Primary Resource

"Virginia Republican Convention: Full Report of Proceedings" from the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (May 3, 1860)

The following article from the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, dated May 3, 1860, details the Republican Party of Virginia state convention in Wheeling in May 1860. The convention resulted in the party sending a delegation to the Republican National Convention in Chicago that nominated Abraham Lincoln for president instead of William H. Seward, whom most of the Virginia delegates initially supported.

Transcription from Original

The Republican party of the State of Virginia, called together to send delegates to the National Convention which meets in Chicago on the 16th of this month [May], having assembled to day in the city of Wheeling and appointed their representatives to that convention, deem it proper and respectful towards their fellow-citizens that before adjourning they should declare to them the principles and purposes which have actuated them in so doing:—

In common with the Republican party in other States, we believe that our country, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadas, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, contains a variety of soil and climate better adapted to the growth and development of all articles necessary for the use of man, than any other land upon which the sun shines. The laws of our climate and soil forbid us from becoming wholly a nation of either cotton, sugar or tobacco planters, or of wheat, corn, or wool growers, or of cattle, mule or horse raisers. Beneficent nature has clearly intended that we should be all these and more. She has diversified the industry of almost every State of our great confederacy, and seems to have designed, as Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson wrote in renunciation of some of his earlier theories, that "the great capabilities of the country should be placed side by side," and that "as a people we should be happy to be elevated to an independence of all foreign nations." These suggestions of nature have not been realized in our political economy.

The cotton and sugar planters possessing almost control of a great and peculiar branch of the industry of the country, finding a market for their productions in foreign countries, have thought it most in their interest to make war upon the manufacturing interest of the non-cotton and sugar states, so as to break them down and drive their thousands of employees into the producing of breadstuffs and other farm products, and that by increasing the growth of wheat, corn, oats, and cattle, to enable the cotton and sugar planters to lay in their supplies of breaadstuffs at the lowest rates on a Northern and Western market in which themselves would be the only purchasers. In other words the theory of the cotton and sugar planter has been, that the less diversified the industry of the non-cotton and sugar States, the more the people of these States would be thrown back upon agricultural pursuits, and the greater the number of people thus employed the cheaper could supplies of breadstuffs by had for the sustenance of a slave population whose labor could be more profitably employed in raising cotton and sugar than in raising breadstuffs. To such a course—so inimical to the best interests of our own and so many other states, the Republican party is opposed. Its policy here as elsewhere is to encourage the white labor of the country by building up manufactories, and to favor the development of the mechanic arts by a proper and judicious tariff of duties on foreign goods. Such a policy would develop the sleeping resources of our own State as well as of other States; would give white labor a just and remunerative reward, and would supply to our growers of wheat, corn and oats, and our raisers of stock, a demand for their products at their own doors.

