All hail! the Confederated States. All honour to gallant South Carolina, who gave the first impulse to the Revolution which brought the new nation into being. All gratitude to the benign Providence that darkened the understandings of men in power and converted seeming obstacles into tremendous agencies for hastening and perfecting the great and good work consummated at Montgomery. Wisely, nobly have the Confederated States chosen their leaders. Valour and Statesmanship are at the helm. The new keel cuts the waters of a glorious sea. It is morning. Angry clouds are near at hand, and soon the thunder of battle will be bellowing in the skies. But the not distant azure is all serene and fair; resplendent with fresh light and the dewy tints of roses and of gold. The ship will outride the storm. Already we catch the balmy breath of the tropics. There is our haven.
Pity and shame! that the Border States prefer not to share the proud destiny of the new Republic. But they have chosen. They would be slaves. Virginia grovels in the dust at SEWARD’S feet. The sons of patriots lick the coarse hand of an ill-bred, foul-mouthed fanatical tyrant. The children of ANDREW JACKSON clutch tremblingly the knees of ANDREW JOHNSON. The descendants of DANIEL BOONE are pleading like frightened women for peace. It is their right. Let no one disturb them.
The Confederate States remain a fixed, unalterable fact. Civil liberty has found a house of refuge, a home, safe forever alike from the tyranny of kings and from the despotism of agrarian mobs and lawless democracies! The eyes fill and the heart swells with exceeding joy at the thought. ‘Tis a grand achievement, a mighty Revolution. Humanity is exalted by this bold and unparalleled stroke for freedom. Man’s capability of self-government is vindicated by this daring exercise of the right of that government. Henceforth the name of Southerner shall be the synonym of liberty. To the Confederate States, as to the last and only permanent abode of Republican institutions, the best and bravest blood, the loftiest spirits, and the most cultivated intellects on this continent, will surely repair. The very cream and excellence of American life will be compacted in the new nation. For highminded independent people, for fertile soil, for genial climate, for magnificent destiny, the peer of this youthful nation will not be found in all the world. God speed it!
— Southern Literary Messenger, Volume 32, Issue 3, Mar 1861; p. 340.
Abraham Lincoln once asked General Scott the question: “Why is it that you were once able to take the City of Mexico in three months with five thousand men, and we have been unable to take Richmond with one hundred thousand men?”
“I will tell you,” said General Scott. “The men who took us into the City of Mexico then are the same men who are keeping us out of Richmond now.”
Whereas, seven of the States formerly composing a part of the United States have, by authority of their people, solemnly resumed the powers granted by them to the United States, and have framed a Constitution and organized a Government for themselves, to which the people of those States are yielding willing obedience, and have so notified the President of the United States by all the formalities incident to such action, and thereby become to the United States a separate, independent and foreign power; and whereas, the Constitution of the United States has invested Congress with the sole power “to declare war,” and until such declaration is made, the President has no authority to call for an extraordinary force to wage offensive war against any foreign Power: and whereas, on the 15th inst., the President of the United States, in plain violation of the Constitution, issued a proclamation calling for a force of seventy-five thousand men, to cause the laws of the United States to be duly executed over a people who are no longer a part of the Union, and in said proclamation threatens to exert this unusual force to compel obedience to his mandates; and whereas, the General Assembly of Virginia, by a majority approaching to entire unanimity, declared at its last session that the State of Virginia would consider such an exertion of force as a virtual declaration of war, to be resisted by all the power at the command of Virginia; and subsequently the Convention now in session, representing the sovereignty of this State, has reaffirmed in substance the same policy, with almost equal unanimity; and whereas, the State of Virginia deeply sympathizes with the Southern States in the wrongs they have suffered, and in the position they have assumed; and having made earnest efforts peaceably to compose the differences which have severed the Union, and having failed in that attempt, through this unwarranted act on the part of the President; and it is believed that the influences which operate to produce this proclamation against the seceded States will be brought to bear upon this commonwealth, if she should exercise her undoubted right to resume the powers granted by her people, and it is due to the honor of Virginia that an improper exercise of force against her people should be repelled. Therefore I, JOHN LETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have thought proper to order all armed volunteer regiments or companies within this State forthwith to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders, and upon the reception of this proclamation to report to the Adjutant-General of the State their organization and numbers, and prepare themselves for efficient service. Such companies as are not armed and equipped will report that fact, that they may be properly supplied.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed, this 17th day of April, 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth.
