Why Did Virginia Secede ?

atlantis

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In 1860 there was a republican party in Virginia and it had begun to spread east with a small contingent in Prince William county between Fredericksburg and Washington DC. There was a good prospect that the state senate come 1865 would be based on the white basis like the lower house in the general assembly. The tide was turning against slavery in Virginia.
 

Rebforever

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Thanks, Reb.

I think you're generally right about the 2:1 ratio (or maybe 60/40), but you have to distinguish between the two separate and distinct "Unionist" factions. They were not monolithic in interests or values. One faction (the one that mostly switched in the final vote) were conditional Unionists who didn't want immediate secession, but wanted to defer the issue of secession to give Lincoln/Republicans time to change their positions on slavery in the territories and a constitutional amendment directly addressing slavery. This faction was very much willing to consider secession if Lincoln/Republicans didn't back down on the slavery components of the Republican platform. The other faction, who didn't identify as strongly with slavery interests, and who ultimately mostly voted against secession, were not as willing to sacrifice the Union on the basis of this type of slavery ultimatum.

Looking forward to our continued discussion!
It seems you have attempted to second guess what I am going to post.
So, I will keep it short.
Lincoln cared nothing about slavery and said so if the South stayed in the Union.
The Unionist were the ones that mentioned the slaves.
And slavery was not illegal at that time in history.
President Davis called up 100,000 men and Lincoln called up 75,000 men and when that happened, Virginia seceded for various reasons that never said anything about slavery. It was a moot point at that time.
Have no more to say about this.
 

JerryD

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View attachment 412997
Thanks, JerryD. I'm not sure how you get to that interpretation, given the clear language of Resolution 2 (copied above) and the lengthier Resolution 3 which laid out their view as to what Lincoln/Republicans needed to do with regard to slavery to "reconcile the unhappy differences between the two sections of the country." The Resolution makes it clear that Virginia was not willing to live in a Union with fewer slave states unless Republicans backed off their platform. Otherwise - they said very clearly - they were going to "unite [their] destiny with the slaveholding states of the south." That is some pretty powerful and clear language, and was 180 degrees opposite to the notion that Virginia was committed to remaining in the Union under the 1860 Republican platform.
I read that as meaning no war. The North simply lets the South depart in peace. That was what the departing states wanted, and would reconcile them. I think you are reading a lot into it that simply is not there.
 

Viper21

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View attachment 412997
Thanks, JerryD. I'm not sure how you get to that interpretation, given the clear language of Resolution 2 (copied above) and the lengthier Resolution 3 which laid out their view as to what Lincoln/Republicans needed to do with regard to slavery to "reconcile the unhappy differences between the two sections of the country." The Resolution makes it clear that Virginia was not willing to live in a Union with fewer slave states unless Republicans backed off their platform. Otherwise - they said very clearly - they were going to "unite [their] destiny with the slaveholding states of the south." That is some pretty powerful and clear language, and was 180 degrees opposite to the notion that Virginia was committed to remaining in the Union under the 1860 Republican platform.
January 1861, & April 1861 were completely different circumstances.

The events from 12 April - 17 April have WAY more to do with what happened on 17 April than what happened in January 1861.
 

Dead Parrott

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Thanks, Reb.

I think you're generally right about the 2:1 ratio (or maybe 60/40), but you have to distinguish between the two separate and distinct "Unionist" factions. They were not monolithic in interests or values. One faction (the one that mostly switched in the final vote) were conditional Unionists who didn't want immediate secession, but wanted to defer the issue of secession to give Lincoln/Republicans time to change their positions on slavery in the territories and a constitutional amendment directly addressing slavery. This faction was very much willing to consider secession if Lincoln/Republicans didn't back down on the slavery components of the Republican platform. The other faction, who didn't identify as strongly with slavery interests, and who ultimately mostly voted against secession, were not as willing to sacrifice the Union on the basis of this type of slavery ultimatum.

Looking forward to our continued discussion!

And its these exact 'split tendencies' that manifest themselves throughout the electorate in the 1860 election!
 

