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Proceedings of the
Second Session of the
Second Wheeling Convention

August 14, 1861

The Convention met at the regular hour, and was opened with prayer by Rev. J. L. Clark, of the M. E. Church.

The minutes were read and adopted.

Mr. VAN WINKLE moved that the resignation of Lot Bowen, of Harrison, which was yesterday laid upon the table, be now taken up and accepted.

The motion was agreed to.

Mr. BROWN, from the Committee on Credentials, then reported upon the credentials of Charles S. Lewis, of Harrison, elected to fill the vacancy occasioned by Mr. Bowen's resignation, that Mr. Lewis was entitled to a seat in the Convention.

The report was adopted.

Mr. LEWIS went forward and the oath of office was administered to him.

Mr. VAN WINKLE reported, from the Committee on Business, an ordinance in relation to Juries, which was laid upon the table and ordered to be printed.

He also, from the same committee, reported back the ordinance recommitted to them, declaring in what cases offices are vacated, with an adverse recommendation on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Ohio.

He also reported adversely on the resolution offered by a member from Marion, inquiring into the expediency of amending or repealing the ordinance of the Convention creating the Governor's Council.

The report was adopted.

The order of the day coming up.

Mr. BURLEY asked and obtained leave to withdraw his substitute for the report of the Committee.

The question was announced to be on the following substitute offered by Mr. Farnsworth.


WHEREAS, in the opinion of the good people of Western Virginia, the long continued inequality of taxation and representation, as well as the diversity of interest between Eastern and Western Virginia render a separation or division of the State necessary.

And whereas, the people of the Eastern part of the State have endeavored to throw off their allegiance to the Federal Government and place the State in an attitude of rebellion against it, contrary to the wishes and without the consent of the people of Northwestern Virginia.

And whereas, all the material interests of this section of the State are closely identified with the Union and its preservation, and can only be secured and protected by severing the unnatural ties that bind us to our Eastern brethren, now in rebellion.

Be it ordained by the people of Virginia, through their delegate in Convention assembled, that a new State, to be called the State of ______________ be organized and erected out of the counties comprised in the boundaries following, viz: Beginning on the Tug Fork of Sandy River, on the Kentucky line, where the counties of Buchanan and Logan join the same, and from thence running with the dividing line of said counties and the dividing line of the counties of Wyoming and McDowell to the great Flat Top Mountain, and with the dividing lines of the counties of Raleigh and Mercer, Fayette, Nicholas and Greenbrier, Webster and Pocahontas, Randolph, Pocahontas, Pendleton and Highland, to the Shenandoah Mountains, and with said Mountains, following the dividing lines between the counties of Pendleton and Rockingham, Hardy and Shenandoah, Ham[p]shire and Frederick, Morgan and Frederick, Berkley and Frederick, Jefferson and Clarke and Jefferson and Loudon to the Maryland line, and such other counties as lie contiguous to and adjoin the counties embraced in the boundaries aforesaid as shall by a vote of the qualified voters residing within the same declare a desire to be attached to and form a part of said State, and the Legislature may so change the boundary lines, as herein set forth, as to include said counties, provided the vote be taken on the same day as hereinafter fixed for taking the sense of the voters within the counties embraced in the boundaries first herein mentioned.

2. That the present Constitution of Virginia, with such alterations as the exigencies of the times demand, be submitted to the people for their ratification or rejection at the polls on the first Thursday in November next.

3. The voters within the boundaries aforesaid, and within the counties that lie contiguous thereto, shall assemble at their respective places of holding elections on the said first Thursday of November next, and cast their votes for or against the formation of a new State, as well as for or against the adoption of the Constitution framed and proposed to them by this Convention. It shall be the duty of the commissioners who superintended, and the officers who conducted the election at the general election in May last, to attend their respective places of holding elections and superintend and conduct the election herein provided for. And if said commissioners and officers shall fail to attend at any such place of holding elections, it shall be lawful for any two freeholders present to act as commissioners in superintending said election, and to appoint officers to conduct said election. It shall be the duty of such persons superintending and conducting said election to employ clerks to record the votes and furnish poll-books for the purpose and to endorse on the respective poll books the expenses of the same.

If on the day herein provided for holding said election there shall be in any of the said counties any military force or any hostile assemblage of persons, so as to interfere with a free and full expression of the will of the voters, they may assemble at any other place within their precinct and hold an election as herein provided for.

There shall be two poll-books. One of said poll-books shall contain two columns - one column shall be headed "for a new State," the other "against a new State," and the other poll book shall in like manner contain two columns - one headed "for the Constitution," the other "against the Constitution." And the names of all persons now entitled to vote in any of the said counties, and who shall offer to vote, shall be recorded in the one or the other of the columns aforesaid, according as such persons may vote. And it shall be the duty of such commissioners superintending and officers conducting said election, and the clerks employed to record the votes, each before entering upon the duties of his respective officer to take, in addition to the oath now required by the general election law, the oath prescribed by the Convention which assembled in the city of Wheeling on the 11th of June, 1861. It shall be the duty of the officers and commissioners aforesaid, as soon as may be, and not exceeding three days after said election, to aggregate each of the columns of said poll-books and ascertain the number of votes recorded in each, and make a return thereof to the Secretary of the Commonwealth in the city of Wheeling, which return shall be in the following form or to the following effect:

We, ______ commissioners, and _____ conducting officer, do certify that we caused an election to be held at _______ in the county of ____________ at which we permitted all persons to vote that were entitled under existing laws to vote, and that offered to vote, and that we have carefully added up each column of our poll-books and find the following result: "For a new State" ______ votes; "Against a new State" ______ votes. "For the Constitution" ______ votes; "Against the Constitution"______ votes. All of which we certify to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Given under our hands and seals this ____ day of _____ 1861.


