The Revolutionary History of Virginia

Edmund Randolph

[1809 / Introduction]

The Richmond Enquirer for 26 December 1809 contained an editorial notice of a proposed "new history of Virginia" written by a native of that state who was himself "personally conversant with most of the public transactions which he relates, from the beginning of the American Revolution to the close of the History." The name of the author was not revealed, but according to "The Plan of the Work" as outlined by him the narrative began as far back as 1578 when "the charter of discovery was granted to Sir Humphrey Gilbert by Queen Elizabeth" and embraced the whole history of Virginia until about the beginning of the nineteenth century after the adoption of the Constitution upon Virginia and her general history from the time of its operation in the year 1789."

This is undoubtedly "the manuscript history of Virginia written by Edmund Randolph" alluded to by Dr. Hugh Blair Grigsby who states that it "was destroyed by fire in New Orleans some years ago." Fortunately, however, as Dr. R. A. Brock tells us (Va. Histor. Collections, new series, X, 208), a copy of this valuable manuscript, doubtless the original copy, has been preserved in the archives of the Virginia Historical Society.

Edmund Randolph (1753-1813) was the son of John Randolph (1727-1784) and the nephew of Peyton Randolph (1721-1775). On the eve of the Revolutionary War John Randolph, who was king's attorney in the colony of Virginia, considered that he was bound by his oath to his sovereign and retired to England; thereby leaving strained relations between father and son. At that time (1775) Edmund Randolph who had just reached the age of manhood was an aide-de-camp to General Washington. A member of the Virginia Convention of 1776, the first attorney general of the new commonwealth (1776-1786), governor of the state (1787-1788), the first attorney general of the United States (1789), and secretary of state in Washington's cabinet (1794), Edmund Randolph had an unrivalled opportunity of knowing about the eventful days in which he lived. It would seem that no historian of his own times could have had higher qualifications.

Edmund Randolph's manuscript History of Virginia, written now more than a century and a quarter ago, inspired no doubt by the stirring scenes he himself had witnessed, was a task to which he turned after his retirement from office near the end of his life. The second volume covering the revolutionary period from 1774 to 1782 is the part of the work that is likely to be of greatest value to posterity; ...

J. P. C. S.

We have seen that until the era of the stamp-act, almost every political sentiment, every fashion in Virginia appeared to be, imperfect, unless it bore a resemblance to some precedent in England. The spirit however, which she had caught from the charters, the English laws, the English constitution, English theories, at that time, had diminished her almost idolatrous deference to the mother country, and taught her to begin to think for herself.

It was no small elevation of character in Virginia, to have learnt to renounce the idea of parliamentary omnipotence: and from this stand assumed in the year 1765, she was driven into the contemplation of higher objects, by injuries, insults and contempt: which, whether real or supposed, were in the season of general equality, a powerful ferment, in bringing odium upon the British ministry.

But this first struggle against our ancient prepossessions although it was of some magnitude, demanded no sacrifice of feelings like that, which the present conjecture exacted. The remonstrances against the stamp act, breathed loyalty and prays for the continuance of the relation of subjects. In former disputes, harmony had been restored without difficulty; and to state rights with force, did not seem to verge in the smallest degree towards an opposition, beyond that of mere words. Now indeed, in the opening of the year 1774, a deeper tone broke forth. The public mind had been familiarized to an appeal to arms at first, as only a possible event, which was sincerely deprecated, and afterwards, as a probable one, which might be imposed by necessity. It had daily received fresh excitement from brooding over the causes of discontent and with avidity converted into matter of inflamation truths, as well as exaggerated rumours.

This new state of things may perhaps be said to have originated more peculiarly with the people than almost any other of which history affords an example, and which was not kindled by palpable oppression. It was cherished it was true by some of the most distinguished citizens; was opposed by no check from executive influence; and as far as religion was enlisted into the service, was fostered by most of its ministerial professors. But that it should have been indulged to the extent of a revolution, not to reject even force from the catalogue of the means of redress, will evince to those, who shall understand our resources the existence of a public sentiment pervading the colony, which was neither the offspring of transient caprice, nor to be alarmed by strict calculations of danger: a principle, too, which upheld order, notwithstanding the relaxation of long established authority, emanating from the crown and which confined the temper growing out of public dissensions, within limits of moderation, in the intercourse between man and man.

