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


unionists and secessionists used Virginia's historical position of importance and influence in the Union to support their arguments.

Throughout the months when the other southern states were, one by one, leaving the Union, many Virginians maintained their steadfast belief that it would be best for their state to remain with the North. These arguments against secession were founded on several different bases. The first type of argument appealed to the Constitution, the laws, and the institutions of the government of the United States. These Virginians felt that preserving the fundamental institutions of the nation was more important than the individual concerns of members of that nation. One such argument appeared in an editorial in The Fredericksburg News, which explained that, although the President was the leader of a sectional party that was antagonistic to the South, those states still had the other branches of the federal government - namely, the Congress and the Supreme Court - on their sides. The article stated that utilizing these means of protection against Lincoln and the Republicans "would be at once dignified, constitutional, safe, and would raise us up hosts of friends everywhere."8 Similarly, in his speech in the Virginia Convention, Mr. Baylor of Augusta discussed the doctrine of secession: "…I do not believe that it [secession] is a constitutional measure…I looked for it in vain in the Constitution of the United States itself. I think that the framers of that Constitution, if they had intended the doctrine to be there, would have put it in that instrument."9 He went on to explain that he thought that it was precisely because the states agreed to the compact of the federal government that they were bound to abide by it. Had they been forced, then secession would have been just.10 Another example of the constitutional argument against secession was originally printed in The New Orleans Picayune but later appeared in The Alexandria Gazette. This editorial argued that the reason claimed fo
r secession - i.e., the election of a

8. "What Protection Shall We Have?," The Fredericksburg News, 13 November 1860.
9. Mr. Baylor, 1 March 1861, Convention, 283-4.
10. Ibid., 284.
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