Out of this aggression of the Cotton and Sugar growing interests upon the rights of white labor, has grown the present antagonism between the two great parties of the country. The capital of the cotton and sugar planters consists of a peculiar kind of property—viz.—the right to the labor of Slaves. This property he claims should be protected and fostered at the expense of all other kinds of property, and that the rights and interests, and the veer labor of the white man should be made subservient to it. Now the Republican party is an organization established for the protection of the personal rights of our citizens, as well as the rights or property, and we hold that one of the chief objects of our laws and Constitution is to prevent the one from encroaching upon the rights of the other. Nevertheless, here in Virginia, as in other parts of the United States, we have suffered under the steady, yearly increasing encroachments of the Slave capital upon the personal rights of the laboring white man. The non-Slaveholding farmers, mechanics and workingmen of Western Virginia are oppressed and weighed down with taxations for the benefit of the Eastern Virginia Slave capitalists, merely because they have the political power and choose to exercise its tyrannies without mercy. Capital in the shape of Slaves, under our Va. (miscalled) Democratic legislation, is made to pay about $300,000 toward the expenses of the State, where, if it was taxes as other capital is, it would be made to contribute at lest $1,300,000. The products of the Slave labor of Va. consisting altogether of Tobacco, Corn, Wheat and Oats are exempt, too, from taxation, whilst the products of the white labor of the non-Slaveholding parts of the State consisting of cattle, hogs, sheep, &c., are made to contribute largely to the State treasury.— With this and other resources so unjustly derived from the white laboring men of Western Virginia, our Eastern Virginia slave capitalists have constructed canals and interlaced their part of the State with railroads, and are thus enabled at our expense to carry off their productions of Tobacco, Corn, Wheat, &c., to a sea board market; whilst the West having no seaboard coast, and no railroad facilities supplied to her by the State, is compelled to feed her products to heavily taxes Stock in order to get them carried to a purchaser. So that although corn and oats, for——————Virginia slave capitalists, are exempt from taxation, yet so soon as they are made here in the West to assume the form of Stock, they are heavily taxed. The farmer in Eastern Virginia raises little or no stock because he finds it more profitable by the railroads and canals built before his door, to send his grain to market, instead of, like the Western farmer, being compelled to feed his grain in order to drive it to a point where it will find a purchaser. Whilst, also, the slave under 12 years of age, by the same miscalled Democratic rulers of Virginia, is held a privileged property and as such is free from all taxation, though he may be worth a thousand or more dollars; the young colts, calves, and lambs and pigs of our Western Virginia farmers are regularly listed by our Commissioners of the Revenue, and made contribute to the State treasury. And whilst the owner of a slave over 12 years of age, and worth upon a fair average $1200, is taxed for him only the small pittance of $1.20; the small merchant, even with a capital as meagre as $600, is made to pay the first year the onerous tax of $60, and after that an enormous per centage of his sales.— Ad even the white laboring man, though he may own no capital at all, be he a mechanic, a day laborer, or only a casual hand in a harvest field, is made, by this falsely called Democratic legislation, to pay a per centage upon his hard earned wages, in order that the privileged property of our Eastern taskmasters may not be compelled to contribute its just share to the public expenses.

And, wherever, we turn our eyes up and down the course of legislation at Richmond, we see this unequal and unjust exemption following the line of slave property. Why, if a bull or steer of one of our Western Virginia farmers becomes vicious, so as to be a public nuisance, he is ordered by the law to be killed, and his loss falls upon his owner, and upon him alone; but if it happen that a slave of one of our Eastern Virginia capitalists, becomes vicious and commits crime, he is hanged or transported, and it is provided by law that his owner shall be paid his assessed value out of the State treasury. And still again, fellow citizens, look at the fact, and ask yourselves how it comes that we have a clause in our State Constitution by which ten thousand white men in Eastern Virginia, simply by reason of their slave capital, are enabled to have as great a representation in one branch of our Legislature, as forty thousand freemen in Western Virginia. These and other aggressions of the slave capitalists upon the capital and labor of the non-slaveholding white men of our State committed under the banner of Democracy, require that another party organization, more powerful than any that has heretofore existed within our borders, should be inaugurated, in order that the personal rights of the laboring white citizens of Western Virginia may be protected against the unjust and oppressive encroachments, and tyrannies of black capital. Such an organization, we believe, to be the now great and National Republican party, conservative in its principles, submissive to the laws, attached to the Constitution of our country, construing it as did the early founders of the government, and as more especially did George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other illustrious Virginia statesmen, and loving the Union and clinging to it as the anchor of safety for political liberty in the world. In common with the Republican party everywhere, we hold that slavery is local and not national—that each State of this confederacy is sovereign, and can as a State either establish or abolish slavery within its own limits; that all the territories are and should be free as long as they remain territories; that it is the duty of Congress to admit a territory as a State whenever she has the requisite population, be her institutions free or slave, provided only that her form of government is republican. In regard to slavery in our own State, we acknowledge the right of every owner to hold his slave as property—a right which he acquired under the local law of the State; and while as citizens of Virginia, and as Republicans, we believe that the public morals and general prosperity of our State, which it is the province of government to a great extent to protect and cherish, are deplorably injured by slavery, from the fact, as so graphically stated by the Augusta County Memorialists in the convention of 1829, "that the possession and management of slaves form a source of endless vexation and misery within the house, and waste and ruin on the farm, and that the youth of many parts of the State, are growing up with a contempt of steady industry as a low, service thing, which contempt induces idleness, and all its attendant effeminacy, vice and worthelssness"—and while we further believe that Virginia, in consequence of the institution of slavery, has steadily lapsed at each decade behind some of her free State rivals, not possessing her natural capabilities, and that until we make some provision for the gradual riddance of this consuming evil, we never will regain our natural position as a State in the confederacy; yet, nevertheless, we affirm that as good citizens we will always feel ourselves bound to uphold and vindicate every law and every constitutional enactment, so long as it shall remain upon our statute books. But we contend that, under our laws all white men are equal—that they are entitled to the rights of free opinion and free discussion, and that all discriminations in favor of privileged property, by which it is exempted from its just share of taxes, are unjust and degrading, and as such we make war against them.