Jantzen64

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I read that as meaning no war. The North simply lets the South depart in peace. That was what the departing states wanted, and would reconcile them. I think you are reading a lot into it that simply is not there.
I don't see how you read that language in any other way; and you're not reading it in the context of the other resolutions. For instance, the resolution passed on January 17th (which we have colloquially referred to as Resolution #3 even though it was adopted several days before the one copied in post 100) expressly says that the reconciliation/resolution Virginia was looking for was a constitutional amendment(s) that would "afford to the people of the slaveholding states adequate guarantees for the security of their rights." Virginia was not saying let the seceding states go in peace. Virginia was trying to save their view of the original Union by getting the Republicans to recant their position on slavery, at the same time telling them that if they did not provide the guarantees, Virginia was going to align its destiny with the other slaveholding states. Those are their words, and you have to ignore or rewrite them if you are going to advance the view that Virginia was willing to accept the Election of 1860 as long as Lincoln didn't attack the seceeding states.
 

Viper21

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I don't see how you read that language in any other way; and you're not reading it in the context of the other resolutions. For instance, the resolution passed on January 17th (which we have colloquially referred to as Resolution #3 even though it was adopted several days before the one copied in post 100) expressly says that the reconciliation/resolution Virginia was looking for was a constitutional amendment(s) that would "afford to the people of the slaveholding states adequate guarantees for the security of their rights." Virginia was not saying let the seceding states go in peace. Virginia was trying to save their view of the original Union by getting the Republicans to recant their position on slavery, at the same time telling them that if they did not provide the guarantees, Virginia was going to align its destiny with the other slaveholding states. Those are their words, and you have to ignore or rewrite them if you are going to advance the view that Virginia was willing to accept the Election of 1860 as long as Lincoln didn't attack the seceeding states.
Speaking of context...... what happened between April 12 - 17th is WAY more significant than what happened in January.
 

Jantzen64

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January 1861, & April 1861 were completely different circumstances.

The events from 12 April - 17 April have WAY more to do with what happened on 17 April than what happened in January 1861.
I don't see how you can say that, Viper; for example, a number of others on this thread have already pointed out that the speeches in April referred back to the earlier resolutions. More fundamentally, by the time of the resolutions, all the elements for the final crisis were there: the election was done, a number of states had seceded, pressure was building on the other remaining slaveholding states to pick a side, rhetoric on all sides was escalating and Fort Sumter was under siege. The only things preventing the crisis was the lack of a shooting war and a belief by the conditional Unionists that they could get Lincoln to agree to guaranteed protections on slavery along the lines of the type of compromise that had kept the country "together" in the 1820s and 1850s. The VGA resolutions set forth clear positions on the seminal questions of the legality of secession and the balance of power between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states and put the proverbial ball in Lincoln's court to back off of the Republican platform. You can draw a direct line from the failed Peace Conference to Lincoln's First Inaugural (which eroded conditional Unionist support because it didn't back sdown on the teritories issue) to the final appeal of the Virginia Commissioners to Lincoln in April to the ultimate vote - all the while the crisis as Sumter is deteriorating. With all of that, is it really your position that Virginia would have quietly accepted the results of the 1860 election, and Republican control for the next election cycle, as long as Lincoln hadn't called out troops in response to the firing on Sumter?
 

JerryD

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I don't see how you read that language in any other way; and you're not reading it in the context of the other resolutions. For instance, the resolution passed on January 17th (which we have colloquially referred to as Resolution #3 even though it was adopted several days before the one copied in post 100) expressly says that the reconciliation/resolution Virginia was looking for was a constitutional amendment(s) that would "afford to the people of the slaveholding states adequate guarantees for the security of their rights." Virginia was not saying let the seceding states go in peace. Virginia was trying to save their view of the original Union by getting the Republicans to recant their position on slavery, at the same time telling them that if they did not provide the guarantees, Virginia was going to align its destiny with the other slaveholding states. Those are their words, and you have to ignore or rewrite them if you are going to advance the view that Virginia was willing to accept the Election of 1860 as long as Lincoln didn't attack the seceeding states.
I cant find the resolution you refer to of Jan 17th, but have read the resolutions actually passed at the Secession Convention that convened in February 1861. Can you please provide a link? From my reading of the resolutions actually passed, and actually rejected, Virginia was extremely conflicted on the issue of secession up to and even after Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for troops. I do not by any means think the state was as unified in its thinking and its goals as you seem to think. While I hesitate to rely on your interpretation of language I have not reviewed, asking for "adequate guarantees of rights" is a far cry from asking Republicans to change their minds. There is any number of interpretations of what could satisfy that term. The truth is, even if Lincoln wanted to restrict slavery in the territories, he couldn't, and neither could he affect slavery in the slave states.
 

