MESSAGE



EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT
RICHMOND, Jan. 7, 1861

Gentlemen of the Senate
and House of Delegates:

My proclamation, issued on the 15th day of November last, states succinctly the considerations which induced me to convene you in extraordinary session.

Duty, however, requires of me a more detailed exposition of my views upon the subjects therein referred to, as well as the presentation of such recommendations as are demanded by a proper regard for the public interests, and the faithful, prompt and efficient execution of the laws of this great and growing commonwealth. These views and recommendations will be presented with as much brevity as the extraordinary circumstances of the times will justify.

Entertaining a profound respect for the intelligence, experience and information of the gentlemen constituting the two houses of the general assembly, I feel that it would be a reflection upon them to accompany each recommendation with an assignment of all the reasons which might be urged in its favor. I will content myself, therefore, with the assignment of a few general reasons in support of my recommendations. You will consider and discuss them, and either adopt or reject them, as your judgment and discretion shall determine. I am responsible to the people, our common constituents, for the recommendation. You are responsible to the same tribunal for the disposition you may make of them.

I regret that I cannot congratulate you on the peace and prosperity, the healthy and flourishing condition of the various branches of business in which our people are so vitally interested, and offer bright and cheering hopes for the future of our country. The times are indeed full of peril and danger, and demand from those who are clothed with representative trusts, coolness, calmness and firmness, united with prudence, wisdom, moderation and patriotism. Indecision or indiscretion, passion or prejudice, heedlessness or recklessness, will precipitate results that may be deplored, when too late to be averted. A blunder at such a time is a crime. An error committed now can never perhaps be corrected.

With these preliminary remarks, I address myself to the discussion of the most important question that has ever claimed your consideration, and in the determination of which so much of human happiness or misery is involved. I repeat, as applicable to this occasion, the language of Governor Floyd, in his message of January 1833: "Your station is high and responsible; to you the people will look; nay, do look for security and protection and the maintenance of all the rights of the states. Virginia, the land of our birth, the burial place of our fathers, the peaceful home of our wives and daughters, awaits your decision." The people will review whatever may be done -- and the man who fears to trust them, is not a friend to their rights or their safety.

Federal Relations.

The condition of our country at this time excites the most serious fears for the perpetuation of the Union. "Clouds o'erlapping clouds, are weaving o'er our house an evil woof, a fearful canopy." The country is torn by dissension; fierce and angry excitement exhibits itself in all sections; passion and prejudice have taken absolute possession of the minds of the people throughout the land. The vile spirit of faction, "which pollutes the fountain of national honor, and digs the grave of patriotism," shows itself on all sides. Confidence is destroyed; fraternal feeling has been supplanted by intense sectional hate; the spirit of conciliation has been smothered and crushed, and the affections of the people, north and south, east and west, appear to have been entirely withdrawn from their government. The ties of brotherhood have been severed; and though living under the same constitution, the sections seem to be as hostile, each to the other, as if their citizens belonged to unfriendly governments. Distrust has marred the pleasure of friendship and social intercourse; bitterness and unkindness have crushed out fraternity. Unity of feeling, unity of action is now gone. It is hardly possible for a government to live and flourish under such adverse circumstances! "We must not, however, look mournfully into the past:" That is beyond the hope of recall. We must wisely improve the present; correct its errors; reform its abuses; reunite the severed ties of affection, and enkindle anew the fires of patriotism, if we would recover all that has been lost. If this shall be done, a bright and glorious future is yet before us. We should be blessed with power, influence, wealth and prosperity -- such as no nation has ever enjoyed in the history of the world. Great as has been our success, as compared with the nations of the earth, heretofore, greater far would it be hereafter.

It is interesting to trace or progress, from the formation of the constitution up to the present time. The results will be found in the highest degree gratifying to our pride as a people, and immensely important, so far as our power and influence as a nation is concerned. What was the area of our country in square miles, embraced by the original thirteen states? Only 549,615. What is it now? Thirty-three states, covering an area of 1,602,000, six organized territories exclusive of the district of Columbia, covering an area of 1,401,000; and in addition, we have the Mesilla valley, embracing 78,000 and the Indian territory, embracing 187,000 square miles. Our territory has been enlarged nearly seven times in extent; our navy has been increased until its canvass whitens every ocean, and our national flag assures protection to the American citizen wherever he may be. Our power, our influence, or prosperity, our agricultural, mechanical and manufacturing wealth have increased far beyond all expectation. That banner which is borne up, and which has been carried forward by the unseen, yet steady hand of progress, has attained a position far in advance of the hopes and anticipations of the founders of our government. Surely no people have been blessed as we have been, and it is melancholy to think that all is now about to be sacrificed upon the altar of passion. If the judgments of men were consulted, if the admonitions of their consciences were respected, the Union would yet be saved from overthrow. Every calm, considerate and reflecting mind is filled with apprehensions of the most painful character; every patriotic heart throbs with anxiety, and all conservative men throughout our extended country are seeking to devise some means of escape from the evils that now threaten our peace and the continued existence of the government. All see and feel and know that the danger is imminent, and all true patriots are exerting themselves to save us from the perils now impending over us. The dark gloom of apprehension is fast gathering around us, and if saved at all, the wisdom, prudence and patriotism of the country can alone (aided by Divine Providence) be relief upon to relieve us in this hour of our extremity.

