The provisional articles of a treaty of peace were signed at Paris, November 30, 1782, and in pursuance of a declaration of the continental congress, April 11, 1783, Governor Benjamin Harrison issued his proclamation for the cessation of hostilities within the State. He communicated his proclamation to the mayor of Williamsburg, and on May 1, 1783, American independence was duly celebrated in the city.
GOVERNOR BENJAMIN HARRISON TO THE MAYOR OF WILLIAMSBURG. RICHMOND, APRIL 23D, 1783.
SIR–It gives me pleasure to have it in my power to congratulate you on the important event of a general peace and American independence as announced in the inclosed proclamation of Congress, & I have to request that you will cause the said proclamation, together with the one issued by me for the strict observance of it, publicly read in your city. I am, sir, Your obedt Hble Servt, Benj. Harrison.
(On the inside of this letter is written in another hand the “Order of the Procession on the Great Day,” as below.)
ORDER OF THE PROCESSION ON THE GREAT DAY, THURSDAY, MAY 1ST.
1st Two attendants, in front, supporting two staffs, decorated with
Ribbons, &c., &c.
2nd The Herald mounted on a Gelding neatly Caparisoned.
3d Two Attendants, as at first.
4th Sargeant bearing the mace.
5th Mayor, Recorder, with Charter.
6th Clerk, Behind, carrying the Plan of the City.
7th Aldermen, two and two.
8th Common Council, in the same order.
9th The Citizens in the same order.
The Citizens to be convened on Thursday at 1 o’clock at the Court-House by a Bell man.
After the convention of the citizens they are to make proclamation at the C: House, after which the Bells at the Church, College & Capitol
are to ring in peal.
From the Ct House the Citizens are to proceed to the College, and make proclamation at that place, from whence they are to proceed to the Capitol and make proclamation there; and from thence Proceed to the Raleigh & pass the rest of the Day.
— William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 1. (July 1907)
When Oliver Cromwell was installed Protector of England, the Commonwealth of Virginia refused to acknowledge his authority. The English Commonwealth was then at the height of its power, and, at its head, one who was admirably described by Bossuet as “a man of an incredible depth of thought; as profound a hypocrite as he was a skillful politician; capable alike of concealing and undertaking everything; active and indefatigable equally in peace as war; so vigilant and active that he has never proved himself wanting to any opportunity which presented itself to his elevation; in fine, one of those stirring and audacious spirits which seem born to overturn the world.” Such was the Commonwealth and such the man, triumphant over all other enemies, against which this gallant Commonwealth, then numbering only twenty thousand inhabitants, unfurled the standard of defence.
The Commonwealth of England was disposed to submit to this resistance.–Virginia, from the first, had arrayed itself on the side of the King. During the whole preceding struggle of Charles and the Parliament, Virginia was firm in its adherence to the monarch, and enacted a declaration “that they were born under a monarchy, and would never degenerate from the condition of their birth by being subject to any other government.” After the beheading of Charles I., Virginia acknowledged the authority of his son, and actually continued the provincial government under a commission sent by him from his retreat at Breda to Sir William Berkeley. The wrath of Parliament was intensely roused by this bold and persistent contumacy; an ordinance was issued declaring the inhabitants of Virginia notorious robbers and traitors, and all intercourse prohibited with them, either by the people of England, the inhabitants of the other American settlements, or with foreign nations. Finally, a fleet was sent over to overpower the rebellious colony. But observe the difference between the great intellects that then ruled England and the Government of the United States. Cromwell extended the olive branch as well as the sword, and commissioners accompanied the fleet, who were empowered to try the effect of pacific and conciliatory measures. The result proved the wisdom of the policy.
“It marks,” says Bancroft, a Massachusetts historian, “the character of the Virginians, that they refused to surrender to force, but yielded by a voluntary deed and mutual compact. We copy the articles concluded between the commissioners of the Commonwealth, and the Council of State, and the Grand Assembly of Virginia, that our readers may contrast them with the terms of Lincoln’s so-called amnesty:
“First. That this should be considered a voluntary act, not forced or constrained by a conquest upon the country; and that the colonists should have and enjoy such freedoms and privileges as belong to the free-born people of England.
