From June 4, 1861, an Ohio paper opines… Virginia Playing the Fool (?)

Posted on June 4, 2011 by


Courtesy of the Cleveland (Ohio) Herald, we have this small clip from June 4, 1861 (via Dickinson College’s House Divided blog). The title (of the original document) reads, “Virginia Playing the Foot”, but I feel that this was an error in printing, and that they (the Herald) meant “Virginia Playing the Fool”.

Anyway, I find it particularly interesting considering it came out on June 4… not because June 4 has any significant meaning by itself in relation to what is being said here, but because it was a number of days after Virginia’s referendum on secession. Was this merely an editorial, voicing an opinion on what was being witnessed, or… did it have a purpose? Certainly, we find these sorts of things in the North, discussing Virginia, on the eve of secession, and occasionally, on the eve of the referendum. Yet, could it be that this represents Ohioans egging-on the part of Virginia that eventually came West Virginia, to break off from the Old Dominion? Could it be that it was directed at many Virginians (as well as those with Virginia roots) within the boundaries of Ohio, at that time, pointing out the wayward old man (Virginia)? Could it be a little of both? Could it be something more?

Giving time and thoughtful consideration to the piece, what might you think?

All have seen the imbecile, witless, old man, with no faculty left save his credulity, and that sharpened by natural conceit to such a point as to make him the town fool. Every town has its fool, and why should not every nation have its fool. Our national fool is Old Virginia ; she has not sense enough to keep her fingers out of the fire, but at the bidding of the cotton interest is willing to be used for the cheapening of negroes; a scheme that would render her, as a slave State, one grand poor house. She hugs the “peculiar institution,” and at the same time has not sense enough left to see that as part of a Southern Confederacy, her slave property will be utterly valueless.

But the Cotton States do not want Virginia – nor any of the Border States – in their Southern Confederacy. The Border States [never?] would be permitted to remain in such a Confederacy, save under a much greater inequality than they now complain of suffering in the present Union. We say the Cotton States do not want Virginia, even admitting they had the physical force to protect their title. And yet Virginia, with both her eyes open, has become so demented she cannot see the use to which she is put in this struggle.

Virginia is not wanted in the Southern Confederacy, because her interest, as a slave-breeding State, is against the opening of the foreign slave trade, while the cheapening of negroes is the chief corner-stone of the new Confederacy. And Virginia is not wanted in the new Confederacy because it is for the interest of the slave oligarchy that a layer of slave States interpose between the Cotton-ocracy and the Free States. And it is absolutely essential to the Cotton States government that such layer of Slave States should be part of the Federal United States, so that our national government may be bound to protest slavery in its lower border. Without Slave States the Federal authority would be exempt from responsibility in the matter, and the crossing of our Southern line by a fugitive from labor would effect an instant falling of his shackles, while the escape of slaves from the Northern tier of the new Confederacy would abolitionize those States, and plant seeds of another semi-century Secession.

But the design of the Cotton States toward Virginia is palpable to all save the Old Dominion. She is to be the battle-field; thus securing quiet pursuit of agriculture in the cotton regions, while the devastation, which war necessarily produces, is brought upon her soil and her blood used in forcing our government to acknowledge the independence of the Southern Confederacy, hoping that by the time our government has subdued rebellion as far South as the Northern line of the Cotton States, we shall be willing to buy a peace by the retention of the border Slave States.

Thus the plans of the Cotton ocracy, if realized, will be at the expense of Virginia blood, treasure and honor, while she and her sister border States will be used as a bulwark to protect the human property of Cotton-dom from escape to the land of freedom.