The provisional articles of a treaty of peace were signed at Paris, November 30, 1782, and in pursuance of a declaration of the continental congress, April 11, 1783, Governor Benjamin Harrison issued his proclamation for the cessation of hostilities within the State. He communicated his proclamation to the mayor of Williamsburg, and on May 1, 1783, American independence was duly celebrated in the city.
GOVERNOR BENJAMIN HARRISON TO THE MAYOR OF WILLIAMSBURG. RICHMOND, APRIL 23D, 1783.
SIR–It gives me pleasure to have it in my power to congratulate you on the important event of a general peace and American independence as announced in the inclosed proclamation of Congress, & I have to request that you will cause the said proclamation, together with the one issued by me for the strict observance of it, publicly read in your city. I am, sir, Your obedt Hble Servt, Benj. Harrison.
(On the inside of this letter is written in another hand the “Order of the Procession on the Great Day,” as below.)
ORDER OF THE PROCESSION ON THE GREAT DAY, THURSDAY, MAY 1ST.
1st Two attendants, in front, supporting two staffs, decorated with
Ribbons, &c., &c.
2nd The Herald mounted on a Gelding neatly Caparisoned.
3d Two Attendants, as at first.
4th Sargeant bearing the mace.
5th Mayor, Recorder, with Charter.
6th Clerk, Behind, carrying the Plan of the City.
7th Aldermen, two and two.
8th Common Council, in the same order.
9th The Citizens in the same order.
The Citizens to be convened on Thursday at 1 o’clock at the Court-House by a Bell man.
After the convention of the citizens they are to make proclamation at the C: House, after which the Bells at the Church, College & Capitol
are to ring in peal.
From the Ct House the Citizens are to proceed to the College, and make proclamation at that place, from whence they are to proceed to the Capitol and make proclamation there; and from thence Proceed to the Raleigh & pass the rest of the Day.
— William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 1. (July 1907)
Whereas George Guelf king of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover, heretofore entrusted with the exercise of the kingly office in this government hath endeavored to pervert the same into a detestable and insupportable tyranny;
by putting his negative on laws the most wholesome & necessary for ye public good;
by denying to his governors permission to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operations for his assent, and, when so suspended, neglecting to attend to them for many years;
by refusing to pass certain other laws, unless the person to be benefited by them would relinquish the inestimable right of representation in the legislature
by dissolving legislative assemblies repeatedly and continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people;
when dissolved, by refusing to call others for a long space of time, thereby leaving the political system without any legislative head;
by endeavoring to prevent the population of our country, & for that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners & raising the condition [lacking appro]priations of lands;
[by keeping among u]s, in times of peace, standing armies and ships of war;
[lack]ing to render the military independent of & superior to the civil power;
by combining with others to subject us to a foreign jurisdiction, giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation.
for quartering large bodies of troops among us;
for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
for imposing taxes on us without our consent;
for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury;
for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences; and
for suspending our own legislatures & declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever;
by plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns and destroying the lives of our people;
by inciting insurrections of our fellow subjects with the allurements of forfeiture & confiscation;
by prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us; those very negroes whom he hath from time to time by an inhuman use of his negative he hath refused permission to exclude by law;
by endeavoring to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, & conditions of existence;
by transporting at this time a large army of foreign mercenaries [to complete] the works of death, desolation & tyranny already begun with circum[stances] of cruelty & perfidy so unworthy the head of a civilized nation;
by answering our repeated petitions for redress with a repetition of injuries;
and finally by abandoning the helm of government and declaring us out of his allegiance & protection;
by which several acts of misrule the said George Guelf has forfeited the kingly office and has rendered it necessary for the preservation of the people that he should be immediately deposed from the same, and divested of all its privileges, powers, & prerogatives:
And forasmuch as the public liberty may be more certainly secured by abolishing an office which all experience hath shewn to be inveterately inimical thereto or which and it will thereupon become further necessary to re-establish such ancient principles as are friendly to the rights of the people and to declare certain others which may co-operate with and fortify the same in future.
Be it therefore enacted by the authority of the people that the said, George Guelf be, and he hereby is deposed from the kingly office within this government and absolutely divested of all it’s [sic] rights, powers, and prerogatives: and that he and his descendants and all persons acting by or through him, and all other persons whatsoever shall be and forever remain incapable of the same: and that the said office shall henceforth cease and never more either in name or substance be re-established within this colony.
— Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Constitution for Virginia, June, 1776.
Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the Ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.
— Virginia Ordinance of Secession, 17 April, 1861.
