as to his line of conduct, and the men who had been passive and silent, not combatting the position of Mr. Carlile during the 13th and 14th, were going with a majority of the convention and the people, and it did not require much nerve to endorse the committee's resolutions.
To further show that to Mr. Pierpont is not due the credit of the formation of the restored government of Virginia any more than to hundreds of other loyal people of the State, let me revert to the fact that as early as the 13th of April, the citizens of Taylor County, assembled in convention, declared their loyalty to the Union, and in case the State should secede, they were in favor of a separate State, consisting of the western portion of the State; that on the 17th day of April, 1861, the loyal citizens of Monongalia County, at Morgantown, convened in convention and passed resolutions condemning secession and disunion, and that the people of West Virginia would rise in the majesty of their strength and repudiate the act of East Virginia and dissolve all civil and political connection with them and remain true to the Stars and Stripes. They also passed resolutions thanking W. T. Willey and Marshall M. Dent for the firm stand they were taking in the convention then in session at Richmond, and in case the ordinance of secession was passed to propose a division of the State.
On the 22nd day of April, 1861, the loyal union citizens of Wetzel County met in convention, passed resolutions condemning secession, and that in case the ordinance of secession should be passed, to adopt such means as would result in a division of the State. I have a vivid recollection of this mass meeting, and remember well the one speech that was made in opposition, and the man that made it, who afterwards became a staunch Union man. I also recollect others that were in sympathy with the secession movement that afterwards became supporters of the cause of the Union; one of these men, being a justice of the peace, ordered the Pittsburgh Advocate to he taken out of the post office at New Martinsville and be burned as an incendiary publication, and the paper was accordingly burned by his orders in front of the post office on Main street by the postmaster.
It is a well known fact that the feeling throughout the western part of Virginia was in favor of a new State, at least a separation from the State of Virginia, and that to no one man is all the honor of what we are today, but that the credit is due to all the loyal people of western Virginia during the eventful period of 1861 until the surrender of the rebel army and peace was declared.
In the large history of West Virginia by Virgil A. Lewis, published in 1889, the following men are credited as being opposed to the line of conduct of Mr. Carlile: Campbell Tarr, Adam Kuhn, Nathaniel Wells, J. D. Nichols and Joseph Gist of Brooke County; John Hall and Daniel Poisley, of Mason County, and Waitman T. Willey, of Monongalia County, when in fact the report of the proceedings of the convention shows that only W. T. Willey, Campbell Tarr and Daniel Poisley were the ones who made speeches during the convention, of the above named men. Both Tarr and Polsley took sides with Carlile, Mr. Tarr attacking Mr. Willey in a most bitter speech; he declared boldly for the position taken by Mr. Carlile. Mr. Poisley made a speech endorsing immediate separation, and then did all he could to defeat the report of the committee on State and Federal Relations. The report of the proceedings of the convention shows that Mr. Willey stood alone in opposition to the Carlile resolutions during the two first days of the convention, save and except Col. James S. Wheat, of Ohio County, who combatted the course and conduct of Mr. Carlile all of the day of the 14th. General John J. Jackson made a lengthy speech defining his position, which was in opposition to that of Mr. Carlile.
The following is a part of an editorial taken from the Daily Intelligencer on the morning of May 13th, 1861:
(From editorial in the Intelligencer on May 13th, 1861.)
"Today the convention called to deliberate upon action or West Virginia, meets in this city. It is the first body of the kind ever assembled in this part of the State, and is composed of the very best men in point of ability, character and sound standing in this section of Virginia..... Now, is there a man from all the Northwest who has the nerve and the genius to lead this great -movement? Is there one who can concentrate the battered element and their chaotic fragments into form? Such an one is wanted, and wanted just now.
"We shall see whether we have such an one among us. The man who can do it will be a hero - a hero in the cause of humanity and liberty, and fame is awaiting now to write down his name and imperishable deeds."
Is there any unbiased mind at this late date who has given attention to the events of our history from May 13th, 1861, to the close of the war, who can say Mr. Willey is not the man to whom there is due more honor than to any other of those eventful times?
There is one thing to me that is most remarkable; in all of lhe speeches and publications that I have been able to find and .read, there has been a lack of information as to what took place during the first two days of the convention as to the position of some of the delegates on the Carlile resolutions. Also, as to the third, when Mr. Willey delivered one of the most eloquent, patriotic and loyal speeches in opposition to the Carlile resolutions and line of conduct, and the speech that brought about the restored government, and made possible the formation of a new State.
If Governor Pierpont should be entitled to so much credit as is claimed for him, why was he not singled out and not Mr. Willey, to be condemned as a traitor and to be hanged as such?
In his book, "How West Virginia Was Made," published 1909, Mr. Lewis, in his report of the convention of May 13th, 14th and 15th, 1861, transposes the speech of Mr. Willey and Mr. Carlile, made at the close of the convention, the night of the 15th, placing them in his book as if Mr. Carlile was called for first to make a speech, when, in fact, as soon as the resolutions of the committee were adopted Mr. Willey was first called for and responded, as well he should, as he and the conservative element had defeated Mr. Carlile and his followers after three days' heated and excited contest.
