Western Virginia

Providence Daily Post, May 17, 1861

Western Virginia occupies at present, a peculiar position. Opposed to secession, and hence dissatisfied with the movements of the eastern portion of the State, she would appear, if we might judge from present indications, about to draw a line of demarcation between herself and the east, and to set up a government of her own. If backed up by the military power of the Northwestern States, which she probably would be, her object would be readily accomplished, for a force would be brought to her aid which would baffle all the efforts of Eastern Virginia to prevent it. But here a serious question arises. Congress denies that the act of secession does carry a State out of the Union; and therefore would seem bound to act towards Virginia, under the constitution, as if she had never passed a secession ordinance. The attempt therefore of the Western part of the State to cast off allegiance to the State government, and make herself independent, would be deemed insurrection. If Virginia is still virtually within the Union, would it not be the duty of our government to aid in putting down the insurrection? If the government refused to do this, and especially if it should aid Western Virginia instead, would it not be equivalent to an acknowledgement that the State was out of the Union in fact, and had become a foreign body not entitled to government aid? But the Northwestern States can, if they will, aid Western Virginia, and enable her to set up for herself. The question then arises, can she, as a sovereign State, become a member of the Union? And here, it would seem, arises another difficulty.

The constitution says, Article IV, Section 3, "No new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State; nor any other State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of Congress." If Congress persists in the repudiation of the acts of secession, and still claims that Virginia is a revolted State, still in the Union, it is difficult to perceive how they can constitutionally recognize Western Virginia as a new State, and admit her as a member of the Federal Union. It appears to us that, if Congress should do this, they must ignore this provision of the constitution, and virtually recognize the right of secession. Perhaps, however, Congress may take some other view of this subject. They may recognize the right of revolution, and consider that, by that means, Western Virginia takes herself out of the jurisdiction of the present State. It is a knotty question any way, and it requires longer and wiser heads than ours to clear it up. We hope however that some way may be found, by which Western Virginia may be able successfully to resist the act of secession, and that the Union men there may be fully protected in their just rights.

Since the foregoing was written, we see that the Wheeling Convention has decided against immediate separation, referring that question for final action to the Convention to meet in Wheeling on the 11th of June; and after appointing a committee of nine, empowered to order the assembling of the old convention before the General Convention, if necessary, adjourned sine die.