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Valley of the Shadow

Valley Virginian: April 29, 1868

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Work of the Virginia Convention
(Column 05)
Summary: This article is divided into two parts. First, various provisions of the radical constitution are presented and shown to be extremely unpopular with white Virginians, particularly those which allow blacks to serve in state offices and on juries. Some radical legislators admit that the inclusion of the provisions, which are viewed by many as the foundations of Negro supremacy, will kill the constitution. Part two is the conservative response. The fundamental premise here is that the ratification of the radical constitution will hinder Virginia's readmission into the Union and provide the basis for further racial conflict. In the conservative mind, both races will benefit if the radicals are voted down. Providence has determined that the United States was to be controlled by white men, and giving black people controlling interest in the nation would only lead to violence. One of the main fears expressed by this article is that the US Congress will impose the radical constitution even if it is not ratified. The authors have faith that this will not happen.
Full Text of Article:

As Already stated by telegraph, the Virginia convention, composed mostly of Northern men and foreigners, who have drifted to Virginia by the wars, of native Africans, and a few native radicals, with a moderate sprinkling of conservatives, which has been in session for nearly five months, concluded its labors on Saturday, the 19th inst. The day before its adjournment, Gen. Schofield, escorted by his staff, entered the hall of the convention, and made an address from the Speaker's stand, in which he told the members plainly that the extended disfranchisements and disqualifications for office which they had embodied in the constitution would in his judgment, "prove fatal to that instrument," and that "it is practically impossible to carry on a government in Virginia predicated upon that basis." Gen. Schofield then went into some explanatory details, derived from his experience in administering the laws under the reconstruction acts for more than a year, to establish his opinion that a sufficient number of men cannot be found in the counties of Virginia capable of filling the offices who can take the test oath. He used some very strong language stating that the provision, if left in the constitution, would not only be opposed to the wishes of their friends, but fatal to the constitution, and perhaps to themselves.

This was the first time, he declared, that he had attempted to exercise the slightest influence over the actions of the convention, but he felt that it was his duty now "to convey to them what he conceived to be the effect of such a law, its practical bearing upon the political affairs of the country, and upon the interests, if they pleased, of the party to which they belonged." The General's appeal, however, had no effect, and the provision was retained.

At the final close of the convention on the 19th, several speeches were made by radical members, among them Judge Snead, who was a Union man throughout the war, and declared he was "firmly persuaded that a majority of qualified voters will stamp this constitution with the seal of their decided and everlasting condemnation." The speaker was especially severe upon the retrospective homestead provisions exempting two thousand dollars' worth of property from execution, or debts antecedently or subsequently contracted. Mr. Allan, another radical, a Union soldier during the war, who received but one white vote when elected to the convention, denounced the constitution on account of the disfranchising clause, in the most bitter terms, and said the clause referred to "is of such a character as not only to secure its defeat before the people, but will not receive the approval of the national Congress, even in ease of its ratification here." Mr. Allan warned the colored men that the only boon the constitution, if adopted, would secure to them would be to have the power for a few years of rewarding ambitious men with office, and leaving as a legacy to their children the hatred of every white man where they live.


The conservative members of the convention have published a lengthy address to the people of Virginia, in which they thoroughly analize the various features of the constitution which the convention had propounded.

These are negro suffrage, under which no prepayment of a poll tax is required as heretofore in Virginia, and paupers are not excluded; county and township organizations (the latter never heard of before in Virginia) with subdivision of townships into school districts and road districts creating thereby in the smaller counties about sixty petty officers, and in the larger about two hundred, all of which, by the operation of the test oath, would, in a large majority of the counties east of the Blue Ridge, be negroes or such white men as would come under their control; the refusal, while universal suffrage has been given to the blacks, of "universal amnesty" to the whites, by incorporating in the constitution the "iron clad" oath, applicable to all officers, from Governor to surveyor of a road, and which not one white man in a thousand in the State can take; the adoption of a basis of representation and appointment by which, with a white majority (excluding the disfranchised) of 35,000 in the State, the blacks will have a majority of twenty one on joint ballot in the Legislature; the almost exclusive assignment to the whites of the payment of the taxes, the appropriation of large sources of revenue to schools which the property owners who support them cannot enjoy the benefits of. Says the address:

"An effort was made in the committee on education, and afterward on two several occasions in the convention, to procure a declaration that separate public schools for the white and black children. It was voted down in every case. The negroes desired mixed schools, and their white associates feared to offend them."