My inaugural message, presented to you just one year ago to-day, was prepared in anticipation of the occurrences of the pat two months, which have cast their shadow like a pall over the business, financial and commercial, of the country. I thought I saw then a storm ahead, that threatened to be destructive in its consequences; and anxious to avert its fury if possible, I made two recommendations, which, if adopted, would (in my judgment) have saved us from the consequences now upon us. In this opinion, however, you did not concur, and no action was taken in regard to either.

Seeing no other hope of averting the threatened danger, I cordially endorsed the proposition presented by Col. Memminger of South Carolina, and Mr. Starke of Mississippi, for a conference with those states. If that proposition has been accepted, I am entirely satisfied that the results would have been most happy; that it would have tended in a great degree to the settlement and satisfactory adjustment of the painful controversy which had so long existed, and which seemed to be increased by time and untoward circumstances, between the two sections of the Union. The questions would have been presented in a form and shape, and in a manner so imposing, that action must have followed. That action could not have tended otherwise than toward peace.

I now again most respectfully renew the recommendation, presented in my inaugural message, in the following extract:

"The only mode, therefore, of remedying the evil, that occurs to me, under the constitution, is provided in the fifth article thereof. Summon a convention of all the states, that a full and free conference may be had between the representatives of the people, elected for this purpose, and thus ascertain whether the questions in controversy cannot be settled upon some basis mutually satisfactory to both sections. If such a convention shall assemble, and after free and full consultation and comparison of opinions, they shall find that the differences between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding states are irreconcilable, let them consider the question of a peaceable separation, and the adjustment of all questions relating to the disposition of the common property between the two sections. If they can be reconciled, let them adjust the terms, and give them such sanctions as will render them effective.

"I suggest, therefore, that you adopt resolutions in favor of the call of such a convention, and appeal to the legislatures of the several states to unite in the application proposed to be made to congress, in pursuance of the provisions of the article aforesaid. If the non- slaveholding states shall fail or refuse to unite in the application, such failure or refusal will furnish conclusive evidence of a determination on their part to keep up the agitation, and to continue their aggressions upon us. If the convention shall meet, and the question cannot be satisfactorily adjusted, it will furnish evidence equally conclusive of their determination. In either event, the people of the south will clearly understand what they are to expect in the future."

The article of the constitution to which reference is here made, is in the following words, and I quote it, inasmuch as it will be referred to hereafter in this communication:

"The congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this constitution, or, on the applications of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the congress."

Under the article, the constitution of the United States has been amended on three several occasions in our history, and those amendments have all been exceedingly valuable and important. The first ten amendments were ratified by some of the states in 1789, by others in 1790, and by the residue in 1791. Another amendment was proposed in 1794, which the president of the United States announced in his message to both houses, dated January 9th, 1798, as having been adopted by the constitutional number of states. The last amendment was proposed in 1803, and adopted by the constitutional number of states in 1804. These amendments were proposed and adopted at periods less alarming, perhaps, than at the present day. Still their adoption was necessary to insure peace and quiet to our country, and were demanded by a proper deference to public opinion.

In the present condition of public affairs, why cannot such additional amendments as the circumstances now existing require, be proposed by ratification and adoption? The necessity is manifest, and the duty to adopt all constitutional measures before we resort to the ultimately remedy of secession, is imperative. Is it not monstrous to see a government like ours destroyed, merely because men cannot agree about a domestic institution, which existed at the formation of the government, and which is now recognized by fifteen out of the thirty-three states composing the Union?

In support of my position, I quote from the message of Governor John Floyd, dated January 25th, 1833. He was one of the ablest and most reliable of the state rights men of Virginia. Though he has been taken from amongst us, he has left behind him a record as enduring as time:

"But the call of a general convention of the states, brings at once full before all the parties to the compact, every doubtful or disputed power of the federal government in the mode pointed out by the instrument itself, where all amendments could be made, and disputed powers settled, in a spirit of kindness much more congenial to the harmony of our institutions than that which now seems in contemplation. This course ought to be acceptable to all, as it gives full assurance of peaceful days hereafter, and will restore confidence to the mind of the patriot, already too long agitated with the foreseen disasters of the coming conflict."

This recommendation was made at a period in our history not unlike the present. It was made by a statesman of great practical wisdom, and of large political experience. He was a true Virginian, in feeling, sentiment and principle, jealous of her honor, true to her interests, faithful to her rights and institutions, cool, calm and sagacious.

It becomes our state to be mindful of her own interests, in the present deranged and unsettled condition of public affairs. The cotton states seem to be looking to their own interests alone, and why should we not look to ours? Virginia has immense interests, valuable and important, at stake, and it becomes us to see that those interests are adequately protected. She occupies a position now, as she did in 1833, when she can mediate between the contending parties, north and south, and see that some fair settlement and arrangement of existing differences shall be agreed upon. While I would not have her occupy a position that would require the slightest sacrifice of her honor, her rights or her institutions, she must see that in all her future movements and associations these are securely protected. Now, that guarantees are the order of the day, and each sate is earnestly and anxiously inquiring what guarantees are required for her protection, it becomes us to secure such as will protect and preserve the rights of persons and property of our own citizens. A disruption of the Union is inevitable; and if new confederacies are to be formed, we must have the best guarantees before we can attach our state to either of them.

The late executive of South Carolina, in his message to the legislature, devotes considerable space to a commentary upon your action respecting "a conference of the southern states." That reference does not appear to me to be dictated by a kind spirit. It wears the aspect of dissatisfaction with your decision, and, in connection with other portions of the message, indicates distrust of, and hostility on his part, towards this commonwealth. The duty which I owe to Virginia demands a notice of so much of this communication as relates to our state, and the action of her legislature.

