Many people know that the state of West Virginia came to be during the Civil War, but very few know that its admission to the union was particularly controversial. Even in the north, free from the influence of the departed southern states, many opposed Lincoln’s desire to admit West Virginia. Opposing Lincoln’s ultimate stance, those who offered candid deference to the Constitution considered Congress’ enabling act that admitted West Virginia as an unconstitutional usurpation.
Still, the genesis of West Virginia’s a complex story, beginning with Virginia’s response to an impending demonstration of force against the south. On April 16, 1861, Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to be raised while Congress was not in session. The new force’s sole purpose was to prepare for an invasion of the southern states. For the first time in American history, a president intended to raise an army by himself without congressional approval. Additionally, he aimed to direct the forces to invade American states and use force against any opposition that stood in his way.
In response, an assembly comprised of delegates representing all of Virginia’s counties organized a convention to consider secession. This was hardly a rush to judgment – just two weeks earlier, a prior convention in the state consciously voted against an ordinance of secession, hoping for a compromise to be adopted. Several settlement plans had been proposed in Congress, and war was not a foregone conclusion at that point. Despite the urgings of the states in the Deep South that had already seceded, Virginia embraced a candid course for resolution before May.
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