“Secondly. That the Grand Assembly, as formerly, should convene and transact the affairs of Virginia, doing nothing contrary to the Government of the Commonwealth or laws of England.
“Thirdly. That there should be a full and total remission of all acts, words, or writings against the Parliament.
“Fourthly. That Virginia should have her ancient bounds and limits, granted by the charters of the former kings, and that a new charter was to be sought from Parliament to that effect, against such as had trespassed upon their ancient rights. (This clause would seem to be aimed at some of the neighboring colonies.)
“Fifthly. That all patents of land under the seal of the colony, granted by the Governor, should remain in full force.
“Sixthly. That the privilege of fifty acres of land for every person emigrating to the colony should remain in full force.
“Sevenths. That the people of Virginia have free trade, as the people of England enjoy, with all places and nations, according to the laws of the Commonwealth; and that Virginia should enjoy equal privileges, in every respect, with any other colony in America.
“Eighths. That Virginia should be free from all taxes, customs and impositions whatever; and that none should be imposed upon them without the consent of their Grand Assembly; and no forts or castles be erected, or garrisons maintained, without their consent.
“Ninth. That no charge should be required from the country on account of the expense incurred by the present fleet.
“Tenths. That this agreement should be tendered to all persons, and that such as should refuse to subscribe to it should have a year’s time to remove themselves and effects from Virginia, and in the meantime enjoy equal justice.”
The remaining articles were of less importance. This was followed by a supplemental treaty, for the benefit of the Governor and Council, and such soldiers as had served against the Commonwealth in England—allowing them the most favorable terms.
We need not enumerate the unconditional-surrender terms proposed by Lincoln. Their contrast to the overtures by which Cromwell pacificated the colony is too striking to require comment.
The record of Virginia from the first, warrants the pride and devotion of persons. The correspondence between the rights secured under the articles with the Commonwealth Parliament, and the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, as violated by the British King, will suggest itself to every intelligent reader. That Old Dominion, with all its traditional love of monarchy; would not permit even its born king to trample upon its rights. If it did not lead the way in the American Revolution, it came up in due time; and, like a broad-shouldered and double-jointed giant, carried it through when others tottered and trembled under the burthen. “Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in, bear it that the opposer may beware of thee,” seems to have been always the maxim of this deliberate and plucky old Commonwealth. But for Virginia, and Virginia’s Washington, what would have become of the American Revolution?
It becomes not us to speak of her career in the present war. She arrogates to herself no superiority over her patriotic and heroic sister States. She has been reproached, indeed, for coming so late into the contest. It is true, that in this Revolution, as in that of ’76, she was not in a hurry. She exhausted every effort for peace, conciliation and compromise before she drew the sword. She seemed like her great orator, Patrick Henry, somewhat awkward and hesitating in her first utterances in the grand debate. But she waxes warm as she proceeds, and then the lightnings flash and the thunders roll over the heated sky. Whatever be the result of this struggle, no Virginian will have reason to be ashamed of his State. Let Lincoln, more despotic than Cromwell, deprive her of her liberties and expunge her name from the roll of States, he cannot despoil her of the Past, nor extinguish the lustre with which History will reflect the majestic luminary long after it has descended beneath the horizon.
— The Daily Dispatch: 25 January 1865; Richmond Dispatch.
Offered in a large mass meeting of the people of Botetourt county, December 10th, 1860, by the Hon. John J. Allen, President of the Supreme court of Virginia, and adopted with but two dissenting voices.
The people of Botetourt county, in general meeting assembled, believe it to be the duty of all the citizens of the Commonwealth, in the present alarming condition of our country, to give some expression of their opinion upon the threatening aspect of public affairs. They deem it unnecessary and out of place to avow sentiments of loyalty to the constitution and devotion to the union of these States. A brief reference to the part the State has acted in the past will furnish the best evidence of the feelings of her sons in regard to the union of the States and the constitution, which is the sole bond which binds them together.
