Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tuesday, May 14, 1861

William has gone again to Chillicothe.  The convention that met at Wheeling yesterday is composed of delegates from twenty six counties in northwestern Virginia.  All profess to be Union men.  There is much diversity of opinion as to the proper course to be pursued.  Carlisle of Harrison county advocates a provisional government and seems to have a majority with him.  Jackson of Parkersburg, does not wish to have the state divided, at least at present, talks of an armed neutrality etc., thinks action should be deferred until after the vote of the people is taken on the act of secession on the 23' of this month.  
Carlisle says with the confederate army quartered in the state to over-awe the voters and perhaps swell the secession vote there is no hope of defeating that measure at the polls and once ratified any action adverse to the Confederacy will be treated as treason. He urges prompt action.

Editor's comments:

Political power was concentrated in the eastern part of Virginia by design of the state's constitution.  Virginia's first state constitution adopted in 1776 granted the right to vote only to free white men who owned 25 acres of improved land or 50 acres of unimproved land.  The eastern part of the state had large plantations while the western part of the state had smaller farms, many of which were not owned by the men working them.  From the beginning and for many years, people in western Virginia were frustrated by the lack of political power and demanded reform.

Reform came slowly, however, and when Abraham Lincoln, who was opposed to slavery in any new territories of the United States,  was elected President of the United States in 1860,  Governor Letcher of Virginia called a state convention in Richmond to determine how to react to this "crisis."  While some southern states began to secede from the Union, Virginia was undecided until Fort Sumter surrendered to the Confederate forces and Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion.  Three days later, delegates at the Richmond Convention passed an Ordinance of Secession.  A vote by the people of the state was scheduled for May 23, 1861.

Delegates at the Richmond Convention who were from the western section of the state withdrew from the convention and called their own meetings, the First Wheeling Convention, to decide what they would do.  In Julia's journal entry today, she writes about news from the Wheeling Convention.

An excellent resource on the history of the statehood of West Virginia can be found at A State of Convenience: The Creation of West Virginia

Broadside for Union Rally in western Virginia

First Wheeling Convention, May 13-15, 1861

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