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Proceedings of the
Second Wheeling Convention

June 20, 1861

Convention met at the usual hour and was opened with prayer by Rev. David Hervey.

The minutes of the preceding day were read and approved.

JAMES O. WATSON, of Marion, who was in the Convention for the first time, came forward and took the oath of office.

Mr. LAMB offered the following resolution which was adopted:

Resolved, That the Secretary of this Convention be instructed to procure a suitable book for the recording of the Ordinances of this Convention, the record to be equivalent to the enrollment of said Ordinance.

Mr. CARLILE offered the following as additional to the resolution submitted by Mr. Lamb, which was adopted:

Resolved, That all Ordinances passed by this Convention shall be re-committed to the Committee on Business, for revision and correction and when reported back to the Convention as revised and corrected, they shall be recorded as provided in the foregoing resolution.

Mr. DORSEY offered the following:

Resolved, That the Committee on Business, be and are hereby instructed to report to the Convention, an Ordinance declaring vacant the offices of all office holders in the Commonwealth, who voted for the Ordinance of Secession passed by the Richmond Convention, which assembled on the 13th of February last,

Mr. CRANE, of Tucker, moved to amend the resolution by striking out the word "report," and insert "enquire into the expediency of reporting."

Mr. DORSEY accepted the amendment but subsequently withdrew the acceptance.

Mr. CRANE insisted on the amendment.

Mr. LAMB arose to a privileged question. He presented the credentials of Henry C. Moore and Duncan M'Laughlin, representatives from Webster county. On his motion the credentials were referred to the Committee on Credentials.

Mr. CRANE then proceeded to support his amendment in some remarks. He thought the resolution would not touch many of the cases arrived at, if the resolution merely instructed the committee to vacate the offices of those who voted for the ordinance. There were many persons who did not vote for the ordinance of secession, who now held offices, and were yet secessionists of the worst stamp, and for these men the resolution did not provide. He thought it would be better to wait a short time, when peace might be restored, and the secession forces now terrorizing over the people, driven out of the country, than to take this kind of action now. He thought the resolution looked a little vindictive. In his county, and he doubted not, elsewhere many strong Union men were compelled to vote for the ordinance, who were now as heartily in favor of supporting this movement here and the United States Government as any member on this floor, and as soon as they could be relieved from the presence of the secession soldiery they would make that support effective. This resolution would not be just, he thought, to these men. He hoped the Convention would simply authorize the committee to enquire into the expediency of declaring the offices of such persons vacant.

Mr. DORSEY, said the resolution was intended to meet a case not met by any of the ordinances yet adopted. There might be many who voted for the ordinance of secession that would be willing to take the oath prescribed in one of the ordinances of this Convention, but for his part he would not be willing to take the oath of any of them. He denied that such were sound Union men. If they had been they would not have signed the ordinance. They were not as good Union men as he was; for he would not have voted for that ordinance at the point of the sword and bayonet. If they had been good Union men they would not have even looked sideways at that ordinance. As to the objection that the resolution did not provide for all the cases that needed correction, he thought that no reason why they should not provide for any of them. He believed that those who would be left in office, unless this resolution or its equivalent should be adopted, would give them a great deal of trouble. He wanted the offices to be in the hands of good Union men whom they could trust, so there would be no danger of having the authority exercised against the new State government in times of war.

Mr. WEST said he felt proud that he had the honor to inaugurate this move in a resolution he had offered yesterday. Although that resolution was then voted down, and although the gentleman who now offered this resolution, was one of those who opposed its adoption, yet he was not prepared now to make any distinction between his proposition and the one now made. The only difference between the two propositions was, that this one was more stringent than his own - and stringency was the ground on which objection to it had been founded. His resolution only provided that such parties as were therein named, should be debarred from holding office during hostilities. This one made that provision without limitation. He would vote for the gentleman's resolution in any shape, thought it be ever so stringent. He was glad to see that since yesterday there were indications that the Convention was waking up to the importance of arresting those parties who had given evidences of their disloyalty to the United States Government and the Government of Virginia now being re-organized here. For his part, he would shoulder the responsibility of such a course. He in part represented a people who it had been proclaimed in Richmond as a disunion people. He wanted to restore the reputation of that people, and relieve them from the false and odious charge. He would stand up for the people who had sent him here, if he should have to die for it, and he intended the world to know that Wetzel county was not represented in this Convention by Leonard S. Hall. [Applause - suppressed by the Chair.]