Why Virginia alone, of all the southern states, should have been singled out for comment, is to me unaccountable. The resolutions of the South Carolina legislature, asking the conference, were transmitted to all the southern states, and none of those states responded, except Mississippi and Alabama. Why no complaint of the other states who declined to accede to the proposal? After a careful examination of your resolutions, since the perusal of the governor's message, I see nothing that could have entitled them to the special notice that has been bestowed upon them. They declare, "That the general assembly of Virginia, recognizing in our present relations with the non-slaveholding states an imperative necessity for decisive measures, does not yet distrust the capacity of the southern states, by a wise and firm exercise of their reserved powers, to protect the rights and liberties of the people, and to preserve the federal Union. For this purpose, we earnestly desire the concurrent action of the southern states." The authorities of Virginia acted with kindness and courtesy towards the state of South Carolina and her estimable commissioner, and in declining to go into a southern conference at that time, they intended no disrespect to that state.

South Carolina having determined upon her future course, without consultation with any one of her slaveholding sister states, her late executive announces in his message, "It is too late to receive propositions for a conference; and the state would be wanting in self- respect, after having deliberately decided on her course to entertain any proposition looking to a continuance of the present Union. We can get no safer or better guarantee that the present constitution, and that has proved impotent to protect us against the fanaticism of the north." It may be too late now to confer with her sister states, but there was a time when she could have conferred with them with great propriety, and perhaps advantage to herself and them. The governor states that Col. Memminger was not sent to Virginia "to plan a dissolution of the Union, but to save it, if possible." Before she determined to precipitate a dissolution, would it not have been wise to let us know what was her determination, and to have made an effort to secure "the concurrent action of the southern states?" As it is, her movement takes her southern sisters by surprise.

The financial and commercial policy of the federal government in past years has, I have no doubt, in a great degree determined her action. The only specific allegation in regard to the slavery question, so far as I have observed, is the conduct of the northern states in passing personal liberty bills, designed to obstruct the execution of the fugitive slave law. The action of the northern states in regard to this law, is, beyond all question, a just and proper subject of complaint and even denunciation on the part of all slaveholding states, and especially the border states.

The faithful, prompt and just execution of all the provisions of the present constitution will not prove satisfactory to South Carolina. Believing she can get nothing more than the constitution accords to her, without even making an effort through a convention of all the states, her late executive solemnly announces, "It is too late to receive propositions for a conference;" that "having deliberately decided on her course, self-respect forbids her from entertaining any proposition looking to a continuance in the Union."

The late executive of south Carolina is not content to announce this determination, but his recommendations look to the embarrassment of every slaveholding state on the border, which is not disposed to follow her lead. Hence we find in his message an open and undisguised proclamation of war upon the interests of all the border slaveholding states, unless they unite with South Carolina:

"The introduction of slaves from other states, which may not become members of the southern confederacy, and particularly the border states, should be prohibited by legislative enactment, and by this means they will be brought to see that their safety depends upon a withdrawal from their enemies, and an union with their friends and natural allies. If they should continue their union with the nonslaveholding states, let them keep their slave property in their own borders, and the only alternative left them will be emancipation by their own act, or by the action of their confederates. We cannot consent to relieve them from their embarrassing situation, by permitting them to realize the money value for their slaves, by selling them to us, and thus prepare them, without any loss of property, to accommodate themselves to the northern free soil idea. But should they unite their destiny with us, and become stars in the southern galaxy -- members of a great southern confederation -- we will receive them with open arms and an enthusiastic greeting. Should, then, danger approach their borders, or an enemy, open or disguised, make war upon them, there is not a doubt but a living rampart of freemen, from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico, would line their borders and beat back the invaders."

Here we have the exhibition of a determined purpose to coerce Virginia and the other border states to follow her example; and if they fail to do so, then they are to be placed in such a position as will drive them to the emancipation of their slaves! This movement, begun ostensibly for the protection of slave property, for the diffusion and the preservation of the institution of slavery, is to be so managed and directed now, as to force states holding slave property, to free themselves from it, by emancipation. This is the avowed policy of the late executive of a state, interested in an institution sanctioned by the teachings and precepts of Christianity, and promotive of a higher degree of civilization and refinement -- an institution that ought to be diffused and extended, and the permanency and prosperity of which ought to be insured. Can it be possible that such suggestions can exert an influence upon the future action of either of the border states -- that they can be coerced into an union with those who thus manifest a determined purpose to rule or ruin them? They may rest satisfied that such a policy cannot control the action of Virginia. She has the independence and the ability to think for herself, and her action, whatever it may be, will be the result of her convictions of duty. She is equally as jealous of her honor as South Carolina or any other state, and she will guard and protect it, with a purpose as resolute and determined, and a spirit as firm and undaunted, as unyielding and as exacting.

I now propose to present, in contrast with these views of the executive of South Carolina, the sentiments announced by her commissioner in this capitol on the 19th of January 1860. In his address he declares, "I can confidently affirm that such an interchange of kindly feeling as you have exhibited, cannot fail to bind together then hearts of our people in closer ties of sympathy and fellowship." Does the conduct of the late executive of south Carolina, in his recent message, show that such has been the result? No observer of events for some months past can fail to have been struck with the numerous evidences of hostility and prejudice which have been exhibited towards Virginia by very many of the leading and most influential public men of that state. We have seen nothing going to show the existence of those "ties of sympathy and fellowship" which bind "together the hearts of our people," so handsomely alluded to by Col. Memminger on that interesting occasion. Distrust of us, and distrust without sufficient cause (a result greatly to be deplored), appears to have sundered the "ties of sympathy and fellowship" which ought to have existed, at this critical juncture in our affairs, not only between South Carolina and Virginia, but between all the slaveholding states. Such taunts as have been indulged in towards this commonwealth by the late executive of South Carolina, do not exhibit that spirit of comity which should at all times, and more especially at this time, characterize the intercourse and relations between sister states, with a common domestic institution, that can be best defended and maintained by united counsels and action. Such allusions to Virginia should never have been made by the executive of a state who feels her "obligation for the large contribution mind and effort which Virginia has made to the common cause," and who is more largely indebted to her for manifestations of particular concern in her "welfare."

