Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 119 / Number 2
The Virginia Ordinance of Secession: A Research Note on Contemporary Copies
- Marianne E. Julienne and Brent Tarter, pp. 154–81
The Ordinance of Secession that the Virginia Convention adopted by a vote of eighty-eight to fifty-five in the Capitol in Richmond on 17 April 1861 and that a majority of the state's voters ratified in a referendum held on 23 May of that year is unquestionably one of the pivotal documents in the state's history. The men who voted for the ordinance knew at the time how significant it was, and they treated the original documents that preserved the text with an appropriate regard to the ordinance’s historic importance. They created three formal parchments and authorized the printing of a lithographic copy, and two lithographers later produced copies of that lithograph. This research note describes the circumstances under which each copy was prepared, notes the differences among them all, and, insofar as records allow, provides accurate dating for the signing of the parchments and the printing of the lithographic copies, only one of which was completed during the Civil War.