UniversityMilitarySchool. – The school lately established at the University of Virginia, for military instruction, has been started under most happy auspices, so far as the prospects of the school itself are concerned. – It is now in a very flourishing condition, about one hundred young gentlemen having already entered, and the applications daily received for admission being numerous. The school bids fair to equal that of any military academy in the South. The chief instructor of the corps is Major George Ross, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, a thorough military man, who is aided by Capt. Thos. U. Dudley, Jr., of this city, as assistant instructor. Four lectures per week are to be delivered to the students by Prof. M. Schele de Vere and Dr. D. K. Tuttle, on military science, &c. The Cadets have already gone into camp, and the strictest discipline prevails. The University seems to be most excellently adapted for the above purpose. The following Cadet officers have been appointed, viz: Robt. E. Lee, Jr., (son of Gen. Lee,) Captain of Company A; John W. Maury, (son of Lieut. M. F. Maury,) 1st Lieut.; C. W. Trueheart, of Texas, Captain of Company B; Summerfield Smith, of Va., 1st Lieut. From the Richmond Dispatch, 10 July 1861, p. 2.
We, the descendants of the leaders of that illustrious race of men who achieved our independence and established our institutions, were to become a degraded and a subject class, under that government which our fathers created to secure the equality of all the States—to bend our necks to the yoke which a false fanaticism had prepared for them, and to hold our rights and our property at the sufferance of our foes, and to accept whatever they might choose to leave us as a free gift at the hands of an irresponsible power, and not as the measure of our constitutional rights.
All this, gentlemen, we were expected to submit to, under the fond illusion that at some future day, when our enemies had us in their power, they would relent in their hostility; that fanaticism would pause in its career without having accomplished its purpose; that the spirit of oppression would be exorcised, and, in the hour of its triumph, would drop its weapons from its hands, and cease to wound its victim. We were expected, in the language of your own inspired orator, to “indulge in the fond illusions of hope; to shut our eyes to the painful truth, and listen to the song of that syren until it transformed us into beasts.”
But we in Mississippi, gentlemen, are no longer under that illusion. Hope has died in our hearts. It received its death-knell at the fatal ballot-box in November last, and the song of the syren no longer sounds in our ears. We have thought long and maturely upon this subject, and we have made up our minds as to the course we should adopt. We ask no compromise and we want none. We know that we should not get it if we were base enough to desire it, and we have made the irrevocable resolve to take our interests into our own keeping.
— Excerpt from address by Hon. Fulton Anderson, Commissioner of Mississippi to the Virginia Secession Convention, Monday, 18 February 1861.
Richmond as the Confederate Capital. — We understand there is considerable favor shown to our beautiful and advantageously situated city by the Provisional Congress, as the permanent Capital of our Southern Confederacy. We say advantageously situated, for if Washington was a suitable location for the Capital of the United States, we think that, as we cannot hold that city, the next best selection would be the Capital of Virginia, which has so many historical associations, and around which cluster so many National recollections. For beauty and centrality of situation, facility, convenience of access, polished society, and perfect healthfulness — summer and winter — surely no city in our fair Southern land can vie with Richmond. There is no lack of suitable sites for a National Capitol, and there is abundance of accommodation for the deputies in Congress, and visitors on business or pleasure. Washington had nothing to recommend it as the seat of government, except, perhaps, that it stood midway between the Northern and Southern States on the Atlantic coast, which then composed the Confederacy. It has always been considered unhealthy in summer, and we are very much disposed to concur with our confreres of the Charleston Mercury, in believing the odor of corruption hangs around it in too great measure to make us willing to start our pure and virgin Government in a city which has been so polluted, even could we obtain possession of it. There may be difficulties, indeed, in the way of ceding the jurisdiction to Congress of the necessary “ten miles square,” but we trust they can be overcome, should the choice be made in our State. At the same time, until we know precisely of what States our Confederacy will be composed, it is probable Congress will defer selecting a permanent seat of Government. We think it quite likely that the Provisional Government will temporarily remove to Richmond, from reliable information which has reached us from Montgomery. If this decision be arrived at, our State Executive and citizens of Richmond will heartily welcome the distinguished gentlemen now administering the Government at Montgomery, and we are sure every facility will be afforded by our people to induce them to come and make their residence agreeable. Even now, we learn that Richmond will, in a few days, be the headquarters of the Confederate Army, it being announced that general officers to command the Southern troops are about to be appointed and sent to Virginia, to direct the movements of the Confederate troops.
— From the Richmond Dispatch, 11 April 1861, p. 1.
[…] I presume that no event since the separation of the more Southern States from the late Union, has occurred to give such unbounded pleasure to the whole Southern people, as the news that the Old Dominion had thrown her fortunes with ours.