The pride of Virginia had so long been a topic of discourse in the other colonies, that it has almost grown into a proverb. Being the earliest among the British settlements in North America; having been soon withdrawn from the humility of proprietary dependence to the dignity of a government immediately under the crown; advancing rapidly into wealth from her extensive territory, and the luxuriant production of her staple commodities; having the sons of the most opulent families, trained by education and habits acquired in England, and hence perhaps arrogating some superiority over the provinces, not so distinguished, she was charged with manifesting a consciousness that she had more nearly approached the British model, [illegible] of excellence; and what was claimed as an attribute of character in a government, readily diffused itself among the individuals who were members of it. Hence it happened, that the few offices to which the king or his vicegerent could nominate, conferred a lustre upon their incumbents, and their connections, and placed them in the attitude of expecting from the rest of the community an attention which is the proper tribute of public merit. But as soon as the favor of the British court generates a suspicion, inconsistent with the purity of Virginian patriotism; and more particularly when it was foreseen, that if battles were to be fought, they were to be fought by men, who had no other stake or hope than their own country, the old standard of distinction was abolished and a new one substituted on the single foundation of fitness for the rising exigency. Although therefore many of those, whom I shall portray as they presented themselves to the public eye at the present period, either for the purpose of immediate utility or as affording prognostics of future splendor, (The vanity of pedigree was now justly sunk in the positive force of character.) were from their fortune, birth and station, high on the scale of the aristocracy of the day; they were stripped of every consideration and attachment, which virtues, talents and patriotism did not beget. It is not expected that the reader will avoid comparisons between these men, and the heroes and sages of the old world, whose situation in life can be deemed in the least degree similar, nor can it be certainly affirmed, that the correctness and fullness of European annals may not shed on the latter an effulgence of which the American patriots are deprived by the loss of the opportunities of discriminating and recording their separate eloquence and counsel. But it will not be deemed rash, to enter into any such comparison, assuming which for its basis this principle, that at this season which tried men's souls (to use the phrase of a celebrated popular writer,) Virginia produced public agents suitable to every crisis and service.

No. 7 (a) To Patrick Henry the first place is due, as being the first who broke the key stone of that aristocracy. Little and feeble as it was, and incapable of daring to assert any privilege, clashing with the rights of the people at large, it was no small exertion in him to surprise them with the fact that a new path was opened to the temple of honor, besides that which led through the favor of the king. He was respectable in his parentage, but the patrimony of his ancestors and of himself was too scanty to feed ostentation or luxury. From education he derived those manners which belong to the real Virginian planter, and which were his ornament, in no less disdaining our abridgment of personal independence, than in observing every decorum, interwoven with the comfort of society. With his years the unbought means of popularity increased. Identified with the people, they clothed him with the confidence of a favorite son. Until his resolutions on the stamp act, he had been unknown, except to those with whom he had associated in the hardy sports of the field, and the avowed neglect of literature. Still he did not escape notice, as occasionally retiring within himself in silent reflection, and sometimes discanting with peculiar emphasis on the martyrs in the cause of liberty. This enthusiasm was nourished by his partiality for the dissenters from the established church. He often listened to them, while they were waging their steady and finally effectual war against the burthens of that church, and from a repetition of his sympathy with the history of their sufferings, he unlocks the human heart and transferred into civic discussions many of the bold licences, which prevailed in their religions. If he was not a constant hearer and admirer of that stupendous master of the human passions George Whitfield, he was a follower a devotee of some of his most powerful disciples at least.

All these advantages he employed by a demeanor inoffensive, conciliating, and abounding in good humour. For a short time he practised the law in an humble sphere, too humble for the real height of his powers. He then took a seat at the bar of the general court, the supreme tribunal of Virginia, among a constellation of eminent lawyers and scholars, and was in great request even on questions for which he had not been prepared by much previous erudition. Upon the theatre of legislation, he entered regardless of that criticism, which was profusely bestowed on his language, pronunciation and gesture. Nor was he absolutely exempt from an irregularity in his language, a certain homespun pronunciation, and a degree of awkwardness in the cold commencement of his gesture. But the corresponding looks and emotions of those whom he addressed, speedily announced, that language may be some times peculiar and even quaint, while it is at the same time expressive and appropriate; that a pronunciation which might disgust in a drawing room, may yet find access to the hearts of a popular assembly; and that a gesture at first too much the effect of indolence, may expand itself in the progress of delivery into forms, which would be above the rule and compass, but strictly within the prompting of nature. Compared with any of his more refined contemporaries, and rivals, he by his imagination which painted to the soul, eclipsed the sparklings of art, and knowing what chord of the heart would sound in unison with his immediate purpose, and with what strength or peculiarity it ought to be touched, he had scarcely ever languished in a minority at the time, up to which his character is now brought. Contrasted with the most renowned of British orators, the elder William Pitt, he was not inferior to him in the intrepidity of metaphor. Like him he possessed a vein of sportive ridicule, but without arrogance or dictatorial malignity. In Henry's exordium there was a simplicity and even carelessness, which to a stranger, who had never before heard him, promised little. A formal division of his intended discourse he never made: but even the first distance, which he took from his main ground, was not so remote as to obscure it, or to require any distortion of his course to reach it. With an eye, which possessed neither positive beauty, nor acuteness, and which he fixed upon the moderator of the assembly addressed, without straying in quest of applause, he contrived to be the focus, to which every person present was directed, even at the moment of the apparent languor of his opening. He transferred into the breast of others the earnestness, depicted in his own features, which ever forbade a doubt of sincerity. In others rhetorical artifice, and unmeaning expletives have been often employed as scouts to seize the wandering attention of the audience: in him the absence of trick constituted the triumph of nature. His was the only monotony, which I ever heard reconcileable with true eloquence; its chief note was melodious, but the sameness was diversified by a mixture of sensations, which a dramatic versatility of action and of countenance produced. His pauses which for their length might sometimes be feared to dispel the attention rivetted it the more, by raising the expectation of renewed brilliancy. In pure reasoning, he encountered many successful competitors; in the wisdom of books many superiors; but although he might be inconclusive, he was never frivolous; and arguments, which at first seemed strange, were afterwards discovered to be select in their kind, because adapted to some peculiarity in his audience. His style of oratory was vehement, without transporting him beyond the power of self command or wounding his opponents by deliberate offense: after a debate had ceased, he was surrounded by them on the first occasion with pleasantry on some of its incidents. His figures of speech when borrowed, were often borrowed, from the scriptures. His prototypes of the others were the sublime scenes and objects of nature; and an occurrence at the instant he never failed to employ with all the energy, of which it was capable. His lightning consisted in quick successive flashes, which rested only to alarm the more. His ability as a writer cannot be insisted on; nor was he fond of a length of details; but for grand impressions, in the defence of liberty, the western world has not yet been able to exhibit a rival. His nature had probably denied to him, under any circumstances, the capacity of becoming Pitt, while Pitt himself would have been but a defective instrument in a revolution the essence of which was deep and pervading in popular sentiment.

