Who is Governor?

January 9, 1868


There is discussion of who is eligible for which offices and positions that will be open soon. The coveted office of Governor is open for any willing candidates.


Who is Governor? Though we are no more interested than the community generally in this question, yet, as we have already expressed an opinion upon the subject, we will say a few words in reply to the communication in the "Whig of yesterday. The question is really an important one; for if, as the writer in the Whig contends, the constitutional provision under which we claim that Governor Peirpoint holds over, applies only to judicial officers, then the people of Virginia are liable to a condition of anarchy at almost any time. But this, at least, is not an open question. Not only does the sixth article comprise, in terms, county organizations, corporation organizations, sheriff's, surveyors, overseers of the poor, and commissioners of the revenue, some of whom are certainly not judicial officers, but the Court of Appeals decided in the case of The Commonwealth vs. Drewry (xvi. Grattan 1) that sheriffs continue in office under the provision in question. The court say (page 5) as to the office: "By its original limitation it "endured to the last day of June, 1856, "and thereafter, by the provision of the "Constitution, until his successor is qualified." But the court say more. They declare in plain words that this provision is in "general terms." They say: "There "is nothing in the Constitution to make "this case an exception to the general " terms of that instrument." It has always been supposed, if we are not mistaken, that the provision includes all officers under the Constitution. And the act of Assembly referred to by the writer in the Whig seems to be framed upon this assumption. That act provides for vacancies only-such. as occur during the term for which the Governor is elected, as is evidenced by the language of the Code, which (page 87, section 25,) says: "Elections to supply vacancies shall be for the unexpired term of such office, except in cases otherwise provided for in the Constitution." But the language of the very act cited by the writer for the Whig shows that that act does not apply in the case before us. We quote: "If the Lieutenant-Governor, upon whom, by virtue of the 9th section of the 5th article of the Constitution of Virginia, the office of Governor, with its compensation, may devolve, shall, from any cause, fail or cease to act, the discharge of the executive functions shall devolve," etc., (first, upon the Secretary of the Commonwealth, etc.) Now, the office of Governor has not devolved upon the Lieutenant-Governor; for if the Governor went out of office on the 31st day of December, the Lieutenant Governor went out with him. So he has neither failed nor ceased to act, since there has been no opportunity afforded him so to do. And as the Secretary of the Commonwealth can only take the office as the successor of the Lieutenant-Governor, or when the latter fails or ceases to do what the Constitution and laws require him to do, and as he has neither ceased nor failed to perform any such duties, it follows that the Secretary of the Commonwealth cannot now be Governor under the law. The Constitution of 1830 contained a provision continuing persons in office until their successors were qualified. And the schedule of the Constitution of 1852 continued all persons who were in office under the old Constitution in their offices until their successors were qualified, although the Constitution under which they held them had been abolished. The similar provision in the Alexandria Constitution must have been intended to include all officers whose offices it was important to keep filled at all times; and surely there is no office in which it is more important at all times to have an incumbent than in that of the chief executive officer of the State.
About this article

Contributed By

Mallory Haskins




“Who is Governor?,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/766.