Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
[ocr errors]

The Governor confidered it as an affront to his power for the colonists to choose commissioners to represent them in an assembly which held the power and authority of Britain at defiance. He proceeded therefore to such measures, as plainly hinted his jealousy of the loyalty of the Virginians, and intimated by

palpable signatures that he mistrusted them, and intended to behave towards them as a people really

disaffected to his Majesty’s government. The Virginians had very different notions of loyalty from Lord Dunmore; they confidered loyalty to be direéted by certain laws which set bounds to it; whereas he measured his ideas of loyalty by the power of his Majesty, and the emoluments that attended it. Respect to the Sovereign must always keep pace with the laws of the land, otherwise it degenerates into servile

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

ty; his vanity would grasp an empire, and his pride would devour the habitable world. When once he is exalted to preferment, where emoluments are likely to be had to increase his power, he soon turns oppressor to advance a step higher. The ranks of men beneath him are only considered as so many beings made for no other end than to serve the purposes of his avarice, power, and ambition. The Virginians had always been among the freest in expressing their resolutions, and the readiest in shewing their determi

• . . . nations

i

i

[ocr errors]

nations to support, at all risques and events, what they judged or termed the rights of America. In other respects they preserved the greatest order, quietness, and tranquility in the province; and notwithstanding

the anxiety excited by the prorogation and diffolu

tion of their assemblies, and the expiration of their militialaws in consequence thereof, which in that country where a great part of the people, are in a state of slavery, was a circumstance of an alarming nature, yet. with these causes of complaint the people seemed to pay a more than ordinary degree of attention and per- . fonal regard to the Earl of Dunmore, their Governor. In this state of affairs however the want of a legal assembly seemed to give some sanétion to the holding of a convention: upon which a provincial congress was assembled in the month of March, 1775, who under colour of an old law of the year 1738, which was still said to be in force, took measures for arraying the militia; but to supply the defe&ts in that law in some measure, to remedy which it was pretended all the subsequent ones had been passed, they recommended to each county to raise a cempany of volunteers for the better defence and protećtion of the province. - This proceeding greatly alarmed the Governor;

for it was an interference with the power of the crown, in a matter of very great consequence; and it is supposed that the Governor had either negle&ted his duty, or that they intended no longer to trust the defence of the province in his hands. Such daring

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the cause of this resolution, which he apprehended he perfeótly understood, proceeded immediately to prevent the effects, which he foresaw would follow of consequence. There was a public magazine belonging to the colony in the capital of Williamsburgh, which was laid up in there, in case of any emergency, arising from the tumults of the negroes, or any other. accident that might happen in the country. The Governor intended to secure this magazine for fear the colonists should make use of it in a way detrimental to . the interests of government. He employed the captain of an armed vessel which lay at a few miles dis. tance in James's river, with a detachment of marines. to convey the powder by night aboard the ship.-Tho' this measure was condućted with great privacy, it was by some means discovered the next morning, when the apparent secresy and seeming mysteriousness of the aët, increased the consternation and alarm, among the inhabitants, who immediately assembled with arms, such as they had in their possession, with, an intention of demanding or perhaps obtaining restitution of the gun-powder. The mayor and corporation however prevented their proceeding to any extremities whilst they presented an address to the Governor, stating the injury, reclaiming the powder as a matter of right, and shewing the dangers to which, they were peculiarly liable from the insurre&tion of the slaves, a calamity which for some time had been particularly apprehended, and which the removal of their only defence would at any time accelerate. , His Lordship acknowledged that the gun-powder. had been removed by his order, and said that as he had heard of an insurreàion in a neighbouring county, and did not think it secure in the magazine, he - - had

had removed it to a place of perfeót security ; but promised that it should be returned when ever any insurre&tion rendered it necessary. He also said, that it had been removed in the night to prevent giving an alarm ; and expressed great surprise at the people's assembling in arms 5–and further observed, that he did not think it prudent to put powder into theirhands in such a situation. Whether this answer satisfied the magistrates or not does not appear very evident, but for the present they prevailed on the people to retire quietly to their houses, without any particular outrage being committed. It appeared that they were far from intending any outrage, for it was proved by the most incontestible evidence, before the assemby that the officers of the men of war on that station, and particularly the gentleman that removed the powder, and was most particularly obnoxious, appeared publicly in the streets during the time of the greatest commotion without receiving the smallest insult. A report being however spread in the evening, that a detachment from the men of war were upon their march to the city, the people again took to their arms, and continued all night upon the watch, as if in expectation of an attack from an enemy-They also from this time encreased the night patroles; and shewed an evident design to protećt the magazine from any further attempts. . . . ... The whole value of the gunpowder and arms in the magazine, for any purpose to which they were capable of being converted, either in the hands of friends or enemies, appeared very inadequate to the alarm, suspicion, and disturbance which this measure excited. —The quantity of powder removed amounted only to fifteen half barrels, containing fifty pounds each,

[ocr errors][merged small]

muskets was sufficient to answer any essential purpose, or even to justify apprehension, and the caution of itripping these of their locks only marked their suspicion from whence it proceeded. A considerable quantity of old arms and common trading guns were not touched. Upon the whole, this ačt derived its only importance from time, manner, and circumstance. A jealousy had arisen between the Governor and the colonists, from a cause exceedingly obvious, and neither the condućt of the one nor the hther was directed by candour and disinterestedness. The Governor seems to have been exceedingly irritated at the behaviour of the people in these commotions, and probably resented it too highly (confidering the times) as: iembling in arms, not only without, but with an evi. dent intention to oppose his authority. In this warmth of temper some threatenings were thrown out, which upon cool reflection would probably have been avoided. Among these a threatening of setting up the royal standard, of enfranchising the negroes, arming them against their masters, and destroying the city, with other expressions of a similar nature and tendency, fpread a general alarm throughout the colony, and £xcited a sort of abhorrence of government, and an incurable suspicion of its designs.——Several public meetings were now held in different counties, in all which the measures of seizing and removing the powder, as well as the governor's threatenings were reprobated in the strongest terms. Some of the gentlemen of Hanover, and others of the neighbouring counties, were not satisfied with simple declarations.

- They

« ZurückWeiter »