1861 March 30 House of Delegates, Richmond, Va.

Speech of Joseph Segar, esq., of the York district in the House of Delegates

I call you to witness, Mr. Speaker, that hitherto I have been
strictly silent as to the great questions of federal import that
have been discussed off and on during the session; but the ex-
traordinary resolutions which have been sent us from the Sen-
ate forbid my longer silence. They direct the Governor to
seize and hold, by military force, the property of the United
States, and I cannot sustain them. I would–so help me, God!
–sooner die in my seat that cast my vote for them.

I maintain, first, that there is no adequate cause for the in-
tense excitement which has sprung from this matter, and, of
course, no necessity for the adoption of the resolutions; sec-
ondly, that we have no moral nor legal right to pass them;
thirdly, that the seizure will be an act of war; and, finally,
that the great alarm pervading the country, and the revolu-
tionary action of the secession party in this State and of the
States actually seceded, find no just warrant in the facts of the

Beyond all this, I desire to be informed what wrong has
been done me, or any citizen of the South…
by that Federal Government which some regard as ac-
cursed, and which they so hurry to destroy. I, for one, am
not aware of any. If there be any law on the Federal statute-
book impairing the right of one Southern man, or impeaching
the equality of the Southern States with the Northern, let it be
pointed out. ….I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker,
to the gentleman from Madison, Gen. Kemper, to my ardent
disunion friend from Stafford, Mr. Seddon, to all the confessed
secessionists in this body, and to all such outside of this body,
to put their finger on one Federal law in the least degree in-
fringing the constitutional rights of the South. If it exist,
let me see it, that I may recant the error….

But I do wish to inquire of my colleagues, if they have
seriously reflected on the consequences of secession, should it

Do you expect (as I have heard some of you declare) that
the power and influence of Virginia are such that you will
have peaceable secession, through an immediate recogni-
tion of the separate independence of the South? Alas! you
hug a delusion.

Peaceable secession–secession without war!…
No! Secede when you will, you will have war in all
its horrors: there is no escape….

In my judgment, there is no safety for this institution [slavery] save
in the Constitution of the United States. There it is recog-
nized and protected. No other property is specially pro-
tected. Slaves are represented; no other proprty is. This
Union of ours is the great bulwark of slavery. No where
else has it flourished; and break up the Union when you
will, you knock away its strongest prop. A Southern Con-
federacy will be to it its deadliest blast, if not its grave.
The whole civilized world is intensely hostile to slavery;
and the moment a new confederacy is formed, based on the
single idea of slavery, numerous and malignant antagonisms
will be provoked which may endanger the institution. But
under the shield of the Constitution of the United States, these
antagonisms, whether foreign or domestic, are, and ever will
be, harmless….
Thus secure under the wing of the Union, why shall we risk its security
by rushing on untried experiments?….

For what, then, are we plunging into the dark
abyss of disunion? In God’s name tell me. I vow I do not
know, nor have I ever heard one sensible or respectable rea-
son assigned for this harsh resort. We shall lose every-
thing; gain nothing but war, blood, carnage, famine, starva-
tion, social desolation, wretchedness in all its aspects, ruin in
in all its forms….We shall gain the hardest times the people of
this once happy country have known this side the War f
Independence. I know not, indeed, of one single interest of
Virginia that will not be wrecked by disunion. And, enter-
taining these views, I do shrink with horror from the very
idea of the secession of the State. I can never assent to the
fatal measure. No! I am for the Union yet. Call me submis-
sionist or traitor, or what else you will, I am for the Union.

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