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John Letcher, Secession (American National Biography)

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F. N. Boney, "Letcher, John," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00625.html.
On 1 January 1860 [John Letcher] became Virginia's leader for four crucial years. Still an optimistic moderate, Governor Letcher championed sectional compromise. In his inaugural address, he fruitlessly urged the legislature to quickly call a convention of all the states. When the legislators finally acted a year later, it was far too late. In the fateful presidential election of November 1860, he supported Stephen A. Douglas, the candidate of the northern Democrats, and after Abraham Lincoln's victory, he resisted pressure to call a state convention that could carry Virginia out of the Union by a simple majority vote. When that pressure grew irresistible, he supported moderate candidates, who gained control of the new convention, which in February 1861 voted against joining the deep South's secession crusade. Even when the war started he held back, waiting five days for the convention's formal vote to secede on 17 April 1861.

Then Governor Letcher acted decisively and led Virginia into the Confederate States of America. Now he was the leader of the most powerful state in the new nation, and he had a new mission, victory in modern war. Practical and pragmatic, he realized that the rebels had to abandon many old states' rights and personal liberties and close ranks to win, so he collaborated with the other southern states and strongly backed President Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government. This acceptance of Confederate supremacy was the main theme of his wartime administration, making him one of the most cooperative and reliable state governors.

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How to Cite This Page: "John Letcher, Secession (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/23915.