The Revolutionary History of Virginia

Edmund Randolph

[1809 / Part 2 of 5]

The History of the Revolution

No. 24. The facts, which at the beginning of this year, were preying upon the recollection and patience of the thinking part of the colony, were principally these: that their submission to the mutilation of their rights under the charter of 1609, by grants of land from the king to Lord Baltimore, the Culpeper family, and other favorites; the victories, which the avarice of some of the royal governors in a summary mode of extorting money, had gained from the approbation of the crown; and the parliamentary declaration of a right to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever, were swelling into a gigantic map of precedent, which at a future day might be turned to the destruction of their liberties. The duty also on tea too paltry to justify incurring the hazard of general discontent, bespoke a raging appetite for Colonial revenue. Every day intelligence arrived from England of authorized contempts of American prowess and courage, and of a callousness to American remonstrances. The British officers on board of the vessels stationed on our coast, echoed the insulting expressions which had been imported, and drew from the people a counter vehemence; which amounted to a pledge against yielding or shrinking. Aspersions on a nation, are not divided, as responsibility is among a multitude of individuals, each assuming to himself only his fraction; but rather resemble in their effect the ancient mode of battle, in which every man made the common cause his own peculiar case. Virginia read with composure the denunciation against the colonies, acquired hourly a more precise and determined sense of colonial rights, and wafted incense across the Atlantic to that phalanx of orators in parliament, who, besides, our gratitude and admiration, had some reward in using the complaints of America as banners under which they attacked the ministry. The veil of sanctity had been roughly torn from the king and his most conspicuous servants, and the corruption of parliament had been probed by the letters of Junius, whose concealment seemed to be a lucky refuge from an impotent prosecution to those who by office were bound to seem to labour for a discovery of their author.

In times of general sensibility, almost every public event is tortured into an affinity with the predominant passions. The law, which established the fees of the ministerial officers, attending the courts, and the costs of litigation had been originally temporary, and constantly renewed before the day limited for its expiration. But from the dissolution of the general assembly, the usual opportunity of prolonging it beyond the stated termination of its existence had passed away, and a suspension which from this cause took place in the proceedings of the courts on the 12th day of April 1774, proclaimed a derangement in the machine of government which was immediately converted into the misrule of the king. But notwithstanding this relaxation of law, order was maintained, and licentiousness discouraged by general morality. Independent companies had separated themselves from the militia at large, were clothed in uniforms, and yet professed obedience to the militia laws. George Washington had accepted the command of many of them. The old who had seen service in the Indian war of 1755 roused the young to resist the ministry; and the sons, who had committed themselves by strong military declarations reacted on their fathers with new opinions, new demands and new prospects; and yet this military ardor thus unrestrained interfered not with a forbearance towards those who repined at the loss of the government of England. It left the point, to which the general temper was insensibly advancing, the severance of the colonies from the parent state, as an evil which either need not be apprehended, or might be arrested at any moment. It caused the people to overlook the harm of combustible materials, which were at hand, and which a single spark might at any time kindle into an explosion.

No. 25. In May, the general Assembly met, and in reply to a speech of empty professions from the governor, they avowed their loyalty to the king, and their good will to Dunmore. They say that the fatherly attention of their most gracious sovereign to the happiness of his subjects, in making the good of his people the first object of his thoughts cannot but impress their minds with the liveliest sense of duty and gratitude. They proceed thus: "It will ever afford us much pleasure to observe an increase of your lordship's domestic felicity, and with the greatest cordiality we embrace the first opportunity to congratulate your lordship on the arrival of the amiable and most respectable lady Dunmore, with so many branches of your noble family; an event, which we consider as having brought with it the surest pledges of our mutual happiness." To aim at a reform of the mere etiquette of public language is perhaps little less than knight-errantry; but to infect with the compliments of ordinary discourse, the genuine dignity of a legislature, ill accords with that sincerity of principle, upon which they then claimed the merit of acting. They expected nothing good from Dunmore. They had seen reason to fear much mischief from him.

This address was received by him as the harbinger of success to his stratagems; and anxious to hold at his disposal a military force he worked a dispute of boundary between Virginia and Pennsylvania into a topic of great irritation. In a message to the house of burgesses, he informs them, "that a considerable body of his majesty's subjects had settled in Virginia, contiguous to the western boundary of Pennsylvania: that he had appointed militia officers to defend them on any emergency and magistrates to preserve order: that the governor of Pennsylvania pretended a claim to that country: that he (Dunmore) had taken steps to enforce the authority of Virginia in that district: and that he submits to the house; as the governor of Pennsylvania meant to obstruct by every possible means, the government of this colony in the disputed district, whether provisions be not necessary to render the legal power of the officers and magistrates there effectual."

On the day following the message, inflamatory letters from John Conolly, a man of intrigue and hardihood of enterprize, and devoted to Dunmore, were communicated by him to the house, as fuel to the fury, projected against the province of Pennsylvania, and as an alarm from Indian hostility. Cautious as the house were, they could not wholly shun the snare spread for them. They were no less averse to the very semblance of submission to usurpation, than to a precipitate quarrel with a sister colony. While therefore they express their regret at such a dissention, they declare it to be their duty to protect the people of Virginia from oppression, let it arise from what quarter it might, but that to inflict the punishment of imprisonment or death on the officers of either government on account of an unsettled line was to deviate from the plain and simple plan of accomodation, observed in former contests of this nature. They then request the governor to fix a temporary boundary line, until the king should act, and to exert his powers under the laws against invasions and insurrections, which they did not doubt, would for the present be sufficient to repel the attacks of the Indians, who had perfidiously commenced hostilities.

