Virginia Constitutional Convention Resolved to Abolish Slavery, March 10, 1864
After Virginia seceded from the United States in the spring of 1861, Virginia men loyal to the Union met in Wheeling and voted to restore Virginia to the Union. In conventions in May and June they declared the statewide offices vacant by reason of their occupants' serving in the government of the state that became one of the Confederate States of America. The conventions in Wheeling elected a new governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, and a special session of the General Assembly that met in Wheeling in July elected two United States senators. They and two members of the House of Representatives served in the United States Congress as representatives of the state of Virginia that remained one of the United States of America. On July 4, 1861, the president of the United States of America recognized the government in Wheeling as the legal and loyal government of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
After West Virginia was admitted to the Union as a free state in June 1863, the Virginia state government that was part of the United States moved its capital from Wheeling to Alexandria, and Governor Francis H. Pierpont recommended that the assembly call a constitutional convention to redraw the legislative and judicial district boundaries that were fixed in the 1851 state constitution and to abolish slavery. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was not in force in the state of Virginia that remained in the United States. Thus, the governor and the army acted under conflicting responsibilities in treating the many enslaved men, women, and children who left their owners during the war and sought freedom outside of the Confederacy. From February 13 through April 11, 1864, seventeen delegates, some of whom were owners of slaves, wrote a new constitution for Virginia. When they voted on March 10 to declare that "Slavery and involuntary servitude (except for crime) is hereby abolished and prohibited in the State forever," church bells rang throughout the city, and men fired a hundred guns in celebration.
On February 9, 1865, the General Assembly of the Restored government of Virginia, meeting in Alexandria, ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that ended slavery throughout the nation.
The surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865 effectively ended the Civil War and brought an end to the Confederate States of America. The officials of the state government in Richmond had abandoned their offices and the capital by that time, and the government of the state that had been part of the Confederate States of America under the Constitution of 1851 ceased to exist along with the Confederacy. The government in Alexandria moved its capital to Richmond later in the spring, and from then until July 1869 the Constitution of 1864, which abolished slavery, was the constitution of Virginia.
1. Who was the president of the convention?
2. Who was on the Committee of Emancipation and Education?
1. What was the Restored government of Virginia? What is the significance of the Virginia Constitution of 1864?
Constitution of the State of Virginia, and the Ordinances Adopted by the Convention Which Assembled at Alexandria, on the 13th Day of February, 1864. Alexandria, Va.: D. Turner, printer to the state, 1864.
Journal of the Senate of the State of Virginia for the Sessions of 1863, 4 & 5. Baltimore, Md.: John Murphy & Co., 1865, 128–129.
Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia for the Session of 1864–5 (Alexandria, Va.: D. Turner, printer to the state, 1865), 56.
"The Restored Government of Virginia—History of the New State of Things. Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, June 22, 1864." New York Times, June 26, 1864, p. 3.