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


by remaining a border state and thus being extremely important to the Union as a buffer, Virginia would have the necessary position of influence and could therefore secure concessions from the North. Underscoring the disadvantages of the Confederacy, this author pointed out that the South did not have enough money and most of the fiscal burden would fall on Virginia, the most populous of the slave states. Also, the Confederacy would probably have a clause requiring the perpetual existence of slavery for membership, something that Virginia may not necessarily have wanted to support considering the differences in her economy from that of the Cotton States. In a rather unexpected argument, Mr. Stuart asserted in the convention that the formation of a Southern Confederacy would actually end slavery.20 He explained that there were, in fact, many Northerners who supported the right of the South to hold slaves and that, by breaking off from them, the South would incite them to fight against slavery. Thus, the whole world would then be against this institution, held dear only by Southerners, and so it would be impossible to sustain it. These arguments, alerting Virginians to the problems and complications that would result from disunion, were some of the strongest reasons given against the secession of Virginia. Certainly, if Virginians truly believed that their rights would be better secured within the Union, they would never secede from it.

Some Virginians, rather than railing against secession, merely encouraged their statesmen to sanction slow, deliberate action. They thought it better to wait until they were certain of the action that would be best for Virginia and until there was a legitimate reason to destroy their ties with the Union. These middle-of-the-road arguments had perhaps the greatest impact on the politicians of Virginia as demonstrated by the fact that their state did, in fact, wait the longest of any slave state to leave the Union. For instance, following Lincoln's election in November, one

20. Mr. Stuart, 5 April 1861, Convention, 170.
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