Lincoln and the Political Question: The Creation of the State of West Virginia

by Michael P. Riccards

West Virginia is a child of the Civil War–a state made possible by the extraordinary chaos and opportunities that such upheavals bring forth. For the war generation and for those interested ever since, that episode has created confusing constitutional debates about the nature of secession, the obligations of the national administration to guarantee for each state a republican form of government, and the right of free peoples to break off from a rebellious Commonwealth and assert their fundamental allegiance to the Union. The handling of the West Virginia statehood movement also offers some insight into the continuing hold of constitutional forms on Northern politicians and opinion leaders, and the powerful determination of Abraham Lincoln to see the conflict and its controversies through one lens only–the necessity to win the war to save the Union.

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