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The Southern States of America
The History of Virginia - Chapter V

The Commonwealth of Virginia, 1776-1861.

Virginia Troops in the Revolution.

The political leadership of Virginia during the revolutionary epoch has been universally recognized and the published writings of her statesmen have placed their fame beyond the reach of cavil or detraction. The military history of the state has, on the contrary, been sadly neglected, and what is still worse many of the most important documentary sources are now lost. To have contributed Washington to the cause of independence seemed glory enough for one state, and the services rendered by the Virginia line have consequently received scant treatment even at the hands of the state historians.

When Virginia's own writers have neglected the part played by her troops in the Revolution, it is not strange that others have disparaged it. It is frequently claimed that New England furnished more troops than all the other states combined, and that Massachusetts sent to the front nearly double the number furnished by any other state. By merely adding up the yearly returns of the continental army as given by General Knox in a report prepared for Congress in 1790, when he was secretary of war, the Massachusetts historians arrive at the conclusion that their state furnished a total of 67,907 men to the continental line and Virginia 26,672. Knox also gives estimates of the militia, these figures being very full for New England and very meagre for the South, but he states by way of explanation that "in some years of the greatest exertions of the Southern States there are no returns whatever of the militia employed." Heitman, in his Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army, after a careful study of the subject, places the number of Massachusetts militia at 20,000 and the number of Virginia militia at 30,000. Adding together Knox's and Heitman's figures it would appear that Massachusetts furnished 87,907 men during the Revolution, and Virginia 56,672. Next to Virginia comes Connecticut with 40,939.

But a careful analysis of Knox's figures will show that they are subject to certain corrections. The 16,444 men credited to Massachusetts in 1775 were not regularly organized continentals, but militia on continental pay, whose terms expired in December of that year. The 13,372 men credited to the same state for 1776 likewise include militia on continental -pay, whose terms expired at the end of the year. The explanation of this is that Massachusetts was so hard pressed during the first and second years of the war that she was unable to pay her militia and appealed to Congress to assume the burden. This Congress consented to do and large sums of money were forwarded to Washington's headquarters to be paid out to the Massachusetts militia under his direction. Here then is a deduction of nearly 30,000 to be made from the Massachusetts total of continental troops. Another point to be noted is that Knox takes no account of the term of enlistment and makes no effort to reduce his figures to a common basis. It is well known that enlistments in Massachusetts were for short periods, while enlistments in Virginia were for three years or the war. For instance the 3,732 continentals credited to Massachusetts in 1781, when the war had been transferred to the South, were enlisted, according to Knox's report, for four months only. When we come to consider the terms of service of the militia, an examination of the volumes published by the secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts under the title of Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors o f the Revolutionary War shows that many of them served for very short periods. Hundreds of men listed in these volumes served in reply to some alarm for from one to thirty days and saw no other service, while thousands of them served for one, two, three or four months. The completeness and detail of these records is remarkable. We do not wish to discredit or underrate the services of Massachusetts to the cause of independence, which were very great, particularly in the early years of the war, but merely to point out the extravagance of many of the claims advanced by her historians. These claims have been so often repeated that they have almost acquired the force of truth. After all the real interest centres not in the number of troops furnished by a state but in the character of the service performed, and in this regard Virginia yields precedence to none. Her troops fought over a wider area and further from home than those of any other state. They served in every part of the country from Quebec to Savannah and from Boston to Kaskaskia and Vincennes.

The fact that the commander-in-chief was a Virginian was a serious obstacle to the advancement of other officers from that state. Three of the major-generals appointed by Congress, however, claimed Virginia as their residence, though only one was a native. They were Charles Lee and Horatio Gates, former British army officers who had acquired estates in Berkeley county near Leetown, in what is now Jefferson county, West Virginia, and Adam Stephen, of the same county, who had served with distinction in the Indian wars. By a strange coincidence these three generals, whose homes were within a few miles of one another, all fell into disgrace. Lee was dismissed for his conduct at Monmouth, Gates was suspended after his defeat at Camden, and Stephen was cashiered for drunkenness and blundering at the battle of Germantown.