Jantzen64

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I cant find the resolution you refer to of Jan 17th, but have read the resolutions actually passed at the Secession Convention that convened in February 1861. Can you please provide a link? From my reading of the resolutions actually passed, and actually rejected, Virginia was extremely conflicted on the issue of secession up to and even after Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for troops. I do not by any means think the state was as unified in its thinking and its goals as you seem to think. While I hesitate to rely on your interpretation of language I have not reviewed, asking for "adequate guarantees of rights" is a far cry from asking Republicans to change their minds. There is any number of interpretations of what could satisfy that term. The truth is, even if Lincoln wanted to restrict slavery in the territories, he couldn't, and neither could he affect slavery in the slave states.
Sure, Jerry. I've been referring to : https://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/vadel61/vadel61.html . You'll need to scroll down to the notes beginning on January 17th culminating on January 19th (around page 65/66). I hope other members don't mind ploughing the same ground, but this was discussed in the exchanges around post #22.


Here is the text of the resolution, for ease of reference (I put in italics to distinguish from my text, and I bolded the language about the guarantees) :


Whereas it is the deliberate opinion of the general assembly of Virginia, that unless the unhappy controversy, which now divides the states of this confederacy, shall be satisfactorily adjusted, a permanent dissolution of the Union is inevitable; and the general assembly, representing the wishes of the people of the commonwealth, is desirous of employing every reasonable means to avert so dire a calamity, and determined to make a final effort to restore the Union and the constitution, in the spirit in which they were established by the fathers of the republic: Therefore,


Resolved, that on behalf of the commonwealth of Virginia, an invitation is hereby extended to all such states, whether slaveholding or non-slaveholding, as are willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest effort to adjust the present unhappy controversies, in the spirit in which the constitution was originally formed, and consistently with its principles, so as to afford to the people of the slaveholding states adequate guarantees for the security of their rights, to appoint commissioners to meet on the 4th day of February next, in the city of Washington, similar commissioners appointed by Virginia, to consider, and if practicable, agree upon some suitable adjustment.


Resolved, that Ex-president John Tyler, William C. Rivers, Judge John W. Brockenbrough, George W. Summers and James A. Seddon, are hereby appointed commissioners, whose duty it shall be to repair to the city of Washington, on the day designated in the foregoing resolution, to meet such commissioners as may be appointed by any of the said states, in accordance with the foregoing resolution.


Resolved, that if said commissioners, after full and free conference, shall agree upon any plan of adjustment requiring amendments of the federal constitution, for the further security of the rights of the people of the slaveholding states, they be requested to communicate the proposed amendments to congress, for the purpose of having the same submitted by that body, according to the forms of the constitution, to the several states for ratification.


Resolved, that if said commissioners cannot agree on said adjustment, or if agreeing, congress shall refuse to submit for ratification such amendments as may be proposed, then the commissioners of this state shall immediately communicate the result to the executive of this commonwealth, to be by him laid before the convention of the people of Virginia and the general assembly: provided, that the said commissioners be subject at all times to the control of the general assembly, or if in session, to that of the state convention.


Resolved, that in the opinion of the general assembly of Virginia,



Page 66
the propositions embraced in the resolutions presented to the senate of the United States by the Hon. John J. Crittenden, so modified as that the first article proposed as an amendment to the constitution of the United States shall apply to all the territory of the United States now held or hereafter acquired south of latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, and provide that slavery of the African race shall be effectually protected as property therein during the continuance of the territorial government, and the fourth article shall secure to the owners of slaves the right of transit with their slaves between and through the non-slaveholding states and territories, constitute the basis of such an adjustment of the unhappy controversy which now divides the states of this confederacy, as would be accepted by the people of this commonwealth.


