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The Governor considered it as an affront 10 his powe er 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 mistrufted 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 dire&ted by certain laws which set bounds to it; whereas he measured his ideas of loyalty by the power of his Ma. jesty, and the emoluments that attended it. Respect to the Sovereign must always keep pace with the laws of the land, otherwise it degenerates into fervile adulation, and issues in actual slavery. Almost every viceroy lays claim to dignity and dominion equal to the Sovereign himself, and is more disgusted at oppo. ftion to his power and interest than at opposition to his Mafter's authority. An hungry nobleman, educated in all the high notions of his own consequence, without patrimony to support his dignity, is of all men whatever the most unfit for a substitute of royalty; his vanity would grasp an empire, and his pride would devour the habitable world. When once he is exalted to preferment, where emoluments are like. ly to be had to increase his power, he toon turns oppreffor to advance a step higher. The ranks of men beneath him are only considered as fo 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 expresling their resolutions, and the readiest in thewing their determi
nations to support, at all risques and events, what they judged or termed the rights of America. In other re. fpects they preserved the greatest order, quietness, and tranquility in the province; and notwithstanding the anxiety excited by the prorogation and diffolution of their assemblies, and the expiration of their militia laws in consequence thereof, which in that country where a great part of the people. are in a state of flavery, was a circumstance of an alarming nature, yet with these causes of complaint the people seemed 10 pay a more than ordinary degree of attention and
perfonat regard to the Earl of Dunmore, their Gover. por. In this state of affairs, however the want of a legal assembly seemed to give some farction 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 defects in that law in some measure, to remedy which it was pretend. ed all the subsequent ones had been paffed, they recommended to each county to raise a company of volunteers for the better defence and protection of the province.
This proceeding greatly alarmed the Governcr ;. 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 neglected his duty, or that they intended no longer to trust the defence of the province in his hands. Such daring proceedings would have probably roufed a man less susceptible of an affront than Lord Dunmore, and have produced some enquiry into the cause thereof. His Lordshir, instead of making a particular enquiry into
the cause of this resolution, which he apprehended he perfe&tly understood, proceeded immediately to prevent the effects, which he forefaw 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 Ġo. vernor 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 diftance in James's river, with a detachment of marines, to convey the powder by night aboard the ship..Tho' this measure was conducted with great privacy, it was by some means discovered the next morning, when the apparenţ secresy and seeming mysteriousness of the act, increased the consternation and alarm, among the inhabitants, who immediately affembled with arms, such as they had in their poffeffion, 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 Go-.. vernor, stating the injury, reclaiming the powder as a matter of right, and shewing the dangers to which they were peculiarly liable from the insurrection of the flaves, 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 insurrection in a neighbouring county, and did not think it fecure in the magazine, le
had removed it to a place of perfect 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 ;-and further, observed, that he did not think it prudent to put powder into their hands in such a situation. Whether this answer fatisfied
the magistrates or not does not appear very evident, þut 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 assembly 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 withoịt 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 protect 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 19 fifteen half barrels, containing fifty pounds cach,
of a very ordinary fort, and the remaining stock left in the magazine, to about fix of the same sort. Nei ther does it appear that the number of serviceable muskers was sufficient to answer any essential purpose, or even to justify apprehension, and the caution of tripping these of their locks only marked their fufpi. çion from whence it proceeded. A considerable quantity of old arms and common trading guns were not touched. Upon the whole, this act derived its only inportance from time, manner, and circumstance. A jealousy liad arisen between the Governor and the colonists, from a čause exceedingly obvious, and nei. rher the conduct of the one'nor the hther was directed by candour and disintereste dness. The Governor seems to have been exceedingly irritated at the behaviour of the people in these coinmotions, and probably resented it too highly (confidering the times) af tembling in arms, not only without, but with an evis 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 threarening of setting up the royal standard, of enfranchising the megroes, arming theni against their masters, and destroying the city, with other expressions of a similar nature and tendency, ipread a general alarm' throughout the colony, and excised a sort of abhorrence of government, and an incurable suspicion of its deligns. --Several public ineetings were now held in different counties, in all which the measures of seizing and removing the pow. der, as well as the governor's threatenings were reprobared in the strongest terms. Some of the gentlemen of Hanover, and others of the neighbouring counties, were not satisfied with simple declarations.