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First signed Ordinance of Secession

Union or Secession
  • Ordinance of Secession (First Signed Version)
Ninety-two members of the Virginia Convention signed a preliminary parchment of the Ordinance of Secession between April 24, and May 1, 1861.
Related documents:
  • Ordinance of Secession (Enrolled)
    Ordinance of Secession (Enrolled Version)
  • Ordinance of Secession (Calligraphy)
    Ordinance of Secession (Calligraphy Version)
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Ordinance of Secession (First Signed Version)

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 It repealed the 1788 state convention's ratification of the Constitution of the United States and the General Assembly's resolutions ratifying amendments to that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.

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.

An Ordinance to Repeal the Ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution
THE PEOPLE OF VIRGINIA in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America adopted by them in Convention on the twenty fifth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand, seven hundred and eighty eight having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States:
Now, therefore, we, the People of Virginia do declare and ordain that the Ordinance adopted by the people of this State, in Convention, on the twenty fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty eight whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified and all acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the Union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid is hereby dissolved; and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.
This ordinance shall take effect, and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.
Done in Convention in the City of Richmond on the seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty one, and in the eighty fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia.—
[names in left margin]
JOHN T. THORNTON.
JNO: ECHOLS
R. H. COX
GEORGE BAYLOR
THOMAS F. GOODE
RO: L: MONTAGUE
WM WHITE
THOS STANHOPE FLOURNOY
JOHN Q MARR

[names in first column]
WM H DULANY.
GEO: WYTHE RANDOLPH
JAMES P. HOLCOMBE
WILLIAMS CARTER WICKHAM
GEORGE W. RICHARDSON.
JOHN TYLER.
JOHN GOODE JR
EDMD. T. MORRIS
WM. W. BOYD
JAMES H. COX
JOHN L MARYE
SAML. C. WILLIAMS
MARMADUKE JOHNSON
JAMES BOISSEAU
J. B. MALLORY.
A. F. HAYMOND
THOS. BRANCH
ROBT. H. TURNER
SAML M. GARLAND
F M CABELL
JNO: M. SPEED.
CHAS K MALLORY
A. T. CAPERTON

[names between first and second columns]
R. E. GRANT
CH. SLAUGHTER

[names in second column]
JOHN RANDH. CHAMBLISS
GEO: P. TAYLOE
P B BORST
SAMUEL G STAPLES
SAML A COFFMAN
WM. J. NEBLETT
JOHN T SEAWELL
MIERS W. FISHER.
MANILIUS CHAPMAN
W. T. SUTHERLIN.
GEORGE WM. BRENT
JAMES M. STRANGE
HORATIO G MOFFETT
HUGH M. NELSON
JOHN RICHARDSON KILBY.
WM. CAMPBELL SCOTT
WM. H. MCFARLAND
PETER C. JOHNSTON
EDWARD WALLER
JAMES LAWSON
R. E. SCOTT
JAS. BARBOUR
JAMES B. DORMAN

[names beween second and third columns]
ANGUS R. BLAKEY
W. P. CECIL
GEO: BLOW JR.
JOHN A. CAMPBELL
WALTER D. LEAKE
F. B. MILLER
EPPA HUNTON
N. B. FRENCH
SAMUEL L GRAHAM
ALFRED M BARBOUR
A. S. GRAY

[names in third column]
JOHN JANNEY, President
JAMES W SHEFFEY
ADDISON HALL
JEREMIAH MORTON
WOOD BOULDIN
WM. LEFTWICH GOGGIN
LEONARD S. HALL
WILLIAM W FORBES
LEWIS D. ISBELL
BENJ. F. WYSOR
JAMES C. BRUCE
JAMES GUSTAVUS HOLLADAY
LEWIS E. HARVIE
FRANKLIN P. TURNER
WM BALLARD PRESTON
W. M. AMBLER.
JOHN CRITCHER
ROBERT C. KENT
R. M. CONN
SAML WOODS.
BENJAMIN WILSON
CYRUS HALL
PEYTON GRAVELY
V W SOUTHALL