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John Letcher Proclamation

Identifier: M219

Scope and Contents

This proclamation to the people of Virginia is dated February 7, 1860. The document announces Governor Letcher's appointment of "Joseph C. Lawrence of the City of New York, as a commissioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia to the State of New York." The appointment was for two years.

The document carries with it the "Seal of the Commonwealth" of Virginia. It was signed by the Governor John Letcher and George W. Munford, Secretary of the Commonwealth.


  • February 7, 1860

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

John Letcher was born March 29, 1818, to William Houston Letcher (first cousin to General Sam Houston) and his wife, Elizabeth Davidson Letcher. He graduated from Washington College in 1833 and afterwards studied law. Following his studies, Letcher established a law practice in Lexington, Virginia, where he became active in supporting the cause of Jacksonian Democracy, and in 1839 he became the editor of the "Valley Star", a paper devoted to this cause.

From 1840-1844, Letcher focused his interests on law and politics and was active in the Presidential campaigns of 1840, 1844, and 1848, serving in the last as a Democratic elector. In 1847, Letcher signed the Ruffner Pamphlet, advocating the abolition of slavery west of the Virginia Blue Ridge. From 1850 to 1851, he served as a member of Virginia's constitutional convention during which he advocated a white basis of representation in both the Senate and House.

From 1851 to 1859, Letcher served as Democratic representative in Congress of the eleventh Virginia district. During his tern if service, he earned the title "Watchdog of the Treasury" as a result of his opposition to governmental extravagance.

By the 1850's, Letcher's views on slavery had changed significantly. Whereas earlier he had held slavery to be a social and political evil, as of 1851 he felt that his former opinions were erroneous. Furthermore, he continually defended the rights of the south. In 1859, he was elected governor of Virginia by a narrow margin. After the secession of some Southern states, Letcher supported the peace movement and was reluctant to support the secession of Virginia until Lincoln sent in troops.

As a governor of Civil War Virginia, he vigorously supported the Confederacy in its fight for independence. During Hunter's Raid of 1864, Letcher residence in Lexington was burned, and at the close of the war, he was held prisoner for several months at the Old Capitol prison in Washington, D.C. Following the war, he encouraged the South to let old wounds heal. He resumed law practice in Lexinton, and from 1875 to 1877, he served two terms in the Virginia House of Delegates.


1 Folder (1 item)

Language of Materials



Virginia Governor Letcher's announcement of appointment of Joseph C. Lawrence as New York State Commissioner for Virginia.


Donated by Ernest A. Walen to the University of Southern Mississippi, October 1969. (This collection was separated from M123).

Existence and Location of Copies

For Digitized Materials from this collection, see: EXTERNAL DOCUMENTS link at bottom of page.

John Letcher Proclamation
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001