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Centennial Times - June 3, 1861 - Delegates’ Loyalty Questioned

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


June 3, 1861

Delegates’ Loyalty Is Questioned Here
Policies of the state government came under sharp criticism in Western Maryland as the emergency meeting of the state legislature adjourned in Fredrick.

Especially criticized was a proposal to set up a Board of Public Safety, responsible to the pro-Southern legislature, with control over all militia forces in Maryland.
Western Marylanders have been inclined to give Gov. Thomas H. Hicks the benefit of the doubt, believing that he is basically loyal to the Union. But they feel he may have gone too far in conciliating the Eastern Shore-dominated legislature.
The Frederick Home Guards have said flatly they will resist being disarmed by the legislature “unto death”.

The legislature did declare the day after it convened April 26 that it did not possess the power to secede. It unanimously noted:
“We cannot but know that a large portion of the citizens of Maryland have been induced to believe there is a probability that our deliberations may result in the passage of some measure committing this State to secession. It is therefore our duty to declare that all such fears are without just foundation. We know we have no constitutional right to take such action. You need not fear there is a possibility we will do so.”

But on May 10, a resolution was introduced in the House of Delegates, which called for meeting of a “sovereign convention”. This resolution was approved in the House of Delegates. 43-12, and in the State Senate, 11-3.
(With federal troops occupying much of Maryland, however, resolutions of a “sovereign convention” might have little effect.)       

The lawmaking body issued a detailed statement, protesting the conflict, as unconstitutional and unjust. It called upon the people of Maryland- to work for peace between-North and South, and declared that the state would have no part in the war.

It asked for recognition of the Confederacy as an independent nation, and- protested-, against military occupation of Maryland as a violation of the Constitution.
The day before the legislature adjourned, it appointed two conciliation committees, one to visit. President Abraham Lincoln and one to visit President Jefferson Davis.

The Davis committee was instructed to convey Maryland’s sympathy with the Confederate states and the legislature’s assurance that Maryland was on the side of conciliation and peace The most controversial bill, however, remains the Committee of Public Safety. It would be composed of Governor Hicks, two legislators from Baltimore City, and one legislator each from Kent, Anne Arundel, Frederick and Charles County, Frederick County is strongly pro-Union. Kent, Anne Arundel, and Charles Counties, are strongly pro-Confederate. The governor is presumably for the Union, but the loyalty of Baltimore in its present inflamed state of opinion, is doubtful. The line-up would then be Union-2 Confederate-5.

This Board of Public Safety would have power to remove any militia officer, but, the resolution piously adds, not for his political opinions. After provoking sharp debate on the floor of the legislature, the bill was referred back to the Committee on Federal Relations. Washington County reaction was sharp.
On May 3, citizens of District Seven assembled at Smithsburg to protest the bill as unnecessary and unconstitutional. William Adams presided and J. W. Barkdoll was secretary. Resolutions were drafted by Dr. E. Bishop, William M. McAtee, A, C. Hildebrand, Dr. T. E. Bishop, and J. L. Fogle.

A committee of ten, George Pearson, Philip Oswald, Adam Vogle, John Fessler, W. H. Eakle, Samuel Houser, Jeremiah Besore, John W. Barkdoll, John N. Shank and Samuel Welty, were appointed to get signatures for the resolution.
The same night, a similar meeting was held in Clear Spring. Jonathan Nesbitt presided, Dr. H. F. Perry was vice-president, and Dr. J. Rufus Smith was secretary. The meeting resolved;
"That the legislature has been convened contrary to law; that we ignore the present assembly of Frederick as the legislature of Maryland; that we regard it as illegally convened, illegally constituted, and engaged in revolutionary and despotic measures without a parallel in the annals of American legislation; that at true and loyal citizens of Maryland, we are not bound to obey the decisions of a body who have no legal constitutional existence, but that we are subserving the best interests of the State and Constitution in resisting their pretensions; that the Committee of Public Safety about to be established by the so-called legislature is an arbitrary and despotic power, not warranted by the condition of the country, but an usurpation of authority extremely-dangerous to our liberties, if not to our lives and. fortunes, bidding us beware of these despotic officials as the Robespierre, Marats and Dantons of another kindred revolution."

The following day, the citizen of Washington County, marched to the polls and elected Lewis P. Fiery to the legislature on a pro-Union ticket without opposition.

On May 6, a group met in Cumberland to protest the Board of Public Safety proposal.

But another group calling itself the Conditional Union men also met in Cumberland, and resolved .that Maryland should secede if the federal government failed to give certain assurances to the South. Are* solution was then introduced saying that:, action should be postponed until- the Peace Congress concludes.
Disorder and confusion reigned.

J. Davis
Jefferson Davis, shown above, is the leader of the new Confederate States of America. In his inaugural address in Montgomery,- Ala., last Feb. 18, he said-it was “wanton aggression on the part of others, that justified the action of the Southern people. We have vainly endeavored to secure tranquility and obtain respect for the right to which we are entitled. As a necessity, not a choice, we resorted to the remedy of separation.”

Davis formed this concept after the November, 1860 election was won by the Republican party, which -opposed the extension of slavery into the Territories, and upon consideration of the uncompromising attitude of Republican senators and the unwillingness of Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln to concede the right of a state to leave the Union peacefully. Until then, Davis had been on the side of compromise.

Virginia Election
The returns of the Virginia election show a heavy vote has been cast against the Ordinance of Secession in the Western Counties of the state. The returns from the Eastern part of the state show a small vote nearly unanimous for Secession, but it is by no means certain that the ordinance has been sustained by the LEGAL voters of the state. Twenty-one counties in the west have given a majority against it. (Herald of Freedom and Torch Light).

Some of the majorities listed against secession by the Herald and Torch are: Berkeley County 700 against; Morgan County, 400 against; Loudoun County, 1000 against.

Flour Brought To Hagerstown
During the past week considerable quantities of flour have been hauled from the vicinity of the C&O Canal, navigation upon that work having been interrupted by the Confederate troops quartered along its line to this town, and thence transported to Baltimore. Philadelphia and New York via Franklin railroad. Thus the canal trade has been prostrated and ruined by the “big riot” in Virginia. (Herald of Freedom and Torch Light




Used with permission of the Herald-Mail


Collection Location:
Hagerstown, Maryland

Original Size:
59 x 33 cms

Washington County (Md.), history; Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862; Sharpsburg, Battle of, Md., 1862; Centennial celebrations, etc:

Washington County (Md.), 1860-1862

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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