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Proceedings of the
Second Wheeling Convention

June 13, 1861

The Convention met at the appointed hour, in the United State Court-room at the Custom House.

The sitting was opened with prayer by the Rev. Wesley Smith of this city.

The Minutes of the previous day were read, and, after some trifling amendments, were approved.

On motion of Mr. Burdett, of Taylor an opportunity was afforded those delegates who had arrived since yesterday to take the oath. Several came forward, and the oath was administered to them by the President.

On motion of Mr. Burdett, the Committee on business was increased from 13 to 17 members, by the addition of the following gentlemen: James T. Close, of Alexandria county; John Hawxhurst, of Fauquier; J. Carksadon, of Fairfax, and Mr. Crane, of Randolph.

MR. CARLILE: The committee whose duty it is to report business for this Convention, after several hours of labor have instructed me to report a declaration I hold in my hand. We would gladly have had more time for subjects so important, but, anxious to show a disposition to discharge the duties imposed upon them, they have agreed upon this declaration, and will as rapidly as practicable, report further business for the action of the Convention, and hope all matter acted upon will be returned to them for engrossment.

Mr. CARLILE read the following:


The true purpose of all government is to promote the welfare and provide for the protection and security of the governed, and when any form or organization of government proves inadequate for, or subversive of this purpose, it is the right, it is the duty of the latter to alter or abolish it. The Bill of Rights of Virginia, framed in 1776, reaffirmed in 1860, and again in 1851, expressly reserves this right to the majority of her people, and the existing constitution does not confer upon the General Assembly the power to call a Convention to alter its provisions, or to change the relations of the Commonwealth, without the previously expressed consent of such majority. The act of the General Assembly, calling the Convention which assembled at Richmond in February last, was therefore a usurpation; and the Convention thus called has not only abused the powers nominally entrusted to it, but, with the connivance and active aid of the executive, has usurped and exercised other powers, to the manifest injury of the people, which, if permitted, will inevitably subject them to a military despotism.

The Convention, by its pretended ordinances, has required the people of Virginia to separate from and wage war against the government of the United States, and against the citizens of neighboring State, with whom they have heretofore maintained friendly, social and business relations:

It has attempted to subvert the Union founded by Washington and his co-patriots in the purer days of the republic, which has conferred unexampled prosperity upon every class of citizens, and upon every section of the country:

It has attempted to transfer the allegiance of the people to an illegal confederacy of rebellious States, and required their submission to its pretended edicts and decrees:

It has attempted to place the whole military force and military operations of the Commonwealth under the control and direction of such confederacy, for offensive as well as defensive purposes.

It has, in conjunction with the State executive, instituted wherever their usurped power extends, a reign of terror intended to suppress the free expression of the will of the people, making elections a mockery and a fraud:

The same combination, even before the passage of the pretended ordinance of secession, instituted war by the seizure and appropriation of the property of the Federal Government, and by organizing and mobilizing armies, with the avowed purpose of capturing or destroying the Capitol of the Union:

They have attempted to bring the allegiance of the people of the United States into direct conflict with their subordinate allegiance to the State, thereby making obedience to their pretended Ordinance, treason against the former.

We, therefore the delegates here assembled in Convention to devise such measures and take such action as the safety and welfare of the loyal citizens of Virginia may demand, having mutually considered the premises, and viewing with great concern, the deplorable condition to which this once happy Commonwealth must be reduced, unless some regular adequate remedy is speedily adopted, and appealing to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for the rectitude of our intentions, do hereby, in the name and on the behalf of the good people of Virginia, solemnly declare, that the preservation of their dearest rights and liberties and their security in person and property, imperatively demand the reorganization of the government of the Commonwealth, and that all acts of said Convention and Executive, tending to separate this Commonwealth from the United States, or to levy and carry on war against them, are without authority and void; and the offices of all who adhere to the said Convention and Executive, whether legislative, executive or judicial, are vacated.

