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The Bristol Convention

Debow’s Review – September 1868

ART. VI.-THE BRISTOL CONVENTION. This body adjourned on Friday after a very pleasant session of three days, during which there was great unanimity in the proceedings.

There were present many of the first men of Virginia and Tennessee, those of the latter preponderating in numbers.

The Hon. L. C. Haynes addressed the Convention on Wednesday, on which day there was not much done except the usual preliminaries.

On Thursday there were several speeches made at the morning session, after which the Convention took a recess till half-past two, at which time it reassembled and received the report of the committee on business. This committee was composed of the following gentlemen: -Henry H. Ingersoll, Greenville, Tennessee; F. N. Watkins, Farmville, Virginia; S. W. Donnegan. Huntsville, Alabama; James C. Taylor, Montgomery county, Virginia; Gen. William Mahone ,representative of railroad interests; Colonel George D. Bolling, Board of Trade, Petersburg; Gen. A. E. Jackson, Bristol, Tnnessee; Pitser Miller, Memphis, Chamber of Commerce; C. W. Slatham, Lynchburg, Virginia; Major J. O. Hensley, Bedford county; William Macfarland, C. C. G. & C. Railroad; E. Simmerly, Esq., East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad; General R. F. Hoke, West North Carolina Railroad; Colonel Wicks, President Memphis and Charleston Railroad; Colonel R. W. Hughes, Virginia and Kentucky Railroad; Charles Seymour, Knoxville, Tennessee; Colonel G.C. Walker, Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad; Hon. E. S. Martin, Lee county, Virginia; W. D. Reynolds, Norfolk Board of Trade; Colonel J. B. Cary, Richmond Chamber of Commerce; S. A. Stevens, city of Norfolk; B. M. Jones, Esq., Danville, Virginia; G. P. Fry,Carroll county, Virginia; C. S. McKinney, Rogersville, Tennessee; E. F. Tiller, Esq., Scott county; T. L. Conner, Russellville, Tennessee; J. W. Logan, East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad; MajorJ. D. Lockhart, Nashville, Tennessee; W. A. Montgomery, Lead Vale, Tennessee; E. M. Armstrong, Roanoke county, Virginia; Colonel R. A. Richardson, Smythe county; submitted the following report:

Whereas it is evident from facts and information given to this convention composed of delegates representing the commercial, agricultural, mining, manufacturing and other interest, extending from the Virginia seaboard to the South and great West, that the establishment of a line of steamers between Norfolk and Liverpool is not only advisable but also practicable; and

Whereas, it is deemed expedient, in order to secure the permanency of said line of steamers that they shall be, at least in part, owned by the parties above alluded to; therefore, be it Resolved,

1. That a company, with adequate capital, be formed, to carry into effect the above views, and that the same be styled the “Norfolk and Liverpool Steamship and Navigation Company.”

2. Resolved, That for the purpose of carrying into effect the foregoing resolutions, the committee recommend to the convention the formation of a financial, provisional and executive committee, consisting of General Win. Malhone, Gen. Geo. Manny, W. D. Reynolds, J. A. Johnson, R. M. Barton, S. W. Donnegan and T. A. Nelson, who shall be empowered to take and receive subscriptions of stock under the agreement hereto annexed, and to apply for and obtain a suitable charter or charters for the government of the”Norfolk and Liverpool Steamship and Navigation Company; and to call for installments of stock under the provisions of said articles of agreement, and who shall have power to call the stockholders together at such time and place as they may deem necessary, for the permanent organization of said company, and to make all necessary contracts for procuring subscriptions of stock, and otherwise preparing for the organization of the company.

3. Resolved, That the various immigration societies, organized inthe Southern States, be cordially invited to co-operate in the movement inaugurated this day.

Exhibit A is a contract providing as follows: That an executive committee, composed of General Mahone and six others, are to receive subscriptions from persons or corporations, to the capital stock of the company. It further provides that as soon as the sum of $300,000 of capital stock has been fully secured, the executive committee shall call a meeting of stockholders for the purpose of organization, and the subscriptions so received shall not be binding until the above amount shall be obtained.

The foregoing report, after some discussion, was unanimously adopted. Col. R. W. Hughes, of Abingdon, then offered the following resolutions

Resolved, That when the convention adjourn it shall do so to meet again at Norfolk, at some future time to be designated by a committee of arrangements hereinafter appointed.

Resolved, That the Board of Trade of Norfolk shall constitute that committee. Resolved, That the said committee shall extend invitations to the cities of Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago, St. Louis, and the various cities and towns, corporations, etc., represented in this Convention, together with the Presidents and directors of the several railroads in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Resolved, That the object of the said adjourned Convention will be to consider the perfection and completion of the railroads connecting Norfolk with the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys to the direct trade with Europe.

We thus see that everything practicable was done to secure the objects of the meetitng, viz: the inauguration of the “Norfolk and Liverpool Steamship and Navigationr Company,” the details of which will be completed hereafter. In the meantime subscriptions will be received as provided for by the resolutions.

The Convention is to meet in Norfolk in November next, after the presidential election. We do not think it very probable that Virginia will be allowed to participate in that election; but Tennessee and some other States will vote, and so to ensure a large attendance,it has been put off ’till after that event. We should have preferred that September had been chosen for the reassembling of the Convention; for that month would have better suited us in view of the opening of our fall trade.

The resolutions of Colonel Hughes, the President of the Virginia and Kentucky railroad touch upon a subject of vast importance to Norfolk, viz: the connection between our city and the northwest. Our citizens have not devoted their thoughts sufficiently to this subject.

We wish of course to get the trade of Tennessee and of much of the Southwest as possible; but that country has been very much devastated by the war, and a communication with it will not be half so important to us as that with the Northwest.

The link to connect Bristol with Cumberland Gap will be only ninety-five miles long, and from Cumberland Gap to London, in Ken tucky, will require a track of only forty-five miles-total length of additional rail necessary to connect us with Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis and all the Northwest and West as far as San Francisco, only one hundred and forty miles. This connection will bring an incalculable amount of trade to Norfolk on a route so much nearer to Europe than through New York. These resolutions of Colonel Hughes do not conflict with the objects for which the meeting is to be held here in the Fall, and we hope that we shall then not only carry through the great steamship line, but, aided by the West and Northwest, inaugurate the connection with those boundless regions, whose illimitable products, if sent through Norfolk, will soon make us distance Baltimore, and become in a few years a formidable rival to New York itself.

We have been informed by a member of the Bristol Convention that there was but one idea there, and that was that Norfolk was the port of the whole of Tennessee and a very large portion of the Northwest-indeed no other point was talked of. The whole country from this place to Memphis looks to this city as its port, and to this alone, and we must exert ourselves to take this tide in our favor while at the flood. Let us, moreover, endeavor to fix the attention of the Northwest upon our port as firmly as we have done that of the Southwest, and we hope that not only will Memphis and Nashville contribute to our greatness, but every rich city and State from the Kentucky line to the Pacific will do the same, and that in a few years we shall see our city the emporium of the commerce not only Europe, but of Japan and China.