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Collection Title: Virginia Governor's Communication Enclosing the Credentials of the Commissioner from Mississippi

Collection Number: M189

Dates: February 1860

Volume: 1 Item

Provenance: Purchased, May 1981

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Peter B. Starke served in the Mississippi House of Representatives, 1850-1854, and in the Mississippi Senate, 1856-1862. In March 1860 he made a trip to Virginia, his birthplace, to ask the Virginia General Assembly if they would agree to send delegates to a convention of all slave-holding states. In February 1862, Starke enlisted in the Confederate Army as colonel of the 28th Cavalry. He was commissioned Brigadier General in November 1864 and served the Confederate States of America very well, by all reports. From 1866 to 1872, he was appointed from Bolivar County as a member of the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners. There is a passing mention that he later moved to Virginia and lived to a ripe old age.

John Letcher (1813-1884) was the Governor of Virginia immediately before and during the Civil War. Initially he opposed Virginia's secession, but changed his mind when President Lincoln called for troops. He then became a vigorous supporter of the war. Although his property was damaged by Union troops, after the war he urged his fellow Southerners to accept their defeat with grace and to put the experience behind them.

John J. Pettus (1813-1867) settled in Kemper County, Mississippi and became active in politics. He served in the Mississippi House and Mississippi Senate. Upon the resignation of Governor Henry Foote, Pettus became acting-governor of Mississippi (January 5-10, 1854) since he was president of the Senate. He served as Mississippi governor from 1859-1863, having been elected as an extreme states' rights proponent. Even though he signed the U.S. Loyalty Act twice, the federal authorities refused to grant him amnesty or parole because he was under suspicion of being disloyal to the United States. He fled to Arkansas where he died of pneumonia in early 1867. He was buried in an unmarked grave.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of one printed pamphlet in four parts: a preface by Virginia Governor Letcher, a letter from Peter B. Starke, a letter from Mississippi Governor Pettus, and resolutions of the Mississippi legislature.

The preface is a letter (dated February 21, 1860) by Virginia Governor John Letcher addressed to the Virginia General Assembly. Letcher requests that the Assembly acknowledge Peter B. Starke, Mississippi commissioner. The second part consists of a letter by Starke to Virginia Governor John Letcher. In this letter Starke accuses the North of violating constitutional provisions for the protection of slavery. Although Mississippi is less prone to northern attacks than the border states, she wants to join other slave-holding states in protecting the institution of slavery. This is to be accomplished by means of a convention proposed by South Carolina and agreed to by Mississippi. Starke invites Virginia to this convention, which will promote union, not disunion, by "devising some remedy consistent with their interest and honor in the Union." Mississippi will secede only if necessary. (This is couched in the most diplomatic terms.)

Part three consists of a letter (dated February 11, 1860) from Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus and co-signed by Mississippi Secretary of State, A.B. Dilworth addressed to Virginia Governor John Letcher. Pettus recommends Starke to the governor of Virginia and requests that he be allowed to present resolutions passed by the Mississippi legislature on state and federal relations.

The fourth part consists of these same resolutions (dated February 11, 1860) signed by representatives of the Mississippi House and Senate, Mississippi Secretary of State (A.B. Dilworth), and Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus. There are five resolutions: (1) The United States has an obligation to protect slavery; (2) The election of a president by the northern states only would justify "the slave-holding states in taking counsel together for their separate protection and safety"; (3) The Mississippi legislature agrees to attend a convention of slave-holding states on the first Monday of June, in Atlanta, Georgia, and will elect seven delegates for this purpose; (4) The Mississippi legislature agrees that the governor appoint a commissioner to go to Virginia and present a copy of the resolutions and an invitation to the proposed convention to each of the slave-holding states. Peter B. Starke is to submit a copy of the resolutions to the Virginia General Assembly.

Related Collections:

Virginia Governor's Message Enclosing a Communication from the Commissioner from Mississippi, M 188


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