J. W. PAXTON, of Ohio, submitted the following which was referred:

Resolved, That the people of Northwestern Virginia have long and patiently borne the position of political inferiority forced upon them by unequal representation in the State Legislature, and by unjust, oppressive, and unequal taxation, but that the so called ordinance of secession, passed by the Convention which met in Richmond on the 13th of February last, is the crowning act of infamy which has aroused them to a determination to resist all injustice and oppression, and to assert and forever maintain their rights and liberties in the Union and under the Constitution of the United States.

MR. PAXTON said: In considering matters that come before us for action here it is very difficult but very important that we all realize the actual existence of war - civil war. We must not forget, sir, that we are now engaged in a struggle for the nation's very existence; that our differences are not now being settled as heretofore at the ballot box, peacefully and quietly, but by the bayonet and at the cannon's mouth. You, sir, and I, and every American citizen this day are parties to this struggle on one side or on the other - either as loyalists or rebels. And he who sympathises with, who directly or indirectly, aids or encourages either side, is just as much a party to this war as if on the tented field itself. I assert, and in doing so appeal to all past observation and experience for my justification, that there is not, and there can be, no real neutrality; that assumed neutrality either by a State or by an individual is practical secession. It is well to remember this in coming to the consideration of our duties in this great emergency.

What is our duty? For what are we convened? What is expected of us by that patriotic and Union-loving constituency whom we represent, and who we well know are resolved never to submit to the military despotism inaugurated at Richmond? Sir, they expect of us action. They not only expect but they demand prompt, decisive and organized resistance to traitors and to treason. Shall we disappoint them? Shall we disappoint not them alone but the just expectations of the whole country? No, sir. We are fully committed to the war of patriotism against treason; and I am very sure from the indications here that there will be neither faltering nor hesitation now.

The time has come for action - for active resistance to the despotism that will overwhelm us surely if we remain tacit and inactive. Duty, patriotism, and even self-preservation demands that we shall now promptly recognize the responsibilities that have devolved upon us, and shall take action worthy of the occasion; such action as, in the language of the resolutioon I have offered here, "will assert and forever maintain our rights and liberties in the Union and under the Constitution of the United States."

MR. PRESIDENT, we are now called upon to perform our part - and it is no unimportant one - towards the preservation and the perpetuity of this great Government. We must and will be sustained in the effort by the whole force and power of the Federal Government. And, sir, we shall succeed in driving treason and rebellion beyond our borders. This, sir, is our mission. Let us do the work.

Mr. HAWXHURST, of Fairfax, offered the following:

1. Resolved, That we recognize the Union sentiment of the whole State as the proper basis of this body.

2. That when worthy Union men of the different counties of the State, who cannot have proper facilitation for _____ and action, and delegates to this Convention, we will receive them and their assistance in freeing the State from the rule of despotism_______________ a portion of them.

Mr. CARLILE: The Committee have instructed me to report a resolution, and I trust the gentleman will withdraw his, if this meets his approbation. It is as follows:

Resolved, That the loyal people of the counties of this Commonwealth that have not yet appointed delegates to this Convention, or are not actually represented here, be, and they are hereby earnestly requested to appoint such delegates without avoidable delay.

Mr. HAWXHURST withdrew his resolutions.

Mr. PIERPOINT, of Marion, hoped every member would see the importance and propriety of adopting the resolution of the Committee at once. He trusted after that was done, that effective measures would be taken to communicate the information contained in the resolution, to those counties without delay.

The resolution was then adopted.

Mr. FROST, of Jackson, offered a resolution more especially, he said, with reference to his section of the State. It is as follows:

Resolved, That for the better preservation of the peace of the citizens of Virginia, this Convention most earnestly requests all persons within her limits engaged in rebellious movements against the Federal Government, to desist from all such demonstrations and return to their allegiance; and that this Convention does peremptorily require all seditious assemblages to disperse, and all companies mustered into the service of the Southern Confederacy to be immediately disbanded.