It was finally agreed to leave the Legislature, where the blacks will have a majority of twenty one to deal with it. Other features of the new instrument are the excessive and retroactive homestead exemption above referred to; the militia and jurors, in which no distinctions are made of race or color, except that none but those who are made voters have the right to sit on juries, thus excluding from juries the disfranchised white voters of the State; the guarantee of equal "public privileges," which is understood to be designed to secure to negroes free access to all hotels, railroad cars, and other public places the abolition of the old fashioned, above board system of viva voce voting in Virginia and the substitution of the secret ballot. There is also a section in regard to church property, the design of which is believed to be to transfer the Methodist Church property in Virginia to the Northern Methodist Church. In conclusion the address says:

"Such is the constitution submitted to you, fellow citizens, for your ratification, and such the instrument bitterly denominated a measure of reconstruction and of restoration of the Union. The constitution of Georgia, which happens to be before us--objectionable as it is to Southern people--provides for universal negro suffrage, but it differs from the constitution offered to the people of Virginia in several important respects. Not one human being is disfranchised; not one questionable oath is required; the existing county organization of the State was left untouched; no person is allowed to vote until he shall have paid all the tax assessed against him; and the General Assembly is required to provide by law for the selection of upright and intelligent persons to serve as jurors.

"It now devolves upon the white people of Virginia to pass upon this instrument. By the registration of last year, from which some 15,000 whites were excluded by disfranchisement, the whites had a majority in the State of over 14,000. This majority, under the new registration which will take place, may be increased 5,000 in the Valley alone."

"It has been said that Congress if we defeat it will put this constitution on us. Then let Congress be the author of this great wrong; and let not Virginia, under any menace of violence weakly be tempted to offer no resistance to her ravisher. The adoption of the constitution by the people of the State and the imposition of it on them by the republican party of the North are two very different things, and may be followed by very different results.

"It is proper, however, to remark, that it is by no means certain nor do we think it probable, that Congress will impose this constitution on us if we reject it. The instrument is very different in its character from that contemplated by the acts of Congress; these did not profess more than the purpose to provide for protection to the negro; but the constitution framed leaves it necessary to provide for the protection of the white man. It has been suggested that this political party in possession of the federal government, preparatory to the presidential election, are anxious to have the Southern States in the Union; but were it admissible to entertain the hypothesis that party considerations would influence Congress in this matter, Virginia might well be an exception to the Southern States in general, as her vote would probably be cast against the party in question at the presidential election, and indeed, must be, if the whites will only take care to register, as we can command a white majority of thirty five thousand.

"It is our duty, then, to act together; to avoid all divisions, to disregard all cavilling objections; and to vote down the proposed constitution. Judge Snead of Accomac--one of the ablest of his party, a consistent Union man during the war, elected to the convention as a radical, and acting with his party for three months of this session of the body--was compelled, at the last moment, to declare that the constitution established negro supremacy, and that, although in favor of negro suffrage, he had no alternative but to vote against it at the polls.

"That the negroes of the South establish themselves in any permanent supremacy over the whites we do not, however, accept for a moment. The white race of the South can never be destroyed. When the negroes are put over us then at least we should put forth our strength. We shall offer such inducements to white immigration that these sparsely settled States must rapidly fill up.--The negroes will be overwhelmed with numbers, and it will be too late to make any terms. It is perfectly evident that Providence designs the territory of the United States as a theatre of a great white empire, whose power and whose civilization shall exert a controlling influence in the history of the future. That the three or four millions of blacks here can interpose any barrier to the realization of this destiny is plainly chimerical. The only question is shall the changes which impend in the South be gradual or violent? With peace between the races the whites of the South might be saved from much that awaits them under the radical programme and the blacks, while remitted to their proper position in society, would be saved from rapid extinction as a race."

In protesting against the establishment of negro supremacy, the address says they plead for both races and adds:

"In conclusion, making no hypocritical professions, we affirm in sincerity and in truth that the people of this State desire to be restored to the Union, and cherish no purpose of disloyalty to the government; that they long for the establishment of kindly relations between all the sections of the country, and that they entertain no other feelings or purpose than those of kindness and benevolence towards the negroes."--Balt Sun.

