In the winter of 1861, the citizens of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, met to discuss the question of secession. They adopted a set of motions drafted by Judge William Marshal Treadway, which chiefly criticized northern states for refusing to uphold the Fugitive Slave Act and alleged that they were the true violators of the Constitution. If “Mr. Treadway's Resolution” is treated as a microcosm of Virginian thought on the eve of the Civil War, then the document raises serious questions. This paper evaluates the contentions of the Resolution and weighs evidence that both supports and contradicts the subversive claims it contains. It determines that the document's ambivalent validity signals a fundamental truth: that Virginia and the South shifted its interpretations of the Constitution based on the federal government's propensity to either protect or dismantle the institution of slavery.

Included in

History Commons