In the controversies with the mother country, growing out of the efforts of the latter to tax the colonies without their consent, it was Virginia who, by the resolutions against the stamp act, gave the example of the first authoritative resistance by a legislative body to the British Government, and so imparted the first impulse to the Revolution.
Virginia declared her independence before any of the colonies, and gave the first written constitution to mankind.
By her instructions her representatives in the General Congress introduced a resolution to declare the colonies independent States, and the declaration itself was written by one of her sons.
She furnished to the Confederate States the father of his country, under whose guidance independence was achieved, and the rights and liberties of each State, it was hoped, perpetually established.
She stood undismayed through the long night of the Revolution, breasting the storm of war and pouring out the blood of her sons like water on almost every battle-field, from the ramparts of Quebec to the sands of Georgia.
By her own unaided efforts the northwestern territory was conquered, whereby the Mississippi, instead of the Ohio river, was recognized as the boundary of the United States by the treaty of peace.
To secure harmony, and as an evidence of her estimate of the value of the union of the States, she ceded to all for their common benefit this magnificent region — an empire in itself.
When the articles of confederation were shown to be inadequate to secure peace and tranquility at home and respect abroad, Virginia first moved to bring about a more perfect union.
At her instance the first assemblage of commissioners took place at Annapolis, which ultimately led to the meeting of the convention which formed the present constitution.
This instrument itself was in a great measure the production of one of her sons, who has been justly styled the father of the constitution.
The government created by it was put into operation with her Washington, the father of his country, at its head; her Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, in his cabinet; her Madison, the great advocate of the constitution, in the legislative hall.
Under the leading of Virginia statesmen the Revolution of 1798 was brought about, Louisiana was acquired, and the second war of independence was waged.
Throughout the whole progress of the republic she has never infringed on the rights of any State, or asked or received an exclusive benefit.
On the contrary, she has been the first to vindicate the equality of all the States, the smallest as well as the greatest.
But claiming no exclusive benefit for her efforts and sacrifices in the common cause, she had a right to look for feelings of fraternity and kindness for her citizens from the citizens of other States, and equality of rights for her citizens with all others; that those for whom she had done so much would abstain from actual aggressions upon her soil, or if they could not be prevented, would show themselves ready and prompt in punishing the aggressors; and that the common government, to the promotion of which she contributed so largely for the purpose of “establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility,” would not, whilst the forms of the constitution were observed, be so perverted in spirit as to inflict wrong and injustice and produce universal insecurity.
These reasonable expectations have been grievously disappointed.
The despot treads thy sacred lands,
Thy pines give shelter to his bands,
Thy sons stand by with idle hands,
He breathes at ease thy airs of balm,
He scorns the lances of thy palm;
Oh! who shall break thy craven calm,
Thy ancient fame is growing dim,
A spot is on thy garment’s rim;
Give to the winds thy battle-hymn,
Call on thy children of the hill,
Wake swamp and river, coast and rill,
Rouse all thy strength and all thy skill,
Cite wealth and science, trade and art,
Touch with thy fire the cautious mart,
And pour thee through the people’s heart,
Till even the coward spurns his fears,
And all thy fields, and fens, and meres,
Shall bristle like thy palm, with spears,
Hold up the glories of thy dead;
Say how thy elder children bled,
And point to Eutaw’s battle-bed,
Tell how the patriot’s soul was tried,
And what his dauntless breast defied;
How Rutledge ruled, and Laurens died,
Cry! till thy summons, heard at last,
Shall fall, like Marion’s bugle-blast,
Re-echoed from the haunted past,
I hear a murmur, as of waves
That grope their way through sunless caves,
Like bodies struggling in their graves,
And now it deepens; slow and grand
It swells, as rolling to the land
An ocean broke upon the strand,
Shout! let it reach the startled Huns!
