Willey Amendment

Governor Arthur Ingraham Boreman (1823-96)
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On February 3, 1865, West Virginia Governor Arthur Boreman signed a legislative act banning slavery in the state. A common misconception is that West Virginia entered the Union in 1863 as a free state.

October 11, 1811: State Founder Waitman Willey Born

Oct 11, 2019
State founder and Senator Waitman Willey negotiated a key compromise on slavery, known as the Willey Amendment, that allowed West Virginia to join the Union.
E-WV / The Humanities Council

State founder Waitman Willey was born near Farmington in Marion County on October 11, 1811. He opened his first law practice in Morgantown in 1833 and served as Monongalia County Court clerk for more than a decade.

Willey gained statewide attention for his “Liberty and Union” speech at the 1850-51 Virginia Constitutional Convention. At the start of the Civil War, he spoke passionately against secession and war. After Virginia seceded from the Union, Willey was elected to represent the loyal citizens of Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

October 11, 1811: State Founder Waitman Willey Born

Oct 11, 2017
State founder Waitman Willey served as one of West Virginia’s first two U.S. senators from 1863 to 1871.
e-WV / WV Humanities Council

State founder Waitman Willey was born near Farmington in Marion County on October 11, 1811. He opened his first law practice in Morgantown in 1833 and served as Monongalia County Court clerk for more than a decade.

Willey gained statewide attention for his “Liberty and Union” speech at the 1850-51 Virginia Constitutional Convention. At the start of the Civil War, he spoke passionately against secession and war. After Virginia seceded from the Union, Willey was elected to represent the loyal citizens of Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On February 17, 1863, the West Virginia Constitutional Convention adopted the Willey Amendment, which settled the issue of slavery and paved the way for West Virginia to become the 35th state.