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


what the sovereign States choose to do."32 Likewise, on the sixth day of the Virginia Convention, Mr. Hall offered a resolution on the right of secession: "Resolved, That in the opinion of this Convention, Virginia has a legal right at any time to resume to herself the powers that she heretofore granted to the Federal Government."33 Although Hall went on to express the view that the election of Lincoln was not a sufficient cause for secession, he undeniably supported the position that the states were sovereignties with power independent of, and even in opposition to, that of the federal government. Such arguments, by asserting the independent rights of the States, countered those who believed that the Constitution and the federal government held power over the States. Clearly, the way in which the federal constitution was viewed largely determined how one came down on the question of the right of secession.

Furthermore, many in Virginia saw the election of Lincoln and the avowed policies of the Republican Party as inimical to their rights, especially their institution of slavery. They believed that the aggressors in the conflict between the North and the South were actually the Northerners. Therefore, many of them argued that the North had forced secession upon them, an interesting argument considering the Union fought to keep the South with them. As early as July 1860, months before the election, one Virginian declared that a Lincoln victory would ruin the South; he explained that, if Lincoln were elected, the Republican Party, or Black Republican Party as Southerners referred to it, would be supported and built up in the South with the design of abolishing slavery. This fear of the actions that the party in power, the Republicans, would take against the South is seen in an editorial written about the policy formulated by the Republican Central Committee. According to the author, this organization

32. "Hopes Doomed to Disappointment," The Richmond Semi-weekly Examiner, 18 December 1860, In Dwight Dumond, Southern Editorials on Secession (New York: The Century Co., 1931), 346. This work will now be referred to as Dumond.
33. Mr. Hall, 19 February 1861, Convention, 93.
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