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West Virginia split from Post War Supreme Court of the US decisions regarding secession

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by MHB1862, Nov 17, 2016.

  1. MHB1862

    MHB1862 Private

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    A question that has bothered me for years is, if the SCOTUS deemed secession from the Union be unlawful, how then was it legal for West Virginia to secede from Virginia during an illegal war?
    Can scholars out there help me understand why the first was illegal and the second legal?
     
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  3. Greyfalcon

    Greyfalcon Corporal

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    ...or for that matter, why was it not illegal for the colonies to succeed from lawful British rule, for if men like Jefferson Davis were traitors, then surely men like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, were as well.
     
  4. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Might I suggest you go to the search feature of this web site and type in West Virginia and view some previous threads on this topic?

    Greyfalcon,

    It WAS illegal for the colonies to revolt from lawful, British rule and the colonies were fully aware of that fact.

    Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, just like Davis, WERE traitors.

    The only difference was that the former won their rebellion while the later lost his.

    Unionblue
     
  5. Eric Calistri

    Eric Calistri 2nd Lieutenant

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    1) Unlike unilateral secession by a state, division of a state into two or more states is specifically lawful under the US Constitution, and had precedents prior to 1862, for example Maine had been part of Mass. and Kentucky had been part of VA.

    2) your assumption that the war was "illegal" is not correct under the US Constitution.

    3) you might read the relevant Supreme Court Decisions:



     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
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  6. NedBaldwin

    NedBaldwin Captain

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    Im not sure what you mean by extra-legal.
    The suppression of rebellion can be thought of as a large scale police action.
    In order to enforce the law, use of force may be necessary.


    After President Johnson issued a full pardon to everyone in the Confederacy, prosecuting was no longer an option.
     
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  7. MHB1862

    MHB1862 Private

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    Sorry. The fragment of the sentence concerning peace was meant to be deleted. My finger hit "Post reply" before intended. No. The Southern fire eaters did not want peace prior to the firing on Sumpter. That said, there were negotiated peace feelers as the war progressed.
     
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  8. photoman475

    photoman475 Corporal

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    How can West Virginia be accused of secession? Since Virginia said they left the Union, and those western counties were part of a state that said it was no longer part of the Union, weren't those western counties really saying that they did not recognize the illegal action of the rest of the state and were remaining in the Union? I too am trying to figure out the fine points of the law here, but it seems to me that the only way for those counties to be a part of the Union was to organize them as a new state, which is what was done.
     
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  9. 16thVA

    16thVA First Sergeant

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    West Virginia cannot be accused of secession, because that was not how it was created. It was one of the first examples of imperialism by the US Government in creating new territories in troubled areas in which the government had vested interests. It was a reward to Unionists in Wheeling. The circumstances in Hawaii's statehood were very different than West Virginia, but it too was created by imperialism.

    West Virginians had no interest in separating from Virginia. No one thinks it curious that there had never been any effort by West Virginians to organize or petition Richmond for statehood before the war? Kentuckians did that, held conventions, petitioned Richmond and Washington for years to have their own state, but West Virginians never did this. It was only achieved in the midst of war, by an unelected junta in Wheeling supported by the US military. Voting was held under military authority and only 23 % of the residents approved the statehood ordinance, 18,408 out of 79,515 voters. 8 counties never registered any vote under Wheeling. Although most of West Virginia's delegates at the Richmond convention had voted against Virginia's secession, most of those delegates returned to Richmond in June and signed the secession ordinance, and although West Virginians voted less than 2 to 1 against secession, for the most part they did not support Wheeling or the Federal government once McClellan entered West Virginia. Wheeling had to lean on Pennsylvania and Ohio to fill the "Virginia" regiments, at least for the first year of the war. More than 2,000 West Virginia civilians found themselves in Union prisons in Ohio and Delaware, in Doddridge County 1 in every 20 voters ended up in Camp Chase.

    The legality of West Virginia's creation is an entirely different subject than the actual desire for statehood by West Virginians, a subject that is almost never addressed by historians.
     
  10. MattL

    MattL First Sergeant

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    You can certainly see the difference in slave and non-slave interests in this slavery dispersion map between what would be West Virginia and Virginia:

    http://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1860_slave_distribution.pdf
     
  11. 16thVA

    16thVA First Sergeant

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    Hello Matt. The number of slaves in WV made no real difference, many counties with almost no slaves voted in favor of the Confederacy on May 23, 1861. You can see from this map-

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/1860-61_Secession_in_Appalachia_by_County.jpg
     
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  12. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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  13. MattL

    MattL First Sergeant

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    I'm not sure what qualified as voting for secession or not, but here are the results from the two votes for secession in Virginia:

    http://secession.richmond.edu/visualizations/vote-maps.html#

    The first vote
    Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 12.13.27 PM.png

    The second vote
    Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 12.13.22 PM.png
     
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  14. 16thVA

    16thVA First Sergeant

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    Hi Matt. It can be confusing. Those are delegate votes, not the popular vote from May 23, 1861. And as I said, once the war started most of the western delegates returned to Richmond in June and signed the ordinance of secession.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. MattL

    MattL First Sergeant

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    That makes sense. Of course the delegate votes on April 17 shows a clear divide between much of Virginia and much of West Virginia.