The resolution was appropriately referred.

Mr. CARLILE suggested that if there were no business before the Convention, it would greatly facilitate their objects to have the committees at work, and if agreeable, he would move to adjourn till tomorrow morning. He subsequently withdrew the motion to adjourn and asked that a general order be adopted that the committees have leave to sit during the sittings of the Convention, which leave was granted.

Mr. BURDETT said a gentleman from Barbour was here with partials credential. Barbour was a Union county, and the member of the Legislature from that county having run off with the secession army, he wished to enquire it it was not competent for this Convention to declare this gentleman the delegate elect to the House of Delegates from that county, and thereby make him a delegate to this Convention. He thereupon moved

That this Convention declare Nathan H. Taft the delegate for Barbour county in the Legislature.

Mr. FARNSWORTH, of Upshur, said the claims of the gentleman were now under consideration by the Committee on Credentials. Their report would be made shortly, and he asked respectfully that a little time be given them.

Mr. BURDETT withdrew the resolution.

MR. LAMB, of Ohio, suggested to the gentleman from Taylor, that the proper course to pursue would be to pass Mr. Taft's credentials over to the Committee on Credentials. That would be the proper course in any instance of the kind.

MR. PARSONS, of Tucker, thought it altogether wrong to take the consideration of such matters out of the hands of the committee appointed for the express purpose of considering them.

MR. BURDETT said the gentleman from Tucker misapprehended his remarks. He believed it competent for this Convention to fill vacancies for the House of Delegates. There appears to be one in the county of Barbour. We have a right to indicate Mr. Taft as the delegate, and receive him here as such; but I think it better for the committee to report on the matter first. I therefore move to refer the claims of Mr. Taft to a seat in this body, to the Committee on Credentials.

The resolution was adopted.

MR. FROST said that in glancing over the rules he discovered that according to rule 21, select committees should be composed of not less than 5 nor more than 13. He called attention to the rule to prevent infringement. He thought, in view of the resolution offered by the gentleman from Taylor, and adopted by the Convention, increasing the Committee on Business from 13 to 17, it would be proper either to alter this rule, or reconsider the resolution by which the increase was made.

Mr. VANWINKLE moved to amend the rule by adding the words, "unless by authority of the Convention."

Mr. LAMB suggested that it would be better to reconsider the motion.

Mr. VANWINKLE explained that the object of his motion was to legalize the action taken by the Convention this morning.

Mr. BURDETT favored a reconstruction.

Mr. VANWINKLE withdrew his motion, and after some further discussion a motion to reconsider the vote by which the Committee on Business was increased in violation of the rule prevailed.

On motion of Mr. Lamb, the 21st rule was then suspended.

On motion of Mr. Burdett, the committee was then increased by adding to it the four gentlemen appointed under his former resolution.

The Chair stated in justification of himself that the committee had been formed hastily, and without particular thought as to whether the members were from the east or west of the Alleghanies. It never occurred to him that he was omitting gentlemen from any one section of the state. That additional appointments on the committee, however, would remedy the omission.

On motion the Convention took a recess till 2 o'clock P. M.


The Convention re-assembled at 2 o'clk. The Chair stated that the first business in order, would be the reception of the reports of such committees as might lie prepared to report.

There being no reports offered.

MR. FLESHER, of Jackson said, if there were nothing before the Convention, he would move to adjourn till to-morrow morning at ten o'clock.

SAMUEL B. TODD, of Taylor, said he wished to ask leave of absence of the Convention for a few days. His private affairs rendered it necessary.

On motion leave of absence was granted him.

MR. FLESHER, of Jackson, then renewed his motion, and the Convention adjourned.

June 11
June 12
June 13
June 14
June 15
June 17
June 18
June 19
June 20
June 21
June 24
June 25

Chapter Seven: First Session of the Second Wheeling Convention

A State of Convenience

West Virginia Archives and History