In this address it was also declared, "that when we (South Carolina) propose a conference, we do so with the full understanding that we are but one of the states in that conference, entitled like all the others to express our opinions, but willing to respect and abide by the united judgment of the whole. If our pace is too fast for some, we are content to walk slower; our earnest wish is that all may keep together." These are noble sentiments, and declare a wound and proper position. In a movement so important, and involving consequences so serious to all the slaveholding states, no one state should have ventured to move, without first having given timely notice to the others of her purpose, even if she did not intend "to respect and abide by the united judgment of the whole." Such action on the part of south Carolina would at this moment, in all probability, have enabled "all" to "keep together." What effect her movement may have upon the future, time alone can disclose.

South Carolina, a sovereign state, had a right to adopt the line of policy she has pursued; and I would have made no special reference to her course, if I had not been indirectly invited to do so by her late executive, in his uncalled for references to Virginia. It has been my rule, as the executive of Virginia, to exhibit, in my official intercourse with the states of the confederacy, a spirit of comity, and to manifest all that respect which is due from one state to another. Whenever the motives or the actions of Virginia are arraigned, I will feel it to be my duty to remonstrate; and in doing so, I will observe that moderation, courtesy and kind spirit which become the character of a state whose "large contributions to the Union" have "secured to her the respect and affection of every state of this confederacy."

In the recent message of the governor of Mississippi, I find a reference to the border states, of the same character, and manifesting the same spirit which has been exhibited by the late executive of South Carolina:

"As it is more than probable that many of the citizens of the border states may seek a market for their slaves in the cotton states, I recommend the passage of an act prohibiting the introduction of slaves into this state, unless their owners come with them and become citizens, and prohibiting the introduction of slaves for sale by all persons whomsoever."

These references to the border states are pregnant with meaning, and no one can be at a loss to understand what that meaning is. While disavowing any unkind feeling towards South Carolina and Mississippi, I must still say, that I will resist the coercion of Virginia into the adoption of a line of policy, whenever the attempt is made by northern or southern states.

For the present condition of public affairs, the non-slaveholding states are chargeable; and if the Union shall be destroyed, upon them will rest the solemn responsibility. Their systematic and persistent warfare upon the institution of domestic slavery, as it exists amongst us -- their fierce and unqualified denunciation of it, and all who recognize or tolerate it, have done much to create the present state of exasperation existing between the two sections of the Union. Hatred to slavery and slaveholders is instilled into the minds of their children, as part and parcel of their education, throughout the infected district of New England. The institution is constantly assailed -- through the press, in the pulpit, in public meetings, in private associations, in their legislative assemblies in their statues, on all occasions -- as morally, socially and politically wrong. The slave owner is painted as the great criminal of the age, deserving death. Money is raised and has been expended in hiring desperate and depraved men, in arming and supporting them, in order that they may make raids into southern states, and excite the slaves to insurrection and murder. Arms peculiarly suited to the use of the slave, have been fabricated, and sent into the slave states, to be placed in the hands of this class of our population, after they have been stimulated to such a degree of madness as will qualify them for the commission of murder, arson, and every species of cruelty. The results of these teachings were seen in the Harpers Ferry raid.

Such an outrage ought to have provoked the unqualified and universal condemnation of good and law-abiding citizens in every state of the confederacy. In atrocity, it stands without parallel in the history of our country, and all right thinking men would suppose that neither the authors nor the act would find apologists any where. Is it so? Did we not find numerous apologists for the conduct of John Brown and his flagitious associates, throughout many of the northern, but more especially in the New England states? The fountain of New England sympathy was broken up to its depths, and gushed forth, when John Brown and his followers were condemned, after a fair trial, and expiated their crimes upon the gallows. Though they are dead, New England sympathy for them still survives. But a few weeks ago a John Brown sympathizer was elected to the gubernatorial chair of the state of Massachusetts, one of the original thirteen. The executive chairs of the states of Ohio and Iowa are also filled with the same description of men, holding the same general views, advocating the same principles and measures, and exhibiting deep sympathy and strong partiality for these heartless malefactors: both elected, however, prior to the Harpers Ferry raid.

Such an outrage ought to have provoked the unqualified and universal condemnation of good and law-abiding citizens in every state of the confederacy. In atrocity, it stands without parallel in the history of our country, and all right thinking men would suppose that neither the authors nor the act would find apologists any where. Is it so? Did we not find numerous apologists for the conduct of John Brown and his flagitious associates, throughout many of the northern, but more especially in the New England states? The fountain of New England sympathy was broken up to its depths, and gushed forth, when John Brown and his followers were condemned, after a fair trial, and expiated their crimes upon the gallows. Though they are dead, New England sympathy for them still survives. But a few weeks ago a John Brown sympathizer was elected to the gubernatorial chair of the state of Massachusetts, one of the original thirteen. The executive chairs of the states of Ohio and Iowa are also filled with the same description of men, holding the same general views, advocating the same principles and measures, and exhibiting deep sympathy and strong partiality for these heartless malefactors: both elected, however, prior to the Harpers Ferry raid.