    I would say the delegate votes show your statement

    " The number of slaves in WV made no real difference"

    Is not true, I see a very real difference in how they viewed secession.
     
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  16. trice

    trice Major

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    Western Virginia had been a second-class area for a long-time and had finally gotten to equality in representation about the time the Civil War started. The Tidewater and the Piedmont were totally different places, far away.

    If you were in the western part of Virginia in 1860, the fastest way to get to Richmond was probably to get to the Ohio River, follow it northward until you hit the B&O Railroad, take the train east to Baltimore, then board a steamship to sail south down the Chesapeake and then turn back west to go up the James River.

    Economic interests also tended to be very different than in the Piedmont and the Tidewater. Western Virginia was more like southeast Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was much closer than Richmond in real terms. Western Virginia tended to support the Morrill Tariff in 1860; the rest of the state was largely against it.
     
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  17. 16thVA

    16thVA First Sergeant

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    The previous post is not really true, I would have responded earlier when the original thread was broken up to create this but didn't see it until this week.

    West Virginia was not, and is not, like OH/PA. West Virginians were Virginians and had great pride in the state and defended Virginia's attitudes to the borders. There were no abolition societies in western Virginia. West Virginians fought against the abolitionists along the OH/PA borders, even the Wheeling newspapers maintained the pro-slavery attitudes of Richmond. Slave owners in WV filed suits in OH/PA against abolitionists for the return of fugitive slaves. Mr. Van Meter in Hardy County won his suit in PA, while George Henderson in Wood County pursued a lawsuit in OH for 10 years for the loss of 9 slaves. West Virginians crossed the Ohio on several occasions to pursue abolitionists who helped runaways. In one famous case in 1846 they arrested (or kidnapped) three Ohioans on the Ohio side of the river and brought them back to Virginia for trial, the situation escalating to involve the governors of both states.

    West Virginians in southern and eastern counties traded their goods in the Valley or shipped them south on the Virginia & Tennessee RR. Even Wheeling did a large trade with the cotton states. The first steamboat built in Wheeling in 1816, The Washington, made its first trip to New Orleans, New Orleans newspapers advertised Wheeling goods for sale, and they shipped cotton up the river to Wheeling for shipment on the B&O north. As Wheeling historian Beverly Fluty stated "Wheeling was very divided on this consideration, whether it wanted to be north or south. Because so many of the businessmen had contracts with southern suppliers, with wagons going down the Ohio river, the Mississippi river, all the way to New Orleans."

    An Ohio paper in 1861 interviewed a Unionist refugee from Kanawha county. Kanawha County had given a majority against the secession ordinance, but as the newspaper observed-

    "The situation of affairs there at this time is peculiar. The county gave 1400 for Union the other day, and yet the Unionists are daily in danger of insult, and even personal injury.

    One great dead weight upon all expression of approval of the course of the [Federal] government is the State pride of which we have before spoken, and which disposes the possessor of the feeling to resent any real or fancied insult to the State. The common people, who are not well informed enough to know the plan of the administration, or to understand it if they did, are easily moved by this feeling, and under the influence of their leaders, are bitterly hostile to the presence of any foreign troops."

    It is important to remember that Wheeling was not West Virginia, it was the most atypical city in the west and the Restored Government was never supported by the majority of western Virginians.
     
  18. Youngblood

    Youngblood Sergeant

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    Article 4 section 3
    New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
     
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  19. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    Understanding West Virgin has been frustrating for me.
     
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  20. ErnieMac

    ErnieMac Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    IMO the Federal government paid close attention to the legalities and ignored the sentiments of the vast majority of Virginians, including, according to some sources, a majority of the residents of what would become West Virginia. Large portions of Virginia (the western regions, the area around D.C., the Eastern Shore and the southeastern corner near Norfolk) were under control of Union forces. There were Confederate raids and guerrilla actions, but the Federals maintained control. Politicians from western Virginian claimed the state officials had abandoned their posts and proceeded to create a new state government. It was called the 'Restored Government of Virginia' with Francis Pierpont as governor. The 'Restored Government' also sent Representatives and Senators to DC.

    The Lincoln administration chose to recognize the 'Restored Government' as the legitimate government of the entire state of Virginia. The U.S. Congress also chose to recognize the as legitimate the named Congressmen and Senators. A state legislature was elected for the areas under Union control. Needless to say those men serving with the Confederate armies or having fled the area didn't vote and it is probable that pro-Confederate voters were suppressed during these elections. Despite this, when the legislature of the recognized 'Restored Government' voted to create a new state from the western counties of Virginia, they legally met the requirements of the Constitution requiring approval of the state legislature of Virginia.
     
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  21. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Once VA seceded, the legislature that approved secession went with the secessionists and was out law to the Constitution and unrecognized by the Constitution. The loyalist of West VA elected a legislature that was loyal to the United States and recognized by the Constitution. Therefore it met the Constitutional requirements to give consent. In secession you cannot be both subject to and independent of the Constitution.
     

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