But the names of the brigadier-generals of Virginia form an honor roll of which the state may well feel proud. They are Daniel Morgan, who led the first body of Southern troops to join Washington before Boston, fought his way into the heart of Quebec only to be captured through failure of the supporting column, twice turned the tide at Saratoga and finally, after a tardy promotion to the grade of brigadier, routed the dread Tarleton at Cowpens in one of the most brilliant engagements of the war; Peter Muhlenberg, who led a German regiment from the valley of Virginia to the relief of Charleston in 1776, commanded a brigade at Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Stony Point and Yorktown; Hugh Mercer, whose brigade formed the attacking column at Trenton and at Princeton, and who died of his wounds a few days later lamented by the entire army; George Weedon, who commanded a brigade at Brandywine and at Germantown; William Woodford, who commanded the Virginia militia at Great Bridge and led a Virginia brigade at Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth; Charles Scott, who commanded a Virginia regiment at Trenton and at Stony Point and was the last to leave the field at Monmouth when Charles Lee retreated; Edward Stevens, whose regiment checked the British advance at Brandywine and who served with distinction at Germantown and at Guilford Court House; Robert Lawson, who commanded a brigade of Virginia militia at Guilford Court House; William Campbell, who led a regiment of 400 Virginians to King's Mountain and was chosen by the other officers to lead in that fight; Gov. Thomas Nelson, who commanded the Virginia militia in the Yorktown campaign, and George Rogers Clark, whose conquest of the Northwest will be described later. Morgan, Muhlenberg, Mercer, Weedon, Woodford and Scott were brigadiers in the continental line; Stevens and Lawson served as colonels in the continental line and later received commissions from Virginia as brigadiers of militia ; Campbell, Nelson and Clark also commanded militia or volunteers.

Not less distinguished, though of lower rank, were Col. Henry Lee ("Light-Horse Harry"), whose legion rendered such brilliant service under Washington in New Jersey, and later under Greene in the Carolinas; and colonels William Washington, George Baylor and Theodoric Bland, who shed new lustre on the chivalry of Virginia, while Col. Charles Harrison, the commander of the First Continental Artillery, was equally conspicuous in another arm of the service.

The first year of the war was fought mainly in New England by New England militia, who were enlisted at first to serve until December, 1775, when twenty-six new regiments were raised to serve for one year. When the seat of the war was transferred to the Hudson many of these troops accompanied Washington and served during a part of the campaign in New Jersey, but very few of them would consent to re-enlist when their terms expired. Washington was reduced to great straits and appealed to Congress and the states for troops to take their place. In a letter to the president of Congress Dec. 24, 1776, he says: "By the departure of these regiments, I shall be left with five from Virginia, Smallwood's from Maryland, a small part of Rawlins's (Maryland and Virginia Rifles), Hand's from Pennsylvania, part of Ward's from Connecticut and the German Battalion, amounting in the whole at this time from fourteen to fifteen hundred effective men." In the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth, Virginia troops bore the brunt of the fighting. In December, 1779, practically the whole Virginia line, its ranks greatly depleted by hard service in New Jersey, was ordered to South Carolina under generals Woodford and Scott, and was surrendered to the British by the capitulation of Charleston, May 12, 1780.

During the greater part of the war the soil of Virginia was free from the invader. After the repulse of the British at Great Bridge, Dec. 9, 1775, and the destruction of Norfolk by Lord Dunmore's fleet three weeks later, there were no military operations in Virginia for several years. Patrick Henry was the first governor of the commonwealth, having been elected June 30, 1776, by the convention which framed the original constitution. He filled the office ably and acceptably for three terms of one year each. During this time a number of important legal reforms were enacted by the legislature under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson. The most important were the act abolishing entails, the statute of descents, the act repealing the laws on which the established church rested, and an act prohibiting the further importation of slaves. At the same time Jefferson prepared a bill providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves and the celebrated statute of religious liberty. The former was never enacted; the latter after an interval of several years.

