The Late Senatorial Election
October 26, 1869
The opinion concerning the late Senatorial election is given.
The motives controlling the Legislature in the late senatorial election were good. We sympathired with them most heartily. There were differences as to men ; but general concurrence among the great bulk of the members in the objects in view : to con form entirely to the Jaws concerning reconstruction, and to facilitate the restoration of the State to her position of equality amongst the States and full participation in the Government and : be benefits of the union of confederated States. It was conceded by nearly every man that in electing senators those only should be elected who were not obnoxious to any legal objection, and the majority were of opinion that such men should be chosen as would at least present no obstacle in the way of amicable relations between Virginia and the Federal Government, in order that she might not suffer from prejudice In the matter of equal participation in the advantages of the common government of all the States. At an early day we became acquainted with the valuable services rendered in behalf of our people by General Williams, one of the nominees, and were so impressed with the proof they gave not only of a disposition, but of the capability to help us, that we ventured to depart from our general rule, not to take sides in personal polities and supported the claims presented by his friends for the senatorial office. We believed then, and believe now, that, he could have helped Virginia most materially. He would have been elected but for the objection that he lived out of the State--an objection that could have been most readily obviated, and which should not have been consided insuperable against a gentleman who could render such service as we supposed General Williamss could. The noblest sentiment of the human heart next to adoration of the Deity is love of native land--a sentiment honored and protected by the laws. From it proceeds the acknowledgment of certain sacred rights, among which is the right of domicil. This is secured to every man who enters the service of his country, and it would be both unjust and ungenerous to deny it in any manner. But we did not reopen the subject to discuss these points, into which we have been betrayed. The legislators acted upon the dictates of their judgment under the best motives. We respected the claims and feelings of all, and so, generally, did all those who participated in the canvass. General Williams, however, under the excitement of the moment, was the object of some unkind flings; whose authors no doubt now regret that they were made. It is but just to that gentleman that the public should understand the spirit with which he receives defeat. Therefore we venture to violate the sanctity of a private letter from that gentleman to a friend, as it can wrong no one to do so, by making the following extract from it. It shows the true feelings of his heart--devoid of resentments and devoted to the welfare of his native State, as his recent conduct has so signally testified : "If I were to say that I was not sorry at not being elected, after my name had been so often mentioned in connection with the senatorship, I should be saying what was not true; but you can no doubt remember that to you I have always said I did not wish the position unless with I could have the good-will and confidence of the best men of the State. This, I assure you, was my true feeling, and I have so stated to all my friends. Far from feeling any mortification on account of my defeat, I give you my word of honor that I regard the matter, notwithstanding my want of success, with much satisfaction ; for it has, I am confident, given me the friendship of many gentlemen which I prize beyond all description, and which I sincerely trust and believe will be for my lifetime. As for what I may have done for the dear old State, or what I may in future be able to do, I have done, and shall be only doing, a duty. Nothing that I shall ever be able to perform for her shall be neglected." The letter from which this is extracted was written with no idea that it would ever see the light through the columns of a news paper. The sentiments expressed are the utterances to a friend in the sincerity of confidential intercourse.
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“The Late Senatorial Election,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed February 1, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1528.