He came here under the threat that he would lose his scalp if he did so. He hadn't lost it yet, and did not feel very much terrified about the probability of doing so. In his county, which gave a Union majority of 700 against the ordinance of secession, all the officers were secessionists. They held all the machinery of the county government, and used their prerogative for the purpose of annoying and insulting loyal citizens. He insisted that such a condition of things ought to be corrected. He wanted the gentleman to urge the adoption of the resolution, and he would support him in doing so.

The hour of eleven having arrived,

Mr. CARLILE demanded that the order of the day be taken up.

Mr. CRANE moved to suspend the rule in order to postpone the special order until half past eleven. The motion was lost, and the order of the day being the signing of the Declaration of Rights, it was taken up.

Mr. VAN WINKLE then offered the following resolution:

Resolved, That the mode of signing the Declaration shall be as follows: It shall first be signed by the President in his place, and then by the members of the Convention in the order of their Counties as reported by the Committee on Credentials. The Secretary shall call the name first of the Senator, then of the Delegate or Delegates to the General Assembly, and then of the Delegates to the Convention from each county. The person called shall then advance to the table sign his name and return to his seat - all the other members of the Convention remaining seated until their names are called.

The resolution was adopted.

The Declaration, engrossed on parchment, was then brought forward and was signed by all the members present - eighty-three - in accordance with the resolution.

The Chair stated that the members now absent could have an opportunity of signing it on their return. On motion of Mr. Van Winkle, the Secretary was then instructed, after all the members shall have signed the declaration, to certify to the signing, and affix his own signature.

The Convention then took a recess until two o'clock.


Convention reassembled at 2 o'clock P.M.

Mr. FLESHER, of Jackson, obtained leave to read the following paragraph from the Virginia Chronicle, a paper published in his county, relating to the fact which he stated a day or two since when he submitted his resolution, that the Court of that county had voted $3000 to be raised by a levy to support Secession soldiery.


If there is any thing in all the acts of the Secessionist of the county which is calculated more than another to arouse the indignation of the people it is the infamous act of last Monday, perpetrated by the Secession Magistrates of Jackson county. The Magistrates, certainly without due consideration voted to tax the people of Jackson county $3000 for the support of Secession soldiers and their families.

Mr. Turner, Prosecuting Attorney, sanctioned the act, and said the Court was bound by every consideration of loyalty and duty to do it.

He had read the paragraph, he said, with a view of calling the attention of the Committee to the subject. Certainly, something ought to be done to prevent such levies.

Mr. LAMB, from the Committee on Credentials, reported that the Committee had examined the credentials of Henry C. Moore, and find him the duly accredited delegate from the election district comprising Webster and part of Nicholas and Braxton counties. He moved that Mr. Moore's name be entered on the roll. It was done, and that gentleman came forward and took the oath of office.

The Chair stated that the first business before the Convention was the election of a Governor, Lieuten[an]t Governor, Attorney General and Council, as provided in one of the ordinances adopted.

Mr. LAMB - I desire, Mr. President, to present to the Convention for the office of Governor, the name of Francis H. Pierpoint, of Marion. Mr. Pierpoint needs no enlogium at my hands. He is well known to all of us. He is known throughout this country as having been one of the ablest, the most decided and indefatigable advocates of our cause from the very start. We all know that heart and soul he is with us.

Should it be the pleasure of the Convention to elect Mr. Pierpoint, I trust we will all recollect that we, too, have a duty to perform in this matter. It will be necessary for us to secure, if it be possible, the hearty and united co-operation of the people in the support of our Governor. All may depend upon this; the execution of every measure which we here initiate, may depend upon the prompt, efficient and decided support which we may be able to secure from the people to the acts of that officer.

It is necessary that we should rise to the magnitude of the occasion. We are at war. There is war in the midst of us - war all around us; and the measures which were sufficient to secure our quiet and tranquility in times of peace, will not answer in the great exigencies that are upon us. This movement here - this great movement for the support of the Union - may become, instead of a success, a byword and a reproach, unless we are prepared not merely to elect a man to the office of Governor, but to give him a decided and efficient support when he occupies the office.

There being no more nominations offered, the roll was called, and after the result was ascertained the President announced that Mr. Pierpoint received 77 votes (all that were present), and was therefore elected Governor of the State of Virginia. [Applause.]

Mr. CARLILE said that as it was desirable that the officers to be elected should take the oath of office at once, the committee to whom was entrusted the revision of the ordinance containing that oath had thought proper to present it at this time that, as revised, it might be acted on by the Convention. He read it as follows:


I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof, as the supreme law of the land anything in the Constitution and Laws of the State of Virginia or in the Ordinances of the Convention which assembled in Richmond on the 13th day of February last, to the contrary notwithstanding, and that I will uphold and defend the Government of Virginia as vindicated and restored by the Convention which assembled in Wheeling on the 11th day of June, 1861.

