Journal of the House of Delegates... Virginia

CONSTITUTION   |   SLAVERY

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Item#: 126019 price:$4,500.00

Journal of the House of Delegates... Virginia
Journal of the House of Delegates... Virginia

"NEITHER SLAVERY NOR INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE… SHALL EXIST IN THE UNITED STATES": FIRST EDITION OF DECEMBER 1864-MARCH 1865 JOURNAL OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES OF THE VIRGINIA SHADOW GOVERNMENT, DOCUMENTING SWIFT ADOPTION OF THE 13TH AMENDMENT LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AFTER THE U.S. CONGRESS

(CONSTITUTION). Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia. for the Session of 1864—5. Alexandria: D. Turner, 1865. Octavo, original front printed wrapper respined, renewed rear wrapper, original string stitching; pp. (1-3), 4-83 (1). $4500.

First edition, one of 500 copies, of the momentous Journal featuring its February 9, 1865 entry on the Alexandria, Virginia government's passage of the 13th Amendment mere days after the U.S. Congress, the first of the four Unionist southern states to pass the Amendment, also featuring the governor's Message noting: "though we have in inherited from our fathers of the revolution the blessings of a great nation, yet they also left to us an inheritance of African slavery which has proved a bitter dreg in our cup of freedom," a vital record of forces for constitutional change near the end of the Civil War.

Soon after the 1860 election, amidst southern secession, "the great questions of union or disunion, war or peace, hung in the balance. Probably the crucial weight on the scale was Virginia… as long as the federal government did not seek to coerce the states, Virginia secessionists were unable to achieve a majority. When Lincoln responded with force to the attack on Fort Sumter, however, the vote in Virginia went in favor of secession." Subsequently a Virginia convention "met in Wheeling on May 13, 1861… [it] elected as Governor Francis Pierpont, a western Virginian and ardent Unionist, and arranged for the creation of a legislature to replace the body sitting in Richmond… in July 1861 the new legislature met at the 'Restored Virginia' capital of Wheeling in a special session called by Pierpont." Against its "claim to represent a majority of Virginians," a new state of West Virginia was created in 1863, and Pierpont's government moved to Alexandria to govern areas of Virginia under Union occupation (Harrison, Lawfulness of the Reconstruction Amendments, 380-83).

Scholars observe that the 13th Amendment, its fellow amendments and Reconstruction, as "both a political process made possible by military successes and constitutional thought, grew from wartime as well as post-Appomattox developments" (Hyman and Wiecek, Equal Justice, 247). This rare first edition of Journal of the House of Delegates substantiates that in documenting passage of the 13th Amendment by Pierpont's Virginia government mere days after the U.S. Congress passed the Amendment on January 31, 1865. With that, Virginia became the first of the four Unionist southern states that ratified the 13th Amendment. Of those, Louisiana followed on February 17, with Arkansas and Tennessee that April. The 13th Amendment is the focus of the Journal's entry for February 9, 1865, which states: "Mr. Brownley called up Senate bill No. 12, entitled 'An Act to ratify the joint resolution of Congress, passed January 31, 1865, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.' The bill was read the first and second time… and the rules were suspended, and the bill read the third time… and the bill passed." Also notable herein is the complete printing of Governor Pierpont's opening Message, where he notes: "though we inherited from our fathers of the revolution the blessings of a great nation, yet they also left to us an inheritance of African slavery which has proved a bitter dreg in our cup of freedom." He speaks at length of the rights due people of color and the abolition of laws, such as those that prohibit "negro testimony" or proscribe a "different punishment… [for] persons of African dissent" from that of "white persons."

"The legislature met for its second session on December 5, 1864… The governor's message was a long and important document and indicated the changes of opinion that the war was bringing about. Pierpont gave his views upon the all-important negro question. He congratulated the constitutional convention, which had met in the spring, on the abolition of slavery in Virginia, and advocated sweeping changes in the laws concerning negroes. The act prescribing different punishments for blacks, should, he said, be altered in accordance with the amended constitution, as well as the law for apprenticing them. The law prohibiting the education of negroes should be abolished… His language was, on the whole, very moderate. He advised the legalizing of the marital relations of negroes, and, most important, the establishment of public schools… Notwithstanding the governor's advice, no acts of great importance passed the legislature… On February 9, 1865, the assembly ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It adjourned on March 7" (Eckenrode, Political History of Virginia During the Reconstruction). Faint "U.N.C. Duplicate" stamp to front wrapper.

Text fine; just a bit of faint soiling and a tide line to fragile front wrapper. An excellent copy of this elusive item.

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