Chapter XI - Formation of West Virginia

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 1 State History
CHAPTER XI - FORMATION OF WEST VIRGINIA
Pages 149-156

The reorganized government of Virginia made all things ready for the creation of the new commonwealth. The people of Western Virginia had waited long for the opportunity to divide the state. The tyranny of the more powerful eastern part had been borne half a century. When at last the war created the occasion, the people were not slow to profit by it, and to bring a new state into existence. The work began in earnest August 20, 1861, when the second Wheeling convention called upon the people to vote on the question; and the labor was completed June 20, 1363, when the officers of the new state took charge of affairs. One year and ten months were required for the accomplishment of the work; and this chapter gives an outline of the proceedings relative to the new state during* that time. It was at first proposed to call the state Kanawha; but the name was changed in the constitutional convention at Wheeling on December 3, 1861, to West Virginia. On February 18, 1852, the constitutional convention adjourned, subject to the call of the chairman. In April of that year the people of the state voted upon the ratification of the constitution; and the vote in favor of ratification was 18,362, and against it, 514. Governor Pierpont issued a proclamation announcing the result, and at the same time called an extra session of the Virginia legislature to meet in Wheeling May 6. That body met, and six days later passed an act by which it gave its consent to a division of the state of Virginia and the creation of a new state. This was done in order that the constitution might be complied with; for, before the state could be divided, the legislature must give its consent. It yet remained for West Virginia to be admitted into the union by an act of congress and by the president's proclamation. Had there been no opposition and had there not been such a press of other business this might have been accomplished in a few weeks. As it was there was a long and bitter contest in the senate. The opposition did not come so much from outside the state as from the state itself. John S. Carlisle, one of the senators elected by the legislature of the reorganized government of Virginia at Wheeling, was supposed to be friendly to the cause of the new state; but when he was put to the test it was found that he was strongly opposed to it, and he did all in his power to defeat the movement, and almost accomplished his purpose. The indignation in Western Virginia was great. The legislature, in session at Wheeling, on December 12, 1862, by a resolution, requested Carlisle to resign the seat he held in the senate. He refused, to do so. He had been one of the most active advocates of the movement for the new state while a member of the first Wheeling* convention, in May, 1861, and had been a leader in the new state movement before and after that date. Why he changed, and opposed the admission of West Virginia by congress has never been satisfactorily explained.

One of the reasons given for his opposition, and one which he himself put forward, was that congress attempted to amend the state constitution on the subject of slavery, and he opposed the admission of the state on that ground. He claimed that lie would rather have no new state than have it saddled with a constitution, a portion of which its people had never ratified. But this could not have been the sole cause of Carlisle's opposition. He tried to defeat the bill after the proposed objectionable amendment to the constitution had been satisfactorily arranged. He fought it in a determined manner till the last. He had hindered the work of getting the bill before congress before any change in the state constitution had been proposed.

The members in congress from the reorganized government of Virginia were William G. Brown, Jacob B. Blair and K. V. Waley; in the senate, John S. Carlisle and Waitman T. Willey. In addition to these gentlemen, the legislature appointed as commissioners to bring the matter before congress, Ephraim B. Hall of Marion county, Peter Van Winkle of Wood county, John Hall of Mason county, and Elbert H. Caldwell of Marshall county. These commissioners reached Washington May 22, 1862. There were several other well-known West Virginians who also went to Washington on their own account to assist in securing the new state. Among them were Daniel Polsley, lieutenant governor of West Virginia; Granville Parker and Harrison Hagans. There were members of congress and senators from other states who performed special service in the cause. The matter was laid before the United States Senate May 29, 1862, by Senator Willey, who presented the West Virginia constitution recently ratified, and also the act of the legislature giving its consent to the creation of a new state within the jurisdiction of Virginia, and a memorial requesting the admission of the new state. In presenting these documents, Senator Willey addressed the senate and denied that the movement was simply to gratify revenge upon the mother state for seceding from the union and joining the Southern Confederacy; but, on the contrary, the people west of the Alleghanies had long wanted a new state, and had long suffered in consequence of Virginia's neglect, and of her unconcern for their welfare. Mr. Willey 's address was favorably received, and the whole matter regarding the admission of West Virginia was laid before the committee on territories, of which Senator John S. Carlisle was a member. It had not at that time been suspected that Carlisle was hostile to the movement. He was expected to prepare the bill. He neglected to do so until nearly a month had passed and the session of congress was drawing* to a close. But it was not so much the delay that showed, his hostility as the form of the bill. Had it been passed by congress in the form proposed, by Carlisle the defeat of the new state measure must have been inevitable. No one acquainted with the circumstances and conditions had any doubt that the bill was prepared for the express purpose of defeating the wishes of the people by whom Mr. Carlisle had been sent to the senate. It included in West Virginia, in addition to the counties which had ratified the constitution, Alleghany, Augusta, Berkeley, Bath, Botetourt, Craig, Clark, Frederick, Highland, Jefferson, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties. The hostility In most of these counties was very great. The bill provided that these counties, in conjunction with those west of the Alleghanies, should elect delegates to a constitutional convention and frame a constitution which should provide that all children born of slaves after 1863 should be free. This constitution was then to go back to the people of the several counties for ratification. Then, if the Virginia legislature should pass an act giving its consent to the creation of a new state from Virginia's territory, and the governor of Virginia certify the same to the president of the United States, he might make proclamation of the fact, and West Virginia would become a state without further proceedings by congress.