In this embryo state of the revolution, deep research into the ancient treasures of political learning, might well be dispensed with. It was enough to feel; to remember some general maxims, coeval with the colony, and inculcated frequently afterwards. With principles like these, Mr. Henry need not dread to encounter the usurpation, threatened by parliament; for although even his powerful eloquence could not create public sentiment, he could apply the torch of opposition so as fortunately to perceive, that in every vicissitude of event, he concurred with his country.

No.8. As yet Thomas Jefferson had not attained a marked grade in politics. Until about the age of twenty-five years he had pursued general science, with which he mingled the law, as a profession, with an eager industry, and unabated thirst. His manners could never be harsh, but they were reserved towards the world at large. To his intimate friends he shewed a peculiar sweetness of temper, and by them, was admired and beloved. In mathematics and experimental philosophy, he was a proficient, assiduously taught by Doctor Small of William and Mary college, whose name was not concealed among the literati of Europe. He panted after the fine arts, and discovered a taste in them, not easily satisfied with such scanty means, as existed in a colony, whose chief ambition looked to the general system of education in England, as the ultimate point of excellence. But it constituted a part of Mr. Jefferson's pride to run before the times in which he lived. Prudent himself he did not waste his resources in gratifications, to which they were incompetent; but being an admirer of elegance and convenience, and venerated by his contemporaries, who were within the scope of his example, he diffused a style of living much more refined than that, which had been handed down to them by his and their ancestors. He had been ambitious to collect a library, not merely amassing number of books, but distinguishing authors of merit, and assembling them in subordination to every art and science; and notwithstanding losses by fire, this library was at this time more happily calculated, than any other private one, to direct to objects of utility and taste, to present to genius the scaffolding, upon which its future eminence might be built, and to approve the restless appetite which is too apt to seize the mere gatherer of books.

The theories of human rights, he had drawn from Locke, Harrington, Sidney, the English history, and Montesquieu; he had maturely investigated, in all their aspects, and was versed in the republican doctrines and effusions, which conducted the first Charles to the scaffold. With this fund of knowledge, he was ripe for stronger measures, than the public voice was conceived to demand. But he had not gained a sufficient ascendency to quicken or retard the progress of the popular current. Indefatigable and methodical in whatever he undertook he spoke with ease, perspicuity and elegance. His style in writing was more impassioned; and although often incorrect, was too glowing, not to be acquitted as venial, departures from rigid rules. Without being an overwhelming orator, he was an impressive speaker, who fixed the attention. On two signal arguments before the general court in which Mr. Henry and himself were coadjutors, each characterized himself. Mr. Jefferson drew copiously from the depths of the law, Mr. Henry from the recesses of the human heart.

When Mr. Jefferson first attracted notice, Christianity was directly denied in Virginia only by a few. He was an adept however in the ensnaring subtleties of deism; and gave it, among the rising generation, a philosophical patronage; which repudiates as falsehoods things unsusceptible of strict demonstration. It is believed, that while such tenets as are in contempt of the gospel, inevitably terminate in espousing the fullest latitude in religious freedom, Mr. Jefferson's love of liberty, would itself have produced the same effects. But his opinions against restraints on conscience ingratiated him with the enemies of the establishment, who did not stop to inquire, how far those opinions might border on scepticism or infidelity. Parties in religion and politics rarely scan with nicety the peculiar private opinions of their adherents.

