Dinwiddie Makes Demands Concerning Slavery

Spring 1861 was a horrible time for the Upper South, as the slave states there had to decide whether to cast their lot with the Lower South in the new Confederacy or with the Union many there still held dear. This situation was no more true than in Virginia, which was not only as Ira Berlin would put it a “society with slaves,” but also with a history deeply invested in the creation of the United States. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and many other important founding fathers hailed from the state, and, of course, four of the first five U.S. Presidents were Virginians.

A convention had assembled in Richmond on February 13, 1861, at the behest of the legislature to consider the state’s future allegiance. Up until the attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for volunteers, Virginia’s Unionists held the upper hand at the convention, soundly defeating a vote over secession on April 4.

Still, pro-secessionists in Virginia in March 1861 were passionate and vocal. One such group assembled in Dinwiddie County that month and on March 23, 1861, the Richmond Enquirer reported on their proceedings.  The “Resistance Party of Virginia,” as they called themselves, saw Unionism in the Upper South as pointless.  They demanded the Unionists in Richmond, if they were really serious about staying in the United States, make a tough series of demands on the free states consistent with the Confederate Constitution, recently adopted in Montgomery.

Not surprisingly, all the demands of the Dinwiddie meeting had to do with slavery. According to the Enquirer article, they were as follows:

  1. That African slavery in the Territories shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the Territorial Legislatures.
  2. That the right to slaveholders of transit and sojourn in any State of the Confederacy, with their slaves and other property, shall be recognized and respected.
  3. That the provision in regard to fugitive slaves shall extend to any slave lawfully carried from one State into another, and there escaping or taken away from his master.
  4. That no bill or ex post facto law (by Congress or any State,) and no law impairing or denying the right of property in negro slaves, shall be passed.
  5. That the African slave trade shall be prohibited by such laws of Congress as shall effectually prevent the same.

Clearly, the Dinwiddie meeting believed slavery was the only substantive issue for the Commonwealth of Virginia in March 1861 when considering whether “to unite our destinies with our sister Southern States—or, to remain a useless appendage to the Northern Confederacy.

Source: http://civilwarcauses.org/richmond.htm

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About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at donald_shaffer@yahoo.com
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5 Responses to Dinwiddie Makes Demands Concerning Slavery

  1. Emmanuel Dabney says:

    Thanks for posting about my county of origin. My g-g uncle, James P. Boisseau was Dinwiddie’s representative to the Secession convention. His father had children with a mulatto woman, Rebecca Ampy, who is my g-g-g grandmother. The Boisseaus were slaveholders as well and James P. voted twice in favor of secession.

    • Michele Clarke says:

      Hi Emmanuel. I live in the vicinity of five forks in Dinwiddie County. This is supposed to be the old Boisseau farm and is close to Burnt Quarter. Interesting to hear that the Boisseaus and Ampys are related. I am only guessing that your surname has something to do with nearby Dabney Mill Road, Thank you for posting.

  2. Mr. Dabney—our forebears were neighbors! My great-great-grandmother, Martha Virginia Gilliam, was born at the Gilliam estate, “Landover,” which is just west of the Boisseau place.

  3. I hit “send” too quickly—I should have added that I was very happy to meet you at the Park some weeks ago. That was an overdue sentiment—sorry.

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