Ordinance of Secession, adopted April 17, 1861, ratified May 23, 1861, Virginia Convention (1861: Richmond), Records, 1861–1961, Acc. 40586, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 93, Library of Virginia.
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 It repealed the 1788 state convention's ratification of the Constitution of the United States and the General Assembly's resolutions ratifying amendments to that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 its last day, May 1, 1861, the first session of the convention authorized the secretary to have the text of the Ordinance of Secession "engrossed on parchment by a professional penman, during the recess of the Convention, so that the same may be signed by members on their return, if it be adopted by the people at the polls." William Flegenheimer (1832–1910) was a teacher residing in Richmond who later became an attorney in the city. He completed the preparation of the elegant parchment by May 28. The members began signing it on June 14. Several members did not attend the convention's second session and signed it at the third session in November, as did several delegates who were elected to replace men who had resigned, died, or been expelled for taking part in the Restored government of Virginia in Wheeling. The parchment has the signatures of 142 delegates and that of Convention Secretary John L. Eubank.
Ninety-two members of the convention signed a preliminary parchment late in April during the final days of the first session of the convention, and Convention President John Janney signed the official, enrolled parchment of the ordinance in June 1861, during the second session of the convention.
John Quincy Marr, a delegate from Fauquier County who was absent when the convention adopted the text on April 17, signed the preliminary parchment copy of the ordinance before the first session adjourned on May 1. He was killed in a skirmish on June 1. On June 14, 1861, the second session of the convention authorized copying his autograph from the April parchment onto lithographic copies to be made of Flegenheimer's ceremonial parchment that delegates signed in June.