Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Union or Secession
  • "Defend the cause of Constitutional Liberty"
  • "Defend the cause of Constitutional Liberty"
On December 22, 1860, citizens of Elizabeth City County endorsed the right of South Carolina to secede peacefully from the Union.
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"Defend the cause of Constitutional Liberty"

Resolution of Citizens of Elizabeth City County, December 22, 1860, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.

The secession of South Carolina on December 20, 1860, was popular among white men and women in central and southeastern Virginia, where the largest concentrations of enslaved people lived. In some counties and cities citizens met to adopt resolutions supporting South Carolina or advocating that Virginia also secede. On December 22, citizens of Elizabeth City County assembled and announced "to the people of the North our wish for peace, but our determination to meet the issue of war, if they persist in enforcing upon any Southern State the despotism of force."

Resolution of Citizens of Elizabeth City County, December 22, 1860, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.

At a meeting of the Citizens of Elizabeth City Co. Virginia, held in Hampton, Decbr 22d 1860, on motion of Baker J. Lee Jr, Dr. Wm. R. Vaughan was elected President, and J. C. Phillips, Secretary.—
The following resolutions offered by I. W. Downey was unanimously adopted:
Whereas, the right of self government lies at the foundation of all pure republican institutions, and whereas the state of South Carolina by her ordinance of secession has affirmed this right, therefore
Be it resolved, that we, as a people jealous of our liberties, pledge ourselves to sustain her in her independence, and solemnly declare, that we utterly repudiate the despotic theory of coercion, as subversive of the great doctrine of State Sovereignty;
Resolved, that we announce to the people of the North our wish for peace, but our determination to meet the issue of war, if they persist in enforcing upon any Southern State the despotism of force, in opposition to the authoritatively expressed will of her people;
Resolved, that we urge upon our fellow citizens of Virginia the importance of organizing themselves, in order, now that the argument is exhausted to be able to defend the cause of Constitutional Liberty if need be, by an appeal to the God of Battles and the arbitrament of the sword.
On Motion of R. H. Vaughan, agreed to forward Copies to the Governors of Virginia and South Carolina.
WM R. VAUGHAN President
J. C. PHILLIPS Secretary