Governor John Letcher's Message to the General Assembly, January 7, 1861
Extract from Governor John Letcher to the Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Delegates, January 7, 1861, printed as Document No. 1 in the Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia, for the Extra Session, 1861 (Richmond, 1861), xx–xxii.
In his message to a special session of the General Assembly in January 1861, Governor John Letcher listed the minimum conditions that he believed Virginians should require for remaining in the Union. He mentioned protection of the rights of slaveholders, return of fugitive slaves, and protection of slavery in the western territories. "These guarantees can be given without prejudice to the honor or rights, and without a sacrifice of the interests, of either of the non-slaveholding states," he wrote. "It is the interest of the north and the south to preserve the government from destruction; and they should omit the use of no proper or honorable means to avert so great a calamity. The public safety and welfare demand instant action." The assembly called for a national Peace Conference and also authorized a statewide election of delegates to a convention to consider the state's response to the secession crisis.