Jefferson succeeded Henry as governor, and his two terms fell in what was for Virginia the most stormy period of the war. While he was governor Sir Henry Clinton sent three expeditions to raid and harry the coasts and rivers of Virginia, Matthews and Collier in 1779, Leslie in 1780, and Arnold and Phillips in 1781. In the spring of 1780 Washington sent General Muhlenberg to Virginia to take charge of the defenses of the state. With the aid of a few officers of the continental lines, who were at home on furlough, he collected and organized a sufficient body of militia to lay siege to Leslie in Portsmouth, but through the failure of the French fleet to co-operate that officer made his escape and joined Cornwallis at Charleston. Shortly afterwards Maj.-Gen. Baron von Steuben was sent to Virginia and Muhlenberg became second in command. The best equipped troops were sent to join Greene in the Carolinas and the militia and volunteers disbanded. On Jan. 2, 1781, Benedict Arnold landed at Portsmouth and two days later proceeded up the James to Richmond. After destroying nearly everything of value he fell back down the river to Portsmouth, where he was kept closely within his intrenchments by the militia which Muhlenberg quickly collected. In view of the helpless state of Virginia, Washington dispatched Lafayette to its aid with 1,200 regulars from the main army, hoping, through the cooperation of the French fleet, to capture Arnold. Leaving his troops at the head of Elk River, Maryland, Lafayette hastened forward to Virginia. On March 19 he arrived at Muhlenberg's camp near Suffolk, but the next day the British fleet of Admiral Arbuthnot, having defeated the fleet of Destouches off the capes, landed 2,000 men at Portsmouth under command of Major-General Phillips. Advancing up the James again the British destroyed a large quantity of tobacco and other stores at Petersburg, but were prevented from taking Richmond by the timely arrival of Lafayette's force. On May 13, 1781, General Phillips died at Petersburg, and a week later Cornwallis arrived with his army from the Carolinas and assumed direct command, soon after which Arnold returned to New York. The events of the campaign that followed, ending at Yorktown and bringing the war to a close, are too familiar to need repetition here.

Governor Jefferson was severely criticized for his management of affairs during Arnold's invasion. He had to abandon Richmond and adjourn the legislature to Charlottesville, where he barely escaped capture by Tarleton's cavalry which Cornwallis sent there for that purpose. Jefferson could do little or nothing without the cooperation of the regular army, and Washington advised that the only safety for Virginia lay in the defense of the Carolinas. Accepting this view of the situation Jefferson hastened to the South every available musket, man, wagon and horse, thus leaving Virginia defenseless. Lincoln's surrender of Charleston and Gate's defeat at Camden were appalling disasters, but the brilliant strategy of Greene saved the day and justified the course that had been pursued.

The Virginia Navy of the Revolution.

Lord Dunmore's raids on the coasts of Virginia in the summer and fall of 1775 led the provincial convention, in December, to instruct the committee of safety to provide and equip vessels for the defense of the colony. The committee purchased five vessels and commissioned a number of officers, the most prominent of whom were captains James Barron, Richard Barron, Richard Taylor, Thomas Lilly and Edward Travis. In May, 1776, the convention appointed a board of naval commissioners consisting of five persons. During the next two years vessels were built on the Eastern Shore, on the Potomac, Rappahannock, Mattapony, Chicahominy and James, and at Portsmouth, Gosport and South Quay. A rope-walk was established by the state at Warwick on the James, a few miles below Richmond; four naval magazines were opened at points on the James, York, Rappahannock and Potomac; the manufacture of sail-duck begun, and a foundry operated. In March, 1776, John Henry Boucher, who was then serving in the Maryland navy, was appointed to command the Potomac fleet, and soon after made commodore of the Virginia navy. He resigned in November, and in April, 1777, Walter Brooke was made commodore and served until September, 1778. The navy seems to have been practically out of commission for the next year or more, but on the transference of the war to the South it was reorganized, and in July, 1780, James Barron was appointed commodore and served until the close of the war.

