Newspapers Letters and Documents Maps Images Teaching Home

The Richmond Enquirer, April 20, 1861

The Secession of Virginia-The Responsibility and the Duty which it Imposes upon her Sons.

The Union of 1787, of which Virginia was one of the most important of the contracting parties, has ceased to exist. It was virtually dissolved in November, 1860, by the election of a strictly Northern President, pledged to a policy of uncompromising hostility to the institutions of the Southern parties to the compact, against their earnest remonstrance and solemn warning. The State of South Carolina, with her characteristic promptness in resistance to tyranny and oppression, passed an ordinance of secession before she had received official notice of the election of the anti-Southern President; thereby saving herself the humiliation of a representation in the Electoral College that asserted the absolute supremacy of the North through the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin. The distinction thus acquired by the Palmetto State was an enviable one. The States of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas quickly followed South Carolina and the instincts of self-preservation. They assumed among the powers of the earth, the 'separate and equal station to which the laws of nature, of nature's God,' and the conditions and circumstances of their connection with the Government of the United States, entitled them. The seceded States frankly set forth the causes that impelled them to the separation from their old partners, with a confident reliance upon the God of Right, and the ultimate approval of the judgment of a candid world. They sent Commissioners of the Government at Washington clothed with full power to arrange and adjust all matters growing out of the separation, but without success. Their Commissioners were not even received by the authorities of the so called Government of the United States. Truly may it be said that the Confederate States made every possible effort for a peaceable and honorable solution of the difficulties by negotiations and otherwise. But a dread fatality sat heavily on the councils of the Rulers at Washington, and urged to action the demon spirit of the irrepressible conflict. Lincoln and his advisers, after tantalizing the Unionists of the border States with the hope and the promise, deferred from day to day for weeks and months of withdrawing the Federal forces from the Southern forts, all at once, undeceived the deceived by an official notification of his purpose to provision and re-inforce all the Southern forts in the possession of his government, and to re-take and hold all those now in the hands of the Authorities of the Confederate States. This authoritative announcement was quickly followed by a proclamation from Lincoln, the Northern President, calling for seventy five thousand troops for the subjugation of the Southern States. The offensive policy adopted by President Davis and his advisers upon the notice of Lincoln's resolution to re-inforce Sumter, peaceably if possibly, forcibly if necessary, will be justified and approved by the whole civilized world.

In the irrepressible conflict inaugurated upon a national scale by the election of 1860, Virginia did not enter immediate co-operation with her Southern Sisters, to whom she was closely united by the bonds of sympathy, interest and danger. Though fully believing in their right to withdraw from the Union, and strongly impressed with a conviction of the sufficiency of the cause for the exercise of that right on the part of the slave States, Virginia yet counselled forbearance, moderation and delay. She assumed towards the seceded States the position of a mother in the maturity of age, endeavoring to restrain her children from acting precipitately in avenging the insults and wrongs, inflicted upon the family by a powerful foe. The old lady offered to negotiate with the enemy, hoping that her age, character and position in the world, would secure for her not only a respectful consideration of the grave matters at issue, but a decision of them in a manner just and satisfactory to her households. In vain did the children remonstrate against the mother's conciliatory propositions to the foe-in vain did they tell the old lady that he flattered only that he might deceive, and promised only that he might betray.-She places some degree of credence on the fair promises of Lincoln and Seward, and became somewhat vexed with the children because they laughed at her credulity. But since the middle of last week, she has been frank enough to make an emphatic admission, that for once, the children proved themselves to be better counsellors than the mother.-Old Virginia is now fully aroused. A slumbering lioness from November 1860 till April 1861, she now starts up, and in the full vigor of her mighty energy, will exhibit all her muscle.

We have never for a moment doubted that Virginia would constitute a member, and an important member of the Southern Confederacy. We so expressed ourselves, somewhat in detail, in an editorial written some three weeks since. At that time, however, we anticipated nothing decisive from the Convention, nor did we deem it probable that the State would formally sever its connection with the Government at Washington for some months to come. We did not so soon anticipate the occurrence which has fired the entire Southern heart and precipitated the Border Slave States into a Revolution. We thought that Lincoln and his Cabinet would endeavor to continue, till after the spring and summer elections, the hypocritical policy with which they had succeeded in duping so many unsuspecting men in Virginia and elsewhere. But, most fortunately for the cause of the South, they exhibited the cloven foot and the bloody hand to the plain view of even the most hopeful and confiding Unionists. After the warlike demonstrations of the Lincoln Government none but a 'traitor knave' would acknowledge his allegiance to it. The Convention did what any body of Virginians making the slightest pretensions to manhood could not refrain from doing. And the native or adopted citizen of the State who refuses to conform to her authority will be held to a fearful account.

The people of Virginia are fully alive to the responsibility of the position they have assumed.-They know the path of duty, and by the help of God they will tread it. They will successfully defend their homes and their institutions or perish in the last ditch. Lord Chatham, in one of his celebrated speeches, eighty odd years ago, said three millions of Americans could not be conquered. In another speech, he particularly complimented the Southern element of the American Colonies. He thought the Southern States unconquerable. The proof of what we here state was given by us some time since in extracts from the speeches of the great Pitt. The Southern States of 1861, with a population nearly three times three millions will now endeavor to prove themselves worthy descendants of the men eulogized by the noble Earl in 1774.

But this is not the time for much speaking or much writing. Action! Action! Action! is the word.-In the holy contest in which we are engaged, let the motto of every Virginia be: 'If I stand, support me; if I run, shoot me; if I fall in the fight, avenge me!'