When he entered upon the practice of the law, he chose a residence, and travelled to a distance, which enabled him to display his great literary endowments, and to establish advantageous connections among those classes of men who were daily rising in weight.

No. 9. In official rank and ostensible importance, Peyton Randolph stood foremost in the band of patriots. He held a post of the highest popular celebrity under the royal dominion, being speaker of the house of burgesses. But his diffidence prevented him from affecting any personal preeminence over those, who were hailed for their bustling activity. He enjoyed without intrigue that portion of general esteem, to which he thought himself entitled (and more he did not wish). What he did enjoy was permanent. He had in early life, been chosen into that branch of the legislature for the college of William and Mary, and was afterwards the constant member for the city of Williamsburg, the place of his nativity: although a servant of the crown, as attorney general, he was so firmly planted in the affections of his countrymen, that the general assembly deputed him to defend them before the king in council, against the arbitrary exaction of a pistole, as a fee for every patent for land granted by Governor Dinwiddie. We have seen, with what manly fidelity he executed the mission; with what asperity he was treated by that governor, how his office under the crown, was wrested from him, and reluctantly restored, under the impulse of public feelings.

When France was circumvesting our western frontier, he in the crudeness of military skill, engaged a company of men of opulence and ease, in a warlike expedition, patriotic in its cause, and useful in its example, but ineffectual in its result. On the great American question he halted not for a moment; although it was intimated to him, that the governor would exercise his prerogative, in refusing to receive him as speaker, when he should be presented to him according to ancient usage; at this time a rejection of this sort, might have been a painful diminution of his annual income. Every measure, deemed conducive to American success he advocated with zeal. His uniformity added force to the soundness of his character; and the amiableness of his demeanor with the steadiness of his friendship, recommended the suggestions of his judgment however little illuminated by eloquence.

In the quarter of Virginia included in the proprietorship of the northern neck, Richard Henry Lee had gained the palm of a species of oratory, rare among a people, backward in refinement. He had attuned his voice with so much care, that one unmusical cadence could scarcely be pardoned by his ear. He was reported to have formed before a mirror his gesture, which was not unsuitable even to a court. His speech was diffusive, without the hackneyed formulas; and he charmed wheresoever he opened his lips. In political reading he was conversant, and on the popular topics, dispersed through the debates of parliament his recollection was rapid and correct: Malice had hastily involved him in censure for a supposed inconsistency of conduct upon the stamp-act; but the vigor and perseverance of his patriotism extorted from his enemies a confession, that he deserved the general confidence, which was afterwards conceded to him.

No. 10. The then treasurer of Virginia was Robert Carter Nicholas, whose popularity, though less effulgent, gave light and heat to the American cause. He was bred in the bosom of piety, and his youthful reading, impressed upon his mind a predelection for the established church, though he selected the law as his profession. The propriety and purity of his life, were often quoted, to stimulate the old, and to invite the young to emulation; and in an avocation thickly beset with seductions, he knew them only as he repelled them with the quickness of instinct. In speaking of him, I should distrust the warping of personal affection, if all Virginia were not in some measure, my witness; and I should unwilling incur the supposition of a tacit insinuation against the bar in general, by laying so great stress on his virtue, were it not, that in the hour of temptation the best men find a refuge and succour in asking themselves how some individual spotless in morality and sincere in Christianity would act on a similar occasion. By nature he was of a complacent temper; in all his actions he was benevolent and liberal. But he appeared to many who did not thoroughly understand him, to be haughty and austere; because they could not appreciate the preference of gravity for levity, when in conversation the sacredness of religion was involved in ridicule or language forgot its chastity. When upon the death of Mr. John Robinson, who had been speaker of the house of burgesses and the treasurer of Virginia, it was intimated to Mr. Nicholas, that the governor was about to consign the care of the public money to a person not unexceptionable, merely because no successor better qualified could be procured; that magistrate was confounded by the unusual address, but wholesome lecture, which Mr. Nicholas delivered to him: "I am told sir, that the treasury is likely to be conferred on a man, in whose hands it would not be safe, and that the reason assigned for such an appointment is, that an adequate candidate is not within your knowledge. Of myself I shall say no more, than that if you deem me equal to the public expectation, I will abandon my profession, superior as it is in emolution." The dignity of truth and virtue subdued with awe the royal vicegerent. For many years the official accounts of Mr. Nicholas had been scrutinized without the detection or existence of the most minute deficiency.

He was slow in the adoption of expedients, howsoever dazzling with their novelty, or forced into an undue magnitude by the arts of enthusiasm. But he lingered not behind the most strenuous in proposing and pushing measures commensurate with the times.