And, finally, believing as we do, that this aggressive slave capital party which seeks everywhere, in the General Government and in the States, to load down the white industry of the country with burdens, grevious to the borne, is in alliance with, and has sectionalized completely what was, year ago, the National Democratic party; and that the tendency of things wherever it has sway, is more and more to the disunion and nullification doctrines of the South Carolina and [John C.] Calhoun school of politics, we deprecate its success as subversive of the rights of the white men of our country, as indubitably tending to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and to build up a government whose exclusive protection and whose honors and emoluments shall be awarded to a slave owning oligarchy. And on the other hand believing, as we do, that the principles set forth in the call for the national Republican Convention at Chicago, are national in their character, and aggressive upon neither the rights of labor or capital, but in their spirit and practice conducive to the best interest of the whole country, Therefore

Resolved 1st, That the Republican party of the State of Virginia cordially approve of the doctrines contained in the said call, and hereby pledge themselves to a hearty support of the nominations made in pursuance thereof.

Resolved, 2d, That we are in favor of such a tariff as will afford adequate protection and encouragement to the products of the white laboring men of our own country against those of foreign countries.

Resolved, 3, That we are in favor of equality of rights among all citizens and opposed to proscribing any one on account of his opinions or his place of birth.

Resolved, 4th, That in view of recent events on the continent of Europe, and condemning the positions taken by the present Democratic Administration, we hold it to be the duty of the American government to maintain the principles that its naturalized citizens who visit the countries of their birth, are equally entitled to immunity from impressment into foreign armies, as if they were American born.

Resolved, 5th, That we are cordially attached to the provisions of the Homestead Bill as originated and passed by the Republican party in the House of Representatives, holding, as we do, that our unsettled domain should be reserved for free homes to freemen, who will redeem it from the wilderness,

Resolved 6th, That if, from any unforeseen cause, any of the delegates appointed by this Convention to the National Convention at Chicago, shall be prevented from attending, the delegates who may be present shall have power to fill such vacancies from citizens of the State in attendance at the Convention.

Resolved, 7th, That we favor a plan for the colonization of the free negroes of the U. S. and those that may hereafter be enfranchised by States or individuals into the American tropics, where they may, in the language of Mr. Jefferson, become an independent people, under the patronage and protection of this government, and relieve the free white laborer from the competition of this class, and thus benefitting both races, extending and increasing our commerce by a reciprocal interchange of the products and manufactures of the Temperate Zone, for the tropical productions of a great and strong colony of free blacks in that region.

Resolved, 8th, That our next National State Convention be held in the City of Richmond, upon such day of the year 1864, as the State Executive Committee appointed by this Convention shall determine.