Monday, April 4, 2011

The April 4, 1861 Vote on Secession: Prince William County Stands Alone

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Virginia Convention's first vote on secession.  During the proceedings on April 4, 1861, Lewis Harvie, the delegate from Amelia County, proposed the adoption of an ordinance of secession.  The Convention was not yet ready to pull the trigger on leaving the Union and defeated the motion by a vote of 90 to 45.  The Northern Virginia delegates voted as follows:

Eppa Hunton, Prince William

George Brent, Alexandria
John Quincy Marr, Fauquier
Robert Scott, Fauquier
John Carter, Loudoun
John Janney, Loudoun
*William Dulany of Fairfax was absent, but Brent indicated that Dulany would have noted "no."

The Virginia State Capitol (courtesy of Civil War Daily Gazette).  The Virginia Convention reconvened here on April 8, 1861 once the legislative session concluded.

Prince William County's delegate was alone among delegates from Northern Virginia in supporting secession.  This result should not be entirely surprising, since Eppa Hunton favored secession from the outset.  The moderate Unionists from other counties were still not convinced that preserving Virginia's honor demanded secession. 

The Library of Virginia has posted this great map superimposing the April 4 vote on top of an 1860 census map of Virginia indicating the state's slave population by county.  The Library points out that in general, delegates in favor of secession lived in those areas where slaves comprised a larger proportion of the general population.  Of course, as I indicated in a previous post on Brent, defending slavery did not necessarily equate with supporting secession.

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