The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 3

By John Niven; James P. McClure et al. | Go to book overview
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TO ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Letter in clerk's band, signed by Chase. Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (micro 24:0376).

Treasury Department
Dec. 29, 1862.Sir:1My most thoughtful attention has been given to the questions which you have proposed to me as the Head of one of the Departments, touching the Act of Congress admitting the State of West-Virginia into the Union.The questions proposed are two:--
1. Is the Act constitutional?
2. Is the Act expedient?

1. In my judgment the Act is constitutional.

In the Convention which framed the Constitution, the formation of new States was much considered. Some of the ablest men in the Convention, including all or nearly all the Delegates from Maryland, Delaware and New-Jersey, insisted that Congress should have power to form new States, within the limits of existing States, without the consent of the latter. All agreed that Congress should have the power, with that consent. The result of deliberation was the grant to Congress of a general power to admit new States; with a limit on its exercise in respect to States formed within the jurisdiction of old States, or by the junction of old States or parts of such, to cases of consent by the Legislatures of the States concerned.2

The power of Congress to admit the State of West-Virginia, formed within the existing State of Virginia, is clear, if the consent of the Legislature of the State of Virginia has been given

That this consent has been given cannot be denied, unless the whole action of the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal Government for the last eighteen months has been mistaken, and is now to be reversed.

In April, 1861, a Convention of citizens of Virginia assumed to pass an Ordinance of Secession; called in rebel troops; and made common cause with the insurrection which had broken out against the Government of the United States. Most of the persons exercising the functions of State Government in Virginia joined the rebels, and refused to perform their duties to the Union they had sworn to support. They thus abdicated their powers of government in respect to the United States. But a large portion of the people, a number of members of the Legislature, and some judicial officers, did not follow their treasonable example. Most of the members of the Legislature who remained faithful to their oaths, met at Wheeling and reconstituted the Government

-347-

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