The prudence and calmness of these sentiments, and the reluctance to organize a corps of regular soldiers, were answered by an affected acquiescence, while Dunmore lamented the difference of opinion upon the inadequacy of the militia.

To charge him with a scheme for embroiling Virginia with Pennsylvania and thus to paralyze the energy of both, in the threatened rupture with Great Britain, might perhaps be unjust. The outrages from the governor of Pennsylvania could not pass without animadversion, and he is protected from the fulness of censure, by the assent of the house of burgesses to the employment of some force. But he unnecessarily appointed officers, whose functions would clash with those of the officers of Pennsylvania, when in a few months an appeal to the king would have adjusted the controversy. It would therefore be excessively harsh, to suspect a man, who laboured to subjugate the colony, and whose bitterness towards Virginia encreased every day. The proclamations of Penn and Dunmore are strictly parallel in disregarding every consideration of peace, and notwithstanding the exasperation of these individuals regardless of the fatherly care chief magistrates should exercise over the people committed to their superintendence, the conduct of the Virginia assembly on this occasion was a striking instance of the happiness springing from the wisdom of a legislature, not divested by executive influence from pursuing its dictates and the interest of their constituents.

No. 26. Amidst the agitations of the time, the Assembly were not unmindful of agriculture, and were desirous of increasing the facilities of the farmer, in a speedy preparation of his crops of wheat for market. That baneful weed, tobacco, which had stained our country with all the pollutions and cruelties of slavery, had exhausted the fertility of our soil, had swallowed up in its large plantations vast territories, which if distributed into portions, were best adapted to favour population, was yet the only commodity, which could command money for the planter at a short notice, and the only one from which the dexterity of the British Merchant could extract such various emolutions, and was therefore with him a choice subject of trade. But it had become obvious, that the staff of life was entitled to legislative stimulus; and a reward of one hundred pounds was voted to John Hobday for the invention of a machine which pressed out the wheat with ribbed cylinders, put into circular motion by horses. In nothing was the tardiness of Virginia in improving machinery more visible, than in the long dormant state of this important, though in its first stage, certainly crude combination of mechanical power. It might be too great a refinement to connect as cause and effect, the cessation of that spirit, which coveted tobacco, as the greatest blessing of our state, with the most promising effort which had been ever made in the legislature for a complete toleration of protestant dissenters. Let it be some apology for Virginia, that this indulgence had not in practice been long before conceded in England, and that for more than a century and a half, the depositaries of public authority had revered the church of England, as the safeguard of tranquility, which in the mother country had been once radically disturbed by the extravagances of her enemies. The history of the English revolution in 1688 had not universally imparted its entire essence here, counteracted as it was by the established clergy, most of whom delighted rather in the lethargy of fixed salaries, than in the trouble of thought, learning and research, which a vigorous dissenting minister no longer depressed, might occasion. The law, however, which was on its passage, was defeated by the dissolution of the Assembly, in consequence of the fast, now to be mentioned.

No. 27. The town of Boston in Massachusetts, being esteemed the focus of rebellion, was the peculiar victim of ministerial vengence. A statute had been enacted, annihilating her ports, after the first day of June 1774, abolishing her mart of foreign commerce, and stirring up the neighbouring towns to share in her plunder, by the exclusive possession of privileges, which Boston had enjoyed, and which were now to be transferred to her rivals. Men, mad in the career of power seldom delay, to consult the human heart. They overlook the sympathies, which act upon nations, sincerely sisters for general purposes, and which cannot be torpid, although the distance of place and an exemption from instantaneous suffering may for a moment deceive with the expectation of at least an indifference on their part.

Mr. Jefferson, and Charles Lee, may be said to have originated a fast, to electrify the people from the pulpit. Such is the constitution of things, that an act of public devotion, will receive no opposition from those, who believe in its effect to appease offended heaven, and is registered in the cabinet of the politician, as an allowable trick of political warfare. Those gentlemen, knowing that Robert Carter Nicholas the chairman of the committee of religion, was no less zealous than themselves against the attempt to starve thousands of the American people into a subservience to the ministry, easily persuaded him to put forth the strength of his character, on an occasion, which he thought to be pious, and to move for a fast, to be observed on the first day of June, which few, besides himself could so well delineate, as a hopeful appeal to the deity and over which his reputation as a religionist spread popularity.

The style, in which the fast was recommended was too bold to be neglected by the governor, as an effusion, which would evaporate on paper. It was a cement among the colonies unconnected as they were in situation, and dissimilar as they were in manners, habits, ideas of religion and government from the states abounding in slaves. It brought home to the bosom of each colony the apprehensions of every other; and if in the hour of reflection, the ministry could have foreseen the approach of a closer union among the colonies, these resolutions might have been well interpreted into the seed of a revolution. The governor therefore resorted to his power of dissolving the assembly: a power which hindered the circulation of offensive matter under the legislative seal, but inoculated the whole colony with the poison, against which it was directed.

No. 28. The burgesses immediately after the dissolution assembled with Peyton Randolph at their head, made the cause of Boston their own; protested with indignation against the taxation of America in the British parliament, and the baseness of tampering with one section of the colony, to sever itself from the general sentiment, for the sake of the sports of another. A congress of deputies from each province had been discussed in town meetings in New York and Boston, and was now consigned to the committee of correspondence for execution. A convention was also voted to be holden in the latter part of the summer.

The fast was obeyed throughout Virginia with such rigour and scruples, as to interdict the tasting of food between the rising and setting sun. With the remembrance of the king, horror was associated; and in churches as well as in the circles of social conversation, he seemed to stalk like the Arch enemy of mankind.