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[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper "advises" African Americans not to vote.
The National Convention
(Column 01)
Summary: This article is an attempt to build political ties across sections against the radicals. The author appeals to northern Democrats to join with southern Democrats against the "prejudice and tomfoolery" that impinges on liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. The National Convention should represent the joint efforts of northerner and southerner to defeat the "Radical devils."
Full Text of Article:

The only body of men North, to whom the white vote of the South is necessary, is the true Democracy. Some people object to the name, even in the South. It is no time to cavil over words, and we should join heart and hands with our friends--the only friends of free Constitutional liberty on this Continent North--the Northern Democracy. Let our State be represented ably in the National Convention, in N.Y. July 4th.

We must use our talents and carry the war home to these Radical devils. We must show the mass of Northern people that we are honest, in accepting of the results of the war, and that all we want is equal rights and justice, as free born American citizens. Let our best men go among the Northern people; let them shake hands and compare notes at N.Y. and let them decide on what is best, to wipe out the mass of prejudice and tomfoolery that now hampers and weighs down this great people. The issue is simple: Is there to be law in this land or anarchy? Come down to the work!

[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper urges the people of Augusta to emulate the example of Stonewall Jackson at the battle of Kernstown and work hard to defeat the proposed state constitution.
[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper asserts that only those who "desire to see a buck negro or a 'scallawag Yankee' seated by your daughter at school" would consider voting for the constitution.
Latest Local and General News
(Column 02)
Summary: The county court postponed the election on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad subscription. The Staunton Lyceum, after a vigorous debate, decided that honesty was the best policy. Also, S. Travers Philips was selected Treasurer of the organization.
(Names in announcement: S. Travers Philips)
Col. J. B. Baldwin's Speech on Monday
(Column 02)
Summary: Col. John B. Baldwin spoke to a large crowd on Court Day. "We heard respectable negro men say they intended to vote against the constitution after hearing it. Col. Baldwin is the most powerful man before the people of this county, and should continue the good work he has ably commenced. We would like to hear him on the C and O R. R."
(Names in announcement: Col. John B. Baldwin)
A Query?
(Column 02)
Summary: The paper reminds opponents of the C and O railroad that it would bring 15,000 "hard working, honest white men" to the area.
Military Appointments
(Column 02)
Summary: The paper applauds the following appointments Gen. Schofield made for Staunton: Council, N. B. Hendry replaces Henry H. Peck, M. J. Ackerman replaces Benjamin F. Points, Henry Eichelberger replaces John B. Scherer, and J. C. Wheat replaces Robert G. Bickle; Alderman, A. B. Arthur replaces William H. Wilson, William L. Herr replaces Robert J. Hope, A. T. Maupin replaces James W. Crawford.
(Names in announcement: Gen. Schofield, N. B. Hendry, Henry H. Peck, M. J. Ackerman, Benjamin F. Points, Henry Eichelberger, John B. Scherer, J. C. Wheat, Robert G. Bickle, A. B. Arthur, William H. Wilson, William L. Herr, Robert J. Hope, A. T. Maupin, James W. Crawford)
[No Title]
(Column 02)
Summary: Gen. Schofield has postponed the election on the constitution because he wants Congress to appropriate money for expenses. The paper urges conservatives to continue to organize in the meantime.

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[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper asserts that only one white man in the county favors the constitution. He lives at Mt. Sidney, and "respect for our race forces us to the conclusion that he could not have read the 'unclean thing.'"
(Column 01)
Summary: 787 visitors arrived at Staunton's American Hotel during the month of April, and 1200 arrived in the town in general. "Many persons coming to Staunton, which has become the Headquarters of all the travel in and to the Valley, stopped at private houses and our popular boarding houses."
[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper argues that a white majority of 30,000 in Virginia must defeat "a minority of former slaves, aided by a dirtier lot of white scoundrels" in their attempt to "force the degradation of the proposed constitution on them." "Every personal interest must be given up to defeat this abortion."
The Personal of the Convention
(Column 02)
Summary: Sketches of participants in the State Convention including Waddell and Harrison of Augusta.
(Names in announcement: Waddell, Harrison)

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