The revision was accepted by the Convention.

The Chair stated that the next business in order was the election of a Lieutenant-Governor.

Mr. MOSS. - I rise for the purpose of nominating before this Convention for the office of Lieutenant- Governor, the name of Daniel Polsley, of Mason.

Mr. Polsley is so well known to the most of the members of this Convention that it would be a work of supererogation if I were to pronounce before this body an extended eulogy on his private character and his qualifications for this important position. Those who are acquainted with Mr. Polsley know him to be a gentleman of courteous manner, of high intelligence, of sound sterling judgement, and of strong practical common sense. Such qualification, sir, as I advert to certainly should not be disregarded by this Convention.

In addition to that I would say that Mr. Polsley has never been in public life; that he has never been what we call a politician; and therefore, sir, is not conversant with the tricks and wiles of that class of public men. In my judgment, sir, this is an additional reason why his claims to this office should meet with the favorable consideration of this Convention.

Upon all the great questions of the day, sir, Mr. Polsley is firm and uncompromising; and, sir, I know his character will justify me in saying, come weal or come woe, he will ever be found in the front rank fighting for the Constitution and the Union.

The roll was called and the result having been ascertained, the President announced that Daniel Polsley had received seventy-six votes, and was therefore elected Lieutenant-Governor of the State of Virginia.

Mr. DORSEY moved that the election of Attorney General be postponed until Saturday next.

Mr. CALDWELL objected. He said it was well understood that Col. Wheat of this city, was a candidate before the Convention. For his part he was prepared to give that gentleman a hearty support.

Mr. DORSEY explained that it was at the request of the friends of that gentleman he had made the motion.

Mr. LAMB said he felt assured he could convince the gentleman from Marshall that there were good and proper reasons for postponement.

The election for Attorney General was postponed.

THE CHAIR: The next business is the election of Council to the Governor.

Mr. DORSEY: I nominate for that position P. G. Van Winkle, of Wood; Wm. A. Harrison, of Harrison; Wm. Lazear, of Monongalia, and Daniel Lamb and James W. Paxton, of Ohio.

I need utter no eulogy on these gentlemen. They are all well known to this Convention as calm, clear- headed, judicious men; just such men as we want in this position.

The roll was called, and Mr. Van Winkle received 73 votes; Mr. Lamb, 73; Mr. Harrison, 72; Mr. Lazear, 73; Mr. Paxton, 70; E. H. Caldwell, of Marshall, 1; and Andrew Wilson, of Ohio, 3.

The Chair announced the election of Messrs. Van Winkle, Lamb, Harrison, Lazear and Paxton as members of the Council to the Governor of Virginia.

The Chair announced the next business in order as being the resolution of the gentleman from Monongalia, and the question on its adoption.

Mr. CARLILE wished to postpone for the present the consideration of the resolution. He moved that the Governor elect be informed of his election at once; and if convenient the oath administered to him. It was important that he should at once be installed in office. A proclamation ought to go forth in the morning's paper if practicable, providing for a special election for the Senatorial districts, and House of Delegates in those counties where vacancies exist, and a special messenger be sent to those counties.

The suggestion was adopted, and Messrs. Carlile and Lamb were appointed a Committee to notify Mr. Pierpoint of his election.

The Committee retired, and after a time, returned, accompanied by the Governor, whose appearance was greeted with a round of applause, which was joined in by the outsiders.

He ascended the Speaker's stand, and after being introduced by the President, spoke as follows:


Gentlemen of the Convention:

I return to you my sincere thanks for this mark of your confidence in placing me in the most critical and trying position in which any man could be placed at the present time.

This day and this event mark a period in the history of constitutional liberty. They mark a period in American history. For more than three-quarters of a century our government has proceeded, in all the States and in all the territories, upon which our fathers erected it - namely; upon the intelligence of the people; and that in the people resides all power, and that from them all power must emanate.

A new doctrine has been introduced by those who are at the head of the revolution in our Southern States - that the people are not the source of all power. Those promulgating this doctrine have tried to divide the people into two classes; one they call the laboring class, the other the capital class. They have for several years been industriously propagating the idea that the capital of the country ought to represent the legislation of the country, and guide it and direct it; maintaining that it is dangerous for the labor of the country to enter into the legislation of the country. This, gentlemen, is the principle that has characterized the revolution that has been inaugurated in the South; they maintaining that those who are to have the privilege of voting ought to be of the educated class, and that the legislation ought not to be represented by the laboring classes.

