Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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WEST VIRGINIA, a state of the American Union. Its organization had several peculiarities. Like Vermont, Kentucky, Maine, Texas and California, it had no previous territorial existence; and, like Kentucky and Maine, it was formed from a part of a state already in existence. But, in the cases of Kentucky and Maine, the necessary consent of the legislature of the parent state was so regularly given that no exception could be taken to it; while the existence of West Virginia is based upon a legal fiction by which congress recognized a revolutionary loyal legislature in western Virginia as the legitimate legislature of the state so far as to accept the consent of the former body to the erection of the new state of West Virginia.


—The manner in which the secession of Virginia was accomplished is elsewhere given. (See VIRGINIA.) There had long been a division of interests and feelings between that part of the state west of the Alleghanies and the rest of the state. The former fraction, comprising nearly one-half the territory of Virginia and about one-fifth of her population (355,526 whites and 18,371 slaves), was rather a northern than a southern state in sympathy; its representatives in the Virginia convention opposed secession; and their constituents supplemented parliamentary by forcible opposition. Early in May, 1861, a delegate convention at Wheeling declared the ordinance of secession null and void, and summoned a [Virginia] state convention. It met at Wheeling, June 11, and two days afterward passed an ordinance vacating the state offices arrayed against the federal government. June 20, it elected Frank Pierpont governor of Virginia. July 2, the Virginia legislature, elected under the convention's ordinance, met at Wheeling, and elected United States senators, who were admitted by the senate. Aug. 20, the convention passed an ordinance to create the state of Kanawha, and this was approved by popular vote, Oct. 24. At the same election delegates were chosen to a new convention, which framed the first constitution, now adopting the name of West Virginia. This constitution was ratified by popular vote, April 3, 1862, and in the following month the legislature, representing the forty counties of western Virginia, but claiming to represent the whole state, formally gave Virginia's consent to the erection of the new state. Dec. 31, 1862, West Virginia was admitted by act of congress, the admission to take effect on the adoption of gradual abolition by the new state (see ABOLITION, III.); and the state thus became a member of the Union, June 19, 1863. The whole process of the formation of the state is a difficult problem in American constitutional law. It was evidently revolutionary in the main; but there are many features in it which go to support Sumner's "state suicide" theory. (See RECONSTRUCTION.) After the downfall of the rebellion Virginia admitted the validity of the formation by beginning suit in the supreme court against West Virginia for the restoration of Berkeley and Jefferson counties; but the suit was decided against Virginia in 1871.


—CONSTITUTIONS. The first constitution was framed by a convention at Wheeling, Nov. 26, 1861-Feb. 18, 1862. It provided that the state should "be and remain" one of the United States of America; that only white male citizens should vote; that the senate should consist of eighteen members, chosen for two years, and the house of delegates of forty-seven members, chosen for one year; that the membership of both houses should be reapportioned by the legislature after each census; that the capital should be Wheeling until changed by the legislature; that the governor should be chosen by popular vote for two years, that the judiciary should be elective; and that no slave should be brought into the state. The last feature was changed to a gradual abolition of slavery as above specified. This constitution also made an attempt to introduce the township system of government for local affairs; but the system was repugnant to the feelings of the people, and was abolished by the next constitution. May 24, 1866, an amendment was added disfranchising all persons who had voluntarily given aid and comfort to the rebellion since June 1, 1861; and the provision of the constitution that no one could hold office unless entitled to vote made the amendment still more sweeping. The capital has since remained at Wheeling, except from April, 1870, until May, 1875, when it was located at Charleston. April 27, 1871, an amendment was ratified by popular vote, striking out the word "white" from the suffrage clause, and also the disfranchising amendment of 1866.


—The present constitution was framed by a convention at Charleston. Jan. 16-April 9, 1872. Its principal changes were the increase of the senate to twenty-four members, chosen for four years, and of the house to sixty five members, chosen for two years; a prohibition of registration laws, and of special legislation in a number of specified cases; the increase of the governor's term to four years (see also RIDERS, VETO); and the abolition of the township system.


—BOUNDARIES. The boundaries of the state are not defined in the constitution, which only specifies the counties of Virginia included within it.


—GOVERNORS. Arthur J. Boreman, 1863-9; Wm. E. Stephenson, 1869-71; John J. Jacob, 1871-7; Henry M. Matthews, 1877-81; Jacob B. Jackson. 1881-5.


—POLITICAL HISTORY. Until 1870 the majority of the voters of the state were republican, and its state officers even of that party. Even in 1860 the republicans had contested two of the counties, and had given Lincoln a popular vote of 1,929 in this part of the state. When war finely began, the republicans, under the name of "unconditional Union men," took complete control of the new state. In 1864 Lincoln received nearly 70 per cent. of the total popular vote; and in 1868 Grant received nearly 60 per cent. But when the war ended, the return of disbanded confederate soldiers, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the state, introduced a troublesome complication into politics. At first the dominant party met this by the disfranchising amendment of 1866, enforcing it by registration laws and test oaths, and suppressing resistance by force. The result was that in 1869 the number of disfranchised citizens was officially reported as 29,316, the number of actual voters being about 50,000; and as no disfranchised person could hold office, public business was seriously interfered with in many parts of the state. The first sign of compromise was the "Flick amendment," finally adopted in 1871. It was supported by moderate republicans and democrats, as it combined amnesty with negro suffrage, and in the struggle over it the democrats, or "conservatives," carried the state and the lower house of the legislature in 1870, and the senate in the following year. In 1872 Grant carried the state by a majority of 2,264 out of a total vote of 62,366; but since that time the state has been so steadily democratic that the republicans almost ceased opposition until 1882, when they elected one of the state's four congressmen. In 1882 the legislature was composed as follows: senate, twenty democrats, three republicans, one independent; house, forty-six democrats, seventeen republicans, two independent.


—Among the political leaders of the state have been the following: Arthur J. Boreman, governor (republican) 1863-9, and United States senator 1869-75; Wm. G. Brown, democratic congressman (from Virginia) 1845-9, and Unionist congressman 1861-5; J. U. Camden, democratic candidate for governor in 1868 and 1873, and United States senator 1881-7; Allen T. Caperton, whig member of the state legislature 1853-60, confederate senator 1862-5, and United States senator (democrat) 1875-6; Henry G. Davis, democratic United States senator 1871-8, Nathan Goff, secretary of the navy under Hayes, and republican congressman 1883-5; Frank Hereford, democratic congressman 1871-7 and United States senator 1877-81; John E. Kenna, democratic congressman 1877-85; and Waitman V. Willey, republican United States senator (from Virginia) 1861-3, and (from West Virginia) 1863-71.


—See 2 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; 2 Hough's American Constitutions; authorities under VIRGINIA; 3 Wilson's Slave Power, 142; 2 Draper's Civil War in America, 241; Tribune Almanac, 1861-82; Appleton's Annual Cyclopædia, 1861-82.


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