The people of the northern states, as their statues show, and it is confirmed by their speeches and addresses, their resolutions in public meetings, and indeed in almost every conceivable mode, have been endeavoring to confine slavery within its present limits, by excluding it from all the territories belonging to the government. They have been endeavoring "to draw a line around the southern states," with the purpose of then declaring that slavery shall not go beyond the limits thus determined by them. The statutes and resolutions of many of the non-slaveholding states, from the time Texas sought admission into the Union, up to this day, confirm this view of the designs and purposes of the free states.

Who can have forgotten the attempt made by the northern people to use the mails for the transmission of the vilest papers, illustrated by pictorial representations, calculated and intended "to produce dissatisfaction and revolt amongst the slaves, and to incite their wild passions to vengeance" against their masters and others in slaveholding states. The objects they then had in view, and towards the accomplishment of which their efforts were directed, were the abolition of slavery in the district of Columbia, and the exclusion of slave states from admission into the Union.

Since the formation of the government, composed of the original thirteen states, twenty new states have been added to the Union, making now the number of thirty-three. Of the number so added, eleven have been free states, and in slave states. For many years the policy was to admit states pari passu, so as to preserve the equilibrium in the senate between the north and the south. In carrying out this policy, Vermont and Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, Indiana and Mississippi, Illinois and Alabama, Maine and Missouri, Arkansas and Michigan, Florida and Iowa, came in together, or near the same time. When the state of Missouri was admitted, the state of Maine was cut off from the then state of Massachusetts, for the purpose of preserving the equilibrium between the north and south, in the senate. A northern state was divided, with a view of keeping up the equipoise, and that division gave an additional free state to the Union. That equipoise is now destroyed, and we stand fifteen slave and eighteen free states. Even in this state of the case, the south has been so forbearing and unselfish, that she has never asked for the division of her states, that the equipoise might be restored.

An advantage has been gained over us in another respect, equally important. The organized territories (with the exception of New Mexico) are destined to become free states; and it may be that even this territory will be of like character. All of these territories will come into the Union near about the same time; and while the north has the advantage over us now of six senators, that advantage must, in the ordinary course of events, if the Union shall survive, be greatly increased. Besides, the territory of the slave states is generally large; the territory of the free states generally small. Rhode Island is made equal to Missouri in the senate; Connecticut is a counterpoise to Virginia; Vermont, with its wild fanaticism, is an offset to Georgia, the empire state of the south.

Can it be surprising that the people of the south should be restive and uneasy under such circumstances? In addition, a candidate has just been elected to the presidency, who gave utterance to the following atrocious sentiments, indicating his bitter hostility to the south and her institutions: "In my opinion, it (the slavery agitation) will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, north as well as south." And again, he says: "I embrace with pleasure this opportunity of declaring my disapprobation of that clause of the constitution which denies to a portion of the colored people the right of suffrage."

When a president is elected, entertaining and boldly avowing such sentiments -- when, to this moment, they have never been retracted or qualified, have we not reason for alarm and resentment?

The Union is now disrupted; let the north bear the blame. They have brought these sad and deplorable results upon the country, and the candid and honest men of the world will hold them responsible for the destruction of a government that has challenged the admiration and commanded the respect of the nations of the earth. Before God and the world, they will be held answerable for this calamity.

They yet have the power to end the strife and excitement, and restore confidence to the country. Will they do it? I await their response, but not without apprehension. Tiem, however, will soon furnish the answer. The present state of things cannot continue long. A change for the better or the worse, must soon come.

Can it be supposed that a dissolution of the Union can end in the organization of a northern and southern confederacy, embracing the states and territory on this side of the Rocky mountains? I entertain no such opinion. I consider it not only possible, but highly probable, that when disunion shall come, we will have four organizations, independent and distinct. The states and territories on the Pacific, by reason of their locality and isolation, will form one. The New England states, with New York, in consequence of their identity of opinions on the subject of African slavery, and their other fanatical ideas of like kind, will constitute the second. The border slave states, with Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Missouri, and the northwestern states and territories, will form the third. The Ohio river, a great highway, owned by Virginia, furnishes a common bond of union between several of them -- the Missouri river, another great highway, is a bond of union between others -- and as these make up the Mississippi, that great valley will sooner or later form a union with those with whom they trade, and whose interests are therefore common. For this organization, New Orleans would be its chief city. It would be the exporting and importing city for the states in existence, and those which may be hereafter formed out of the immense unsettled territory which it would possess. Besides, the unsold public lands would invite population, and their sales would furnish the means to defray governmental expenses, in part at least. Kentucky and the northwestern territory originally formed a part of the domain of Virginia. This organization will keep her united with what formerly belonged to her, and constituted a part of her territory. The cotton states would form the fourth. All these confederacies being thus formed, although Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi might at first attach themselves to the cotton state organization, a very short time would elapse before they would find it to be their interest to connect themselves with the border and northwestern states. Their trade, their interests, their business relations, are with those states, and all upon the waters of the Mississippi and its tributaries must necessarily be united. If Louisiana remained in alliance with the cotton states, her great city of New Orleans would have to compete with Mobile and Charleston, for the export and import trade, and the most she could hope for, would be a third of it.

Such an arrangement would be followed by a struggle for the key of the gulf (Pensacola); and the third organization would have it, cost what it might in treasure and blood. It would be too important an acquisition to give up to the cotton state confederacy, without a desperate struggle. These are my speculations as to the results that are to follow a dissolution of the Union. These results are bad enough, but may be much worse. It is not given to us to read the future. We may, however, speculate about it.