No. 29. The counties and corporations elected with alacrity representatives or delegates as they were called, to that convention. Their powers were to take under their consideration the present critical and alarming situation of the continent of North America. Thomas Jefferson, who was one of those elected, was prevented by indisposition from attending. But he forwarded by express for the consideration of its members a series of resolutions. I distinctly recollect the applause bestowed on the most of them, when they were read to a large company at the house of Peyton Randolph, to whom they were addressed. Of all, the approbation was not equal. From the celebrated letters of the Pennsylvania Farmer (John Dickinson) we had been instructed to bow to the external taxation of parliament, as resulting from our migration, and a necessary dependence on the mother country. But this composition of Mr. Jefferson, shook this conceded principle, although it had been confirmed by a still more celebrated pamphlet, written by Daniel Dulany of Maryland, and cited by Lord Chatham, as a text book of American rights. The young ascended with Mr. Jefferson to the source of those rights; the old required time for consideration, before they could tread this lofty ground, which, if it had not been abandoned, at least had not been fully occupied, throughout America. From what cause it happened, that the resolutions were not printed by the order of the convention does not appear; but as they were not adopted several of the author's admirers subscribed to their publication. When the time of writing is remembered, a range of inquiry not then very frequent, and marching far beyond the politicks of the day, will surely be allowed to them. Mr. Jefferson was, however, disappointed in a seat at the first session of congress. His presence at the convention would probably have multiplied the suffrages in his favor, but the seven, who were nominated to that new assembly, had the advantage of being better known, of possessing more exclusive connections, and of being older servants of the public. The successful candidates were Peyton Randolph. Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pendleton, in the order in which they are here named. Some of the tickets on the ballot, assigned reasons for the choice, expressed in them. These were, that Randolph should preside in congress; that Lee and Henry should display the different kinds of eloquence, for which they were renowned, that Washington should command the army, if an army should be raised; that Bland should open the treasures of ancient colonial learning; that Harrison should utter plain truths, and that Pendleton should be the penman for business. Perhaps characters were never better discriminated.

No. 30. In defining the objects of the congress the convention of Virginia did not soar so high, as the electing bodies of some of the other states. Virginia kept out of sight a truth, which time never fails to bring to light, that when subjects question a power asserted by a mother country their measures will be elevated in their progress farther than was at first expected. Virginia instructed her deputies, so to touch our commercial connection, as to "procure redress for the most injured province of Massachusetts bay, to secure British America from the ravage and ruin of arbitrary taxes, and, speedily obtain that harmony and union, so beneficial to the whole empire, and so ardently desired by all British America."

Until congress should act, and their proceedings should be divulged, the people deemed it unadvisable to make any movement collectively; but the opposition to the ministry retained its fire. Vigilance was alone necessary in the mean time with respect to their enemies. After those proceedings were disclosed, an opportunity did not present itself for a revision of them in a convention, until that which met at Richmond in March 1775. But the mouths of all were filled with eulogium on the patriotic, enlightened and manly conduct of congress.

No. 31. In the enthusiasm of the day, this body was supposed to be honored by a comparison of it with some of the August Assemblies of antiquity. So natural is it to court for modern times a lustre reflected through the medium of antiquity. But America desires no other tribute of applause for this illustrious body, than that their agency corresponded with the character of their constituents, ambitious to shine in the annals of Liberty.

No. 32. But before the posture given to our affairs by congress, had undergone a discussion in the convention, Dunmore had been gratified in his vehement lust for embodying a large army of expert riflemen and woodsmen from the militia of the Western frontiers. He had collected under cover of the standing law, providing against Indian hostilities, a brave yeomanry, which if not convertible under his authority to other purposes, unsuspected and unjustifiable, might at least be more immediately within the sphere of his influence, from those blandishments, which a commander in chief can liberally disperse. If they could be detached from the rest of their countrymen, the most hardy and most experienced in war of the sons of Virginia, would be cast into the scale of Great Britain: if he miscarried, as he in fact did, the necessity of chastising the Indians would always be a veil over his original views. His conduct of this little army was mysterious to a degree of folly. Instead of prostrating, as he might, all the Indian enemy by a concentrated application of his strength, he divided it into two parts; one of which he confided to Colo. Andrew Lewis, to be led to the mouth of Kanawha River, and with the other, far superior, he moved to a point on the Ohio river, distant more than seventy miles, making seasonable cooperation impracticable. Lewis, notwithstanding the bravery of himself, his officers and men, at Point Pleasant, the place of his destination, was defeated by the Shawanese, Delawares, Mingoes, Tawas, and mortally wounded. His surviving compatriots, eager to avenge the death of their friends, were on the wing for the destruction of the Shawanese Villages when tidings of peace, on the condition of the cessation of the Indian lands on the eastern side of the Ohio, surrendering their prisoners, and delivering hostages of performance, gave Dunmore by a false eclat, a feather for his vanity.