We have the names of about seventy vessels commissioned by the state during the course of the war. Of these at least fifty were armed and equipped as vessels of war; the others were trading vessels serving under the direction of the navy board and under the immediate charge of William Aylett. As far as numbers go Virginia had the largest navy of any of the states. Massachusetts came next with sixteen ships. The energy of her maritime population went out mainly into privateering, so that it was difficult to get enough men to man the state ships; but in Virginia there was little privateering. The main service by the Virginia navy was in suppressing Tories and in freeing the waters of the Chesapeake of British privateers, but some of the Virginia vessels went as far as the West Indies and took some valuable prizes there. Some of the Virginia vessels were taken at sea and more than twenty were taken or destroyed by Matthews and Collier in 1779. When Arnold and Phillips invaded the state in 1781 only twelve vessels of the state navy remained, and these were too poorly manned to be of much service. As the hostile force advanced up the river towards Richmond, this little fleet made a stand at Osborne's, supported by militia on the shore. The Virginians were soon compelled to abandon their ships. Some were scuttled or fired and others captured. None escaped. Only one vessel of the Virginia navy now remained-the Liberty. According to a recent authority, "The Liberty saw more service than any other state or continental vessel of the Revolution. She was in the employ of Virginia from 1775 until 1787." [Paullin: The Navy of the American Revolution, 417]

Conquest and Cession of the Northwest Territory.

By the Quebec Act of 1774 the territory lying between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was annexed to the province of Quebec, and soon after the beginning of the Revolution Colonel Hamilton, the British commander at Detroit, undertook to organize the Indians of the Northwest for an attack on the settlers south and east of the Ohio River. But his plans were thwarted by the foresight of a young Virginian, George Rogers Clark, one of the early settlers in Kentucky who, counting on the support of the French inhabitants, was convinced that with a small force he could take possession of this territory. Late in the autumn of 1777 he made his way back to Virginia along the Wilderness Road and laid his plans before Governor Henry. As it was of the utmost importance that the enterprise should be kept secret, the governor did not consult the legislature, but after conferring with Jefferson, Wythe and Madison he authorized Clark to raise a force of 350 men for the expedition. Clark immediately recrossed the mountains and began collecting men and supplies on the upper Ohio, nominally for the defense of Kentucky. By May, 1778, he had succeeded with difficulty in getting together 180 picked riflemen, a flotilla of small boats and a few pieces of light artillery. With these he proceeded down the Ohio to its junction with the Mississippi and disembarked in what is now southern Illinois. Marching his force over the prairie to Kaskaskia he surprised the garrison and took possession of the town without resistance. With the aid of Father Gibault, a Catholic priest, he succeeded in winning over Cahokia and other neighboring villages.

As soon as Governor Hamilton heard of these events he marched from Detroit with a motly force composed of 500 men, regulars, Tories and Indians, to Vincennes on the Wabash and garrisoned that fort. But Clark was not to be outdone. Sending some provisions and a few pieces of artillery around by the Ohio and Wabash, he set out from Kaskaskia in the dead of winter with 130 men, marched for sixteen days in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties across the drowned lands of Illinois, met his boats just in time to save his party from starvation and despair, and appeared before Vincennes to the utter amazement of the British garrison. The town readily submitted, and after a siege of twenty hours Hamilton surrendered the fort February 23. The Northwest territory was thus secured to Virginia and organized as the "county" of Illinois.

The importance of this brilliant exploit was destined to be far greater than even Clark foresaw, for when the treaty of peace was being negotiated at Paris in 1782 our allies, France and Spain, were both more than willing to sacrifice our interests in order to keep us out of the Mississippi Valley, and the western boundary of the United States would undoubtedly have been fixed at the Alleghanies instead of the Mississippi but for the fact that this western region was actually occupied by Virginians.

