Restored Government of Virginia
|Restored Government of Virginia|
|Restored state government of United States of America|
|Coat of arms|
|Samuel Augustus Mitchell. The Restored Government of Virginia claimed to be the rightful government of these lands until the admission of the State of West Virginia into the Union in 1863, after which claiming the control of the modern state boundaries of Virginia.|
|Government||Organized incorporated state|
|•||1861–1865||Francis Harrison Pierpont|
|Historical era||American Civil War (1861–1865)|
|•||Second Wheeling Convention||June 11, 1861|
|•||Formation of a new state government||June 19, 1861|
|•||West Virginia admitted to the U.S.||June 20, 1863|
|•||Surrender of the Confederacy||April 9, 1865|
|•||Provisional government formed in Richmond||May 9, 1865|
Union states |
American Civil War
|Territories and D.C.|
The Restored Government of Virginia, also known as the Reorganized Government of Virginia, was the Unionist government of Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865). From 1861 until mid-1863 it met in Wheeling on the Ohio River in the extreme northwestern corner of the former Commonwealth of Virginia which had seceded from the United States in April 1861 and immediately joined the newly established Confederate States of America of other Southern states. From August 26, 1863, until June 1865, it met in Alexandria on the northeast edge of the state, on the south shore of the Potomac River across from the national capital of Washington, D.C., which had been occupied by Union Army forces since May 1861. The Restored Government claimed Richmond as its official capital from its formation and it eventually moved there near the end of the war after the rebel Confederate States government and General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia evacuated it as their capital in late March 1865, and the city shortly returned to Federal control.
The Restored Government had only executive and legislative branches; it did not form a judicial branch.
When the Second Wheeling Convention met in its first session, in June 1861, it adopted "A Declaration of the People of Virginia". The declaration stated that the Virginia Declaration of Rights required any substantial change in the form or nature of state government to be approved by the people. Since the Virginia secession convention had been convened by the legislature, not the people, the declaration pronounced the secession convention illegal, and that all of its acts—including the Ordinance of Secession—were ipso facto void. It also declared the pro-secession government void and called for a reorganization of the state government, taking the line that all state officials who had acceded to the Ordinance of Secession had effectively vacated their offices. The members and officers of the Restored Government had themselves not been elected by the people to the offices they had assumed, but instead convened on the basis of local petition and other irregular accreditation, some "more or less self-appointed".
The convention then elected Francis Harrison Pierpont as governor, along with other executive officers, with Wheeling as the provisional state capital. 16th President Abraham Lincoln recognized the Restored Government as the legitimate government of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. The United States Congress seated the two new United States Senators chosen by its legislature, and five U.S. representatives elected from the territories that remained loyal to the Union or were occupied by the Union Army. Its Congressional delegation in the 37th United States Congress was entirely made up of Unconditional Unionists. U.S. Senators elected were Waitman T. Willey and John S. Carlile. Representatives were seated from where delegates in the Richmond Convention of 1861 had voted to remain in the Union. They were the western 10th, William G. Brown, the 11th, Jacob B. Blair, and 12th, Kellian V. Whaley, in Congressional Districts of counties that would mostly become the 35th State of West Virginia, along with the 7th, Charles H. Upton, from Alexandria and Fairfax County, and the 1st, Joseph E. Segar in the Eastern Shore and Tidewater Peninsulas. Following the loss of its governance over the population of West Virginia, Congress in the 38th United States Congress did not seat either Senators elected by the Restored General Assembly, nor Representatives elected in truncated elections in Union-occupied areas of Virginia; the entire state's delegation went vacant.
By the end of 1861, large Confederate States Army forces had abandoned western Virginia after contesting the region with overwhelming Federal units, but small brigades of Confederate soldiers commanded by William Lowther Jackson and Albert G. Jenkins operated throughout the area during the war. The Restored Government attempted to exercise de facto authority, at least over the western counties, but had control of no more than half of the fifty counties that became West Virginia. On August 22, 1862, the Restored Government's Adjutant General, Henry I. Samuels, reported to Gov. Pierpont that there were 22 counties in which they could raise Union volunteers, but "...in several of the Counties I have named, a draft would be an operation of extreme difficulty..."
