CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At the close of West Virginia's sesquicentennial year, one of the more compelling aspects of the formation of our new state in the depths of the Civil War centers on why West Virginia's founders insisted on paying a share of Virginia's antebellum public debt.
After all, generations of Western Virginians had suffered political underrepresentation at the hands of the Richmond-based "cousinocracy" and enjoyed precious little benefit from the Virginia Board of Public Works, save the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
So why, when the opportunity was at hand to once and for all sever ties to the Old Dominion, would loyalist Western Virginians memorialize in their new Constitution the legal requirement to "take upon itself a just proportion of the public debt of the commonwealth of Virginia?"
Indeed, what makes the concept even more inconceivable is that, at the time, many of West Virginia's founders had been threatened with the physical and financial ruin of their families and that of their associates for the years leading up to statehood.
And their very communities were on the front lines of devastating Confederate raids bent on indiscriminate economic destruction, especially along the B&O Railroad from Harpers Ferry to Fairmont, as well as the oil fields near the Ohio River.
Then, with the Lincoln administration and Congress ready to go to extralegal and duplicitous political extremes of forming a new state, West Virginia's founders saw fit to reward those whose bellicose secession from the United States significantly strengthen the cause of the Confederacy?
The answer may well be as complex as the question and more than likely rests with what banks originally financed the debt for the Virginia Board of Public Works, as well as those who owned the underlying public bonds and private stocks.