No. 33. The dissolution of the assembly in the preceding year, had demonstrated, that it was no security against the repetition of the same offences to the governor. He had therefore intermitted to call one, careless, whether anarchy had ensued or not from the derangement of our police. In March 1775, the indications were stronger still, and a convention was holden in the town of Richmond. Among the members were Peyton Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Pendleton, Benjamin Harrison, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Robert Carter Nicholas, Richard Bland and Richard Henry Lee, who have been already drawn to the size of character which they had then unfolded. To shew in what numbers Virginia might feel an assurance, others were associated with them, whose respectability, virtue, and good sense made and fixed proselytes, by conviction inculcated in private, when they were averse to address their compatriots in public. Among these were John Harvie, Thomas Lewis, Henry Tazewell, John Nicholas, Paul Carrington, Archibald Cary, William Fleming, John Banister, William Fitzhugh, Charles Carter, Francis Peyton, Meriwether Smith, Thomas Marshall, James Mercer, Joseph Jones, Thomas Walker, Edmund Berkeley, Lemuel Riddick, Willis Riddick, Burwell Bassett, Thomas Newton, William Robinson, Henry Lee, Thomas Blackburn, Edwin Gray, James Taylor, Mann Page of Spotsylvania, Dudley Digges, Thomas Nelson junior of York, Champion Travis and Joseph Hutchings. All of them had at stake, fortunes, which were affluent or competent, and families, which were dear to them: neither of these blessings would they have jeopardized upon a political speculation, in which their souls were not deeply engaged. If some misguided historian should at a future day, revive the exploded calumny of evil motives which agitated this convention, let these names be adduced as monuments of absolute refutation.

The first resolution of the convention, was unanimously, "entirely and cordially to approve the proceedings and resolutions of the continental congress; to consider the whole continent as under the highest obligation to them for the wisdom of their counsels and their unremitted endeavours to maintain and preserve inviolate the just rights and liberties of his majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects in America. In correspondence with this resolution a second was passed for the warmest thanks to the delegates from Virginia for their cheerful undertaking and faithful discharge of the very important trust reposed in them." We here perceive Virginia concerned in branding with injustice, cruelty and oppression the late acts of parliament involving Massachusetts-bay; in annulling an obedience to them, as the attempts of a wicked administration to enslave America; in countenancing that province in the support of all officers who should refuse to carry into execution the orders of courts, holden by judges who were appointed, with any other tenure, than that which the charter and laws directed; in approving the payment of the public revenue of that province into the hands of the provincial treasurer, until government should be placed upon a constitutional foundation, or it should be otherwise ordered by the provincial congress; in exhorting the people of Massachusetts to act upon the defensive merely, as long as such conduct might be vindicated by reason, and the principle of self-preservation, and no longer; and in applauding the assumption of various powers in the present crisis. In a word, Virginia pledged herself to Massachusetts for upholding her in all measures, which she might think expedient.

No. 34. The most conspicuous acts of congress, which the convention thus recognized, were a letter to general Gage, the British commander in Boston, requiring him to discontinue the fortifications there. 2. A declaration of American rights, which is a copious summary of them. 3. An Association against exportation, consumption, and importation under certain limitations. 4. An address to the people of Great Britain. 5. A memorial to the inhabitants of the British colonies. 6. A letter to the colonies of St. John, Nova Scotia, Georgia, East and West Florida. &. An address to the inhabitants of Quebec, and 8. an address to the king.

With these acts, this history has no farther concern, than as enunciations of these doctrines, to which the conviction of Virginia had arrived, and as an earnest of measures, which might flow from them. Now when passion no longer taints the original question, it probably will not be doubted by any, that an internal taxation of the colonies by the authority of parliament was a violation of their rights. In the association nothing was done, but innocently and without bloodshed to do, as a nation, what every individual had a right to do as an individual british subject. As the ministry would have hastened the pace of military vengeance, if the pulse of the British people had beaten as strongly as their own pride, and their hunger for items of revenue, the address to that people was a just retort of the example of divide et impera, and may be also ranked with the evidences of our anxiety to continue brethren of the same government. The address to the king, whose personal character and situation effaced every hope of rousing him to think or act in contradiction to his advisers, was a deference to the American people, who could not relinquish the slightest prospect of returning harmony. And this line of conduct rescued congress from the imputation, to which the letter to the island of St. John, West Florida and Quebec might give birth, of a wish to convulse and dismember the British Empire. True perhaps it is, that Virginia now was resolved to follow, whithersoever these doctrines, and these measures should lead, and that had she been asked, what she had in reserve, upon the final failure of all overtures of reconciliation, a consistent answer could have been only, that it would have been better not to have stirred at all, than to be reduced to slavery, aggravated by the disgrace of pompous and hollow professions.

Accordingly a resolution was passed for immediately putting the colony into a posture of defence, and for preparing a plan of embodying and disciplining such a number of men as might be sufficient for that purpose. Henry moved and Richard Henry Lee seconded it. The fangs of European criticism might be challenged to spread themselves against the eloquence of that awful day. It was a proud one to a Virginian, feeling and acting with his country. Demosthenes invigorated the timid, and Cicero charmed the backward. The multitude many of whom had travelled to the convention from a distance could not suppress their emotion. Henry was his pure self. Those, who had toiled in the artifices of scholastic rhetoric, were involuntarily driven into an inquiry within themselves, whether rules and forms and nicieties of elocution would not have choked his native fire. It blazed so as to warm the coldest heart. In the sacred place of meeting, the church, the imagination had no difficulty, to conceive, when he launched forth in solemn tones, various causes of scruple against oppressors, that the British king was lying prostrate from the thunder of heaven. Henry was thought in his attitudes to resemble Saint Paul, while preaching at Athens, and to speak as man was never known to speak before. After every illusion had vanished, a prodigy yet remained. It was Patrick Henry born in obscurity, poor, and without the advantages of literature, rousing the genius of his country, and binding a band of patriots together to hurl defiance at the tyranny of so formidable a nation as Great Britain. This enchantment was spontaneous obedience to the workings of the soul. When he uttered what commanded respect for himself, he solicited no admiring look from those, who surrounded him. If he had, he must have been abashed by meeting every eye fixed upon him. He paused, but he paused full of some rising eruption of eloquence. When he sat down, his sounds vibrated so loudly if not in the ears at least in the memory of his audience, that no other member, not even his friend who was to second him was yet adventurous enough, to interfere with that voice, which had so recently subdued and captivated. After a few minutes Richard Henry Lee fanned and refreshed with a gale of pleasure; but the vessel of the revolution was still under the impulse of the tempest, which Henry had created. Artificial oratory fell in copious streams from the mouth of Lee, and rules of persuasion accomplished every thing, which rules could effect. If elegance had been personified, the person of Lee would have been chosen. But Henry trampled upon rules, and yet triumphed, at this time perhaps beyond his own expectation. Jefferson was not silent. He argued closely, profoundly and warmly on the same side. The post in the Revolutionary debate, belonging to him, was that at which the theories of republicanism were deposited. Washington was prominent, though silent. His looks bespoke a mind absorbed in meditation on his country's fate; but a positive concert between him and Henry could not more effectually have exhibited him to view, than when Henry with indignation ridiculed the idea of peace "when there was no peace" and enlarged on the duty of preparing for war.

