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


In addition to the various kinds of arguments for and against secession presented above, three other major issues appeared in Virginia during the secession crisis of 1860-1. The first was the issue of whether, in case of secession, to join the Cotton States or to form a central confederacy with the other more northern slave states. Some Virginians came down on one side of this issue, and some on the other. For example, in his letter, a man from Loudoun County, Virginia stated that his state should secede and join the other Border States, not necessarily forming a union with the Cotton States of the deep South.44 On the other hand, in his speech in the convention, Mr. Turner argued that, although the state should not act rashly, Virginia should join the southern confederacy: "But if in the course of events it shall become necessary, to take action independent of the present Union, I shall advocate the Union of the Southern States."45

A second issue that arose was whether Virginia should act alone or seek the help of the other Border States in determining what action to take. In the convention, for instance, Mr. Harvie stated: "…I insist upon it that Virginia shall deliberate, that Virginia shall determine, without interference, without complication, what she will do in this particular. I will never call upon those Border States to help define what Virginia shall do."46 The opposite of this argument is seen in Mr. Wilson's speech which stated that Virginia should seek the advice of the other Border States through a convention before deciding what action to take.47

A third issue was the concern over what the northwestern portion of Virginia would do if Virginia seceded: secede from the Union with the rest of the state or actually secede from the eastern part of the state and remain with the Union. That this was such a major issue is demonstrated by the many times it arose in debates in the convention. The northwestern part

44. "Letter from Loudoun," The Alexandria Gazette, 19 April 1861.
45. Mr. Turner, 1 March 1861, Convention, 294.
46. Mr. Harvie, 5 March 1861, Convention, 387.
47. Mr. Wilson, 26 March 1861, Convention of 1861, 364.
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