When Oliver Cromwell was installed Protector of England, the Commonwealth of Virginia refused to acknowledge his authority. The English Commonwealth was then at the height of its power, and, at its head, one who was admirably described by Bossuet as “a man of an incredible depth of thought; as profound a hypocrite as he was a skillful politician; capable alike of concealing and undertaking everything; active and indefatigable equally in peace as war; so vigilant and active that he has never proved himself wanting to any opportunity which presented itself to his elevation; in fine, one of those stirring and audacious spirits which seem born to overturn the world.” Such was the Commonwealth and such the man, triumphant over all other enemies, against which this gallant Commonwealth, then numbering only twenty thousand inhabitants, unfurled the standard of defence.
The Commonwealth of England was disposed to submit to this resistance.–Virginia, from the first, had arrayed itself on the side of the King. During the whole preceding struggle of Charles and the Parliament, Virginia was firm in its adherence to the monarch, and enacted a declaration “that they were born under a monarchy, and would never degenerate from the condition of their birth by being subject to any other government.” After the beheading of Charles I., Virginia acknowledged the authority of his son, and actually continued the provincial government under a commission sent by him from his retreat at Breda to Sir William Berkeley. The wrath of Parliament was intensely roused by this bold and persistent contumacy; an ordinance was issued declaring the inhabitants of Virginia notorious robbers and traitors, and all intercourse prohibited with them, either by the people of England, the inhabitants of the other American settlements, or with foreign nations. Finally, a fleet was sent over to overpower the rebellious colony. But observe the difference between the great intellects that then ruled England and the Government of the United States. Cromwell extended the olive branch as well as the sword, and commissioners accompanied the fleet, who were empowered to try the effect of pacific and conciliatory measures. The result proved the wisdom of the policy.
“It marks,” says Bancroft, a Massachusetts historian, “the character of the Virginians, that they refused to surrender to force, but yielded by a voluntary deed and mutual compact. We copy the articles concluded between the commissioners of the Commonwealth, and the Council of State, and the Grand Assembly of Virginia, that our readers may contrast them with the terms of Lincoln’s so-called amnesty:
“First. That this should be considered a voluntary act, not forced or constrained by a conquest upon the country; and that the colonists should have and enjoy such freedoms and privileges as belong to the free-born people of England.
“Secondly. That the Grand Assembly, as formerly, should convene and transact the affairs of Virginia, doing nothing contrary to the Government of the Commonwealth or laws of England.
“Thirdly. That there should be a full and total remission of all acts, words, or writings against the Parliament.
“Fourthly. That Virginia should have her ancient bounds and limits, granted by the charters of the former kings, and that a new charter was to be sought from Parliament to that effect, against such as had trespassed upon their ancient rights. (This clause would seem to be aimed at some of the neighboring colonies.)
“Fifthly. That all patents of land under the seal of the colony, granted by the Governor, should remain in full force.
“Sixthly. That the privilege of fifty acres of land for every person emigrating to the colony should remain in full force.
“Sevenths. That the people of Virginia have free trade, as the people of England enjoy, with all places and nations, according to the laws of the Commonwealth; and that Virginia should enjoy equal privileges, in every respect, with any other colony in America.
“Eighths. That Virginia should be free from all taxes, customs and impositions whatever; and that none should be imposed upon them without the consent of their Grand Assembly; and no forts or castles be erected, or garrisons maintained, without their consent.
“Ninth. That no charge should be required from the country on account of the expense incurred by the present fleet.
“Tenths. That this agreement should be tendered to all persons, and that such as should refuse to subscribe to it should have a year’s time to remove themselves and effects from Virginia, and in the meantime enjoy equal justice.”
The remaining articles were of less importance. This was followed by a supplemental treaty, for the benefit of the Governor and Council, and such soldiers as had served against the Commonwealth in England—allowing them the most favorable terms.
We need not enumerate the unconditional-surrender terms proposed by Lincoln. Their contrast to the overtures by which Cromwell pacificated the colony is too striking to require comment.
The record of Virginia from the first, warrants the pride and devotion of persons. The correspondence between the rights secured under the articles with the Commonwealth Parliament, and the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, as violated by the British King, will suggest itself to every intelligent reader. That Old Dominion, with all its traditional love of monarchy; would not permit even its born king to trample upon its rights. If it did not lead the way in the American Revolution, it came up in due time; and, like a broad-shouldered and double-jointed giant, carried it through when others tottered and trembled under the burthen. “Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in, bear it that the opposer may beware of thee,” seems to have been always the maxim of this deliberate and plucky old Commonwealth. But for Virginia, and Virginia’s Washington, what would have become of the American Revolution?
