Abolishment of Slavery
in West Virginia

[Extract from proceedings of the West Virginia House of Delegates, January 30, 1865]

Wheeling Intelligencer
January 31, 1865

The bill to abolish slavery in this State was read a second time.

Mr. Lamb offered a substitute for the bill in the shape of a resolution proposing to amend the 7th section of the 11th article of the Constitution, and thereby accomplish the same result sought for by the bill.

Mr. Lamb said he had taken an oath to support the Constitution of the State, and he intended to do it. In the shape of a legislative act he could not vote for the proposition, but as an amendment to the Constitution it should have his hearty support.

Mr. Ferguson denied that the bill proposed to amend the Constitution, or that it was in conflict with that instrument. We have the same control over the subject of slavery as if the Constitution had been perfectly silent upon the subject. He opposed Mr. Lamb's substitute on account of the delay it would occasion, which delay would jeopardize the proposition. He wanted to strike the shackles off the slaves and make them what God intended them to be - free men, and he wanted to do it as speedily as possible.

Mr. Riddle thought that because the constitution provided that certain slaves should be free at a certain age, it dip [sic] not necessarily provide that they should not be free before the time specified, if the Legislature choose [sic] to say so.

Mr. Galloway spoke in favor of the bill and in opposition to the substitute.

Mr. Adams, in view of the anticipated action of Congress in regard to the abolition of slavery everywhere, did not feel like voting for either the bill or the substitute at this time.

Mr. Lamb said he was not going to be led into a discussion of the general subject of slavery. The House was sufficiently enlightened upon that subject. He desired to confine himself to the constitutional question, and contended that the bill was in conflict with the constitution because in providing that certain slaves should be free at a certain time the negative was implied. The constitution provided that every male citizen over twenty-one years of age, not otherwise disqualified, should be entitled to vote, and therefore implies that the black citizen and and [sic] the female citizen should not vote. He spoke at some length, stating that no person of any influence or intelligence in the State supposed or contended that slavery could live or thrive here, and alluded to the proposed amendment to the constitution of the United States, which would effectually eradicate slavery from the land.

Mr. Barns announced his determination to vote in favor of the bill, as he believed it competent for the Legislature to pass it.

Mr. Ferguson said there was no parallel between the section of the constitution in regard to slavery and the section in regard to the right of suffrage. The right to vote was not a national one, as was the right to liberty. He proceeded to show that the Legislature had an undoubted right to abolish slavery by enactment, and said he should give the bill his hearty support. In regard to the proposed amendment of the constitution of the Untied States, he said the copperheads in Congress would vote against the proposition as they had done before, and he looked for very little encouragement from that quarter.

Mr. McGrew said the proposition under consideration was one of great importance, and should not be acted upon hastily. He desired, in common with the whole people of the State, to get rid of Slavery as speedily as possible, but for the purpose of giving proper time for investigation he moved to lay the bill and substitute on the table, and print the latter.

Mr. Lamb suggested to make the subject the special order for Wednesday, and the suggestion was accepted by Mr. McGrew.

Mr. Chapline was opposed to the postponement of the question. He wanted to vote for the bill now. We don't want the bill on the table. Every copperhead in the State wants niggers, and no loyal man wanted to have anything to do with them.

Mr. McGrew said his only object was to give the House an opportunity to calmly consider the subject. No great loss or damage could occur to the proposition by a single day's delay.

Mr. Pinnell opposed the bill because it proposed to take away the property of loyal citizens without remuneration, which was unconstitutional. He had always been an anti-slavery man, and had been stigmatized as an abolitionist, but he wanted to be just before he was generous. Let us stand still and see the salvation of God.

Mr. Scott said he was in favor of the bill, but was quite willing to allow any reasonable time for investigation.

Mr. Van Winkle was in favor of the speedy abolition of slavery, but he was not as well prepared to vote now upon the proposition before the House as he might possibly be on Wednesday. He wanted to do away with the institution effectually, and he should support the proposition most likely to accomplish its thorough erradication [sic] beyond the shadow of a doubt.

The House refused to lay on the table and print.

Mr. Ferguson called the ayes and noes upon the substitute, with the following result: Ayes 18, Noes 31.

The bill was then ordered to its engrossment.

On motion of Mr. Scott the House adjourned.

African Americans

West Virginia Archives and History