We had thought, from the beginning, that this result would ultimately be inevitable. Individually, you will allow me to say I had not the slightest doubt upon the subject, and I feel extremely gratified that my anticipations have been so early realized.
The importance of a union or an alliance of some sort on the part of your Commonwealth with the present Confederated States South, in this conflict for our common rights, I need not discuss before this intelligent body. Any one State, acting in its own capacity, without concert with other States, would be powerless, or at least could not exert its power efficiently. The cause of Virginia, and I will go further, the cause of Maryland, and even the cause of Delaware, and of all the States with institutions similar to ours, is the cause of the Confederate States — the cause of each, the interests of each, the safety of each is the same; and the destiny of each, if they could all but be brought to realize the dangers, would be the same. Therefore, where there is a common danger, where there is a common interest, where there is a common safety, where there is a common destiny, there ought to be a common and united effort.
But to be entirely frank, I must say that we are looking to a speedy and early union of your State with our Confederacy. Hence the greater importance for this immediate and temporary alliance. We want Virginia, the mother of States, as well as of statesmen, to be one of the States of our Confederation. We want it because your people are our people –your interests are our interests; nay, more: because of the very prestige of the name of the Old Commonwealth. We want it, because of the memory of Jefferson, of Madison, and Washington, the father of his country — we want it for all the associations of the past — we want it because the principles in our Constitutions, both provisional and permanent, sprung from Virginia. They emanated from your statesmen — they are Virginian throughout — taught by your illustrious sages and, by their instrumentality mainly, were incorporated in the old Constitution. That ancient and sacred instrument has no less of our regard and admiration now than it ever had. We quit the Union, but not the Constitution — this we have preserved. Secession from the old Union on the part of the Confederate States was founded upon the conviction that the time honored Constitution of our fathers was about to be utterly undermined and destroyed, and that if the present administration at Washington had been permitted to rule over us, in less than four years, perhaps, this inestimable inheritance of liberty, regulated and protected by fundamental law, would have been forever lost. We believe that the movement with us has been the only course to save that great work of Virginia statesmen.
On this point indulge me a moment. Under the latitudinarian construction of the Constitution which prevails at the North, the general idea is maintained that the will of the majority is supreme; and as to constitutional checks or restraints, they have no just conception of them. The Constitution was, at first, mainly the work of Southern men, and Virginia men at that. The Government under it lasted only so long as it was kept in its proper sphere, with due regard to its limitations, checks and balances. This, from the origin of the Government, was effected mainly by Southern statesmen.
We have rescued the Constitution from utter annihilation. This is our conviction, and we believe history will so record the fact. You have seen what we have done. Our Constitution has been published. Perhaps most of you have read it. If not I have a copy here, which is at the service of any who may wish to examine it. It is the old Constitution, with all its essentials and some changes, of which I may speak presently.
The people of Virginia may have been attached to the Union; but they are much more attached to their homes, their firesides and all that is dear to freemen — constitutional liberty.
All hopes of preserving this in the old Union are gone forever. We must for the future look to ourselves. It is cheering to feel conscious that we are not without hope in that quarter. At first, I must confess, that I was not without serious apprehensions on that point. These apprehensions were allayed at Montgomery.
For, while I have no authority to speak on that subject, I feel at perfect liberty to say, that it is quite within the range of probability that, if such an alliance is made as seems to me ought to be made, the seat of our Government will, within a few weeks, be moved to this place.
— Excerpts from address by Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, and Special Commissioner to the Commonwealth of Virginia, to the Secret Session of the Virginia Secession Convention, Tuesday, 23 April 1861.
The triumph of truth and justice over wrong and attempted insult was never more heartily appreciated by a spontaneous uprising of the people. Soon the Southern wind will sweep away with the resistless force of a tornado, all vestige of sympathy or desire of co-operation with a tyrant who, under false pretenses, in the name of a once glorious, but now broken and destroyed Union, attempts to rivet on us the chains of a despicable and ignoble vassalage. Virginia is moving. Richmond Dispatch, 15 April 1861, p. 1.
On Tuesday, 23 April 1861, the Virginia Secession Convention was briefly addressed by Major General Robert Edward Lee, to whom, the day before, it had commended the command of the provisional army and naval forces of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
After a flowery introduction by the President of the Convention, Major General Lee rose to speak.
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention: Profoundly impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, for which I must say I was not prepared, I accept the position assigned me by your partiality. I would have much preferred had your choice fallen on an abler man. Trusting in Almighty God, an approving conscience, and the aid of my fellow-citizens, I devote myself to the service of my native State, in whose behalf alone will I ever again draw my sword.
Which short statement was attended by boisterous applause.