Resolved, that Ex-president John Tyler is hereby appointed by the concurrent vote of each branch of the general assembly, a commissioner to the president of the United States, and Judge John Robertson is hereby appointed, by a like vote, a commissioner to the state of South Carolina, and the other states that have seceded, or shall secede, with instructions respectfully to request the president of the United States and the authorities of such states to agree to abstain, pending the proceedings contemplated by the action of this general assembly, from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms between the states and the government of the United States.


Resolved, that copies of the foregoing resolutions be forthwith telegraphed to the executives of the several states, and also to the president of the United States, and that the governor be requested to inform, without delay, the commissioners of their appointment by the foregoing resolutions.
 

Viper21

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I don't see how you can say that, Viper; for example, a number of others on this thread have already pointed out that the speeches in April referred back to the earlier resolutions. More fundamentally, by the time of the resolutions, all the elements for the final crisis were there: the election was done, a number of states had seceded, pressure was building on the other remaining slaveholding states to pick a side, rhetoric on all sides was escalating and Fort Sumter was under siege. The only things preventing the crisis was the lack of a shooting war and a belief by the conditional Unionists that they could get Lincoln to agree to guaranteed protections on slavery along the lines of the type of compromise that had kept the country "together" in the 1820s and 1850s. The VGA resolutions set forth clear positions on the seminal questions of the legality of secession and the balance of power between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states and put the proverbial ball in Lincoln's court to back off of the Republican platform. You can draw a direct line from the failed Peace Conference to Lincoln's First Inaugural (which eroded conditional Unionist support because it didn't back sdown on the teritories issue) to the final appeal of the Virginia Commissioners to Lincoln in April to the ultimate vote - all the while the crisis as Sumter is deteriorating. With all of that, is it really your position that Virginia would have quietly accepted the results of the 1860 election, and Republican control for the next election cycle, as long as Lincoln hadn't called out troops in response to the firing on Sumter?
Respectfully, I don't see how you can't.

I've always been one to judge people by their actions, more so than their words. This is especially true with politicians, at any, & all levels. There's an awful lot of words, & resolutions that have been spoken in the halls of government over the years, that never became actions, or were enforced. A person so inclined, could cherry pick some pretty outrageous resolutions. Yet, our country, states, & municipalities are rarely held to account for them, or really even, judged by them.

I think most people realize political resolutions, & speeches are just words. Actions change, or make history. Political meetings, like the Virginia Secession Convention, is the negotiation process. The only thing of significance, is what that body actually does. You know, actions not words. What was the purpose of the Secession Convention..? Rhetorical question, I know. The Convention was put together, to decide if Virginia was going to secede, or not.

After nearly 3 months of speeches, resolutions, input from the Governor, & lots of actions around the country, they put it to a vote on April 4th 1861. It wasn't a close vote. They voted overwhelmingly against seceding. At this point, it doesn't matter what resolutions were put out in January, or at any other time for that matter. They voted no. That's the significant moment. The action that mattered at that moment.

13 days later on April 17th the Secession Convention reversed course, & voted overwhelmingly for secession. Why ? What changed ? You really expect me to believe they voted for secession because of a resolution made in January..? If that was the case, they'd have voted for it 13 days prior. Actions, not words, are what matters. When I read what they said in the days leading up to April 17th, my opinion is only reinforced.
 

Jantzen64

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Respectfully, I don't see how you can't.

I've always been one to judge people by their actions, more so than their words. This is especially true with politicians, at any, & all levels. There's an awful lot of words, & resolutions that have been spoken in the halls of government over the years, that never became actions, or were enforced. A person so inclined, could cherry pick some pretty outrageous resolutions. Yet, our country, states, & municipalities are rarely held to account for them, or really even, judged by them.

I think most people realize political resolutions, & speeches are just words. Actions change, or make history. Political meetings, like the Virginia Secession Convention, is the negotiation process. The only thing of significance, is what that body actually does. You know, actions not words. What was the purpose of the Secession Convention..? Rhetorical question, I know. The Convention was put together, to decide if Virginia was going to secede, or not.