The generous and noble minded Thomas Nelson, who now for the first time, took a more than common part in a great discussion, convulsed the moderate by an ardent exclamation, in which he called God to witness, that if any British troops should be landed within the county, of which he was the lieutenant, he would wait for no orders, and would obey none, which should forbid him to summon his militia and repel the invaders at the water edge. His temper though it was sanguine, and had been manifested in less scenes of opposition, seemed to be more than ordinarily excited. His example told those, who were happy in ease and wealth, that to shrink was to be dishonoured.

No. 35. The convention instructed the committee of correspondence, to procure authentic information whether the house of representatives of New York had deserted the union with the other colonies, what the real sense of the people of that province was, to ascertain the names of the individuals, who might have concurred in the votes, derogating from that union. In the progress of a revolution we must be satisfied, if the simple charities of human nature are preserved. But courtesy or delicacy towards individuals or bodies, suspected, will never shelter them from an intrusive scrutiny.

Provision was made for the collection of supplies for the relief of Boston, and the administration of justice was interrupted. Volunteer companies of infantry and troops of horse were recommended to be raised and to be in constant training and readiness for action on any emergency. Money also was recommended to be raised for ammunition.

Although adulation from public bodies for some expedient of policy, is supposed not to tarnish the individuals, who compose them, we ought not to palliate our surprize, that a convention possessing such a force of character as this did, should pollute itself by an unfelt eulogium on Dunmore. It was no secret that his late expedition against the Indians was suggested by the belief, that he could intimidate them, and by intimidating them, direct their tomahawk against the frontiers most open to their ravages; and yet it was resolved unanimously, that the most cordial thanks of the people of this colony, are a tribute justly due to our WORTHY governor Lord Dunmore for his truly noble, wise and spirited conduct on the late expedition against our Indian Enemy:---a conduct which at once evinces his excellency's attention to the true interest of this colony, and a zeal in the executive department, which no dangers can divert, or difficulties hinder from achieving the most important services to the people, who have the HAPPINESS to live under his administration. Perhaps this glaring sacrifice of sincerity would not have been made, had it not been for the wretched practice of presuming the commander in chief, even in the teeth of every rule of presumption, to be the efficient cause of success obtained by his officers and soldiers. On them undoubtedly thanks could not be misspent. Foy sneered. Dunmore clutched with avidity this atom of mischievous popularity, which he would apply, if possible, to the annoyance of Virginia. No man can say, that complimentary acts of public bodies, howsoever neutral, they may seem to be, may not be wrested with evil, unless they certainly steer to some good.

No 36. Contemporaneously with the arrangements for defence were adopted resolutions for encouraging manufactures, which had they been excuted with spirit and perseverance, would have established independence on a rock, unmoveable to British capitals. In the plan proposed, are a frank confession of the inability of Virginia to furnish to herself articles of the first necessity, and magnanimity in encountering on the principle of liberty the most painful privations. It inculcates too an useful and instructive truth, that when a people, devoted to liberty once entertain an apprehension for its safety, they overleap the calculations of what in ordinary life, would be called prudence.

Woolen, cotton and linen manufactures, were to be promoted in as many different branches as possible. Except in some small instances, in which poor industrious families spun and wove their own clothing, the foreign merchant annually supplied those manufacturers for the slaves, and their masters. Flax, hemp and cotton were to be cultivated not only for the use of each family, but for the accommodation of others on moderate terms. Cotton had been hitherto made in quantities not much exceeding a scanty domestic consumption, and flax and hemp were not frequent or very abundant below the heads of our great rivers.

Saltworks were to be established. We had depended for salt on importation from abroad. The art of making it, simple as it is, was then a mystery in chemistry; and the great waters adjoining the sea, which were alone adapted to its production in the eastern quarter of Virginia might be visited in all their recesses by any British cockboat. The salt springs in the west were too remote for the wants of the lower country.

Salt petre was to be collected and refined, as well as sulphur; and elementary ingredients of gunpowder had been always bought more cheaply than they could be made. Gunpowder was to be made. The compounding of which had been practised only by the riflemen of the upper country, and had not become an article of merchandize, to be capable of a competition with that which was imported.

Nails, wire and other necessary articles of iron were to be manufactured. Many of these had been prohibited by parliament; and a slitting mill or tilt hammer had never been erected; even hoes and axes were imported. Steel was to be made upon an extensive scale. The process, though not difficult, was unknown in use.

Different kinds of paper were to be made. Only one experiment had been made in Virginia and that was abortive.

Woolcombs, cotton and woolcards, hemp and flax heckles were to be made.

