The Virginia Legislature
Wellsburg Herald, January 11, 1861
This body commenced its session on the 7th inst., and, though we have no account of its proceedings, the reader will gather from the letter of our Richmond correspondent an idea of the probable temper of the delegates, and of the appliances that will be used to influence them. With so much combustible material and so few heavy logs, there is danger of spontaneous combustion, unless the people cool their ardor by an application of cold water. This we have not much idea they will do, in their present temper, and Gov. Letcher seems to be of the same opinion, in his recommendation against the holding of a Convention. There is not much else of importance in the message of the Governor, beyond his disapproval of a Convention of the people of Virginia, at this time, and his recommendation of a Convention of all the States, and of the appointment of Commissioners, discreet men, from Virginia, to visit the different Northern Legislatures, and to come to an understanding, first, as to grievances, then as to remedies.
The popular opinion of the State, at least of the Eastern portion of it, is evidently in favor of a Convention, and of decided, even precipitate measures, looking toward secession; but there is a strong feeling of latent conservatism even there, and in the Northwestern part of the State a strong and rapidly growing disposition to repudiate the hasty and fanatical Southern sentiment so prevalent East of the Blue Ridge.—Upon this Western sentiment we rely greatly for the maintainance of the present Union. If Virginia continues faithful to the Union, there is no danger of the other border States; and if she shows herself unfaithful, it will be at the expense of a division of the State. This is about the position in which the matter stands, so far as she is concerned, and, judging from the indications, there is a stronger feeling in favor of separation than some of our Rip Van Winkles seems to think.
When the bill of expenses for military charges already incurred, and that which will be inevitable if the State resolves on putting herself in an attitude of rebellion to the General Government, comes up for adjustment, and the 600,000 white inhabitants of Western Virginia, with the 66,000 slaves, find that they have to be taxed heavily for the benefit of 486,000 white inhabitants of Eastern Virginia, with 445,000 slaves, the zeal and loyalty of Western Virginia will be terribly tested, and when they further reflect that all this vast horde of negro property in the East under twelve years of age is entirely exempt from taxation, and the balance only taxed nominally, as it were; and, furthermore, that by the construction of the Senate, on the mixed white and black basis, the East retains the power, indefinitely, to thwart the will of the majority of the State, it is hardly probable that the white men of the West will be willing to have their burdens further increased, for such purposes.—Increased they must and will be, if Virginia secedes, and piled up monstrous high. Taxes will be levied by the million, and collected, if need be, at the point of the bayonet—the very bayonets we are now being called upon to pay for.
Are the Representatives of Western Virginia prepared to saddle such grevious burdens upon their people? Are the people of Western Virginia ready to instruct their delegates to vote for a Convention? for secession? for civil war? for anarchy and ruin?