Sunday, April 17, 2011

Northern Virginia Delegates Divided on Secession

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Virginia Convention's adoption of the Ordinance of Secession.  As recently as the start of April, the Convention had rejected a similar motion.  Now, after the opening of hostilities and Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers, Unionists delegates began to defect to the secessionist camp.  On April 16, Robert Scott of Fauquier County offered a resolution in a last ditch effort to prevent immediate secession.  He proposed to put the question of secession directly to the voters, before the Convention voted on the issue.  The resolution asked voters to choose between secession or holding consultations with the slave states that still remained in the Union.  The Convention, largely whipped into a frenzy over recent events, rejected this resolution by a vote of 77 to 64.

The question of secession was finally put to the delegates on April 17, and the Ordinance of Secession passed by a vote of 88 to 55.  The Northern Virginia camp was markedly divided, compared to the vote just a couple weeks before.  The breakdown was as follows:

Robert Scott, Fauquier
Eppa Hunton, Prince William
*John Quincy Marr, Fauquier--Marr was absent for the vote, but announced to the Convention on April 30 that he was in favor of the Ordinance.  The Convention granted him the privilege of recording his vote.

George Brent, Alexandria
William Dulany of Fairfax
John Carter, Loudoun
John Janney, Loudoun

First signed version of the Ordinance of Secession, April-May 1861 (courtesy of the Library of Virginia)

The Convention prepared a parchment copy of the Ordinance for signature.  All Northern Virginia delegates, with the exception of John Carter, signed the document.  In all, 92 delegates put their signatures on the Ordinance between April 24 and May 1.  The Ordinance was next referred to the voters for ratification on May 23.  However, even before the final verdict was in, Virginia began to mobilize its resources for war. And among those delegates who joined the ranks of Virginia forces were Brent and Dulany, two who had voted against the ordinance on April 17, but whose loyalty to Virginia remained paramount.


Walk Forrest Walk said...

Ron, Just read your blog for today. Great job. There's so much I don't know about the history of Virginia. I'm anxious to learn about the events that lead to the splinting of Virginia into two states. The thought of Virginians at war with Virginians must have been a terrible period in our country's history. Take care, Jim (It's cold and WINDY in Michigan)

Ron Baumgarten said...

Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post. There is so much that happened in Virginia 150 years ago this month, that I almost can't keep up with it! Suffice it to say, I plan several posts in the upcoming weeks that will track what unfolded in my part of the state. Things got pretty tense around here. Another great blog to check out is "Cenantua's Blog," which focuses on the Shenandoah Valley region.

Keep warm! (We don't have that problem here right now, but Old Town Alexandria flooded last night due to some wild storms.)