April 17, 1861: Virginia votes to secede from the United States

April 17, 1861: Virginia votes to secede from the United States
The Ordinance of Secession of Virginia from the United States.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - On April 17, 1861, Virginia’s General Assembly approved seceding from the United States.

A previous vote on April 4, 1861, had resulted in the secession proposal being defeated. But following the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12-13 and President Abraham Lincoln calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quash the rebellion, another vote was taken.

Delegates voted 85-55 to repeal Virginia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution and affirm secession.

The proposal was put to the state’s voters May 23, 1861, and was approved. The official Ordinance of Secession was signed June 14.

Virginia, which had been the 10th state to join the union, became the eighth state to secede from it.

The Ordinance of Secession of Virginia from the United States.
The Ordinance of Secession of Virginia from the United States. (Source: Library of Virginia)

The full text of the Ordinance of Secession is below:

AN ORDINANCE

To Repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution:

The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention, on the 25th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eight-eight, having declared that the powers granted them under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States.

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the Ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United State of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

This Ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.

Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia

JNO. L. EUBANK, Sec’y of Convention.

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