After nearly 3 months of speeches, resolutions, input from the Governor, & lots of actions around the country, they put it to a vote on April 4th 1861. It wasn't a close vote. They voted overwhelmingly against seceding. At this point, it doesn't matter what resolutions were put out in January, or at any other time for that matter. They voted no. That's the significant moment. The action that mattered at that moment.

13 days later on April 17th the Secession Convention reversed course, & voted overwhelmingly for secession. Why ? What changed ? You really expect me to believe they voted for secession because of a resolution made in January..? If that was the case, they'd have voted for it 13 days prior. Actions, not words, are what matters. When I read what they said in the days leading up to April 17th, my opinion is only reinforced.
Thanks, Viper. I think we're starting to plow the same ground here, so I'll try to close out my part of our discussion with some observations. Apologies for the long post.

You state that you want to judge people by their actions not their words. I am not trying to judge anyone here - that's way above my pay grade. As "amateur" historians, I think our "job' is to get to the bottom of what happened and why. The first part of that task is easier, because its pretty objective. The second part of the task is harder because of its subjective nature; consequently, it requires consideration of all the evidence - actions, words and the context for all of it (we both seem to agree on the importance of context!).

As to the "why" part (and I'd note that that is the topic of this thread - why did Virginia secede?), you say that you rely on actions more so than words - I note, however, that you have been perfectly willing to cite words/speeches of some of the representatives, while discounting others. I don't think that approach is conducive to getting to the bottom of this important question. I think you have to consider words and actions - but all of them, not just select portions - because words are the impetus to action and they can constrain or channel action. For example, the January resolutions were the impetus for sending Tyler to the Peace Commission and driving so much of the discussion about the status of federal relations during this critical time. And the resolutions prompted the creation of the secession convention. I doubt we will reach agreement on this, but I put it to you to consider that words do matter - that's why our founding fathers put the reasons for their separation from England into the Declaration of Independence and why the founders of what became the Confederacy stated the reasons for their decision to secede in the various ordinances of secession. We should listen to them.

But I agree, it can't end with words. You do have to look at actions because words alone can be vague, ambiguous or duplicitous. The goal is to find an explanation that best fits a myriad of words and action. In this regard, I maintain my position that the reasons why Virginia seceded are more complex and interwoven with their interest in maintaining slavery than just because Lincoln called out for troops. Since we hashed out most of these actions out in our exchanges, I wont repeat them here.

However, a lack of action can be just as telling as an affirmative action. In this regard, one aspect that has not been highlighted in this post is the lack of any action on the part of the VGA to support the newly elected Lincoln Administration, as it was facing an existential crisis. All that the VGA did was warn Lincoln not to do this or that, and outline that Lincoln needed to recant the Republican platform (on whcih he had just been elected) as a condition for saving the Union. Their focus was not upon honoring the election and working in the minority, but on insisting upon constitutional amendments guaranteeing the rights of slaveholders as the price for saving the Union. That's an action - and it reveals much about the motivations of most Virginians at this time.

When this thread started out, I think you were correct to put the focus on what changed between April 4 and April 17th; I still think you're right to keep the focus there on that switch. But, respectfully, I don't think in all of our exchanges you've ever explored the question of why the vote failed on the 4th. Unless/until you do that, you are missing a huge portion of the equation. And, the record is clear that it wasn't because those voting "no" were unconditional Union men, or because they agreed that slavery shouldn't be extended into the territories or even because Lincoln hadn't called up troops yet. It was because - hearkening back to those January resolutions - they were unwilling to sever the ties with the Union unless/until it became absolutely clear that Lincoln would not compromise on the slavery components of the Republican platform. They wanted to give Lincoln one last chance. In this regard, they were ACTING consistently with the January resolutions.

