The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in the autumn of 1774 and imposed an embargo on commerce with Great Britain. Peyton Randolph, who was Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, served as president of the Congress. Its members also agreed to meet again in the spring of 1775 if Parliament had not responded favorably to the addresses Congress sent to the people of Great Britain and to the king. The king and Parliament rejected Congress's appeals, and in March 1775 the second Virginia Revolutionary Convention met in what was later called Saint John's Church in Richmond to elect delegates to the Second Continental Congress. At that convention, Patrick Henry moved that the colony be put into a posture of defense and in support of his motion made the dramatic “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech.
The day after the convention adjourned, the royal governor, John Murray, fourth earl of Dunmore, under orders from the king, issued a proclamation forbidding the appointment of delegates to the Second Continental Congress, which was to meet in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775. The proclamation came too late. The Virginia convention had already elected delegates, and approximately one month later, before dawn on April 21, British marines from the HMS Magdalen, who were acting on orders from the governor, removed gunpowder from the magazine (or munitions storehouse) in Williamsburg. Militia companies converged on the capital, and the colony came close to an armed rebellion. On April 30, news of fighting between British soldiers and Massachusetts militiamen at Lexington and Concord reached Williamsburg. War was beginning to seem inevitable.
1. When and where was the Congress of colonies to be held?
2. Who was the man who issued this proclamation? What was his position in the colony?
1. Compare this proclamation with the document called "Dunmore's Proclamation." What do their similarities and differences tell us about the changes in colonial and royal sentiments toward one another?
Holton, Woody. Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Selby, John E. The Revolution in Virginia, 1775–1783. Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1988.