Under which certificate there shall be added the following affidavit:

_______ County, to-wit:

I, _______ a Justice of the Peace, (or any officer now authorized by law to administer oaths,) in and for said County, do certify that the above named commissioners and conducting officer severally made oath before me that the certificate by them above signed is true. Given under my hand this ____ day of ____ 1861.

J. P.

The original poll-books shall be carefully kept by the conducting officers for ninety days after the day of the election, and upon the demand of the Executive shall be delivered to such person as he may authorize to demand and receive them.

It shall be the duty of the Executive to lay before the General Assembly, at its next meeting, the result of said vote, and if it shall be found that a majority of the votes cast shall be in favor of a new State and also in favor of the Constitution framed and proposed to said voters for their adoption, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to give its consent to the formation of a new State out of the territory aforesaid, with the following conditions:

1. That the people of the proposed new State shall take upon them a just proportion of the public debt of the Commonwealth of Virginia prior to the 1st day of January, 1861, and receive an equitable distribution of the assets.

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

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

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

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

And when the General Assembly shall give its consent to the formation of such new State, it shall forward to the Congress of the United States such consent, together with an official copy of such Constitution, with the request that such new State may be admitted into the Union of States.

Mr. BOREMAN, of Tyler, offered the following as a substitute for the substitute:


WHEREAS, It has been represented to this Convention that a large number of the citizens of this Commonwealth, residing in the Western and Northern part of the State, desire a division of the State, and that the Western and Northern part be formed into a separate State; and the unsettled condition of the country renders it impossible at this time to ascertain the wish of the people within any boundaries likely to be erected into a new State, and we deem it inexpedient, unfair and anti-Republican to undertake to change the State relations of any portion of our people without first having given them a fair opportunity to be heard upon the subject; and

WHEREAS, We cannot now tell with any degree of certainty when the people will be relieved from the troublous state into which they have been thrown, and left free to act upon this grave and important subject, and this Convention was hurriedly, and from the most urgent necessities called together by the people to stay the mighty tide of rebellion which was then sweeping over our land, and to do all in our power to save our beloved country from the vortex of impending ruin, and whereas this body is a Convention of the State of Virginia, and not a Convention of Delegates sent by the people from that part of the State intended to be formed into a new State; therefore, be it

Resolved, 1st. That it is premature, and would be taking unwarrantable advantage of our position, and great injustice to those of our fellow citizens, within the boundaries of the proposed new State, who are not and cannot at this time be represented in this body, for this Convention to undertake the formation of a Constitution for such new State.

2d. That we are not only willing but anxious that a vote of the people should be taken within the territory proposed to be formed into a new State, upon the question of a division of the State, so soon as the affairs of the country are in such condition that the people can meet at the polls and give a free and fair expression of their sentiments upon the subject, therefore we recommend the General Assembly, provided the people within the proposed boundaries shall be freed from their present embarrassments and the state of affairs in the country will then admit of a full and free expression of the popular sentiment, to provide for taking a vote within the proposed boundaries on the question of a division of the State, on the first Thursday of January next.

3d, That it is the sentiment of this Convention that the best interests of both sections of the State demand a division, and we further call upon and recommend the General Assembly that they shall, so soon as the people within the boundaries proposed for a new State shall have expressed at the polls their wish for a division, enact all laws in conformity with the Constitution of the United States, which may be necessary to carry out the wishes of the people so expressed.

The question recurring upon the substitute for the substitute, Mr. Van Winkle proceeded to address the Convention at length and elaborately upon the subject of a division of the State, beginning at the call for the Richmond Convention, giving a full history of movements in Virginia, up to the present time, and arguing against any present attempt to divide the State. The speech occupied two hours and is in itself an admirable production. We shall take occasion at as early a day as possible to publish a full report of it.

After Mr. Van Winkle had concluded,

The Convention took a recess till two o'clock.


The Convention met at 2 o'clock.

Mr. CRANE, of Randolph, having the floor proceeded to reply to Mr. Van Winkle, reviewing that gentleman's position at considerable length. We shall have to defer a report of this until the publication of the speech to which it was a reply.

After Mr. Crane had concluded,

The President announced the question to be on the adoption of the substitute of the gentleman from Tyler.

On that question Mr. Snyder demanded the yeas and nays.

FONTAIN SMITH said he desired to speak to the question, but he was at present physically unable to do so. He would like to have the vote postponed till morning, that he could have an opportunity to speak - for that purpose he moved an adjournment.

Mr. WEST hoped they would not adjourn without taking this vote, it could easily be done. It was a test vote, and by allowing it to be taken they could now tell whether the Convention intended passing anything looking to a separation or not. They had yet three hours and much could be done in that time.

Mr. SNIDER, merely wished to say, that if they did not intend to take any action in this matter, they had best go home, and not remain here at an expense of some $3000 a week. If they intend to vote down this division let them vote it down and be done with it. They had had a speech yesterday that cost their constituents $400, and two today costing them $200 each. He thought prudence would dictate that if they intended to do anything, they had better do it and be done with it.

Mr. BURDETT hoped the friends of division would vote down the motion so as to get a test vote.

Mr. PAXTON trusted the usual courtesy would be extended to the gentleman from Marion.

Mr. SNYDER demand the yeas and nays on the motion to adjourn, which being taken resulted - yeas 45, nays 31.

So the Convention adjourned.

August 6
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August 21

Chapter Nine: Second Session of the Second Wheeling Convention

A State of Convenience

West Virginia Archives and History