(From the Intelligencer of May 20th, 1861.)
"In the Western Virginia Convention, after the adoption of the report of the committee on Federal Relations, Mr. Willey being loudly called for came forward and said: (See speech [e]lsewhere.)
Mr. Carlile's remarks on the same occasion:
"Having been called to the stand for a speech Mr. Carlile said: (See speech elsewhere.)
THE SECOND CONVENTION, WHEELING, JUNE 11, 1861. The Re-Organized Government.
Again the subject of a new State became the all-absorbing topic, and the greatest interest was manifested in the election to take place on the 4th of June, at which time the delegates to the second Wheeling convention were chosen. There was a full vote in nearly all of the western counties, and a full delegation was returned.
The second Wheeling convention convened in Washington Hall, in that city, June 11th, 1861. The next day the committee on credentials reported that delegates were present from thirty- two counties, the same members being entitled to seats both in the convention and as members of the General Assembly elected on. the 23rd of May, 1861, or as delegates appointed to this convention.
On the 20th of June the convention proceeded to elect the following as officers of the State: Francis H. Pierpont, Governor; Daniel Polsley, Lieutenant Governor; James S. Wheat, Attorney General, as required by the ordinance for the reorganization of the State Government of the State of Virginia. An ordinance was also passed requiring the General Assembly, as soon as convenient, to elect an Auditor, a Treasurer, and a Secretary of State.
The General Assembly met July 1st, as provided for in ordinance passed June 19th. On July 9th the General Assembly elected the balance of the State officers, as well as Waitman T. Willey and John S. Carlile to the United States Senate. They,. together with the representatives, William G. Brown, Jacob B. Blair, K. V. Whaley, as Congressmen, were admitted to seats in the Senate and House of Representatives from the State of Virginia.
August 6th, 1861, the convention re-assembled at Wheeling. The body proceeded to perform its chief object, that of preparing for the formation of a new State, and on the 20th adopted an ordinance to provide for the formation of a new State out of a part of the State of Virginia.
The convention assembled November 26th, 1861, and proceeded to elect proper officers. The convention prepared a constitution to be submitted to the people on the third Thursday in April, 1862. The election took place as was required and the constitution was adopted by a vote of 18,862 for, and 514 against.
The convention adjourned on February 18th, 1862.
Governor Pierpont issued his proclamation announcing the result of the vote on the ratification of the constitution, and at the same time convening the General Assembly in extra session on May 6th, 1862. On the 12th the Assembly passed an Act giving its consent for the formation of a new State.
All eyes now turned toward Washington, the place of final action in the thirty-seventh congress. Waitman T. Willey and John S. Carlile, Senators, and K. V. Whaley, Wm. G. Brown and Jacob B. Blair, as Representatives, from Virginia, under the restored government.
The commission appointed to bring the matter before Congress was John Hall, of Mason County; James Paxton, of Ohio County; E. H. Caldwell, of Marshall; P. G. Van Winkle, of Wood; and Ephriam Hall, of Marion, who were supplied with copies of the ratified constitution and the Acts of the General Assembly, proceeded at once to the capitol, where they arrived on May 22nd, 1862. They were accompanied by Harrison Hagans, of Preston; Granville Parker, of Cabell, and Daniel Polsley, of Mason, Polsley being Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, who went at their own expense.
On the 25th of May Senator Willey laid the matter before the Senate, by which body it was at once referred to the Committee on Territories, of which Benjamin F. Wade, of Ohio, was chairman, and John S. Carlile, the other Virginia Senator, a member. To Carlile was assigned the work of preparing and reporting the bill, providing for the admission of the State. Then it was that Mr. Carlile showed himself to be a Judas. He delayed reporting the bill until June 25th, and then made such a report as would absolutely defeat the formation of a new State. From the date his report was submitted to the Senate he did all he could to defeat the new State. The most earnest friends and supporters of the measure were now almost dismayed. Carlile had thrown off the mask and openly proclaimed his opposition. Willey stood firm, but seemed almost powerless to act amid the hostilities apparent on all sides.
Determined to make yet another effort, Senator Willey, on the 1st of July, again called up the bill. A heated discussion ensued, in which Senators Wade, Hale, Callamar and Willey participated, the latter of whom closed by submitting what was known as the "Willey Amendment". This was really a substitute for the "Carlile Bill".
The State at last was admitted into the Union on June 20th, 1963, not by any active part taken by Mr. Pierpont; - outside of his official acts he did nothing to aid in a new State, save that which he was directed to do by the convention and the General Assembly.
Mr. Carlile was requested to resign from the Senate, but refused to do so and served to the end of his term, 1865. He lived as a private citizen at Clarksburg until his death, and was regarded as a man of brilliant mind, but a betrayor of a great cause, the formation of a new State.
R. H. SAYRE,
Author, and Member of the May Convention of 1861.
New Martinsville, West Virginia, Sept. 10th, 1913.