"Will you make a declaration of war?"
Excerpts from the speech of John Janney on April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:137, 138–139, 140.
On April 17, 1861, Convention President John Janney, of Loudoun County in northeastern Virginia, temporarily relinquished the chair to explain to the convention why he would vote against secession, as he had done on April 4. Janney knew that many other delegates would also vote against secession, and he asked the supporters of secession, "Will you make a declaration of war—for that is what this ordinance of secession will amount to?" He also stated, "My belief is, that if this ordinance passes here to day, and more, if it passes by the unanimous vote of this body, that it will be regarded as an act of war, and so treated by the General Government." Janney believed that Virginia was not prepared to meet the army and navy of the United States and pointedly asked former U.S. president John Tyler, who had voted for secession on April 4, whether Tyler would have asked Congress for a declaration of war if the United States was equally unprepared.