When the Union was formed, it was not expected or believed that the domestic institutions of all the states should be alike. The institutions of Maine and Louisiana were never intended to be the same. The people of each were invested with full power to determine whether slavery should exist, and the former decided against the institution; the latter decided in its favor -- as each had the undoubted right to do.

In the list of grievances against the north, it is somewhat remarkable, that in our own state so little has been said in regard to the conflict of the governors of Iowa and Ohio, in refusing to surrender fugitives from justice who participated in the Harpers Ferry raid. They were regularly indicted; the governors of those states were applied to in due form to deliver them up; the application was refused; and or people, instead of taking a stand, and making an issue upon this practical question, seem inclined to ignore it, and unite in the complaints of the cotton states. The complaints of those states are rather against the financial and commercial policy of the federal government, than any action or want of action on the subject of slavery. The slaver owners of Virginia have suffered seriously; the wrongs inflicted upon us by the conduct of these executives, have been great: Still, we have heard but little complaint in their own state. The grievances complained of mainly, are those which the cotton states plead as a justification for their action. Would it not be well for us to redress the wrongs our own people have suffered, before we undertake to redress the wrongs of others, who have suffered much less, so far as slavery is concerned, than we have done? Our action should be based upon the wrongs done to our own people.

The proposition for the call of a state convention, to determine the position which Virginia shall take, in view of passing events appears to have been received with very general favor. As the subject has been much discussed by the people in their primary meetings, it is not only proper, but it is doubtless expected that I shall refer to it in this communication. It is pleasant, alike to the private citizen and the public officer, to know that his views and opinions are endorsed by those around him; that he is backed by the popular sentiment of the day; ;but there are times and occasions, in the history of every man, when it is imperative upon him to adhere to his convictions of duty, maintain his opinions firmly, but courteously, even at the hazard of being found in a minority. I have no hesitation in expressing my opinion upon this or any other question of public concern.

I have my convictions upon this question, and I give expression to them, in declaring my opposition at this time, to the call of a state convention. I see no necessity for it at this time, nor do I now see any good practical result that can be accomplished by it. I do not consider this a propitious time to moot the question, and I apprehend, from indications that have been exhibited, that serious difficulties and embarrassments will attend the movement. Subsequent events may show the necessity for it.

In 1833 and 1850, when the existence of the Union was seriously threatened, when the danger was imminent, the legislature accomplished every thing desired, in a manner as satisfactory as it would have been accomplished, if the mode now suggested had been adopted. On neither occasion was the legislature chosen, with reference to the events which subsequently occurred, and which devolved upon them the necessity for such action as was taken, and which gave so much satisfaction to the people of Virginia and the whole country.

In my inaugural message I made this recommendation, which, if adopted, would perhaps have relieved us, to some extent, from the complications with which we are now embarrassed:

"I also suggest that a commission, to consist of two of our most intelligent, discreet and experienced statesmen, shall be appointed, whose duty it shall be to visit the legislatures of those states which have passed laws to obstruct the execution of the fugitive slave act, and insist, in the name of Virginia, upon their unconditional repeal. In support of the suggestion of the appointment of a commission, a precedent is to be found in the history of our own state, in the appointment of the distinguished Benjamin Watkins Leigh, who was commissioned to visit the legislature of South Carolina, at the time of the controversy between that state and the federal government. The existence of the Union was then greatly imperiled, and the action of Virginia exerted a most happy influence in bringing about a settlement that averted the danger and restored peace to the country. That crisis in public affairs was almost as serious and alarming as the present."

In renewing the recommendation at this time, I annex a modification, and that is, that commissioners shall not be sent to either of the New England states. The occurrences of the last two months have satisfied me, that New England Puritanism has no respect for human constitutions, and so little regard for the Union, that they would not sacrifice their prejudices, or smother their resentments to perpetuate it.

I further recommend, that commissioners be sent to the legislatures or conventions of all the slaveholding states, to confer with them, with a view of ascertaining what demands, in the nature of amendments to the constitution, or otherwise, will be satisfactory in this exigency. The adoption of this plan will in all probability tend to secure harmony and produce unity of action.

The controversy now has reached a point when it must be settled on some fair, just and permanent basis, if we are to be reunited, and peace, quiet and order restored to the country. The excitement now existing is ruinous to the financial and commercial business, and to the agricultural, planting, mechanical, mercantile and manufacturing interests of all sections. Unless a settlement of the controversy shall be speedily effected, every species of property must fall to merely nominal prices, and a scene of general and ruinous bankruptcy, far exceeding, in extent and severity, any that has preceded it, must be the inevitable result. Even now, hundreds and thousands have been thrown out of employment, and at this inclement season poverty, want and misery must be the portion of them and their dependent families. It is time the conservative spirit of the country was aroused and stimulated to energetic action. No time is to be lost in putting into immediate requisition all fair, honorable and constitutional means that promise to secure a satisfactory and permanent adjustment.

What, then, is necessary to be done? The northern states must strike from their statute books their personal liberty bills, and fulfill their constitutional obligations in regard to fugitive slaves and fugitives from justice. If our slave escape into non-slaveholding states, they must be delivered up; if abandoned, depraved, and desperately wicked men come into slave states to excite insurrections, or to commit other crimes against our laws, and escape into free states, they must be given up for trial and punishment, when lawfully demanded by the constituted authorities of those states whose laws have been violated.