I didn't see an answer to the final question I posed in my last post - do you think that Virginia would have stayed in the Union even had Lincoln not responded to Fort Sumter? Given their demands that Lincoln concede/recant the slavery position, and given their multiple statements about aligning their destinies with the other slaveholding states, it's pretty clear to me that they would not have stayed in the Union much longer if Lincoln continued to exhibit antipathy toward the spread of, and greater protections for, slavery. The firing on Fort Sumter - and admittedly Lincoln's response - forced the issue. It may have changed the timing, but not the result, of Virginia's decision (Recall that the January resolutions stated that permanent dissolution was "inevitable" if there was no compromise on slavery). Virginia could no longer wait on Lincoln and had to pick a side. They picked the side with which they identified the most - the side consisting solely of slaveholding states.

Thanks for listening. I may respond to others who raise new issues, but I think I've said all I can in response to our exchanges. Thanks so much for the lively debate. Your challenges put me to my paces and were very thought provoking!
 

Potomac Pride

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One can only speculate on what Virginia would have done if Lincoln had not responded to Ft. Sumter in the manner he did. If you look at the historical facts, two-thirds of the delegates at the VA Convention voted against secession in early April 1861 when slavery was the primary concern and other states had already seceded. However, the VA convention changed its mind only two weeks later and voted by a clear majority to secede as a result of Lincoln’s call for troops. In his book The Statesmanship of the Civil War, the noted historian Allan Nevins discussed the secession of Virginia and the states of the Upper South. Nevins was a Professor at Columbia University and one of the most distinguished Civil War historians of the 20th​ century. Professor Nevins wrote "As for the Upper South, it seceded tardily, reluctantly, and for special reasons. It had been divided on the expediency of secession even though it maintained the abstract right, and on the whole, was against the step. But when Lincoln called for the armed forces to coerce the Lower South—when he challenged the right of secession-- the Upper South felt it had no alternative but to stalk through the open door. It left the Union because, holding that the States had never surrendered their individual sovereignty, it condemned the Federal coercion of any State.” Souce: The Statesmanship Of The Civil War by Allan Nevins, (1962), page 73. In his career, Professor Nevins was the President of the American Historical Association and a Pulitzer Prize winner.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

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When secession was debated in Virginia they clearly stated the cause of it;

"Sir, the great question which is now uprooting this Government to its foundation - the great question which underlies all our deliberations here, is the question of African slavery..."

---Thomas F. Goode, delegate from Mecklenburg County to Virginia's Secession Convention, 1861

"I say, then, that viewed from that standpoint, there is but one single subject of complaint which Virginia has to make against the government under which we live; a complaint made by the whole South, and that is on the subject of African slavery....

..But, sir, the great cause of complaint now is the slavery question, and the questions growing out of it. If there is any other cause of complaint which has been influential in any quarter, to bring about the crisis which is now upon us; if any State or any people have made the troubles growing out of this question, a pretext for agitation instead of a cause of honest complaint, Virginia can have no sympathy whatever, in any such feeling, in any such policy, in any such attempt. It is the slavery question. Is it not so?"

---John B. Baldwin, delegate from Augusta County to the Virginia Secession Convention, 1861
 

Viper21

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When secession was debated in Virginia they clearly stated the cause of it;

"Sir, the great question which is now uprooting this Government to its foundation - the great question which underlies all our deliberations here, is the question of African slavery..."

---Thomas F. Goode, delegate from Mecklenburg County to Virginia's Secession Convention, 1861

"I say, then, that viewed from that standpoint, there is but one single subject of complaint which Virginia has to make against the government under which we live; a complaint made by the whole South, and that is on the subject of African slavery....

..But, sir, the great cause of complaint now is the slavery question, and the questions growing out of it. If there is any other cause of complaint which has been influential in any quarter, to bring about the crisis which is now upon us; if any State or any people have made the troubles growing out of this question, a pretext for agitation instead of a cause of honest complaint, Virginia can have no sympathy whatever, in any such feeling, in any such policy, in any such attempt. It is the slavery question. Is it not so?"

---John B. Baldwin, delegate from Augusta County to the Virginia Secession Convention, 1861
Virginia's position was clearly stated...... in her ordinance of secession. Delegates can say whatever they want. Their words are not the official position of the state, or the body speaking for the state. They're simply that delegates opinion.
 