Government in Wheeling
A movement for separate statehood had grown in the trans-Allegheny region of western Virginia long before the outbreak of war mirroring similar sentiments of other western mountainous portions of other East Coast states. A key obstacle to separate admission to the Union was that a provision in the United States Constitution of 1787 forbade the creation of new states out of existing ones without the consent of the existing state's legislature. Soon after the President and the Congress recognized the Restored Government as the legitimate government of Virginia, it asserted its authority to give such consent. The legislature that met between the two sessions of the Wheeling Convention in 1861 failed to pass a statehood bill, but the second session of the convention approved it. A popular referendum in October 1861 was called on the creation of the new "State of Kanawha" from the northwestern counties of the old Commonwealth of Virginia. The voters' approval led to a constitutional convention, and another popular vote in April 1862 approving the new constitution for a new state, the now renamed "West Virginia". The U.S. Congress then passed a statehood bill for West Virginia, but with the added condition that slaves be emancipated in the new state, and that certain disputed counties be excluded. President Lincoln, although reluctant to divide Virginia during a war aimed at re-uniting the country, eventually signed the statehood bill into law on December 31, 1862. In Wheeling, the added conditions required another constitutional convention and popular referendum. Statehood was achieved on June 20, 1863 as West Virginia was admitted as the 35th state in the Union and an additional star was added to the American flag a few weeks later on Independence Day on the Fourth of July.
Government in Alexandria
Following West Virginia's statehood in June 1863, the Restored Government of Virginia relinquished authority over the northwestern counties now forming the new 35th state, and thus lost most of its area not under Confederate military control. Pierpont then moved the Restored Government from Wheeling to Alexandria, effective August 26, 1863. Located in northeast Virginia proper, across the Potomac River from Washington, the city of Alexandria remained under Union control for most of the war since May 1861. The Restored Government claimed legitimacy over all of the Commonwealth of Virginia not now incorporated into the new State of West Virginia. Rather than recognize the Confederate state government in Richmond, Pierpont had characterized it as "large numbers of evil-minded persons [that] have banded together in military organizations with intent to overthrow the Government of the State; and for that purpose have called to their aid like-minded persons from other States, who, in pursuance of such call, have invaded this Commonwealth." But outside the few jurisdictions that Pierpont's government held under Federal military and naval arms along the Potomac River and around the Hampton Roads harbor and along the Chesapeake Bay, control of the state was mostly in rebel Richmond, for instance, in collecting taxes. Several localities sent representatives to both the rival Alexandria and Richmond state legislatures.
The Restored Government adopted a new Virginia constitution in 1864 by declaration (rather than by popular vote as delegate John Hawxhurst of Fairfax County, Virginia had advocated). It recognized the creation of West Virginia, abolished slavery, and disqualified supporters of the southern Confederacy from voting. The constitution was effective only in the Union-controlled areas of Virginia: several northern Virginia counties, the Norfolk / Portsmouth / Hampton areas around Hampton Roads, and the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake.
Government moves to Richmond
After the fall of Richmond and the end of the Civil War in May 1865, the executive officers moved the government from Alexandria to Richmond, which the Restored Government had always considered to be its official capital. The government operating under the Constitution of 1864 thereafter assumed civil authority for the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, until adoption of the Constitution of 1869. Some West Virginians expressed concern that once restored to the Union the government of Virginia might seek to challenge the validity of the authority the Restored Government possessed in consenting to West Virginia's admission to the Union. To alleviate these concerns, the Congress set as a condition for Virginia's readmission to Congress that it affirm in its 1869 Constitution that the authority by which the State of West Virginia was created out of Virginia territory had indeed been valid, thus giving its consent to the creation of West Virginia retroactively to 1863.
Officers of the Restored Government
- Francis Harrison Pierpont (1861–1865)
- Eastern Theater of the American Civil War
- The Confederate government of Kentucky, one of two rival state governments in Kentucky
- The Confederate government of Missouri, one of two rival state governments in Missouri
- The two Virginia gubernatorial elections of 1863: the Union one and the Confederate one
- Virginia in the American Civil War
- "Declaration of the People of Virginia Represented in Convention at Wheeling". Wheeling, Virginia. June 13, 1861. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- Ambler, Charles H. and Festus P. Summers, West Virginia, the Mountain State, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958, pg. 200
- "VIRGINIA.; The Restored Government of Virginia—History of the New State of Things". The New York Times. June 26, 1864.
- Martis, Kenneth. Historical Atlas of the United States Congress, 1789–1989. 1989, ISBN 978-0-0292-0170-1, p. 114-116
- Curry, Richard Orr, A House Divided, Statehood Politics & the Copperhead Movement in West Virginia, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1964, pg. 8
- Ambler, Charles, Francis H. Pierpont: Union War Governor of Virginia and Father of West Virginia, Univ. of North Carolina, 1937, pg. 419, note 36
- "Legislature of the Reorganized Government of Virginia: Extra Session". www.wvculture.org. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
- "Lincoln's Dilemma". www.wvculture.org. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
- Hamilton James Eckenrode, The political history of Virginia during the Reconstruction, Issue 1.
- Ambler, Charles H. Francis H. Pierpont: Union War Governor and Father of West Virginia (1937), the standard scholarly biography
- Ambler, Charles H. and Festus P. Summers. West Virginia, the Mountain State (2nd ed. 1958) pp 202-6 online
- "A State of Convenience: The Creation of West Virginia". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Virginia Convention of 1864". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
- West Virginia statehood at West Virginia Archives and History