The Ordinance of Secession, adopted April 17, 1861, ratified May 23, 1861. General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
On April 17, 1861, the Virginia Convention by a vote of 88 to 55 adopted the Ordinance of Secession. It repealed the 1788 state convention's ratification of the Constitution of the United States and the General Assembly's resolutions ratifying amendments to that Constitution. The ordinance stated that Virginia resumed all the powers that the state had granted to the federal government on the grounds that the federal government had "perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States." The ordinance was ratified in a popular referendum on May 23, 1861.
On April 22, the convention ordered that the text of the ordinance be inscribed on parchment for the delegates to sign. On April 24, William H. Dulany, the Fairfax County delegate who twice voted against secession, requested permission to sign the parchment before leaving town the next day. His signature is at the top of the first column of autographs. President John Janney and ninety other delegates signed the copy before the first session of the convention adjourned on May 1, 1861.
John Quincy Marr, a delegate from Fauquier County who was absent when the convention adopted the text on April 17, signed the parchment at the end of the month or on May 1. He was killed in a skirmish on June 1. The second session of the convention authorized copying his autograph from the April parchment onto lithographic copies of the ceremonial parchment that delegates signed in June.
The enrolled, formal, legal text of the Ordinance of Secession was inscribed on parchment (as were bills enacted by the General Assembly) and signed by the Convention's president in June 1861, during the second session of the convention. Another and very elegantly penned parchment of the Ordinance of Secession was prepared late in May, and 142 members signed it during the second and third sessions in June and November 1861.