A Word to the Northwest

Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, April 27, 1861

There is a time for all things, or at least has been. There was a time for argument against secession in this State, but that time has now gone by. While there was the slightest ground to hope, we battled this delusion to the extent of our feeble abilities, and fought secession to the last hour. But the die is cast. The secession of Virginia is now a fact, reluctant as we were to believe it ever could become such; and it is no longer of use to argue the question of the right of secession. The argument has long ago been exhausted, the ground travelled over for the hundredth time, and on that phase of the question there remains nothing more to be said.

The time has now come for action—prompt, energetic, instantaneous action.—There is not a day nor an hour to be lost. What that action is to be, let a few plain statements determine. From time immemorial Western Virginia has been but the serf of the East—subjected to unjust taxation and unequal representation—causes which alone have heretofore been considered sufficient to justify separation in more instances than one. For years, as the West has grown into power, she has hoped that her rights would be acknowledged and her wishes respected, but hoped against hope, as it now appears. Four months ago we were commanded to go into an election for delegates to a convention, the known object of which was to place us and the rest of the State in a position of hostility to the government to which we owe our allegiance, and which has always been the first to protect and the last to oppress us. The election resulted in sending to the Convention a large majority of men who were opposed to the assumption of a right to change our relations with the United States Government. They went to Richmond, and from that day to the culmination of the catastrophe everything that could be conceived was done to buy away from their allegiance to the government, and duty to their constituents the delegates Western Virginia sent to Richmond. Finding everything else to fail, violence was resorted to by the desperate leaders who had foresworn the secession of Virginia, to dragoon our delegates into submission to their diabolical measures. A mob of ruffians was congregated in the Capital of our State, and a Convention of the sovereign people was subjected to its terrorizing presence. Our delegates from the Northwest, and the few from other parts of the State, who had the manliness to stand up unawed to the last, were threatened with every conceivable kind of personal violence if they did not join in the schemes of the conspirators. They were forced to go into a secret session, and bound by an oath not to divulge the passage of an ordinance of secession till the traitors had had time to seize the government property in the State. Under these influences, the ordinance of secession passed, and the mob was triumphant. Our representatives were obliged to fly for safety, some of them being constrained to procure passes from Mr. Letcher, once our Governor, now the mad leader of a yet wilder regime.

Without waiting for the action of the State on the ordinance—for the call for the Convention provided that the action of the Convention should be submitted to the people for ratification or rejection—the secession faction, with Letcher at its head, at once proceeded to make war on the Government, and he, presuming on the position he held as Governor, issues his mandate, calling upon the volunteer companies of Virginia to be ready at his beck to march upon the old and revered flag of their country, thus taking away from the people the opportunity of saying whether they desire to place themselves in such a position, and inaugurating at once a war in our midst against our Government, and against its supporters in Virginia, who are in many instances compelled to abandon the State to save themselves from violence. In addition to this, that arch traitor, Jeff. Davis, is invited to make our State the field of his operations, and our Capital the rendezvous of his Southern hordes of ruffians.

Men of the Northwest, this is where Virginia stands to-day—this is how you stand—this has been your treatment, these the indignities you have suffered. Will you submit to a repetition of them? Will you consent, and are you willing to have them doubled, quadrupled, carried beyond all power of endurance? Are you a free people? and would you retain your liberties? Are you agreed that the depredation, wrongs and insults of the last few months shall be continued, repeated, re-repeated and intensified by a petty but most absolute tyranny for all time to come? If you are not, then you must make up your minds to act for yourselves, and without loss of time. Your position, if you have but the nerve to sustain it, is one of moral sublimity. The friends of the Union everywhere look to you and pray that you may have the moral courage to dare to stand up for your rights in the Union. You have the sympathy of the Union men in the two great States that join us, and all over the country, and you can have, so they assure you, the sinews that may be needed for the struggle. We conjure you, then, as freemen who must achieve their own enfranchisement, by all that you hold dear in the present, and anticipate in the future, by your duty as citizens of the best government on earth, by your fealty to the altars of liberty and your attachment to home and your own hearthstones, that you will forget past differences, if such there have been, and unite as one man in this hour of common danger, and act as becomes the momentous issues forced upon you.