Richmond Enquirer

Saturday Morning, March 23, 1861

The True Issue

The issue to be decided by the people of Virginia is clearly stated in the following resolution, adopted by public meeting in the county of Dinwiddie: (The full proceedings will be found in another column.) “Resolved, 1st. The old Union being irreparably dissolved, there is no option left us, (the people of Virginia,) save to unite our destinies with our sister Southern States—or, to remain a useless appendage to the Northern Confederacy—the latter alternative being utterly repugnant to ALL TRUE SOUTHERN MEN.” Here is a noble platform for the Resistance Party of Virginia. The question of secession is not before the people of Virginia—it has been decided, and they have now to choose between the Confederate States of the South and the Northern Union. The old Union, the glorious Union our fathers made, has been dissolved—ruthlessly torn asunder by Northern fanaticism—against the earnest protestation of the people of Virginia. From that Union, the allies of Virginia, her truth and mien have been derived, and her people have now to decide whether they will remain with the North or go with the South. The agitation of secession is the agitation of a question decided, and which can be remedied by no determination of Virginia. She did not dissolve the Union, and she cannot restore it. The North has disrupted the Union, and only the Northern States can re-construct it. The Northern States have driven the Southern States out, the Northern States must bring back the Southern States. Virginia’s ultimatum with a Border State Conference is a loss of time, a waste of paper, useless for all purposes, save those of Mr. Seward, “delay” and “wait.”—We are not without an ultimatum which will re-construct the Union; the States sought to be brought back are the only parties whose ultimatum can restore the Union. Virginia’s ultimatum may determine the conditions upon which she will remain with the North, but further than this it cannot go; if the re-construction of the old Union is the real object of the Convention, the adoption of the ultimatum of the seceded States will attest its sincerity and convince the people of the country that they are not scheming for party purpose, and that they have not given up to party the time and labor they were directed to bestow upon the country. The ultimatum of the seceded States is left in no uncertainty; it is to be found in the solemn action of the Montgomery Constitution and may be analyzed as follows:

  1. That African slavery in the Territories shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the Territorial Legislatures.

  2. That the right to slaveholders of transit and sojourn in any State of the Confederacy, with their slaves and other property, shall be recognized and respected.

  3. That the provision in regard to fugitive slaves shall extend to any slave lawfully carried from one State into another, and there escaping or taken away from his master.

  4. That no bill or ex post facto law (by Congress or any State,) and no law impairing or denying the right of property in negro slaves, shall be passed.

  5. That the African slave trade shall be prohibited by such laws of Congress as shall effectually prevent the same.

The report made by Gov. Wise embraces all these. The Convention, in voting upon the report of Gov. Wise, will decide for or against the Northern Confederacy. Gov. Wise presents no question of secession, he accepts that as already decided, and calls upon the Convention of Virginia to declare either for the old Union upon the ultimatum laid down by the seceded States; or for Union with the seceded, or for remaining with the North. In voting down the report of Gov. Wise and adopting that of the majority, the Convention will have deliberately voted down the only plan of re-construction; they will also have voted down the Union with the South; and they will have decided, without consulting the people of Virginia, to remain “a useless appendage to the Northern Confederacy,” an “alternative utterly repugnant to all true Southern men.”“Our connection with the Federal Union” has been dissolved by the disruption of the Union, but Virginia is under the dominion and government of the Northern States, according to the forms of the Constitution of the once Federal Union. Shall she so remain? The Convention, by adopting the majority report, will determine this question in favor of the North. Will the people ratify such action by the Convention?The question does not involve secession or disunion, but merely whether, the Union being dissolved, Virginia will remain with the North or go with the South. Such is the issue between the resistance and submission parties in Virginia.