At the close of the Revolution the boundaries of Virginia extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi, and from the parallel of 36 30' on the south to the Great Lakes on the north; but the vast extent of these imperial possessions aroused the jealousy of the other states and rival claims to a part of the territory north of the Ohio River were revived. Virginia's original claim to this region was based on the charter of 1609, which conveyed all the lands 200 miles north and 200 miles south of Point Comfort, "up into the land, throughout from sea to sea, West and Northwest." The later grants to Massachusetts and Connecticut, as described in their charters, likewise ran west to the Pacific, the impression of that day being that the continent was no broader here than in Mexico. New York, as successor to the rights of the Iroquois, asserted a rather shadowy claim to this territory, whose tribes had formerly been subject to the Six Nations. To her original claim Virginia added the stronger claim of conquest and possession. The little states, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, which had no claims to western lands, were strongly opposed to recognizing the claims of the larger states. Maryland first proposed the cession of all western lands to the Union, and later declared that she would not ratify the Articles of Confederation until she should receive some assurance that the states in question would cede their claims. In February, 1780, New York decided to surrender her claims to the general government, not a very great sacrifice on her part, and a little later Connecticut offered to cede her claims with the exception of 3,250,000 acres reserved for school purposes. This arrangement was not approved at the time, but was finally agreed to in 1786. In January, 1781, Virginia agreed to cede her lands on condition of being guaranteed in her possession of Kentucky, but three years later the cession was made without this proviso, and a few weeks later Massachusetts followed with a surrender of her claims.

In 1784 Jefferson proposed in Congress a scheme for the government of the Northwest Territory which, among other provisions, excluded slavery. Though stricken out at the time, this provision was later embodied along with other ideas of Jefferson in the celebrated ordinance of 1787. The creation of a national domain was a mighty stride forward in the formation of a permanent union. The possession of a territory of its own outside the limits of the several states gave the government something of a national character, and was destined to have far-reaching influences on its development.

In 1791 Kentucky was organized with the consent of Virginia as a separate state, and the bounds of the "Old Dominion" were thus reduced to the point at which they remained until 1861.

The Adoption of the Constitution of the United States.

When the Articles of Confederation had proven inadequate and the union of states seemed drifting toward anarchy, Virginia took the first step in the formation of a new government by inviting the states to send delegates to Annapolis for the purpose of conferring additional powers on Congress, and when the Federal convention met at Philadelphia in May, 1787, Washington was chosen to preside over its deliberations. His sound sense, dignified bearing and tactful manner contributed more than any other single factor towards the ultimate success of the work. The leading part in the proceedings was taken by another son of Virginia, James Madison, who became known as the "Father of the Constitution." He was the author of the Virginia plan which formed the basis of discussion and entered largely into the new constitution. Washington laid the work of the convention before Congress, accompanied by a letter, and after eight days of discussion the constitution was submitted to the states for ratification. The next question was, would the states ratify? Of this there was grave doubt.

In Virginia Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee had opposed the whole plan of a Federal convention and had refused to go as delegates, while George Mason and Edmund Randolph had refused to sign the constitution after it was drafted. Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and South Carolina ratified in the order named before the meeting of the Virginia convention June 2, 1788. As it took nine states to put the new government into operation, all eyes were now turned to Virginia. Patrick Henry led the fight against the constitution and brought to bear against it all the force of his fiery eloquence. He was ably seconded by George Mason and William Grayson. Madison, meanwhile, had won over to his side Gov. Edmund Randolph, and Washington's influence, though he did not attend the convention, carried great weight with the members. Madison was aided by the popular eloquence of "Light-Horse Harry" Lee and the forceful arguments of John Marshall. The debate finally narrowed itself down to the question whether the constitution should be ratified as it stood and amendments subsequently proposed, or whether ratification should be postponed until another Federal convention could convene and make the desired changes. The former alternative was finally adopted, and on June 25 the constitution was ratified by a vote of eighty-nine to seventy-nine. It was learned later that New Hampshire had ratified four days earlier, making the ninth state, but the action of Virginia was none the less decisive for it turned the scale in New York, which, after a long struggle, followed Virginia's example, and the new government was organized notwithstanding the fact that Rhode Island and North Carolina still held back. Patrick Henry's principal objection to the constitution was the absence of a bill of rights. His fierce opposition had its effect, and in ratifying the constitution the convention proposed a score of amendments which, together with those proposed by other states, were finally reduced to ten. The first ten amendments are thus, in part at least, Henry's contribution to the constitution, and no student of constitutional history will deny that he was right in insisting on a bill of rights.

Resolutions of 1798-1799.

