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of that bo
CHAP. III. at large, from all suspicion of aggression or of I 1775. provoking a continuance of the war by transeingescending the limits of self defence. Indubitable
evidence was asserted to have been received, of a design formed by the British ministry for a cruel invasion of the colonies from the pro. vince of Canada, for the purpose of destroying their lives, and liberties, and it was averred that some steps had actually been taken to carry this design into execution. To a justifiable desire of securing themselves against so heavy a calamity, was attributed the seizure of that post by the neighbouring inhabitants, and it was recommended to the committees of New York and Albany, immediately to take measures for the removal of the cannon and military stores from Ticonderoga to some place on the south end of lake George, there to be preserved in safety. An exact inventory of the stores thus removed, was directed to be taken, “ in order that they might be safely returned, when the restoration of the former harmony between Great Britain and the colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, should render it prudent and consistent with the over-ruling law of self-preservation.”
Measures, however, were afterwards adopted to maintain the posts which had been taken ; but probably from an apprehension, that their having thus seized the keys of Canada, might alarm the people of that province, and have
some tendency to impress them with sentiments CHAP. IIL of hostility towards the united colonies, a 1775. resolution was soon afterwards entered into, June declaring, that as congress had nothing more in view than the defence of the colonies, “no expedition or incursion ought to be undertaken or made by any colony, or body of colonists against or into Canada.”
This resolution was translated into the French language, and transmitted to the people of that province, accompanied by a letter, * in which all their feelings, and among others, the known attachment of the Canadians to France, were very dexterously assailed; and the effort was very earnestly made to kindle in their bosoms that enthusiastic love of liberty, which was too strongly felt by the authors of the letter to permit the belief that it could be any where inoperative.
The middle and southern colonies, though not so forward as the northern, were every where preparing for hostilities, and the established government was in all of them laid aside.
In Virginia lord Dunmore, the governor, had just returned to Williamsburg from an expedi- Transactions tion against the Indians, in which his arms had been crowned with success, and he had thereby acquired a considerable degree of popularity. Presuming, perhaps too much, on the public
* See Note, No. XIV, at the end of the volume.
CHAP. III. favour of the moment, and dissatisfied with some 1775. recommendations concerning the militia and
independent companies, made by the colonial convention which had assembled in Richmond principally for the purpose of electing delegates to congress ; he employed the captain of an armed vessel, then lying in James river, a few miles from Williamsburg, to convey by night on board his ship, with a detachment of his marines, a part of the powder in the magazine belonging to the colony.
This measure, though conducted with great secrecy, was by some means discovered; and the people of the town assembled next morning in arms, for the purpose of demanding restitution of the property which had been taken. The magistrates prevailed on them to disperse without the commission of violence, and presented an address to the Governor, remonstrat. ing against the removal of the powder, which they alleged to be the more injurious, because it was necessary for their defence, in the event of an insurrection among their slaves.
The governor acknowledged that the powder had been removed by his orders to a place of perfect security, because he did not think it safe in the magazine, but he gave the most explicit assurances, that he would restore it, if an insurrection of the slaves should render such a measure necessary.
Unsatisfactory as was this answer, no further CHAP. III. means were used in Williamsburg for the 1775. recovery of the property which had been carried off; but from this time, nightly patroles were kept for the future protection of the magazine.
This subject was not permitted to pass off quietly by the inhabitants of the interior country. Meetings were held in several counties, and the conduct of the governor greatly condemned. In Hanover and king William, the independent companies, at the instance of mr. Patrick Henry, * a member of congress, assembled and set out for Williamsburg with the avowed design of compelling a restitution of the powder, or of obtaining the value thereof. They were, however, stopped on the way by the active interposition of a mr. Braxton, who obtained from the king's receiver-general, a bill for the value of the property which had been removed, with which he returned to the companies, and prevailed on them to relinquish a further prosecution of their enterprise. † ;
* The same gentleman who had introduced into the assembly of Virginia the original resolutions against the stamp act.
+ The independent companies in the upper part of the northern neck also assembled to the number of about six hundred men, and proceeded on horseback as far as Fredericksburg, where a council was held in which Richard Henry Lee, then on his way to congress, presided, and which advised their return to their respective homes. VOL. II.
CHAP. III. The alarm occasioned by this movement 1775. induced lady Dunmore with the governor's
family to retire on board the Fowey man of war in James river, whilst his lordship fortified his palace, in which he placed a detachment of marines as a garrison. From thence he pub. lished a proclamation, in which he charged those, who had procured the bill from the receiver-general, with rebellious practices. The country, however, took part against him, and his own conduct was generally censured, while that of mr. Henry was very highly ap. plauded. This state of agitation was increased by some letters, written by lord Dunmore to the secretary of state, containing sentiments thought hostile to America. These letters were made public about this time and were very severely censured.
While the public mind was considerably irri. tated by these causes, lord North's conciliatory proposition was received, and an assembly was suddenly called, to whose consideration it was submitted. The governor used all his address to produce, in the assembly, a disposition favourable to the acceptance of this proposition, but it was rejected here as in the other colonies, because it obviously involved a surrender of 'the whole subject in contest. *
* In the address of the house of burgesses to the governor in answer to his speech at opening the session, they