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Chapter Seven
First Session of the
Second Wheeling Convention

June 11-25, 1861

Due to the ratification of the Ordinance of Secession, on June 11, 1861, delegates gathered at Washington Hall in Wheeling to determine a course of action for northwestern Virginia. Committees on Organization, Rules and Credentials were immediately established. The Committee on Credentials ruled that 88 delegates, representing 32 counties, were entitled to seats in the convention, and the Committee on Permanent Organization selected Arthur I. Boreman to serve as president of the convention. Boreman acknowledged that "in this Convention we have no ordinary political gathering. We have no ordinary task before us. We come here to carry out and execute, and it may be, to institute a government for ourselves. We are determined to live under a State Government in the United States of America and under the Constitution of the United States. It requires stout hearts to execute this purpose; it requires men of courage - of unfaltering determination; and I believe, in the gentlemen who compose this Convention, we have the stout hearts and the men who are determined in this purpose."
Arthur Boreman
Arthur Boreman
Other delegates would be accepted as members during the convention. On June 13, the proceedings were moved to the Custom House. John Carlile, representing the Committee on Business, presented "A Declaration of the People of Virginia," a document that called for the reorganization of the government of Virginia on the grounds that due to Virginia's decision to secede from the United States, all state government offices had been vacated. On the following day, Carlile reported an ordinance for this purpose, and the debate began.
Several members of the convention, including Dennis Dorsey of Monongalia County, initially opposed the reorganization plan, and instead called for permanent separation from eastern Virginia. Carlile, however, who had advocated the same approach in the First Wheeling Convention, persuaded the delegates that constitutional restrictions made it necessary for the formation of a loyal government of Virginia, whose legislature could then give permission for the creation of a new state. He noted, "I find that even I, who first started the little stone down the mountain, have now to apply the rubbers to other gentlemen who have outrun me in the race, to check their impetuosity." Despite the disagreement as to the approach to a division of the state, nearly all of the delegates noted that the differences between East and West were irreconcilable and recognized that separation was almost inevitable. On June 19, the members of the convention voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance reorganizing the government of Virginia. John Carlile
John Carlile
Daniel Polsley
Daniel Polsley
On June 20, the delegates selected officials to fill the offices of the Restored Government of Virginia. Francis Pierpont, of Marion County, was elected governor, and Daniel Polsley, lieutenant governor. On the following day, James Wheat of Wheeling was elected attorney general. In a speech to the delegates, Governor Pierpont defended the actions of the Convention, stating that "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." On June 25, 1861, the convention adjourned until August 6.

Primary Documents:

Delegates to the Second Wheeling Convention
Proceedings of the First Session of the Second Wheeling Convention
"A Declaration of the People of Virginia"
An Ordinance for the Reorganization of the State Government
Editorials on the Declaration of the People of Virginia

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