It becomes not us to speak of her career in the present war. She arrogates to herself no superiority over her patriotic and heroic sister States. She has been reproached, indeed, for coming so late into the contest. It is true, that in this Revolution, as in that of ’76, she was not in a hurry. She exhausted every effort for peace, conciliation and compromise before she drew the sword. She seemed like her great orator, Patrick Henry, somewhat awkward and hesitating in her first utterances in the grand debate. But she waxes warm as she proceeds, and then the lightnings flash and the thunders roll over the heated sky. Whatever be the result of this struggle, no Virginian will have reason to be ashamed of his State. Let Lincoln, more despotic than Cromwell, deprive her of her liberties and expunge her name from the roll of States, he cannot despoil her of the Past, nor extinguish the lustre with which History will reflect the majestic luminary long after it has descended beneath the horizon.
— The Daily Dispatch: 25 January 1865; Richmond Dispatch.
Offered in a large mass meeting of the people of Botetourt county, December 10th, 1860, by the Hon. John J. Allen, President of the Supreme court of Virginia, and adopted with but two dissenting voices.
The people of Botetourt county, in general meeting assembled, believe it to be the duty of all the citizens of the Commonwealth, in the present alarming condition of our country, to give some expression of their opinion upon the threatening aspect of public affairs. They deem it unnecessary and out of place to avow sentiments of loyalty to the constitution and devotion to the union of these States. A brief reference to the part the State has acted in the past will furnish the best evidence of the feelings of her sons in regard to the union of the States and the constitution, which is the sole bond which binds them together.
In the controversies with the mother country, growing out of the efforts of the latter to tax the colonies without their consent, it was Virginia who, by the resolutions against the stamp act, gave the example of the first authoritative resistance by a legislative body to the British Government, and so imparted the first impulse to the Revolution.
Virginia declared her independence before any of the colonies, and gave the first written constitution to mankind.
By her instructions her representatives in the General Congress introduced a resolution to declare the colonies independent States, and the declaration itself was written by one of her sons.
She furnished to the Confederate States the father of his country, under whose guidance independence was achieved, and the rights and liberties of each State, it was hoped, perpetually established.
She stood undismayed through the long night of the Revolution, breasting the storm of war and pouring out the blood of her sons like water on almost every battle-field, from the ramparts of Quebec to the sands of Georgia.
By her own unaided efforts the northwestern territory was conquered, whereby the Mississippi, instead of the Ohio river, was recognized as the boundary of the United States by the treaty of peace.
To secure harmony, and as an evidence of her estimate of the value of the union of the States, she ceded to all for their common benefit this magnificent region — an empire in itself.
When the articles of confederation were shown to be inadequate to secure peace and tranquility at home and respect abroad, Virginia first moved to bring about a more perfect union.
At her instance the first assemblage of commissioners took place at Annapolis, which ultimately led to the meeting of the convention which formed the present constitution.
This instrument itself was in a great measure the production of one of her sons, who has been justly styled the father of the constitution.
The government created by it was put into operation with her Washington, the father of his country, at its head; her Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, in his cabinet; her Madison, the great advocate of the constitution, in the legislative hall.
Under the leading of Virginia statesmen the Revolution of 1798 was brought about, Louisiana was acquired, and the second war of independence was waged.
Throughout the whole progress of the republic she has never infringed on the rights of any State, or asked or received an exclusive benefit.
On the contrary, she has been the first to vindicate the equality of all the States, the smallest as well as the greatest.
But claiming no exclusive benefit for her efforts and sacrifices in the common cause, she had a right to look for feelings of fraternity and kindness for her citizens from the citizens of other States, and equality of rights for her citizens with all others; that those for whom she had done so much would abstain from actual aggressions upon her soil, or if they could not be prevented, would show themselves ready and prompt in punishing the aggressors; and that the common government, to the promotion of which she contributed so largely for the purpose of “establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility,” would not, whilst the forms of the constitution were observed, be so perverted in spirit as to inflict wrong and injustice and produce universal insecurity.
These reasonable expectations have been grievously disappointed.
April 3d.—Another clear and bright morning. It was a quiet night, with its million of stars. And yet how few could sleep, in anticipation of the entrance of the enemy! But no enemy came until 9 a.m., when some 500 were posted at the Capitol Square. They had been waited upon previously by the City Council, and the surrender of the city stipulated—to occur this morning. They were asked to post guards for the protection of property from pillage, etc., and promised to do so.
At dawn there were two tremendous explosions, seeming to startle the very earth, and crashing the glass throughout the western end of the city. One of these was the blowing up of the magazine, near the new almshouse—the other probably the destruction of an iron-clad ram. But subsequently there were others. I was sleeping soundly when awakened by them.
All night long they were burning the papers of the Second Auditor’s office in the street—claims of the survivors of deceased soldiers, accounts of contractors, etc.
At 7 a.m. Committees appointed by the city government visited the liquor shops and had the spirits (such as they could find) destroyed. The streets ran with liquor; and women and boys, black and white, were seen filling pitchers and buckets from the gutters.