And roar with all thy festal guns!
It is the answer of thy sons,
They will not wait to hear thee call;
From sachem’s head to Sumter’s wall
Resounds the voice of hut and hall,
No! thou hast not a stain, they say,
Or none save what the battle-day
Shall wash in seas of blood away,
Thy skirts, indeed, the foe may part,
Thy robe be pierced with sword and dart;
They shall not touch thy noble heart,
Ere thou shalt own the tyrant’s thrall,
Ten times ten thousand men must fall;
Thy corpse may hearken to his call,
When by thy bier, in mournful throngs,
The women chant thy mortal wrongs,
‘Twill be their own funereal songs,
From thy dead breast, by ruffians trod,
No helpless child shall look to God;
All shall be safe beneath thy sod,
Girt with such wills to do and bear,
Assured in right, and mailed in prayer,
Thou wilt not bow thee to despair,
Throw thy bold banner to the breeze!
Front with thy ranks the threatening seas,
Like thine own proud armorial trees,
Fling down thy gauntlet to the Huns,
And roar the challenge from thy guns;
Then leave the future to thy sons,
Whereas George Guelf king of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover, heretofore entrusted with the exercise of the kingly office in this government hath endeavored to pervert the same into a detestable and insupportable tyranny;
by putting his negative on laws the most wholesome & necessary for ye public good;
by denying to his governors permission to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operations for his assent, and, when so suspended, neglecting to attend to them for many years;
by refusing to pass certain other laws, unless the person to be benefited by them would relinquish the inestimable right of representation in the legislature
by dissolving legislative assemblies repeatedly and continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people;
when dissolved, by refusing to call others for a long space of time, thereby leaving the political system without any legislative head;
by endeavoring to prevent the population of our country, & for that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners & raising the condition [lacking appro]priations of lands;
[by keeping among u]s, in times of peace, standing armies and ships of war;
[lack]ing to render the military independent of & superior to the civil power;
by combining with others to subject us to a foreign jurisdiction, giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation.
for quartering large bodies of troops among us;
for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
for imposing taxes on us without our consent;
for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury;
for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences; and
for suspending our own legislatures & declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever;
by plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns and destroying the lives of our people;
by inciting insurrections of our fellow subjects with the allurements of forfeiture & confiscation;
by prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us; those very negroes whom he hath from time to time by an inhuman use of his negative he hath refused permission to exclude by law;
by endeavoring to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, & conditions of existence;
by transporting at this time a large army of foreign mercenaries [to complete] the works of death, desolation & tyranny already begun with circum[stances] of cruelty & perfidy so unworthy the head of a civilized nation;
by answering our repeated petitions for redress with a repetition of injuries;
and finally by abandoning the helm of government and declaring us out of his allegiance & protection;
by which several acts of misrule the said George Guelf has forfeited the kingly office and has rendered it necessary for the preservation of the people that he should be immediately deposed from the same, and divested of all its privileges, powers, & prerogatives:
And forasmuch as the public liberty may be more certainly secured by abolishing an office which all experience hath shewn to be inveterately inimical thereto or which and it will thereupon become further necessary to re-establish such ancient principles as are friendly to the rights of the people and to declare certain others which may co-operate with and fortify the same in future.
Be it therefore enacted by the authority of the people that the said, George Guelf be, and he hereby is deposed from the kingly office within this government and absolutely divested of all it’s [sic] rights, powers, and prerogatives: and that he and his descendants and all persons acting by or through him, and all other persons whatsoever shall be and forever remain incapable of the same: and that the said office shall henceforth cease and never more either in name or substance be re-established within this colony.
— Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Constitution for Virginia, June, 1776.
AN INTERESTING HISTORIC DOCUMENT SHOWS THAT NORFOLK (VA.) CITIZENS WERE AHEAD OFPHILADELPHIANS.