The closing years of the century were marked by the bitterest partisan feeling. During the administration of President Adams, while relations with France were strained and war imminent, the Federalist majority in Congress passed the alien and sedition acts, the first empowering the President to remove objectionable aliens from the country, and the second seriously restricting freedom of speech and the liberty of the press. The intention of the acts was to intimidate the Republicans and suppress certain of their newspapers. Jefferson's followers were greatly incensed and at once took steps to counteract the effect of the acts and to secure their repeal. Jefferson prepared a set of resolutions for the Kentucky legislature which were introduced by John Breckinridge and passed Nov.10, 1798. They declared that the alien and sedition acts were "void and of no force," and appealed to the other states to protest and to take steps to secure their repeal at the next session of Congress.

At the same time Madison prepared resolutions of similar purport which were introduced in the Virginia legislature by John Taylor, of Caroline. They declared that the Federal government was a compact, that the powers of Congress were limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, and that in case of a deliberate, palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted, the states had the right and were in duty bound "to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them." The resolutions were forwarded to the governors of the other states, inviting them to declare the said acts unconstitutional and to cooperate with Virginia in maintaining the rights of the states unimpaired. Answers decidedly unfavorable, some of them strongly condemnatory, were received from Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. This threw Virginia on the defensive and precipitated a hot discussion between the two political parties within the state. At the next meeting of the legislature Madison presented an able and lucid report in defense of the resolutions of the previous year. The "Madison Report" of 1799 was widely accepted as an authoritative exposition by the "Father of the Constitution" of the doctrine of states' rights. In the effort to perpetuate their power the Federalists had overstepped themselves, and the following year they were swept out of office never to recover control of the government.

Internal Improvements and the State Debt.

When the National government assumed the revolutionary debts of the several states in 1790, Virginia had already extinguished the greater part of hers and hence opposed assumption. Most of the states remained free from debt until the period of development following the war of 1812, when the demand for better means of communication led to the creation of public debts for the construction of roads, bridges and canals. At this time the part of Virginia lying east of the Alleghanies was devoted largely to agriculture and grazing with but few manufactures, while to the west, in the counties now embraced within the state of West Virginia, lay vast stores of minerals and timber as yet inaccessible. In order to develop these resources and bring them to the markets of the world, the state undertook the construction of graded roads, bridges, canals and, later, railroads, extending from tidewater towards the Ohio River. Some of these works were constructed on state account, but the greater part of them by state subscription to the capital stock of incorporated companies. The appropriations and subscriptions were expended under the direction and supervision of a board of public works created as early as 1816, the members of which were elected by the voters of the state at large. The expenditures did not assume very large proportions until 1837, but from that time on they grew at a progressive rate until 1860. The total sum appropriated for internal improvements and banks was over $40,000,000, less than a fourth part of which had been liquidated before the War of Secession. By 1850 the state debt had grown to about $10,000,000, and by 1860 it had reached the sum of $33,000,000. Of this amount $4,761,564 had been incurred for roads, turnpikes and bridges; $12,492,616 for canals and river improvements, and $15,440,910 for railroads. Appropriations for works of internal improvement were almost invariably supported, as the legislative records show, by a majority of the members from the counties west of the Alleghanies, and almost invariably opposed by a majority of the members from the eastern counties. Thus Virginia entered on the War of Secession burdened with a heavy debt, which was soon made all the heavier by the separation of the counties in whose interests and by whose votes the debt was created. [For most of the facts in regard to the creation of the state debt the writer is indebted to the briefs and papers prepared by Hon. William A. Anderson in the case of Virginia vs. West Virginia. ]

State Sectionalism.

The diversity of interests between the East and the West was responsible for the early development of sectionalism within the state. The constitution of 1776 continued in force the colonial system of representation in the state legislature, which was based on districts and not on population. With the development of the western counties came the demand for larger representation in the General Assembly and the extension of the suffrage, but the eastern counties resisted every attempt to deprive them of the political ascendancy they had inherited from earlier times. From 1790 on petitions for reform were presented at nearly every session of the legislature, but without effect. Finally, in 1816, a convention of prominent men from the western counties met at Staunton and drew up a memorial asking the legislature to submit to the voters the question whether or not a convention should be called to equalize representation on the basis of the white population. The organization of the Senate was especially unfair. The western section, with a white population of 233,469, had only four senators, while the eastern counties, with a white population of 342,781, had twenty senators. As a result of the Staunton memorial the House of Delegates passed a bill in favor of a convention, but the Senate rejected it. In order to allay the growing discontent, however, the legislature proceeded to reorganize the Senate, giving the East fifteen and the West nine senators.