We in Western Virginia, and as I suppose in the whole of Virginia, adopted the great doctrine of the fathers of the Republic that in the people resides all power; and that embraced all people. This revolution has been inaugurated with a view of making a distinction upon the principles that I have indicated. We of Western Virginia have not been consulted upon that subject. The large body of your citizens in the eastern part of the State have not been consulted upon that subject.

American institutions lie near to the heart of the masses of the people all over this country, from one end of it to the other, though not as nearly perhaps in Louisiana, Georgia and Texas, as in some of the Western and Northern States.

This idea has been covertly advanced only in portions of Virginia. She has stood firm by the doctrines of the fathers of the Revolution up to within a very short period. Its propagators have attempted to force it upon us by terror and at the point of the bayonet. We have been driven into the position we occupy to-day, by the usurpers at the South, who have inaugurated this war upon the soil of Virginia, and have made it the great Crimea of this contest. We representing the loyal citizens of Virginia, have been bound to assume the position we have assumed to-day, for the protection of ourselves, our wives, our children, and our property. We, I repeat, have been driven to assume this position; and now we are but recurring to the great fundamental principle of our fathers, that to the loyal people of a State belongs the law-making power of that State. The loyal people are entitled to the government and governmental authority of the State. And, fellow-citizens, it is the assumption of that authority upon which we are now about to enter.

It will be for us by firmness, and by prudence, by wisdom, by discretion, in all our acts, to inaugurate every step we take for the purpose of restoring law and order to this ancient Commonwealth; to mark well our steps, and to implore the divine wisdom and direction of Him that ruleth above, who has every hair of our heads numbered, and who suffereth not a sparrow to fall unnoticed to the ground, and His guidance and direction in enabling us to carry out the great work we have undertaken here, in humility, but with decision and determination.

With these remarks I thank you again for the honor you have conferred upon me, and promise you that I will do the best I can in administering your wishes, and in trying to carry out the great object we have been working for here, and for which we expect to work for some time to come. I thank you gentlemen. [Great Applause.]

The oath was then administered by Andrew Wilson, Esq., a Justice of the Peace, and Mr. Pierpoint became de facto the Governor of Virginia.

THE CHAIR: The next business in order is the resolution of the gentleman from Monongalia, and the amendment of the gentleman from Tucker.

Mr. DORSEY: Will the gentleman from Tucker for a moment withdraw his amendment? I purpose to withdraw my own resolution to give way for another, which, it is thought, will harmonize the opposing elements on this question.

He withdrew the resolution.

Mr. FROST: I move that a committee of three be appointed to wait on the Governor and inform him that this Convention is now ready to receive any communication from him that he may see proper to send in.

The resolution was adopted, and Messrs. Frost, Crane of Tucker, and Wetzel, were appointed the committee.

Mr. CARLILE then, by general consent, proceeded to submit some remarks for the consideration, as he said, of those inclined to favor such propositions as that of the gentleman from Monongalia. The points he made in his remarks were that such a resolution violated the spirit of the Constitution of the United States, as it was equivalent to an ex post facto law. He contended that at the time the men, whom it was proposed to turn out of office for voting for the ordinance of secession, gave that vote there was no penalty attached to the act, and thus depriving them of a prerogative on that account was equivalent to establishing a penalty - or was in fact a penalty - for an act done when no such penalty was in force. That penalty was the loss of the office conferred by virtue of the implied contract between the party and the appointing power.

He said also that it would be punishing their own citizens for the exercise of an undoubted constitutional right. To inflict a penalty for having exercised a guaranteed right would be to abridge that right. It would never do for us to inaugurate any such practice as this in a body assembled for the purpose of prote[c]ting the rights and liberties of a free people.

Mr. Dorsey followed, contending that it was not the design of the resolution to inflict punishment, but to protect the people against official acts of those who had committed themselves to a doctrine and a series of projects inimical to the rights of the people.

Mr. STEWART said it was the first time he had ever heard that a man holding an office under the Constitution of the United States, had the right to vote for the ordinance of secession. Such an act was a violation of the oath taken by all officers to support that Constitution, and was therefore a crime and a perjury.

Mr. CARLILE replied, that if it was perjury, then the prosecuting attorneys in the different counties ought to punish all those who had been guilty of this crime, and this would, if enforced, be all the punishment needed, as perjury would forever disqualify them from holding any officer thereafter.

The President cut the discussion short by announcing that he had just received an invitation for the Convention to attend a firing of salutes on the Island, between four and five o'clock, in honor of the election of Governor.

On motion the Convention at once 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