Fulling mills, and mills for breaking, swingling and softening hemp and flax were to be erected. Grindstones, although the rough material was daily before our eyes, had been neglected to be made. Malt liquors made in Virginia were to be substituted for foreign, and hops and barley were to be encouraged.

Had these recommendations been observed, as closely as they might have been, without inconvenience to the planter, farmer and mechanic, this country, the climate and soil of which promised to industry an ample profit, would not have been behind any state in improvement, or dependent on any nation for its manufactures.

How Virginia had fallen into this dearth of things so easily attainable is to be solved by the peculiarities of her situation from an ancient date. As soon as that noxious weed, tobacco, had obtained the currency of fashion in Europe, and the introduction of slavery had sheltered the white population from the labor and exposure incidental to its cultivation; it was seen, that the raw materials of manufacture could be invested, with greater profit, in purchasing what she wanted from England, where labour was cheap; the arts subdivided; capitals existed for every valuable business; and science and experience had astonished with new facilities and improvements;---than in the application of her manual force to the tedious progress of manufactures. They must be nurtured from the lowest state of infancy; without funds at double expence, and without the collateral aids, which each manufacture requires from many others. Besides the woolen, cotton and linen fabrics of England had become the standards of taste and necessity in Virginia. To similar sources and to the tumult of war may be traced the tardiness in seizing the first moments of self-government for the exercise of self denial. Nature had been too propitious to Virginia to generate the noble art of living upon little. Comfort sprang up, was luxuriant, but was also an opiate to the activity of native invention, little short of the effect of possessing mines of gold and silver.

No. 37. What course of reflection these facts and others like them, known to exist elsewhere in the colonies excited in the minds of many, eminent for learning and philanthropy, but novices in the feelings of the new world, threatened with chains and mounting to some high but dubious destiny is exemplified in a letter of the celebrated historian, doctor Robertson, written in October 1775. Speaking of the colonies he says, that "the ministry have been trifling for two years, when they should have been serious, until they have rendered a very simple piece of business extremely perplexed. They have permitted colonies, disjoined by nature and situation, to consolidate themselves into a regular systematical confederacy, and when a few regiments stationed in each capital, would have rendered it impossible for them to take arms, they have suffered them quietly to levy and train forces, as if they had not known and seen, against whom they prepared." "This (that is the liberty to buy and sell, where and with whom they pleased) they will one day attain, but not just now, if there be any degree of political wisdom or vigour remaining. At the same time, one cannot but regret, that prosperous and growing states should be checked in their career." Be it right or wrong, the convention was struck, with R. H. Lee's quotation from scripture, that the race was not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, and believed that those were doubly armed, whose cause was just. May the cause of liberty be ever conducted with prudence, but never benumbed by too frigid estimates of difficulty or danger.

No. 38. One of the last acts of the convention was dictated by a proclamation of the governor. He was as humble a proficient in the season as in the wisdom of doing things. That proclamation in declaring that the king had given orders, that all vacant land should be put up in lots at public sale, that the purchasers should hold them, subject to a reservation of one halfpenny sterling per acre, by way of annual quitrent, etc., augmented the preexisting inflammation. It was an innovation on the established usage of granting land within the colony, announced, that revenue was to be hunted for in disregard of charters and ancient habits, and to be embraced in its minutest shapes. To attack this new head of the hydra of precedent, a committee was appointed of Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Carter Nicholas and Edmund Pendleton, to inquire whether his majesty may of right advance the terms of granting lands in this colony, and to make report to the next general assembly or convention. But this affair was lost in the subsequent events, and at any other time would probably have died away with those numerous thoughtless acquiescences with which our history is strewed, in exercises of doubtful prerogative.

No. 39. It being apprehended, that Peyton Randolph, who with his former colleagues had been elected to the succeeding congress holden in Philadelphia in May 1775, might be detained by sickness or his duties as the speaker of the house of burgesses, Thomas Jefferson was named, as his eventual successor.

The convention then considered the delegation of its members as at an end, and recommended to the people to choose delegates to represent them for one year. In civil commotions it has always been the artifice of parties, to invent for their opponents names to which odium or ridicule is attached. The Branchi of Florence, the Guelphs and Ghibellines of France; and the whigs and tories of England were the offspring of this species of stratagem. The enemies to parliamentary taxation and the ministry stigmatized those who favored either, as tories, and assumed to themselves the appellation of whigs. The origin of these distinctions, Hume in his history of England described. (History of England, Vol. VIII, Chapter 68, page 126).

Mr. Jefferson in his notes on Virginia, page 285, remarks, that a tory has been properly defined to be a traitor in thought, but not in deed. In some cases it may have been the harsh language of the most violent and intemperate; but it cannot be admitted, that thinking men, who valued freewill as a gift of heaven, were thus indiscriminate in their severity. What multitudes could now be cited, who confounded by the new order of things, suddenly flashing upon their minds, and still entangled by the habits of many years, were branded as tories, though spotless as to treason even in thought; who could not comprehend what was to be the issue of provoking the fury of the British nation, and were yet innocent even as to wishes of harm to their country; who believed in a chance of reconciliation, if excesses were spared; who might not feel sufficient irritation at the distant danger of an abstract principle. It is the glory of our country, that the influence of a contrary sentiment, while it might diminish cordiality, left without molestation, very many men, to adorn and profit the republic.