Finally, in December, 1827, the legislature agreed to submit the question of calling a convention to the voters. The measure was carried by 21,896 to 16,637 votes. The reformers wanted the delegates to the convention assigned on a basis of white population, while the conservatives demanded a mixed basis of white population and taxation, or Federal numbers, that is, white population and three-fifths of the slaves. After long discussion the House adopted the county system as the basis of organization, but this plan was rejected by the Senate and the two houses finally agreed on the senatorial district as the basis, each district to be allowed four delegates.

The convention of 1829-30 was remarkable for the number of able men who sat in it, among them ex-Presidents Madison and Monroe, and Chief Justice Marshall. After discussing the basis of representation for weeks, a committee was finally appointed to apportion delegates for the House without adopting any basis. As a result the Trans-Alleghany district was given thirty-one delegates, the Valley twenty-five, Piedmont forty-two and Tidewater thirty-six.

The suffrage question was the next most important subject before this convention. The constitution of 1776 had left the suffrage where it was fixed by act of the House of Burgesses in 1736. This act vested it in freeholders, a freehold being defined as 100 acres of unimproved, or twenty-five acres of improved land, with a house on it, or a house and lot in town. The convention of 1829-30 refused, after a stormy debate, to consent to any radical reform. The suffrage was extended to leaseholders and taxpaying housekeepers, but this added only a few thousand to the electorate.

The West was by no means satisfied, but remained quiet for a while. In March, 1850, the General Assembly finally agreed to submit the question of calling another convention to the people, determining in advance, however, that the convention should be organized on the mixed basis (white population and taxation). This arrangement gave the East seventy-six delegates and the West fifty-nine, an eastern majority of seventeen; whereas, on the white basis, the East would have had sixty-one and the West seventy-four, a western majority of thirteen. In spite of the fact that the East controlled, the convention of 1850-51 is known as the reform convention. The apportionment of representatives for the House was finally fixed on the white basis, giving the West eighty-three delegates by the census of 1850, and the East sixty-nine, while the Senate was still based on an arbitrary apportionment of thirty to the East and twenty to the West. The West now had a majority of four on joint ballot. This convention also extended the suffrage to every male white over twenty-one years of age who had resided two years in the state and one year in the district. These two reforms, together with the popular election of governor and judges, changed Virginia from an aristocratic government into one of the most democratic in the Union. [For the facts stated in this section the writer is largely indebted to J. A. C. Chandler's two monographs on Representation in Virginia and History of Suffrage in Virginia in the Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science.]


We have already referred to Jefferson's desire for the abolition of slavery in 1776. There were no stronger abolitionists in America at that time than Jefferson, George Mason and St. George Tucker, while Madison, Washington and Henry, though more conservative, earnestly desired to see slavery disappear. The disposal of the free negro - a question of little consequence at the North where the relative proportion of blacks was small-retarded all plans for general emancipation at the South, and while the question was continually discussed, no action was taken.

Nat Turner's insurrection in Southampton county in August, 1831, in which sixty-one persons, mostly women and children, were barbarously murdered, brought the question very forcibly to the attention of Virginia statesmen. On Jan. 11, 1832, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, a grandson of Jefferson, proposed to submit to the voters a plan for freeing all slaves born after July 4, 1840, the males on arriving at twenty-one and the females at eighteen, and for removing them beyond the limits of the United States. This motion was tabled without a recorded vote. The general question continued to be very earnestly debated, however, for two weeks, when it was finally disposed of on a test resolution declaring that it was expedient to adopt some legislative enactments for the abolition of slavery. This motion was defeated by a vote of seventy-three to fifty-eight. The rise and growth of Garrisonian abolition at the North during The next twenty years threw the South on the defensive, and the abolition sentiment in Virginia never again acquired the force that it had in 1832. It is estimated that at least 100,000 slaves were freed by Virginians between the Revolution and the War of Secession without legal compulsion, as against a total of 59,421 freed in the entire North by legislation.


