Gillian Cote, "Virginia's Secession from the Union"


different arguments and issues that erupted in Virginia during the dramatic period between Lincoln's election and Virginia's secession from the Union on April 17, 1861. First, we will briefly sketch the chronology of the state convention so as to highlight the events that led Virginia to break its ties with the Union. This period in Virginia's history will be studied with the aim of understanding what actually took place in Virginia during the secession crisis and why the state eventually sided with the Confederacy. Next, as a preliminary point, we will illustrate the place of prominence that Virginia held in the hearts of many Americans. Then, we will discuss the three major categories of arguments that were prevalent in Virginia: pro-Union, moderate, and finally pro-secession arguments. A short discussion of a few other issues with which the Virginia Convention grappled throughout the months before secession will follow.

Although opinions in Virginia about whether or not to secede were clearly quite varied, and often contradicted one another, in the end, like all of the other slave states, Virginia chose to secede from the Union and join the Southern Confederacy. A brief examination of what transpired in the convention will reveal how secession ultimately came about in Virginia. The convention first met on February 13, 1861. In the first few meetings, individuals were elected to hold certain positions; among the most important committees formed during these preliminary meetings was the Committee on Federal Relations. This committee would eventually submit a report that would be amended and adopted by the convention stating Virginia's policy toward the United States. This document was to be Virginia's ultimatum to the Union; if it were not satisfied, Virginia would secede. Following these preliminary measures, the members of the convention spent the next couple of weeks vigorously debating the various issues facing thei

2. Information on the proceedings of the convention is taken from The Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 in four volumes and The New York Tribune from March - mid-April 1861. The members of this convention are referred to by their last names alone in the transcripts, and so will similarly be referred to in that way for this paper.
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