Jantzen64

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One can only speculate on what Virginia would have done if Lincoln had not responded to Ft. Sumter in the manner he did.
Not quite accurate. While I agree we can never know for certain, the January Resolutions made it abundantly clear that Virginia expected the Lincoln Administration to agree to allow slavery in at least some portion of the territories, and for that "adjustment" to be enshrined in additional constitutional amendments; if that didn't come to pass, Virginia announced that it expected that permanent dissolution was "inevitable" and it would then "unite her destiny with the slaveholding states of the south." That's a pretty clear statement of Virginia's intent.

In his book The Statesmanship of the Civil War, the noted historian Allan Nevins discussed the secession of Virginia and the states of the Upper South. Nevins was a Professor at Columbia University and one of the most distinguished Civil War historians of the 20th century. Professor Nevins wrote "As for the Upper South, it seceded tardily, reluctantly, and for special reasons. It had been divided on the expediency of secession even though it maintained the abstract right, and on the whole, was against the step. But when Lincoln called for the armed forces to coerce the Lower South—when he challenged the right of secession-- the Upper South felt it had no alternative but to stalk through the open door. It left the Union because, holding that the States had never surrendered their individual sovereignty, it condemned the Federal coercion of any State.” Souce: The Statesmanship Of The Civil War by Allan Nevins, (1962), page 73. In his career, Professor Nevins was the President of the American Historical Association and a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Interestingly, in his seminal work War for the Union, The Improvised War, (Konecky & Konecky 1959, rep. 1971) Professor Nevins posited that unionist support in Virginia in particular was already wavering in April, as the hoped for Border Conference did not materialize and the Sumter crisis unfolded, but before Lincoln's call for troops:

"By April, however, sentiment in Virginia was plainly shifting toward abandonment of the Union . . . ." (p.52)

[Referring to Lincoln's consideration in early April of sending a relief expedition to Sumter] "In Virginia, secession feeling had hardened; the cord with the Union was ready to snap at any moment." (p.59) and "It was common knowledge that Virginia teetered on the edge of secession . . . . (p.64).

And let's not forget that James McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War historian with a pedigree at least as stellar as Professor Nevins, stated: "The claim that his call for troops was the cause of the Upper South's decision to secede is misleading." Battle Cry of Freedom:The Civil War Era, McPherson, James M., p. 278 (1988) (added emphasis). See Post # 29.
 

Potomac Pride

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Not quite accurate. While I agree we can never know for certain, the January Resolutions made it abundantly clear that Virginia expected the Lincoln Administration to agree to allow slavery in at least some portion of the territories, and for that "adjustment" to be enshrined in additional constitutional amendments; if that didn't come to pass, Virginia announced that it expected that permanent dissolution was "inevitable" and it would then "unite her destiny with the slaveholding states of the south." That's a pretty clear statement of Virginia's intent.


Interestingly, in his seminal work War for the Union, The Improvised War, (Konecky & Konecky 1959, rep. 1971) Professor Nevins posited that unionist support in Virginia in particular was already wavering in April, as the hoped for Border Conference did not materialize and the Sumter crisis unfolded, but before Lincoln's call for troops:

"By April, however, sentiment in Virginia was plainly shifting toward abandonment of the Union . . . ." (p.52)

[Referring to Lincoln's consideration in early April of sending a relief expedition to Sumter] "In Virginia, secession feeling had hardened; the cord with the Union was ready to snap at any moment." (p.59) and "It was common knowledge that Virginia teetered on the edge of secession . . . . (p.64).

And let's not forget that James McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War historian with a pedigree at least as stellar as Professor Nevins, stated: "The claim that his call for troops was the cause of the Upper South's decision to secede is misleading." Battle Cry of Freedom:The Civil War Era, McPherson, James M., p. 278 (1988) (added emphasis). See Post # 29.
That is correct we can never know for certain what Virginia would have done if Lincoln had not responded the way he did. Furthermore, the VA convention initially voted against secession overwhelmingly in April so Unionist support was still strong at that time. However, after Lincoln's call for troops later that month things changed dramatically.
 
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