Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
THIS PAGE HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Humbug conferences and conventions

Union or Secession
  • Humbug conferences and conventions
On March 8, 1861, the editor of the Abingdon Democrat ridiculed the men who had served in the national Peace Conference in February 1861 and in the Virginia Convention that was meeting in Richmond.
« Return to Compromises Fail

Humbug conferences and conventions

Editorial in the Abingdon Democrat, March 8, 1861

"For the life of us," the editor of the Abingdon Democrat wrote in an editorial on March 8, 1861, "we are unable to decide whether the late Peace Conference in Washington or the Virginia Convention is the greatest farce and humbug." He denounced the members of both as foolish old women or impotent amateurs. The Peace Conference met in Washington, D.C., from February 4, through February 27, 1861, and recommended that Congress submit a comprehensive constitutional amendment to the states to settle the sectional crisis permanently. Congress failed to act on the proposals. The Virginia Convention met in Richmond beginning on February 13 and by March 8 had also failed to bring the two sections of the country back together or to take any action for or against secession. Among the references the editor made is one to Horace Greeley, the antislavery editor of the New York Herald and one of the most influential journalists in the United States at that time.

Editorial in the Abingdon Democrat, March 8, 1861
The Peace Conference and the Virginia Convention.
For the life of us, we are unable to decide whether the late Peace Conference in Washington or the Virginia Convention is the greatest farce and humbug. The one was composed, in the main, of fossil politicians, who, all parties hoped, were long since consigned to rest—politically. Some old women in breeches—who would have been more in place in petticoats in the nursery taking care of the children; and some shrewd Yankees—a set of graceless, miserable scamps,—who never intended to do aught else than cheat and out-wit their compeers, the aforesaid old grannies of the border States.—They have agreed upon an "adjustment"—just such an one as was to have been expected from the composition of the "Conference." The Virginia Convention, too, has some old women in it, who are amiably sticking out "their coat-tails behind," as Horace Greeley expressed it, "and imploring that they may be held" in the Union, ever so gently—the slightest twitch will be satisfactory." There are, also, in this body, a lot of unsophisticated youths, who, never being been members of a deliberative body before, and owing their elevation to humbug "shrieks" for the "Union"—are fearful of damaging their prospects for the future by taking any decided action. Then there are, too, we fear, some straight-out free-soilers, who, for the "loaves and fishes" of office which Lincoln has to bestow, would gladly aid him in abolitionizing Virginia: while there are very few men of sufficient nerve to give a show of respectability to the concern by meeting the crisis boldly.
To show still further the absurdity of these farces, neither body had, or has, any power in itself, beyond that of recommending action on the part of others. All that the "Peace Conference" could do was to recommend a certain line of policy; and it is just as likely that the "sky will fall, and we shall catch larks" as that their action will ever be ratified as amendments to the Constitution. The Virginia Convention is just as impotent: for its action has to be submitted to the uncertain ordeal of a popular vote.
People are complaining of hard times and high taxes just now, too; and they have reason for complaint. We do not know what the "Peace Conference" cost the country. But the Virginia Convention is costing the people of the Commonwealth about $1,000 per day. While the time of the body is taken up mainly with gaseous resolutions or long-winded speeches—nearly every individual member having either one or the other to offer—in a majority of cases, we fear, only intended for Buncombe. How long this state of things is to continue no one can tell. But judging from appearances it may last till the "dog-days,"—and by that time all the people of Virginia will be apt to pray to be delivered from all future humbug "Conferences" and Conventions.