South Carolina passed the ordinance of secession Dec. 20, 1860, and was followed during January by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, and on February 1 by Texas. The Virginia legislature was convened in extra session by Governor Letcher January 7, and issued an invitation to the other states to send commissioners to a convention in Washington "to adjust the present unhappy controversies." But the time for compromises had passed, and the so-called "peace convention" which assembled at the national capital February 4, and over which ex-President Tyler presided, accomplished nothing.

On the day that the peace convention assembled the election of delegates for a state convention was held in Virginia, and resulted in a Union victory. Of the 152 delegates chosen 30 were classed as secessionists, 20 as Douglas men and 102 as Whigs, but not more than half a dozen were "actual sub-missionists - that is, men in favor of the preservation of the Union under any and all circumstances." When the convention met it soon became evident that, while a large majority were opposed to secession as matters then stood, a large majority were al so opposed to coercion. Lincoln's inaugural address was a great blow to the Union men of Virginia, and when it became evident that he did not intend to evacuate Fort Sumter the secession forces gained strength rapidly. Still, as late as April 4 a resolution to submit an ordinance of secession to the people was voted down in the convention by 89 to 45. On April 15 President Lincoln issued a call for volunteers and called on the governor of each state for its quota. Virginia was thus forced to choose between joining the Confederacy and assisting in its coercion. There was little doubt as to the out come. On the 17th the convention passed the ordinance of secession by a vote of 88 to 55, subject to ratification by the people at the polls. As soon as the vote was announced nine delegates changed their votes from negative to affirmative and six new votes were recorded, so that the final vote stood 103 to 46. The scene is described as both solemn and affecting. One delegate, while speaking against the ordinance, broke down in incoherent sobs; another, who voted for it, wept like a child. The sentiment of the people had run ahead of their leaders. A. H. H. Stuart, who had strenuously opposed secession, now issued a letter urging the people to stand together, and John B. Baldwin, when asked by a Northern friend "What will the Union men of Virginia do now?" replied: "There are no Union men left in Virginia." On April 20 Robert E. Lee, refusing the chief command in the United States army, resigned his commission and offered his services to his state. Governor Letcher, who had been a strong Union man, at once took steps for the defense of the state and formed a provisional alliance with the Confederacy. The ordinance of secession was ratified by the people May 23 by a vote of 96,750 to 32,134, the opposition coming almost exclusively from the western counties, which soon after took steps to separate from the state. Reluctantly and in sorrow, but calm and strong in the consciousness of right, Virginia severed the ties that bound her to the Union she had done more than any other state to form, and devoted her soil to the carnage of war.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. - Ballagh: History of Slavery in Virginia (1902); Chandler: Representation in Virginia in Johns Hopkins University Studies (1896), History of Suffrage in Virginia in Johns Hopkins University Studies (1901); Force: American Archives (5th series); Graham: Life of General Daniel Morgan (1856); Goolrich: Life of General Hugh Mercer (1906); Heitman: Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army (1893); Henry: Life of Patrick Henry (1891); Muhlenberg: Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg (1849); Paullin: The Navy of the American Revolution (1906); Rhodes: History of the United States (Vol. III., Chaps. XIV. and XV.); Tower: The Marquis de LaFayette in the American Revolution (1895); Tyler: Letters and Times of the Tylers (1885); Weedon: Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon (1902); Wise: Seven Decades of the Union (1881); The Virginia Navy of the Revolution in Southern Literary Messenger (1857, January, February, March, and April); Writings of Washington, Jefferson and Madison; Virginia Debates of 1788 in Elliot's Debates (Vol. Ill.); The Virginia Report and Debates 1798-1799 (1850); Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-30 (1830); Journal, Acts, and Proceedings of the Virginia Convention of 1850-51 (1851); Journals of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Professor of History, Washington and Lee University.

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