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

Virginia Convention Votes For Secession on April 17, 1861

Union or Secession
previous page
  • Two news items from <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, April 1, 1861.,
    "Grand Secession demonstration"
  • Residences of delegates who voted for and against secession on April 17, 1861, displayed on E. Hergesheimer, <em>Map of Virginia Showing the Distribution of its Slave Population from the Census of 1860</em>, C. B. Graham, Lithographer (Washington, D.C.: Henry S. Graham, 1861), Library of Virginia.,
    Map of April 17, 1861, Vote on Secession
  • David Hunter Strother, <em>The Ordinance Passed, Charlestown, Va.</em>, Pierre Morand Memorial, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    The Ordinance Passed
  • Excerpts from speech of George Blow, April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., <em>Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861</em> (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:85–88.,
    "Pass the Ordinance of Secession"
  • Excerpt from a speech of Allen Taylor Caperton in the Virginia Convention on April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., <em>Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861</em> (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:101–102.,
    "War is upon us."
  • Excerpts from speech of William Henry Bagwell Custis, of Accomack County, in the Virginia Convention on April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., <em>Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861</em> (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:135–136.,
    "Solemn protest"
  • Speech of James Baldwin Dorman, of Rockbridge County, in the Virginia Convention on April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., <em>Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861</em> (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:119.,
    "We must fight"
  • Excerpts from the speech of John Janney on April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., <em>Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861</em> (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:137, 138–139, 140.,
    "Will you make a declaration of war?"
  • Enrolled Ordinance of Secession, adopted April 17, 1861, Virginia Convention (1861: Richmond), Records, 1861–1961, Acc. 40586, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 93, Library of Virginia.,
    Ordinance of Secession (Enrolled)
  • <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, May 1, 1861.,
    "The most enthusiastic joy"
  • 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.,
    First signed Ordinance of Secession
  • 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.,
    Ordinance of Secession (Calligraphy)
  • Record of the Vote in the Virginia Convention on the Ordinance of Secession, April 17, 1861, Paul Mellon Bequest, Acc. 11637, Small Special Collections, University of Virginia.,
    Roll Call of Vote on Secession
next page
« Return to Virginia Convention Votes For Secession on April 17, 1861

Virginia Convention Votes For Secession on April 17, 1861

By the second week of April 1861, advocates of secession in Virginia had grown so impatient with the refusal of the convention to vote on the question that they conspired to pressure the convention into action. Some members of the convention and other men in Richmond, including one of the editors of the Daily Richmond Enquirer, Obadiah Jennings Wise, a son of former governor and convention delegate Henry Alexander Wise, carefully planned what they called a spontaneous Southern rights convention for the purpose. The surrender of Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers so radically changed all of the political calculations of members of the convention that even without outside pressure on April 17, 1861, the Virginia Convention voted 88 to 55 to submit an ordinance of secession to the voters for ratification or rejection in a May referendum.

Southern Rights Convention

Some supporters of secession called for a Southern rights convention to meet in Richmond in hopes that it would pressure the state convention to secede.

Virginia Convention Votes for Secession

In the aftermath of President Abraham Lincoln's call for troops to put down the insurrection in South Carolina, many Virginians who had opposed secession on its merits quickly changed their minds about secession for practical reasons. The question was no longer whether secession was wise, legal, necessary, or in Virginia's interest; the question became which side to take.

Ordinance of Secession

The Ordinance of Secession that the convention adopted on April 17, 1861, and that voters in the state ratified in a referendum conducted on May 23, 1861, repealed Virginia's 1788 ratification of the Constitution of the United States and also repealed all of the General Assembly's votes to ratify amendments to the Constitution.

Signing the Ordinance

Before the end of the convention's first session, 92 delegates signed a parchment copy of the Ordinance of Secession. At the convention sessions that met in June and in November, 142 delegates signed a ceremonial parchment prepared by William Flegenheimer.

Featured Biographies:

prev
  • Henry Alexander Wise (1806-1876)
  • George Blow (1813-1894)
  • James Coles Bruce (1806-1865)
  • Allen Taylor Caperton (1810-1876)
  • James Baldwin Dorman (1823-1893)
  • John Echols (1823-1896)
  • William Pope Cooper (1825-1880)
  • Robert Edwin Cowan (1830-1887)
  • Charles James Pindall Cresap (1836-1886)
  • Jubal Anderson Early (1816-1894)
next