A lady sold me a bushel of potatoes in Broad Street for $75, Confederate States money—$5 less than the price a few days ago. I bought them at her request. And some of the shops gave clothing to our last retiring guards.
Goods, etc. at the government depots were distributed to the poor, to a limited extent, there being a limited amount.
A dark volume of smoke rises from the southeastern section of the city, and spreads like a pall over the zenith. It proceeds from the tobacco warehouse, ignited, I suppose, hours ago, and now just bursting forth.
At 8½ a.m. The armory, arsenal, and laboratory (Seventh and Canal Streets), which had been previously fired, gave forth terrific sounds from thousands of bursting shells. This continued for more than an hour. Some fragments of shell fell within a few hundred yards of my house.
The pavements are filled with pulverized glass.
Some of the great flour mills have taken fire from the burning government warehouses, and the flames are spreading through the lower part of the city. A great conflagration is apprehended.
The doors of the government bakery (Clay Street) were thrown open this morning, and flour and crackers were freely distributed, until the little stock was exhausted. I got a barrel of the latter, paying a negro man $5 to wheel it home—a short distance.
Ten a.m. A battery (United States) passed my house, Clay Street, and proceeded toward Camp Lee. Soon after the officers returned, when I asked the one in command if guards would be placed in this part of the city to prevent disturbance, etc. He paused, with his suite, and answered that such was the intention, and that every precaution would be used to preserve order. He said the only disturbances were caused by our people. I asked if there was any disturbance. He pointed to the black columns of smoke rising from the eastern part of the city, and referred to the incessant bursting of shell. I remarked that the storehouses had doubtless been ignited hours previously. To this he assented, and assuring me that they did not intend to disturb us, rode on. But immediately meeting two negro women laden with plunder, they wheeled them to the right about, and marched them off, to the manifest chagrin of the newly emancipated citizens.
Eleven a.m. I walked down Brad Street to the Capitol Square. The street was filled with negro troops, cavalry and infantry, and were cheered by hundreds of negroes at the corners.
I met Mr. T. Cropper (lawyer from the E. Shore) driving a one-horse wagon containing his bedding and other property of his quarters. He said he had just been burnt out—at Belom’s Block—and that St. Paul’s Church (Episcopal) was, he thought, on fire. This I found incorrect; but Dr. Reed’s (Presbyterian) was in ruins. The leaping and lapping flames were roaring in Main Street up to Ninth; and Goddin’s Building (late General Post-Office) was on fire, as well as all the houses in Governor Street up to Franklin.
The grass of Capitol Square is covered with parcels of goods snatched from the raging conflagration, and each parcel guarded by a Federal soldier.
A general officer rode up and asked me what building that was—pointing to the old stone United States Custom House—late Treasury and State Departments, also the President’s office. He said, “Then it is fire-proof, and the fire will be arrested in this direction.” He said he was sorry to behold such destruction; and regretted that there was not an adequate supply of engines and other apparatus.
Shells are still bursting in the ashes of the armory, etc.
All the stores are closed; most of the largest (in Main Street) have been burned.
There are supposed to be 10,000 negro troops at Camp Lee, west of my dwelling.
An officer told me, 3 p.m., that a white brigade will picket the city to-night; and he assured the ladies standing near that there would not be a particle of danger of molestation. After 9 p.m., all will be required to remain in their houses. Soldiers or citizens, after that hour, will be arrested. He said we had done ourselves great injury by the fire, the lower part of the city being in ashes, and declared that the United States troops had no hand in it. I acquitted them of the deed, and told him that the fire had spread from the tobacco warehouses and military depots, fired by our troops as a military necessity.
Four p.m. Thirty-four guns announced the arrival of President Lincoln. He flitted through the mass of human beings in Capitol Square, his carriage drawn by four horses, preceded by out-riders, motioning the people, etc. out of the way, and followed by a mounted guard of thirty. The cortege passed rapidly, precisely as I had seen royal parties ride in Europe.
We arrived at Charlotte on April 18th; and I there received, at the moment of dismounting, a telegram announcing that President Lincoln had been assassinated. An influential citizen of the town, who had come to welcome me, was standing near me, and after remarking to him in a low voice that I had received sad intelligence, I handed the telegram to him. Some troopers had collected to see me; they called to the gentleman who had the dispatch to read it. He complied with their request, and a few only taking in the fact, but not appreciating the evil it portended, cheered, as was natural, at the news of the fall of one they considered as their most powerful foe. […] For an enemy so relentless in the war for our subjugation, we could not be expected to mourn; yet, in view of its political consequences, it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South. He had power over the Northern people, and was without personal malignity toward the people of the South. His successor was without power in the North, and the embodiment of malignity toward the Southern people, perhaps the more so because he had betrayed and deserted them in the hour of their need. Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 2, chapter 54.