Page images
PDF
EPUB

They assembled in arms to a considerable number under the conduct of a Mr Henry, who was one of the provincial delegates to the general congress, and marched towards Williamsburgh with an avowed delign to obtain restitution for the gunpowder,--but to take such effectual measures for securing the public treasury, as should prevent its experiencing a fimilar fate with the magazine. A negociation was however entered into with the magiftrates, when they had arrived within a few miles of the town, in which it was fully settled, that the Receiver-general of the colony's fecurity for paying the value of the powder, thould be accepted as a restitution, and that upon the inhabitants engaging for the future to guard both treasury and magazine, the insurgents should return to their habitations,

The Govesnor began now to perceive that the affair was now serious, and that the people were in earneft; he thought himself and his family in danger, and provided for safety aboard the Fowey man of war in James's river, while his Lordship, with the affistance of a detachment of marines, converted his palace into a little garrison, fortified it in the best manner he was able, and furrounded it with artillery.' A proclamation was then issued by the Governor and his council, in which Henry and his followers were charged with rebellious practices, in extorting the value of the powder from the Receiver-general, and the present commotions were attributed to disaffection in the people and a desire of changing the esta blished form of government, serving only to afford more room for altercation, and to encrease the heat and discontent. Several county meetings were held, the conduct of Henry vindicated and applauded, and B

resolutions

[ocr errors]

resolutions passed that at the risque of every thing dear, he and his followers should be indemnified from all suffering, loss and injury,.upon that account. The charge of disaffection was peremptorily denied, and those of changing the form of government, and caufing the present troubles, retorted. They infilted that they wanted nothing but to preserve their ancient constitution, and only opposed innovations, and that all the disturbances sprung from the Governor's late conduct.

As there are times when all circumstances seem to conspire towards the nourishment and increase of political, as well as natural disorders, so it appeared now in Virginia, every thing tended to one common centre of difrust, jealousy, and discontent. The

copy

of some letters from the Governor to the minister af the American department were by some means pro. cured and published ; severe censures passed upon them, as containing not only unfavourable, but unfair and unjust representations, as well as of facts, as of the temper and disposition of the colony. Thus one distrust bcgot another, until all confidence being totally lost on both sides, every false report that was circulated was believed on either, and served up for a time to keep up the public ferer.

In this state of commotion and disorder, upon the arrival of dispatches from England, the General Afsembly was suddenly and unexpectedly convened by the Governor, June ist. The grand motive for this measure was to procure their approbation and acceptance of the terms included in Lord North's conciliatory motion, and the parliamentary resolutions founded thereon, His Lordship accordingly in his speech used his utmost address to carry his point: he

stated

a.

stated the favourable disposition of parliament as well as of government towards the colonies, the modera. tion, tenderness, and equity which induced the present advances towards a happy reconciliation. He dwelt upon the jufice of their contributing to the common defence, and bearing an equitable proportion of the public burdens; and observed, that as no specific sum was demanded, they had an opportunity of giving free scope to their justice and liberality, and whatever they gave would be a free gift, in the fullest sense of the terms; that they would thus shew their reverence to parliament, and inanifest their duty and attachment to the sovereign, and the kindness with which it would be taken, that they met on their fide the favourable dispofition shewn on the other tom wards bringing the presenț unhappy disputes to a period. He also tooks pains to convince them from the resolutions and proceedings of parliament, that a full redress of grievances would be the immediate consequence of their compliance. This speech, though flattering and plausible, was considered only as words of course, intended to answer the purpose of the government, without any intention of redressing any of those grievances which were complained of. It was not fully credited, that provided the assembly would grant the fupplies which were wanted, that any more notice would be taken of the heavy grievances they were groaning under.

The first act of the assembly was the appointment of a committee to enquire into the cause of the late disturbances, and particularly to examine the state of ! the magazine, that neceffary measures might be taken for fupplying the want of what had been taken away. Tho' the magazine was the property of the colony,

it was in the custody of the Governor, who appointed a keeper, so that an application to him was necessary for admittance. While fome dispute arose concerning this subject, and before the order for admittance was obtained, some people in the town and neighbourhood broke into the magazine, and carried off fome of the arms. Several members of the House of Burgesses used their personal interest and application in getting as many of them returned back as they could. It appeared by the report of the committee, that they found most of the remainder of the powder buried in the magazine yard, where it had been deposited by the Governor's orders, and suffered confiderable damage from the rains; the depriving the muskets of their locks was likewife discovered, as well as the nakedness of the magazine in all respects. Among other things which tended to provoke the people, was the planting of spring guns in the magazine, without giving any public notice of this mode of fecurity, and some effect they had taken at the time of the late depradations. Whilst the Governor's speech, with the propositions which it recommended, were yer under the consideration of the assembly, and before the address was determined, conscience, which makes cowards of all guilty perfons, had made his Lordship, for fear of consequences, retire with his Lady on board the Fowey man of war, which then lay near York-Town, on the river of the same name. It is highly probable that his Lordfhip had been informed of the rage of the people upon the discovery of the spring guns, and being conscious of some guilt in that matter, thought fit to withdraw to a place of more security and safety. · He left a message behind him for the House of Burgesses, informing them, that he

thought

thought it prudent to retire to a place of safety, as, he was fully persuaded that both himself and his family were in constant danger of falling facrifices to the blind and unmeasurable fury of the people, but that fo far from interupting their fitting, he hoped they would successfully acquit themselves in the great

bufiness before them, that he would render the communi. cation between him and the house as cafy and as safe as possible; and that he thought it would be more agreeable to them to send some of their members to him as occasion should require, than to have the trouble of removing their whole body to a nearer place. He assured them that he would attend as usual to the duties of his office, and of his good i disposition to restore that harmony which had been so unhappily interrupted. Such meanness and imbecility in the Governor tended much to weaken the caufe of government in the province; for it argued both a fufzicion of guilt, and a distrusting the people, which was not the method to reconcile their minds to any plan the government should propofe.

When the message was prodaced, the Council and Burgesses sent an address to his Lordship, declaring their unbelief that any person in the province could meditate so horrid and atrocious a crime as his Lord. ship apprehended, lamenting that he had not acquaint-ed them with the grounds of his uneasiness before he had adopted that measure, as they would have used all poflible means to have removed every cause of difquietude: they feared that his removal from the feat of government would be a means of increasin; the uneasiness which unhappily prevailed among the people; and they declared that they would chearfully concur in any measure that he should propose for the

security

« PreviousContinue »