No. 11. Edmund Pendleton held a high station, as counsel, refuting by his success every symptom of aristocratic depression even in the sons of a cottage, where virtue and talents concur. At the bar, his influence was justly great. In the legislature, he, for many years, had assisted with his habits of business every burgess, who was a stranger to parliamentary forms or unacquainted with debate. With a pen, which scattered no classical decorations, and with an education, which debarred him from thorough grammatical accuracy, he performed the most substantial service, by the perspicuity and comprehensiveness of his numerous resolutions, reports and laws. Labour was his delight, although vivacity and pleasantry were never suppressed in their due place. His amiableness bordered on familiarity without detracting from personal dignity. He lived at home with the unadulterated simplicity of a republican: from abroad he imported into his family no fondness for shew. He was not rich because from his own purse he had reared into respectability a body of collateral relations, without much regard to the admonitions of a narrow revenue.

If in his public conduct he was ever questionable, it was supposed to be in prescribing no bounds to his gratitude for his primary patron, Mr. Robinson, the former speaker and treasurer, whose death, as we have seen, discovered a chasm in the public coffers. It is true that Mr. Pendleton's exertions sheltered his memory from much obloquy, but it is no less true, that he was active and fortunate as one of his administrators in replacing the deficit.

Mr. Pendleton was master of the principles of opposition to the ministry, and his heart followed with warmth, what his head thus suggested.

No. 12. That George Washington has been postponed to this period of our patriotic catalogue is owing solely to the circumstance, that at the beginning of the year 1774, to which these sketches of character are as yet limited, some others were more prominent. It could not have been then truly foretold that ever those germs of his solid worth, which afterwards overspread our land with illustrious fruit, would elevate him very far above many of the friends of the revolution. But take him, as he even then was.

From various causes the biography of Virginia must be mutilated or confused in its earliest lives at least, until public records succeeded to oral tradition. The unlettered state of our society in general, at the beginning of the last century, the inaptitude of individuals for the observation of character; the feeble hold which is taken by the memory, of transactions not striking; the imperfect talent of combination and inductions; the dispersion of the inhabitants of a new country; and ignorance of the names of those who could testify; and the advanced age, at which any Virginian born as late as the year 1732, could probably deserve a large page even in colonial story; deprive us of those prognostics, which when referred to manhood almost create a rule for a kind of prophecy. Hence even Washington is a partial prey to the corrosion of time.

His youth had developed no flattering symptom of what the world calls genius; but he had been conspicuous for firmness, for a judgment which discriminated the materials gathered by others of a quicker and more fertile invention, and for a prudence which no frivolousness had ever chequered. He possessed a fund of qualities, which had no specific direction to any particular calling, but were instruments for any crisis.

By nature, by his attention to agriculture, in exposure of himself in the chase, and his occupation of a surveyor of land, he was remarkably robust and athletic. It had been the lot of Washington, at the age of nineteen years, as the sequel of his history when resumed will shew, to have been at the most vigorous era of his life, the only man, whose total fitness pointed him out for a mission, which first introduced him to public notice. When France had made some progress in the completeness of a scheme to surround the British colonies by a line of posts from the lakes to the river Ohio, the governor of Virginia had resolved to remonstrate against the encroachments, and to demand the removal of them. The very journey through a wilderness without a track opened by civilized man, and infested by Indians not friendly to the English, was truly formidable from its dangers and fatigues. But the grandeur of the enterprise animated Washington to commence it on the very day of receiving his commission and instructions. Among the lovers of ease, and those, who, in the lap of luxury regarded the territory, as doomed to a perpetual savage rudeness, Washington was mentioned as an adventurer, meritorious indeed, but below competition or envy. In the hands of Washington the expedition did not droop; in the hands of any other it would probably have perished. With what applause he fulfilled his errand of defiance is recorded by his country; and in the journal, which, on short notice, he composed, and the publication of which, his modesty induced him to desire to be withheld he evidenced a perspicuity and skill in composition, which diffused a reverence for his powers of varied utility. It was impossible to peruse it without emotions like these: the quickness of his movements, the patience with which he encountered the inclemencies of the weather; the military acuteness with which he surveyed the lands in the fork of the Monongahela and Ohio, where Pittsburg has been since erected, and compared that site with Loggs-loar; his accuracy in the computation of distances; his success in the acquirement of the intelligence to be procured; his management in obtaining secret interviews with the half king, and extracting from him all that he knew, his discernment in ascertaining when to yield, and when to resist importunities; his escape from French snares; his treasuring up the imprudent discoveries, made by the French officers; his conciliation of respect from those, who were hostile to his business; his observance of all attention towards even savage princes, whose favor might be beneficial to his country; and the anxiety which pervaded his whole journey, to do his duty in everything; all these traits when brought together, gave reason for the anticipation that no trial could exhaust such a fund of qualities; but that they would supply every call.

