It's official! After 120 years, Virginia has surrendered to the Yankees and acknowledged that West Virginia is really a state, and that Virginia will not attempt to return it to the Old Dominion's fold.

If you're not history-oriented, here's a brief backgrounder: What is now West Virginia was part of Virginia until the Civil War, when Virginia--along with the rest of the Confederacy--purportedly withdrew from the Union. Virginia's western counties, loyal to Washington, withdrew from Virginia and gained admission as the new state of West Virginia in 1863.

The Constitution requires that no state shall "be formed by . . . parts of other states, without the consents of both legislatures ." Since Virginia had seceded and was in rebellion--although Washington never acknowledged the legality of Virginia's secession--the Richmond legislature never agreed. That omission has been a source of some legalistic uncertainty ever since.

Which brings us us to the here and now.

From Davis Creek, W.Va., Elben Barnett wrote Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb asking whether he would welcome the return of the western seceded counties. "The only thing our West Virginia state government is doing is raising taxes," said Barnett, the president of the West Virginia Taxpayers Association. " . . . Virginia is cheaper."

In a word, Robb replied "No," he would live with the questionable withdrawal of West Virginia. "Not . . . practical," Robb wrote of trying to press the land claims, a source of "serious constitutional questions and difficulties . . . more problems than they would solve."