Second -- We must have proper and effective guarantees for the protection of slavery in the district of Columbia. We can never consent to the abolition of slavery in the district, until Maryland shall emancipate her slaves; and not then, unless it shall be demanded by the citizens of the district.

Third -- Our equality in the states and territories must be fully recognized, and our rights of person and property adequately protected and secured. We must have guarantees that slavery shall not be interdicted in any territory now belonging to, or which may hereafter be acquired by the general government; either by the congress of the United States or a territorial legislature: that we shall be permitted to pass through the free states and territories without molestation; and if a slave shall be abducted, that the state in which he or she shall be lost, shall pay the full value of such slave to the owner.

Fourth --Like guarantees must be given, that the transmission of slaves between the slaveholding states, either by land or water, shall not be interfered with.

Fifth - The passage and enforcement of rigid laws for the punishment of such persons in the free states as shall organize, or aid and abet in organizing either b the contribution of money, arms, munitions of war, or in any other mode whatsoever, companies of men, with a view to assail the slaveholding states, and to excite slaves to insurrection.

Sixth - That the general government shall be deprived of the power of appointing to local offices in the slaveholding states, persons who are hostile to their institutions, or inimical to their rights -- the object being to prevent the appointing power from using patronage to sow the seeds of strife and dissension between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding classes in the southern states.

No guarantees can be given without prejudice to the honor or girths, and without a sacrifice of the interests of either of the non-slaveholding states. We ask nothing, therefore, which is not clearly right, and necessary to our protection: And surely, when so much is at stake, it will be freely, cheerfully and promptly assented to. It is the interest of the north and the south to preserve the government from destruction; and they should omit the use of no proper or honorable means to avert so great a calamity. The public safety and welfare demand instant action.

Many of the fanatics in the northern states are constantly calling attention to the fact, that the number of slave owners, as compared with the white population in the slave states, is small; and hence the inference that the non-slaveholder is not loyal to the state, and would not willingly defend the institution. This is a most serious mistake, and is well calculated to make an erroneous impression upon the northern mind. Such a representation does serious injustice to that loyal and patriotic class of our citizens. It is a reflection upon them, not warranted by their conduct, now or heretofore.

The number of persons in this state, in the year 1860, charged with taxes on slaves, was 53,874. The number of persons charged with taxes on lands in the same year, was 159,088. Most of the persons charged with taxes on slaves, are the owners of lands also; and others who own lands, own no slaves. The n umber of persons charged wtih taxes, other than owners of lands and slaves, is 201,000. "All these parties have a common interest in the protection of persons and property, and each feels that in protecting the rights and property of the others, he is securing and protecting his own, whether of little or great value." As the chief magistrate, and as a citizen of Virginia, it is a source of pleasure to me to know that there is no jealousy or distrust, and that harmony and confidence exist between these classes. If the northern people entertain the opinion that the non-slaveholders of the south are not reliable and trustworthy in all respects, they are most grossly mistaken and deceived.

I have seen it stated that in the empire city of New York the owners of real estate numbered less than 15,000. Do those who are not owners of real estate feel no interest in the property of the 15,000? Would they be unwilling to defend or protect it, if it were in danger of destruction? It might be charged with the same propriety, and with as much truth, in this instance, that feeling no interest in common with the owner, they would not risk their lives for the protection of his real estate, worth millions of dollars. They are interested -- deeply interested in all that relates to the public prosperity. Their prosperity, their comfort, and the comfort of their families are dependent upon the protection of the rights of property of every individual in the community in which he lives.

I have always reverenced the state rights doctrines of Virginia, as inculcated in the resolutions of '98 and the report of '99. I believe the doctrines therein asserted, and the principles therein affirmed, to be worthy of all acceptation. I cordially endorse them, and in so doing, endorse the doctrine of secession. I do not propose to go into an argument in support of my opinion upon this question. The subject has been ably discussed for years, on both sides, and those arguments are familiar to all reading and well informed men. I am content to rest the question upon the discussions which have taken place, and leave the people to form their own opinions and draw their own conclusions. I refer to it, in this connection, to declare my unqualified hostility to the doctrine of coercion by the federal government.

In my canvass for the office I now hold, I declared my opinion frankly and fearlessly on this question, and every man in the state had the amplest opportunity to be informed of my position. In a written address "to the voters of Virginia," issued on the 12th of May 1859, I stated, "Should it be the pleasure of the people to elevate me to the office of governor, I will endeavor in my administration to carry out the time honored state rights principles of Virginia. If at any time during my administration the federal government shall attempt to interfere with the rights and institutions of Virginia; if it shall at any time interfere with the rights of slavery or the rights of slaveholders in our state, I will be prepared, with the aid of the people, to resist any efforts to coerce us into submission. I will resist any attempt of federal troops to cross our line to execute such unjust, iniquitous and unconstitutional laws, either in Virginia or in any other southern state." My position now on this question, is what it was then. It has not been changed or modified. I will regard an attempt to pass federal troops across the territory of Virginia, for the purpose of coercing a southern seceding state, as an act of invasion, which should be met and repelled. The allegiance of every citizen of Virginia is due to her; and when her flag is unfurled, it is his duty to rally to its support and defense. The citizen of Virginia who will not respond to her call, is a traitor to her rights and her honor.