Being a member of the house of burgesses after his return from the Ohio, the speaker was charged to express to him the thanks of that body. That officer by the august solemnity of his manners would probably have embarrased most men, in their attempt to reply to the compliments with which he covered Mr. Washington; for while they soothed, they awed him. When the address from the chair was concluded he could not articulate without difficulty. This being perceived by Mr. Robinson, he did honor to himself, and relieved Mr. Washington, by crying out at the instant, "Sit down Mr. Washington. Your modesty is equal to your merit, in the description of which words must fall short." Of a regiment, raised for the defence of the frontiers, the command had been given to a Mr. Fry, and Mr. Washington had been appointed lieutenant colonel. Upon the death of Fry, Mr. Washington succeeded to the command, and was unfortunate at the Great Meadows; but it is remarkable, that in no adversity had his honor as a soldier or a man been ever stained.

He was himself a pattern of subordination; for when orders of the most preposterous and destructive nature were given to him; he remonstrated indeed, but began to execute them, as far as it was in his power.

A new arrangement of rank which humiliated the provincial officers of the highest grade to the command of the lowest commissioned officer of the crown, rendered his continuance in the regiment too harsh to be endured. He retired to Mount Vernon, which his brother by the paternal side, passing by his own full blood, had bequeathed to him. His economy, without which virtue itself is always in hazard, afforded nutriment to his character.

But he did not long indulge himself in the occupation of his farm. General Braddock, who had been sent by the Duke of Cumberland the commander in chief, to head the forces, employed against the Indians and French, invited him into his family as a volunteer aid-de-camp. The fate of that brave but rash general who had been taught a system, impliant to all reasoning, which could accommodate itself to local circumstances and exceptions, might have been averted, if Washington's advice had been received. As it was, he in his debilitated state could accomplish nothing more than by his valor and to lead from the field of slaughter into security the remains of the British army.

Washington now was no longer forbidden by any rule of honor to accept the command of a new regiment raised by Virginia. In his intercourse with Braddock, and his first and second military officers, he continued to add to the inferences from the whole of the former conduct, instances of vigilance, courage, comprehensiveness of purpose, and delicacy of feeling, and in the enthusiastic language of a presbyterian minister, he was announced, as a hero, born to be the future saviour of his country.

It was the custom of the King to enroll in the council of state in Virginia, men with fortunes, which classed them in the aristocracy of the colony. The proprietor of the Northern Neck, Lord Fairfax, had been importunate for the promotion of Colo. Washington to a seat at that board; and he would have been gratified long before, if four of his tenants and one of his own name, had not been already in the same corps. That this honor awaited him, Colo. Washington well knew, but the probability, that the event was not far distant could not abate his sympathy with his country's wrongs; and he promptly associated his name, with every patriotic stress and idea.

No. 13. Richard Bland, who was a general scholar, was noted, as an antiquary in colonial learning. He had enlightened the people, by a pamphlet overflowing with historical facts, which reinforced the opposition to the ministry. He attacked with boldness every assumption of power, and had combated a very ancient usage of the secretary of Virginia, to appoint the clerks of the county courts. This was an earnest of his sincerity in his present career.

No. 14. Another favorite of the day was Benjamin Harrison, with strong sense, and a temper not disposed to compromise with ministerial power, he scrupled not to utter any truth. During a long service in the house of burgesses, his frankness, though sometimes tinctured with bitterness was the source of considerable attachment.

No. 15. George Wythe is said to have been indebted to his mother, for the literary distinction which he attained. But it is more probable, that she was by chance capable of assisting him in the rudiments of the Latin tongue, and that he became a scholar by the indispensable progress of his own industry in his closet. Preceptors lay the corner stone; but the edifice can be finished only by the pupil himself, under the auspices of good taste. Mr. Wythe not only laboured through an apprenticeship, but almost through a life in the dead languages. In his pleadings at the bar, it was a foible to intersperse such frequent citations from the classics. But he argued ably and profoundly. The temptations of the law never raised a doubt on his purity; and though long habituated to the patronage and friendship of royal governors; in every conflict with them he adhered to his country. He acted upon the maxim, that genuine riches consisted in having few wants. A natural instability he held with a tight rein. On an alarm of hostility from the last British governor, he sallied forth with his hunting shirt and musket, at an age, when his patriotism would have sustained no shock, had he remained at home. But his character, rather than his actions rendered him a valuable resource to the infant revolution. Upon the death of Peyton Randolph he was called, as the most beloved citizen to represent the city of Williamsburg.

No. 16. John Blair was born of Scotch parents, educated in Great Britain, connected in Scotland by marriage, and chief adviser of his father, who as president of the royal council had been thrice temporary governor. He was himself the clerk of that council, under the gift of the governor during pleasure. If the habits of monarchy could have disqualified him for the part of a republican, he must have been alienated from the cause of democracy. But without parade he was steadfast and alert in it. He lived without suspicion in those precarious days, of having betrayed a syllable of what passed at the council board. On the other hand he vindicated the rights of man, not with declamations or in a visionary sense, but in one coinciding with practical happiness. His suavity of manners, which is often a veil for hyprocrisy, was with him an affusion of nature. He was an adept in classical learning, mathematics, divinity, various branches of natural philosophy, belles lettres and the law. A discerning foreigner once observed of him that his only fault was, that he was such pure gold, that a little alloy was necessary to the finishing of him, as a perfect practical man.