No. 40. In April 1775, Dunmore eager to acquit himself with some noise towards his royal master, and misconceiving action, whether well or ill directed to be synonymous with duty, adopted a measure, which in any aspect could not promote his interest, as a scheme to deprive the city of Williamsburg of ammunition and arms must inevitably precipitate a general tumult. There was a paltry magazine in that city, the then metropolis, which had served as a receptable for a few military stores of government, and for the gunpowder of the merchants there, who from caution retained but small quantities for the course of retail. These were, by Dunmore's order, secretly, in the night, conveyed on board of a vessel of war; thus adopting a policy in one sense grovelling, and in another not far removed from assassination, as it was believed at the time, and more strongly suspected from what happened afterwards, that he designed, by disarming the people, to weaken the means of opposing an insurrection of the slaves, whom he purposed to invite to his standard, and for a protection against whom in part the magazine was at first built. The citizens ran to arms, as soon as the rapine was detected, and would have assaulted the governor in his residence, had they not been dissuaded by the calmer counsels of Peyton Randolph and Robert Carter Nicholas. The violence projected was, however, rather suspended, than extinguished. It was suspended to afford to the governor an opportunity of promising to replace the gunpowder, in conformity with an address from the corporation. But instead of the candor and frankness incumbent on official stations, he replied with evasion and falsehood. Public office, if it cannot gratify with pleasant things, ought at least not to sap confidence by the desertion of truth. Dunmore says, that "hearing of an insurrection in a neighboring county, he had removed the gunpowder from the magazine, where he did not think it secure, to a place of perfect security, and that upon his word and honor, whenever it was wanted in any insurrection, it should be delivered in half an hour: that he was surprised to hear that the people were under arms on this occasion, and that he should not think it prudent to put powder into their hands in such a situation." The impetuosity of a multitude, once arrested, does not instantly return to its former extravagance, although their demands may not be completely satisfied; and now, after some farther effervescence, it gradually subsides into perfect tranquillity.

No 41. In other parts of Virginia, Dunmore's excuse for the removal of the powder, was spurned at with indignation, for its departure from fact, and his equivocation about an insurrection, the interpretation of which when it might happen, he reserved to himself. In the county of Hanover, in which Patrick Henry lived, the standing committee, created by the convention and the armed volunteer company refused to acquiesce; and Henry at the head of the latter marched to extort from the King's receiver-general, Richard Corbin, out of the royal coffer, the value of the powder. That officer drew a bill of exchange on London for the amount, being upward of three hundred pounds sterling, which sum was paid into the treasury. It was Henry's ulterior intention to visit Williamsburg with his company of men, and in some manner or other, to hold Dunmore responsible for the restitution of the powder. But when he had advanced within fifteen miles of that city, he was met by Richard Carter Nicholas and Thomas Nelson, who represented to him, that as his object had been accomplished in the bill of exchange, he and his party would best consult the peace of Virginia by returning in peace and they prevailed upon him to return. Of itself the money was of no account, but the occurence disrobed the regal government of superstitious reverence; and thereby forwarded a most essential branch of the impending revolution. Henry was proclaimed a traitor by Dunmore, and his personal safety was thereby incorporated with the American cause. It conferred upon him a degree of military prominence, which might be a basis for future elevation in any line.

No. 42. Dunmore caught the glimpse of greater pliability in a new assembly, than in that, which had been dissolved. The joint address of the two houses of parliament to the king, his answer and the resolution of the house of commons on the 7th day of February 1775, had been transmitted to him with rapidity, and he summoned the legislature for the first day of June 1775. In his speech to them at the commencement of the session he tells them, "that the joint address and answers no longer permit a doubt, that their well founded grievances properly represented would meet with that attention and regard which are justly due to them: that the resolution of the commons will, he trusts, have the effect of removing the jealousy, which has been the principal source of disquiet and uneasiness in the minds of the people; that he therefore entertains the strongest hopes, that nothing will remain, after a just consideration of the nature and tendency of that resolution, to prevent their seriously exerting themselves, to bring the disputes, which have unhappily raged between the mother country and the colonies to a good end; to which the step already taken by the house of commons, must be considered as a benevolent tender, and an auspicious advance on the part of the parent state." He then adds, "That it must now be manifest to all dispassionate people, that the parliament, the high and supreme legislature of the empire, far from having entertained thoughts so inconsistent with the wisdom and public virtue, which have distinguished that august body, of oppressing the people of the colonies, or of promoting the interest of one at expence of another part of their fellow-subjects have only been extending their care, that the whole in consideration of the enjoyment of equal rights, privileges and advantages, should be obliged, according to their abilities and situations to contribute a portion towards the burthens, necessary for the support of the civil government and common defence.

The tenor of these overtures from parliament will best appear from the perusal of them. The answer of the house of burgesses is a manly repulse of the snare.

To His Excellency the Right Hon. John Earl of Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, &c, &c.;My Lord,

We his Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Burgesses of Virginia, now met in General Assembly, have taken into our consideration the joint Address of the two houses of Parliament, his Majesty's Answer, and the Resolutions of the Commons, which your Lordship has been pleased to lay before us. Wishing nothing so sincerely as the perpetual continuance of that brotherly love which we bear to our fellow subjects of Great Britain, and still continuing to hope and believe that they do not approve the measures which have so long oppressed their brethren in America, we were pleased to receive your Lordship's notification, that a benevolent tender has at length been made by the British House of Commons, towards bringing to a good end our unhappy disputes with the Mother Country. Next to the possession of liberty, my Lord, we should consider such a reconciliation as the greatest of all human blessings. With these dispositions we entered into consideration of that Resolution; we examined it minutely; we viewed it in every point of light in which we were able to place it, and, with pain and disappointment, we must ultimately declare, it only changes the form of oppression, without lightening its burthen. We cannot, my Lord, close with the terms of that Resolution, for these reasons: Because the British Parliament has no right to intermeddle with the support of Civil Government in the Colonies. For us, not for them, has Government been established here. Agreeable to our ideas, provision has been made for such Officers as we think necessary for the administration of public affairs; and we cannot conceive that any other Legislature has a right to prescribe either the number of pecuniary appointments of our Officers. As a proof that the claim of Parliament, to interfere in the necessary provisions for support of Civil Government is novel, and of a late date, we take leave to refer to an Act of our Assembly, passed so long since as the 32d year of the reign of King Charles II, entitled "An act for raising a public revenue, and for the better support of this his Majesty's colony of Virginia."---This act was brought over by Lord Culpeper, then Governor, under the Great Seal of England, and was enacted in the name of the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the consent of the general assembly.