The coming Jamestown Exposition brings to light many historic facts long since forgotten. While loath to leave the British Empire, the patriots of Norfolk, Va., were the first to resent the aggression of the British Stamp Act, which led to the American Revolution. Under the name of “The Sons of Liberty” they assembled in Norfolk on March 13, and in bold and determined phrases announced their intention of resisting any further aggression on the part of the English Parliament. This was two months before the promulgation of the celebrated Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and nearly five before the thirteen colonies assembled in Philadelphia to forever cast off the authority of the British crown and start the country on a career of prosperity and splendor which will be celebrated at the Jamestown Exposition, to be held at Hampton Roads, near Norfolk, in 1907. Extracts:
Having taken into consideration the evident tendency of that oppressive and unconstitutional act of Parliament commonly called the Stamp Act, and being desirous that our sentiments should be known to posterity and recollecting that we are a part of the colony who first in General Assembly openly expressed their detestation to the said act, which is pregnant with ruin and productive of the most pernicious consequences, and unwilling to rivet shackles of slavery and oppression on ourselves and millions yet unborn, hereby resolve:
That we acknowledge our lord and sovereign, King George the Third, to be our rightful and lawful king; and that we will at all times, to the utmost of our power and ability, support and defend his most sacred person, crown, and dignity; and shall always be ready, when constitutionally called upon, to assist his Majesty with our lives and fortunes and to defend his just rights and prerogatives.
That we will by all lawful ways and means which Divine Providence has put into our hands defend ourselves in the full enjoyment of, and preserve inviolate to posterity, those inestimable privileges of all freeborn British subjects, of being taxed only by representatives of their own choosing, and of being tried by none but a jury of their peers; and that if we quietly submit to the execution of the said Stamp Act all our claims to civil liberty will be lost, and we will be deprived of the invaluable privileges aforementioned.
That a committee be appointed who shall in such manner as they think proper go upon necessary business and make public the above resolutions, and that they correspond as they shall see occasion with the Associated Sons of and Friends to Liberty in the other British Colonies of America.
As a result of the adoption of the resolutions Lord Dunmore, the British Colonial Governor, made a demonstration before Norfolk, and several shots were fired into the city from the frigate Liverpool. As a result of this and other outrages the Norfolk people were ready to throw off all authority and join with the other colonies when the Philadelphia Declaration of Independence was promulgated.
— Extracted from Confederate Veteran, vol. XIV, no. 8, August 1906.
His Excellency, the Governor, hath deſired the Preſident to communicate to this Houſehis anſwer to the joint Addreſs of the Council and the Houſe of Burgeſſes, preſented Yeſterday to his Excellency; and he preſented the ſaid Anſwer at the Bar.
And then the Meſſenger withdrew.
The Governor‘s Anſwer was read, and is as followeth, viz.
Gentlemen, of the Council, Mr Speaker, and Gentlemen of the Houſe of Burgeſſes.