No. 17. Thomas L. Lee, who had been tutored for no department of public speaking, was by accident banished from the lists of the softer oratory. A friend of his was assailed in the house of burgesses, and he rose in his defence: but Lee's sensibility checked his utterance and extinguished his courage ever again to use on any other occasion there to be counted. But when the formality of a public body did not agitate him, he was a real orator. He enraptured with his grace every private society. In the subordinate committees he struck the point with a promptness, which excited a wonder how he could ever be destitute of confidence in himself. By fair reasoning out of the house, he satisfied political sceptics, and fortified the wavering.

Among the numbers who in their small circles, were propagating with activity the American doctrines, was George Mason in the shade of retirement. He extended their grasp upon the opinions and affections of those, with whom he conversed. How he learned his indifference for distinction, endowed as he was with ability to mount in any line; or whence he contracted his hatred for pomp, with a fortune, competent to any expense, and a disposition not averse from hospitality, can be solved, only from that philosophical spirit, which despised the adulterated means of cultivating happiness. He was behind none of the sons of Virginia, in knowledge of her history and interest. At a glance he saw to the bottom of every proposition, which affected her. His elocution was manly sometimes, but not wantonly sarcastic.

No. 18. About this time Charles Lee was greatly admired in Virginia. He was an officer in the British Army, having brought with him a reputation for literature and arms. His disgust with the British government, which had pretermitted him in promotion, had given birth to various productions from his pen, much to the annoyance of the ministry. When he came hither, this crime of neglect had not been expiated, and he arraigned the radical vices of the English Constitution, the exercise of its power, and the jeopardy of colonial liberty. Without any restraint from controversial replies, he satiated his revenge in a new and more fatal shape. With the rough exterior of a veteran soldier, he was domesticated in most of the principal families, whom wit and pith of remark could entertain. Eccentric and anomalous, he was agreeable every where. He well played the part of a republican, though born under a monarchy, and educated in an army. And without a particle of religion he simulated an attachment to it. It was believed however that from a sternness of principle, he would perform with fidelity, every requisition of duty, or promise in his profession; and that his rancour against the ministry was unextinguishable.

No. 19. It has been stated, that Mr. John Mercer was the first in Virginia who distinctly elucidated upon paper, the principles which justified the opposition to the stamp act. He shewed them in manuscript to his friends. They spread rapidly so as to produce a ground work for and uniformity of popular sentiment.

This selection of characters does not exhaust that store of faculties, which contributed their proportion to the impending scenes. From these it may be calculated, how deeply rooted in Virginia must have been the American cause. Of some others who lived to enforce and adorn the revolution, a sketch may be exhibited in a future page.

Many circumstances existed favorable to the propogating of a contagion of free opinion; although every class of men cannot be supposed to have been aided by extensive literary views

---1. The system of slavery howsoever baneful to virtue, begat a pride, which nourished a quick and acute sense of the rights of freemen

---2. Whether there was any peculiar facility in the mutual intercourse of the people, or a greater frequency of occasion for public numerous assemblies, the Virginians seem to catch the full spirit of the theories which at the fountain head, were known only to men of studious retirement

---3. The hospitality and even convivial circles, which were the natural offspring of the ease of living:---perhaps a certain fluency of speech, which marked the character of Virginians, pushed into motion many adventurous doctrines, which in a different situation of affairs, might have lain dormant much longer and might have been limited to a much narrowed sphere.

---4. Nor ought it to be forgotten, that even if the fancied division into something like ranks, not actually coalescing with each other, had been really formed, the opinions of every denomination or cast would have diffused themselves on every side by means of the professions of priest, lawyer and physician, who visited the houses of the ostentatious as well as the cottages of the planters

---5. The season too for courting the possessors of the right of suffrage often returned; and of course afforded opportunities, for unreserved interchange of ideas between candidates and electors, and among electors themselves.

---6. Obvious as it was that the dissenters, as they were called, would be animated with a zeal inferior to that of no partizan of general liberty, it was yet impracticable for the mother country or the colony to incorporate religion into the controversy, farther than as public fasting and prayer might always in the hands of the latter make an impression against power, branded with the charge of oppression; and as the Church of England might have been assured, that the established church as such, could not hope in a revolution for a better boon, than to retain the status quo of ancient privilege, if the church and the dissenters could have been brought to such an issue, that the establishment was in danger, the band of union might not have been totally free from fracture. But the two sects were contrasted by some striking circumstances. The Presbyterian clergy were indefatigable. Not depending upon the dead letter of written sermons, they understood the mechanism of haranguing, and had often been whetted in disputes on religious liberty so nearly allied to civil.

