Spirit of Jefferson

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Spirit of Jefferson










Benjamin F. Beall Charlestown, (West) Virginia April 9, 1867

Topics Reconstruction,Government

An article which appeared in this paper two weeks ago -- suggesting action by the Board of Supervisors looking to a change of the county seat -- seems to have met with no very pleasant reception at the hands of the selfish radicals who have their residences in the neighborhood of the present court house -- a place rendered famous, if not "classic," by holding within its boundaries the person of many distinguished and highly "honorable" luminaries of "the Boreman concern out at Wheeling."

One of these, who signs himself "X," has inflicted upon the readers of the Shepherdstown Register a long communication, the effrontery of which is only equalled by its display of ignorance. We cannot afford to enter into any discussion with "X," or any of his set, upon any subject involving points of law, either constitutional or legislative. He, being an adherent of the Boreman concern, and in favor of the transfer of Jefferson county to that concern, is necessarily so blind to all law, all justice and all right -- so entirely an advocate of power over law -- that even if we should succeed in opening his eyes to the many violations of both federal and State constitutions which were had in the formation of his State, and its extension of jurisdiction over this county, he would immediately plant himself upon the might which the brave West Virginians exhibited in 1863 and '65, under the protection of the army of the United States. We must content ourselves with a renewal of our suggestion to the Supervisors. If they order the election to obtain the sense of the voters upon the question of locating the county seat, and (in the event of that election resulting in favor of a change, as it doubtless will) ordering the removal, the matter will then be put in such form as will enable "X" and his friends to test the legality of the change before the properly constituted tribunals; and, although we have not a particle of confidence in the wisdom which inhabits the bench of West Virginia, we have a great confidence in that wisdom being wise according to the way in which the radical vote may be developed.

As to the remark of "X" upon the probability of the removal of the county seat being about equal to that of taking the county back to Virginia, "where Northern officers force Southern gentlemen to do the bidding of the shoulder strap gentry," we cannot but laugh outright at the sublime impudence displayed by the writer. Everybody knows that if it had not been for Northern officers forcing the Southern gentlemen, inhabiting that part of the State now known as West Virginia, to do the bidding of men far worse than the shoulder-strap gentry, there never would have been any annexation of this county to West Virginia, nor any formation of that State itself. To us, here in Jefferson, who were estopped in our movements, which would have effectually kept the county in Virginia, by the strong arm of Major General Emory's division of United States troops called into service at the bidding of Arthur I. Boreman; and who as far back as 1863 were kept from the polls by a strong line of federal military pickets, as well as by the cheats of Boreman and his radical brethren, this comes with peculiar and refreshing force. But we might was well now and here say to "X" and his set, that no matter what may be the fate of Old Virginia -- no matter how great may be the confiscation of the property of her citizens -- no matter how large may be her debt to be provided for, nor how onerous the taxation, we want to share that fate; her people are our people and we want to join hands with them in weal or woe.

We do not admit the truth of the statement of "X" that the taxes are heavier in Virginia than in this State. We know that some of our people are not paying to West Virginia more money for taxes than they did to Virginia at any time prior to the war; and that with no more real, and far less personal, property -- and with the real property diminished in value by the armies of the United States. And we also know that in the case of the "school tax," this county has paid into the treasury at Wheeling, in 1865 -66, upwards of $21,000 -- a very small part of which, probably not more than a fourth, has been expended for educational purposes in the county.

We are not sufficiently posted upon internal improvements to be able to state with any degree of accuracy how much money the old State subscribed to works in what is now called West Virginia; but we know enough to enable us to deny X's statement that the old State "never fostered internal improvements at the expense of the State in its western counties" -- so far, at least, as Jefferson county is concerned. There is no railroad in the whole State which had received more aid from, and been more "fostered" by the State, than the Winchester and Potomac, near two thirds of which is in Jefferson. We do not know how the case stands with two of the three turnpikes in the county, but to the Charlestown & Berryville road the State subscribed the usual proportion of the original stock, and, afterwards when the company got into pecuniary difficulties, and was obliged to sell the road, the State came forward and purchased it at a price sufficient to pay the large debt of the original company. What is true in reference to public works in Jefferson is quite likely to be true in other counties in West Virginia; at any rate we need some better evidence to the contrary than the bare statement of "X." We rather suspect that X is as wide of the truth on this point as he is in his statement that "Even-handed justice is meted out to every one" at the present county seat. The exclusion of our old bar from practice in the courts held there; the refusal to permit "a rebel or rebel sympathiser" to the so-called "loyal" man for debts justly due; the application of the stringent test oath to jurors; the denial of the right to vote; the confiscation of the property of ex-Confederate officers to pay losses incurred, or imagined, by "loyal" radicals -- as in the cases of Hawks and Baylor; and divers and sundry other oppressions, furnish us a wonderful view of the "even-handed justice meted out to all" Southern sympathisers who are forced by Northern officers to do the bidding of the men who now work the Western machine, but who were too poor in spirit to wear the shoulder straps in the face of those gallant men of old Virginia, and of the whole South, who are now "forced to do the bidding" of the military as directed by the radicals of West Virginia through their representatives in both houses of Congress.