West Virginia Shouldn’t Exist

There’s no stranger political division in
the United States than between Virginia and West Virginia, and through most reasonable
interpretations, it should not exist. The eastern part of Virginia played a very
important role in the American colonies, and later in America. Four of the first five US Presidents were
Virginians. Just before the Civil War there was only one
Virginia, but not an entirely unified one. Most of Virginia had flat land suitable for
agriculture, while the northwestern section was much more mountainous and rugged. Obviously most places in the world have geographical
differences between their most extreme ends, but this was something more. Unlike the rest of the state, the rugged country
was virtually unfit for agriculture, and as a result, virtually unfit for slaves. Also, Wheeling, the northwest’s largest
city, was far closer to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania than Richmond, the capital of Virginia. Compared to the rest of Virginia, the culture
of the northwest was distinct. In the Virginia General Assembly, delegates
from the northwest often passionately opposed bills brought up by the east, citing a bias
towards the east and neglect towards the northwest. Naturally, in peaceful conditions, these things
are left to be. Canada has Quebec, and the UK has a whole
collection of affairs. However, when peace turns to war, allegiances
must often be made. War has a funny thing of either bringing people
together, or breaking them apart, and for Virginia during the American Civil War, it
was the latter of the two. When The Virginia General Assembly passed
the bill to secede from the Union, the northwest seceded from Virginia. As ruled by the Supreme Court, secession is
illegal, and therefore every state that broke away from the Union to join the Confederate
States of America had committed a crime. This is where things get very interesting. Now, the US Constitution states the following: “New States may be admitted by the Congress
into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction
of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or
Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well
as of the Congress.” When Virginia seceded from the Union, the
northwestern part wanted nothing to do with it. They had no reason to be drawn into the politics
of state rights and slavery because one: they were fed up with Virginia’s “rights”,
and two: they had very little slavery to begin with. In retaliation, the northwestern part of Virginia
created a new government that claimed to be the true government of Virginia. Since Virginia had illegally seceded, Mr.
Lincoln and his pals agreed that this new Virginian government was indeed the legitimate
body representing Virginia. They sent three men to the House and two to
the Senate. Then the new Virginian government used their
new power as leverage to create a loophole around the Constitution. If they were the true Virginia in the eyes
of the Federal government, then they could technically carve a new state out of Virginia. To nobody’s surprise, they had no interest
in the affairs of eastern Virginia, so they did just that. They called it Kanawha after a nearby river,
and later changed it to West Virginia. Sound familiar? Virginia seceded from the United States without
their permission, and then West Virginia seceded from Virginia without Virginia’s permission. There’s just the slightest bit of irony. Just because somebody commits a crime does
not give their cousin the right to take a quarter of their belongings. This whole situation is weird. War and politics tend to assign the labels
“The Right Side” and “The Wrong Side.” In the American Civil War, whether you agree
with it or not, I’m pretty sure you know who were labeled the good, and who were labeled
the bad. That is part of the reason why West Virginia
exists today. One illegal action was condemned as it was
associated with the “bad” side, while another happened under similar circumstances
but in the other direction, but was allowed because it was associated with the “good”
guys. Both Abe Lincoln and his cabinet were torn
on whether or not to allow the new state, but because they were “The Good Guys”,
it went along. Lincoln himself even admitted it. “It is said the admission of West Virginia
is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession… [T]here is still difference enough between
secession against the Constitution, and secession in favor of the Constitution.” Perhaps rules do not apply to some. On top of everything else, they made no sufficient
effort to gather the public’s opinion on the matter. There was an election, but it was something
out of the pages of North Korea’s playbook. The results were 18,404 in favour of leaving
Virginia and 781 against. The elections only took place in Union controlled
areas and Union soldiers were also placed outside voting stations to prevent Confederate
supporters from voting. Either way, most Confederate voters didn’t
recognize the vote as legitimate so they didn’t even vote. Even the delegates that organized the meetings
to leave Virginia were mostly self-appointed. In the counties that did have a chance to
vote, the lowest turnout of any county was 2%. After the Civil War was said and done, Virginia
decided to settle things the American way: in court. They didn’t sue to reclaim West Virginia. The idea was essentially “what’s done
is done”. They had no hope in reclaiming the whole state
by way of challenging the legitimacy of West Virginia. That is reserved for more casual discussions
like right now. In Virginia v. West Virginia of 1871, Virginia
claimed that some of West Virginia’s eastern counties actually belonged to Virginia. Virginia lost. They sued again in Virginia v. West Virginia
of 1911 where they said West Virginia was responsible for some of the debts from before
they split ways. This time Virginia won. Ultimately, West Virginia should not exist. It seceded from the seceders. It’s like stealing from a thief. Did the thief deserve it? Maybe. Should the thief be complaining? Probably not. Are you blameless for stealing from the thief? No. Perhaps crimes do not apply to those who hold
power or popular opinion. No matter what your feelings on the matter
are, too much time has gone by for actions to be reversed, even with something as domestic
as state lines. Now in the twenty-first century, West Virginia
is just as much a state as the other 49, but its origins are truly unique in the history
of the United States. And until next time. Thanks for watching.

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