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


state, especially, of course, secession. Many of the debated arguments were those already outlined in this essay. On March 9, the twenty-first day of the convention, the Committee on Federal Relations submitted a partial report. Throughout that month, the members of the convention focused on presenting resolutions by their constituents either for or against secession. On March 19, the Committee on Federal Relations offered proposed amendments to the Constitution as the culmination of their report to the convention. Next, the members of the convention focused a great deal on amending and adopting the resolutions from the report of the Committee on Federal Relations, until they had all been altered to the majority's satisfaction. On April 13, before the convention could completely finalize this document and submit it to the federal government, the convention learned of the attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The members of the convention saw this as an act of coercion by the North, and this they could not tolerate. Accordingly, on April 16, the convention went into secret session and on the following day passed an ordinance of secession uniting their state's destiny with that of the Southern Confederacy.

We will, therefore, begin our discussion by examining arguments that drew on Virginia's position of prominence and leadership to advance each of the three positions that Virginians adopted toward the secession issue which will be discussed at length in this essay: 1.) to stay with the Union, thus strengthening the federal government's position, 2.) to urge it to force concessions from the North, and 3) to secede and join the South. In an editorial published in The Richmond Enquirer, the author stated that, because of Virginia's position as the "Old Mother State," it should have threatened to secede if the North did not make concessions pleasing to it and the other southern states.3 Another example of this argument occurred on the fifth day of Virginia's state convention when a commissioner from Mississippi, Fulton Anderson,

3. "A Letter from a Douglas Man," The Richmond Enquirer, 20 November 1860.
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