In anſwer to your joint Addreſs, preſented by your deputies yeſterday, I acquaintyou, that it appears to me the commotions among the People, and their menaces and threats(an enumeration of which I forbear, out of tenderneſs) have been of ſuch public notoriety,that you muſt ſuppoſe many of his Majeſty’s ſubjects in this Colony, whether they meditated or not, have at leaſt manifeſted, ſuch an inveteracy as juſtiﬁes my ſuſpicion that theywould not heſitate to commit a Crime, which, horrid and atrocious as it is, I had juſt groundto apprehend. And when the diſpoſition which the Houſe of Burgeſſes have ſhown towardsme, the returns they have made to the reſpect and civility which I have been forward to offerto them, the countenance they have given to the violent and diſorderly proceedings of thePeople, his Majeſty’s magazine having been forced and riﬂed in the preſence of ſome ofthe members of the Houſe of Burgeſſes, and, by the information of the Committee of theHouſe appointed to inſpect the Magazine, no other endeavours have been uſed than to prevail on the People to return the Arms taken out, but not to commit the Perſons in whoſepoſſeſſion they were found, in order that they might be brought to the puniſhment due to ſoheinous an offence, no leſs againſt the peace and good order of the Country than the dignityand authority of the King; when a body of Men aſſembled in the City of Williamſburg,not only to the knowledge, but with the approbation of every body, for the avowed purpoſeof attacking a party of the Kings forces, which, without the leaſt foundation, it was reportedwere marching to my protection, and which, if true, ought to have been approved and aided,not oppoſed and inſulted, by all good and loyal Subjects; when eſpecially the Houſe ofBurgeſſes, or a committee of the Houſe (which is the ſame) has ventured upon a ſtep fraught with the moſt alarming conſequences, in ordering and appointing guards, without evenconſulting me, to mount in the city of Williamſburg, as is pretended, to protect the Magazine,but which may well be doubted, as there then remained nothing therein which requiredbeing guarded; but if otherwiſe, this ſtep nevertheleſs ſhews a deſign to uſurp the executivepower, which, if it be perſiſted in, ſubverts the conſtitution: I ſay, when theſe circumſtancesduly conſidered, I may ſubmit it to your own judgment whether I could reaſonablyexpect any good effect from communicating the ground of my uneaſineſs to you.
But as you are pleaſed, Gentlemen, now to aſſure me, that you will cheerfully concurin any meaſure that may be propoſed proper for the ſecurity of myſelf and family, I leaveto your own conſideration whether that can be effected any other wiſe than by reinſtatingme in the full powers of my office, as his Majeſty’s repreſentative, by opening the Courtsof Juſtice, and reſtoring the energy of the Laws, which is all the ſecurity requiſite for allparties; by diſarming all independent companies, or other bodies of Men raiſed and actingin deﬁance of lawful authority, and by obliging thoſe who have taken any of his Majeſty’spublic ſtore of Arms to deliver them up immediately; and, what is not leſs eſſential thanany thing by your own example, and every means in your power, aboliſhing that Spiritof perſecution, which, to the diſgrace of humanity, now reigns, and purſues with menacesand acts of oppreſſion, all perſons who differ from the multitude in political opinion, or areattached from principles and duty to the ſervice of their King and government; by whichmeans, the deluded People never hearing but the diſﬁgured ſide of a Story, their minds arecontinually kept in that ferment which ſubjects them forever to be impoſed upon, and leadsto the commiſſion of any deſperate Act, and endangers the general ſafety. For the moreſpeedy accompliſhment of theſe ends, and the great object and neceſſary buſineſs of theSeſſions, I ſhall have no objection to your adjourning to the Town of York, where I ſhallmeet you, and remain with you till your buſineſs be ﬁniſhed.
With reſpect to your entreaty that I ſhould return to the Palace, as the moſt likelymeans of quieting the minds of the People, I muſt repreſent to you, that, unleſs there beamong you a ſincere and active deſire to ſeize this opportunity, now offered to you by Parliament, of eſtabliſhing the freedom of your Country upon a ﬁxed and known foundation,and of uniting yourſelves with your fellow ſubjects of Great Britain in one common bondof intereſt, and mutual aſſiſtance, my return to Williamſburg would be as fruitleſs to thePeople, as, poſſibly, it might be dangerous to myſelf. But if your proceedings manifeſtthat happy diſpoſition, which is to be deſired ardently by every good friend to this as wellas the Mother Country, I aſſure you, in the warmth of my heart, that I will return, withthe greateſt joy, and ſhall conſider it as the moſt fortunate event of my Life if you give mean opportunity to be an inſtrument of promoting your happineſs, and a mediator betweenyou and the ſupreme authority, to obtain for you every explanation of your doubts, and thefulleſt conviction of the ſincerity of their deſire to conﬁrm to you the undiſturbed enjoymentof your rights and liberty; and I ſhall be well pleaſed, by bringing my family back again,that you ſhould have ſuch a pledge of my attachment to this Country, and of my wiſhes tocultivate a cloſe and laſting intimacy with the inhabitants.