Senator Carlisle knew that the counties he had added east of the Alleghanies were opposed to the new state on any terms, and that they would oppose it the more determinedly on account of the gradual emancipation clause in it. He knew that they would not appoint delegates to a constitutional convention, nor would they ratify the constitution should one be submitted to them. In short, they were strong enough in votes and sentiment to defeat the movement for a new state. All the work done for the creation of West Virginia would have been thrown away had this bill prevailed.

Three days later, June 26, the bill was called up, and Charles Sumner proposed an amendment regarding slavery. He would have no slavery at all. All indications were that the bill would defeat the measure for the new state, and preparations were made to begin the fight in a new quarter. Congressman William G. Brown of Preston county, proposed a new bill to be presented in the lower house. But the contest went on, In July Senator Willey submitted an amendment, which was really a new bill. It omitted the counties east of the Alleghanies, and provided that all slaves under twenty-one years of age on July 4, 1863, should be free on arriving at that age. It now became apparent to Carlisle that his bill was dead, and that AYest Virginia was likely to be admitted. As a last resort, he proposed a postponement till December, in order to gain time, but his motion was lost. Carlisle then opposed the bill on the grounds that if passed, it would impose upon the people of the new state a clause of the constitution not of their making and which they had not ratified. But this argument was deprived of its force by offering to submit the proposed amendment to the people of West Virginia for their approval. Fortunately the constitutional convention had adjourned subject, to the call of the chair. The members were convened; they included the amendment in the constitution, and the people approved it. However, before this was done, the bill took its course through congress. It passed the senate July 14, 1862, and was immediately sent to the lower house. But congress being about to adjourn, further consideration of the bill went over till the next session in December, 1862, and on the tenth of that month it was taken up in the house of representatives and after a discussion continuing most of the day, it was passed by a vote of ninety-six to fifty-five.

The friends of the new state now felt that their efforts had been successful; but one more step was necessary, and the whole work might yet be rendered null and void. It depended on President Lincoln. He might veto the bill. He requested the opinion of his cabinet. Six of the cabinet officers complied, and three favored signing the bill and three advised the president to veto it. Mr. Lincoln took it under advisement. It was believed that he favored the bill, but there was much anxiety felt. Nearly two years before Mr. Lincoln, through one of his cabinet officers, had promised Governor Pierpont to do all he could, in a constitutional way, for the reorganized government of Virginia; and that promise was construed to mean that the new state would not be opposed by the president. Mr. Lincoln was evidently undecided for some time what course to pursue, for he afterwards said that a telegram received by him from A. W. Campbell, editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer, largely influenced him in deciding to sign the bill. On December 31, 1853, Congressman Jacob B. Blair called on the president to see if any action had been taken by the executive. The bill had not yet been signed, but Mr. Lincoln asked Mr. Blair to come back the next day. Mr. Blair did so, and was given the bill admitting West Virginia into the Union. It was signed January 1, 1863.

However, there was yet something to be done before West Virginia became a state, The bill passed by congress and signed by President Lincoln went no further than to provide that the new state should become a member of the Union when a clause concerning slavery, contained in the bill, should be made a part of the constitution and be ratified by the people. The convention which had framed the state constitution had adjourned to meet at the call of the chairman. The members came together on February 13, 1853. Two days later John S. Carlisle, who had refused to resign his seat in the senate when asked by the Virginia legislature to do so. made another effort to defeat the will of the people whom he was sent to congress to represent. He presented a supplementary bill in the senate providing that President Lincoln's proclamation admitting West Virginia be withheld until certain counties of West Virginia had ratified by their votes the clause regarding slavery contained in the bill. Mr. Carlisle believed that those counties would not ratify the constitution. But his bill was defeated in the senate by a vote of 28 to 12.

The clause concerning slavery, as adopted by the constitutional convention on reassembling at Wheeling, was in these words: "The children of slaves, born within the limits of this state after the fourth day of July, 1863, shall be free, and all slaves within the said state who shall, at the time aforesaid, be under the age of ten years, shall be free when they arrive at the age of twenty-one years; and all slaves over ten and under twenty-one years, shall be free when they arrive at the age of twenty-five years; and no slave shall be permitted to come into the state for permanent residence therein." The people ratified the constitution at an election held for that purpose. The majority in favor of ratification was seventeen thousand.

President Lincoln issued his proclamation April 20, 1863, and sixty days thereafter, that is Jane 20, 1863, West Virginia was to become a state without further legislation. In the meantime, May 9, a state convention assembled in Parkersburg to nominate officers. A confederate force under General Jones ad7anced within forty miles of Parkersburg, and the convention hurried through with its labors and adjourned. It nominated Arthur I. Boreman of Wood county for governor; Campbell Tarr of Brooke county for treasurer; Samuel Crane of Randolph county for auditor; Edgar J. Boyers of Tyler county, for secretary of state; A. B. Caldwell of Ohio county, attorney-general; for judges of the supreme court of appeals, Ralph L. Berkshire of. Monongalia county, James K. Brown of Kanawha county, William A. Harrison of Harrison county. These were all elected late in the month of May, and on June 20, 1863, took the oath of office and West Virginia was a state. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel Webster in 1851 when he said that, if Virginia took sides with a secession movement, the result would be the formation of a new state from Virginia's transalleghany territory.

The creation of the new state of West Virginia did not put an end to the reorganized government of Virginia. The officers who had held their seat of government at Wheeling, moved to Alexandria, and in 1865, moved to Richmond where they held office until their successors were elected. Governor Pierpont filled the gubernational chair of Virginia about seven years.

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