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Virginia Convention Votes Against Secession on April 4, 1861

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  • David Hunter Strother, <em>Pending the Ordinance</em>, Pierre Morand Memorial, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    Debating Secession
  • Edwin Barbour to Christopher Yancy Thomas, April 8, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.,
    "Quit the damn north"
  • Residences of delegates who voted for and against secession on April 4, 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 4, 1861, Vote on Secession
  • First paragraph of an editorial in the <em>Daily Richmond Enquirer</em>, April 9, 1861.,
    "What Will Virginia Do?"
  • Excerpt from an unsigned letter to the editor, dated April 5, 1861, printed in the Wheeling <em>Daily Intelligencer</em>, April 9, 1861.,
    "I shall be true to the Union"
  • Undated editorial from the Floyd <em>Southern Era</em> reprinted in the Wheeling <em>Daily Intelligencer</em>, April 11, 1861.,
    "Sustain a paper zealous for your rights"
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Virginia Convention Votes Against Secession on April 4, 1861

Members of the Virginia convention spent much of their time in March debating various proposals to settle the sectional crisis and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of seceding. In the evening session on April 4, 1861, Delegate Lewis Harvie, of Amelia County, introduced a resolution "that an ordinance resuming the powers delegated by Virginia to the Federal Government" be drafted and submitted to the voters for ratification. As recorded in the official convention journal, the resolution failed by a vote of 90 to 45. Of 17 convention members who did not vote that day, 4 are known to have favored the resolution and 7 were known to have opposed it.

How the Delegates Voted

On April 4, 1861, when the question faced by the delegates was whether secession was wise or desirable, 63 delegates from west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where in many areas there were very few enslaved African Americans, voted to remain a part of the United States, while only 15 delegates from the same area voted for secession. In the counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the vote was almost equally divided, with 30 delegates voting for secession and 27 voting against it.

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