The Petersburg Express

May 8, 1869


An article asserts that just because Virginians are opposed to test-oaths that doesn't mean they are opposed to the remaining parts of the Constitution.


The Petersburg Express. The Express comments in the spirit of an enlightened philosopher upon the charge of fickleness which we the other day brought against Governor Wells. Our friend is fruitful in argument, yet we find nothing in his article from which we need dissent. Certainly we agree that "there " is an ineradicable proclivity in human " nature to scratch the backs of those who " tickle our own wigs with barley straws; " that is, no one is either fickle or obstinate 44 and unreasonable, provided he is fickle 44 and obstinate or unreasonable as we ourselves are." Or, as S tdnet Smith expresses it,44 your doxy ib heterodoxy, and ray doxy is orthodoxy." So much for fickleness. Nevertheless, we have somewhat against the Express. It repeats the plausible assertion that the same vote that can carry the constitution purged of the objectionable provisions "can vote it down." This assertion is based upon the assumption that all who will vote to purge the constitution of its objectionable features are opposed to the entire constitution-- an assumption which has no foundation in faot. The people of Virginia will undoubtedly vote down those bad features; yet the same people will ratify the constitution as a whole. It does not follow because a man isn't fond of condiments that he will refuse to eat bacon and cabbage, or beef and turnips, nor that if you sprinkle his cabbage with pepper he will decline to eat any dinner at all. No more does it follow because the majority of the voters of Virginia are opposed to test-oaths that a majority of them are also opposed to the rest of the constitution. If the constitution were submitted as a whole, test-oaths, disenfranchisement, and all the rest, together, it is possible that the people would refuse to ratify it; but surely this fact does not argue that they are necessarily opposed to a constitution without test-oaths, disqualifications, and disenfranchisement. Let us see how the argument runs: A majority of the people of Virginia are opposed to tent-oaths. There are no test-oaths in the constitution as it is to be submitted. Therefore, a majority of the people of Virginia might easily be induced to vote down this constitution. In there not a flaw in this argument? And can't our friend of the Express, whose "conclusions depend upon the capacity of "his intellectual faculties aud the enlightenment of his moral sentiments, combined with the individual bent or idiosyncrasy of both the intellectual and "moral, which, more or less, sways and " determines these conclusions," see the flaw ?
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Ali O'Hara




“The Petersburg Express,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed January 16, 2018,