20. Those of the Church of England were planted on glebes, with comfortable houses, decent salaries, some perquisites, and a species of rank which was not wholly destitute of unction. To him, who acquitted himself of parochial functions, those comforts were secure, whether he ever converted a deist, or softened the pangs of a sinner. He never asked himself whether he was felt by his audience. To this charge of lukewarmness there were some shining exceptions, and there were even a few, who did not hesitate to confront the consequences of a revolution, which boded no stability to them. The dissenters on the other hand, were fed and clothed, only as they merited the gratitude of their congregations. A change or modification of the ancient regime carried no terrors to their imagination.

21. Notwithstanding these advantages of solid character and religious votaries on the side of the people, although in so favorable a soil the spirit of freedom was not obstructed by a weed, which their frown did not eradicate, and every thwarting movement of government heaped fresh odium on its head, the British partizans administered some cautions, which put to the test the principles then inflaming the colony. Her feelings were wounded by an insinuation that a revolution was coveted only by those, whose desperate fortunes might be disencumbered by an abolition of debts. But this was contradicted by a loyalty without being immoveable, and by the certainty of a general pecuniary ability which could not be [too obscure to be read] by a delay of collection for the risque of an untried order of things.

22. It was however clearly foreseen, that sooner or later the sword of America must be drawn, even to obtain a reconciliation, not destructive in its sacrifices; but it could not without difficulty be conceived, how subjects could repel their sovereigns in war, and yet restrict their triumphs to the literal restoration of their ancient relations.[] Deprived too of an intercourse with England, the chief market for her supplies and for the sale of her raw materials, and the sole nursery of her credit;---with a dearth of manufactures, occasioned by British prohibitions and regulations; relying on British bottoms for her navigation;---estranged from the thought of a compact with foreign nations, as a substitute for the inevitable stoppage of commerce with Great Britain---without military stores,---without discipline in the militia, to whom no war was known, except that waged with the savages in the woods, and even that confined to the western frontier;--without a man, who had inspired an absolute confidence in him, as a military leader upon a large or scientific scale;---with a conviction, that the merciless tomahawk would be uplifted against her;---and with the anticipation, that a more dangerous, because a domestic enemy might butcher their masters and their families, instigated by promises of emancipation;---Virginia, had she been languid or fluctuating, could not have been unmoved by the menaces of a government, than extolled as the most formidable in Europe. But from her nerve, which contemned consequences, she was ready to launch into an ocean unexplored, provided with no chart of actual experience, and resting upon general maxims of liberty. Her latest partiality for great Britain did not exaggerate as too grievous the price of liberty, nor spread a gloom, too thick to be dissipated by men, resolved to be free.

These obstacles being overcome, others from the patronage or personal weight of the chief executive magistrate, were insignificant.

23. It has been stated, that the governor at this time was John, Earl of Dunmore, a native and peer of Scotland, who once sat in the British house of Lords. Among the manifold errors of the British government in their policy towards Virginia, was that of not discerning that soon without a cessation or relaxation of their principles, a degree of complacency at least, might have effected much on the public mind, by the choice of such a governor, as Botetourt had been, in suavity and frankness of manner, in exemplary virtue, and a warm patronage of learning and religion. But Dunmore generally preferring the crooked path, possessed not the genius to conceive, nor temper to seek the plain and direct way, which nature opens to the human heart, through those cheap courtesies, which were in the power of the vicegerent, the fountain of honor to be bestowed. On his translation from the government of New York to that of Virginia, he was accompanied by Edward Foy, as his confidential inmate, counsellor and private secretary. This gentleman exacted for his civil talents the homage due to his military merit as a captain of artillery at the battle of Minden in Germany. The consequence was that the imperviousness of the army officers was added to the arrogace of a pedant and cynick.

The only two offices of value, to which Dunmore could permanently appoint were the clerkships of the council and of the house of burgesses. In the appointment to every other of moment, he was controulable by the advice of the council, or was the mere organ of recommendation to the pleasure of his royal master. For the clergy of the Church of England, he had no other allurement, than the employment of his interest with the bishop of London (to whose diocese Virginia belonged), for a single commissaryship with an annual salary of an hundred pounds sterling: a vacancy occurring not much oftener than once in the usual term of life, and generally conferred on some minister whose mind, activity and persuasiveness were small, while his affectation of dignity, was every thing.

Dunmore flattered himself that the devotion of the people to the mother country, would supply the defect of patronage; but he forgot that a high sense of personal independence was universal. A governor, who could withstand a popular current must possess more than ordinary qualifications. But of those which shed a beam of false lustre, and certainly of those of an exalted kind, Dunmore was wholly destitute. In stature he was low; and though muscular and healthful he bore on his head hoary symptoms of probably a greater age, than he had reached. To external accomplishment he pretended not; and his manners and sentiments did not surpass substantial barbarism; a barbarism, which was not palliated by a particle of native genius, nor regulated by one ingredient of religion. His propensities were coarse and depraved.

But it must be confessed, that probably no British Vicegerent, not Botetourt himself, had he been on earth, could have gained ten revolters from their country's cause.

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