Because, to render perpetual our exemption from an unjust taxation we must saddle ourselves with a perpetual tax, adequate to the expectations, and subject to the disposal of parliament alone, whereas we have a right to give our money, as the parliament do theirs, without coercion, from time to time, as public exigencies may require. We conceive, that we alone are the judges of the condition, circumstances, and situation, of our people, as the parliament are of theirs. It is not merely the mode of raising, but the freedom of granting our money, for which we have contended. Without this, we possess no check on the royal prerogative; and what must be lamented by dutiful and loyal subjects, we should be stripped of the only means, as well of recommending this country to the favours of our most gracious sovereign, as of strengthening those bands of amity with our fellow-subjects, which we would wish to remain indissoluble.

Because, on our undertaking to grant money, as is proposed, the commons only resolve to forbear levying pecuniary taxes on us; still leaving unrepealed their several acts passed for the purpose of restraining the trade, and altering the form of government of the eastern colonies; extending the boundaries and changing the government and religion of Quebec, enlarging the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty, taking from us the right of trial by jury, and transporting us into other countries to be tried for criminal offences. Standing armies too are still to be kept among us; and the other numerous grievances, of which ourselves, and sister colonies, separately, and by our representatives, in general Congress have so often complained, are still to continue without redress.

Because at the very time of requiring from us grants of monies, they are making disposition to invade us with large armaments, by sea and land; which is a style of asking gifts not reconcileable to our freedom. They are also proceeding to a repetition of injury, by passing acts for restraining the commerce and fisheries of the provinces of New England, and for prohibiting the trade of the other colonies with all parts of the world, except the islands of Great Britain, Ireland and the West Indies. This seems to bespeak no intention to discontinue the exercise of this usurped power over us in future.

Because, on our agreeing to contribute our proportion towards the common defence, they do not propose to lay open to us a free trade with all the world; whereas to us, it appears just that those who bear equally the burthens of government, should equally participate of its benefits. Either be contented with the monopoly of our trade, which beings greater loss to us, and benefit to them, than the amount of our proportional contributions to the common defence; or, if the latter be preferred, relinquish the former; and do not propose, by holding both, to exact from us double contributions. Yet we would remind government, that on former emergencies, when called upon as a free people, however cramped by this monopoly, in our resources of wealth, we have liberally contributed to the common defence. Be assured, then, that we shall be generous in future as in past times, disdaining the shackles of proportion, when called to our free station in the general system of the empire.

Because, the proposition now made to us involves the interest of all the other colonies. We are now represented in general congress, by members approved by this house, where our former union, it is hoped, will be so strongly cemented, that no partial application can produce the slightest departure from the common cause. We consider ourselves as bound in honour, as well as interest, to share one general fate with our sister colonies, and should hold ourselves base deserters of that union to which we have acceded, were we to agree on any measures distinct and apart from them.

There was, indeed, a plan of accommodation offered in parliament, which, though not entirely equal to the terms we had a right to ask, yet differed but in few points from what the general congress had held out. Had parliament been disposed sincerely, as we are, to bring about a reconciliation, reasonable men had hoped, that by meeting us on this ground, something might have been done. Lord Chatham's bill, on the report, and the terms of the congress on the other, would have formed a basis for negotiation; which a spirit of accommodation, on both sides, might perhaps have reconciled. It came recommended, too, from one whose successful experience in the art of government should have ensured to it some attention from those to whom it was rendered. He had shown to the world, that Great Britain, with her colonies, united firmly under a just and honest government, formed a power which might bid defiance to the most potent enemies. With a change of ministers, however, a total change of measures took place: the component parts of the empire have, from that moment, been falling asunder; and a total annihilation of its weight, in the political scale of the world, seems justly to be apprehended.

These, my Lord, are our sentiments on this important subject; which we offer, only, as an individual part of the whole empire. Final determination we leave to the general congress, now sitting, before whom we shall lay the papers your Lordship has communicated to us. To their wisdom we commit the improvement of this important advance. If it can be wrought into any good we are assured they will do it. To them, also we refer, the discovery of that proper method of representing our well-founded grievances, which, your Lordship assures us, will meet with the attention and regard so justly due to them. For ourselves we have exhausted every mode of application which our invention could suggest as proper and promising. We have decently remonstrated with Parliament, they have added new injuries to the old. We have wearied our King with supplications; he has not deigned to answer us. We have appealed to the native honour and justice of the British nation, their efforts in our favour have been hitherto ineffectual. What then remains to be done? That we commit our injuries to the even-handed justice of that Being who doth no wrong; earnestly beseeching him to illuminate the councils, and prosper the endeavors, of those to whom America hath confided her hopes; that, through their wise direction, we may again see, reunited, the blessings of liberty and property, and the most permanent harmony with Great Britain.

June 14, 1775.

Introduction * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * Part 5