I am not without hope that the present difficulties will find a satisfactory solution in the end. Let the New England states and western New York be sloughed off. In the last war with Great Britain, the New England states entertained the treasonable design of forming an alliance with Canada. Let them now consummate it. At the time the Hartford convention met, the most treasonable body that has ever assembled in our country, it was declared in their report, "Whatever it shall appear that these causes (of our calamities) are radical and permanent, a separation, by equitable arrangement, will be preferable to an alliance by constraint, among nominal friends, but real enemies, inflamed by mutual hatred and jealousy, and inviting, by intestine divisions, contempt and aggression from abroad." The causes of our calamities "are radical and permanent," and we are indebted to New England for them. They are our "nominal friends, but real enemies;" they have originated more trouble, caused more strife, and created more hatred, dissension and division in our country than all the other states combined. They have uniformly opposed the acquisition of territory, and consequently the organization and admission of new states into the Union. If their policy had prevailed, we should have had at this day the original thirteen states, and no more. All those states carved out of the Louisiana territory, the northwestern territory, Spanish territory and Mexican territory, would have been excluded from association and union with us. They have shown themselves the uncompromising enemies of progress; they have sternly resisted every attempt to extend our empire, under the fear that "the western states, multiplied in number and augmented in population, will control the interests of the whole." Existing difficulties furnish abundant reasons and the best opportunity for severing our connection with them; and we ought not to permit the occasion to pass unimproved.

A confederacy, composed of the remaining states, can arrange terms under which they can live harmoniously and happily together, and now that the Union is disrupted, we should avail ourselves of this favorable opportunity to commence the work of reconstruction. In commencing and prosecuting this important work, we must look to our security, the protection of our institutions, and our domestic peace. Let the fabric be reared, discarding all rotten and unsound material, and exhibiting an ordinary share of prudence and wisdom in its fabrication, and there is but little reason to doubt that it can be constructed upon fair and satisfactory terms, and the rights and interests, the institutions and honor of all its members can be satisfactorily secured. We can form such a confederacy as will draw to it the affections and sympathies of its citizens, thereby securing for it a foundation on which it can rest in safety.

Such is my plan for relief from the difficulties, the perplexities and the complications which now environ us, and I present it for the consideration of my countrymen. Every consideration of duty to ourselves and those who are to succeed us, demands that the controversy shall be settled finally. It can be no longer delayed.

The times require prudence, wisdom and patriotism; union, harmony and conciliation. Every man should be willing to risk himself and his future prospects to quell the strife and restore peace to the nation, torn as it now is by dissension, and threatened with anarchy, trusting to the people to do justice to his intentions, even if they should think his judgment in error.

In the present posture of affairs, it becomes us to cast about and ascertain in what way the interests of Virginia can be preserved and advanced. It is neither politic nor wise to neglect our material prosperity, and permit it to be sacrificed, and destroyed by political or sectional broils. This obligation upon us is imperative, whether the Union shall continue to exist or be destroyed. In either event, our material prosperity should be with us an object of the first importance, and to its advancement our efforts should be steadily directed.

We have the best port in the country; and no man can doubt, if direct trade were established between Norfolk and Europe, it would give increased prosperity to every interest in the commonwealth. It would secure for us a commercial independence that would prove of immense value in any contingency that might occur. The present and prospective system of rail roads in the state already points to the great northwest, and must soon become an important part of the immense net work of roads which now reach Kansas, and are fast progressing towards the Pacific; and the system, when complete, will be entirely, or almost so, within the central belt from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Virginia then, whether in or out of the Union as it stands at present, has it in her power to place herself in the position, in reference to this great interior and exterior trade, which really belongs to her.

With ships sailing directly to Europe, at regular intervals from the port of Norfolk, an import trade could be established, and importers in the interior cities throughout the west, and some portions of the Southwest, would receive their supplies through this channel. These transportations would all pass over our rail roads to their intersection with the rail roads of other states, especially those of Tennessee, Kentucky and some of the northwestern states. The export and import business would be concentrated upon the Virginia roads, and would thus insure to them controlling power in the arrangement, securing great benefits to the state, and good profits to the stockholders. It may be added that this commerce is already in existence, and only awaits the easiest, cheapest and most expeditious means of reaching the Atlantic, to be conveyed thence to all points of destination, both outward and inward.

I am entirely satisfied, that if direct trade were established between Norfolk and Europe, it would result in the enlargement of our cities, the increase of our agricultural products, the development of our resources, the creation of manufactures, the enhancement of the value of lands, the opening of the coal and mineral beds, make the stock which the state owns in her rail roads productive -- and the end would be, a diminution of the state debt, and a reduction in the _____ of taxation. If such would be the results, the subject is eminently deserving of the most serious consideration. The attention of the people has been directed to the question, and the time is therefore favorable for decisive action upon it. I leave it to your wisdom to digest a plan that will secure the great end.

I have thus presented my reflections on federal relations, frankly and with that independence which is becoming the position I occupy of this interesting and dangerous epoch in our history. It is only by free comparison of opinions, and a manly examination of the questions in issue, that we can hope to evolve the true state of facts, and provide a remedy for existing troubles and threatened dangers. Having performed my duty, the whole matter is with you, for such action as the wisdom and patriotism of the legislature may adopt. Be our conclusions what they may, I am satisfied they will be results of your convictions as to what is best to be done in this emergency, for the honor and interests of our beloved commonwealth and our country.

In conclusion, I have but to add, that the will of Virginia will furnish an inflexible rule for the direction of my own action. My destiny is linked indissolubly with hers. In the expressive language of Ruth, "Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God."


Transcribed by Carolyn Sims, Department of History, Furman University, from State of Virginia, Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia, for the Extra Session, 1861, (Richmond: William F. Ritchie, Public Printer, 1861.), Doc. I, iii-xxvii.