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Report of the Committee


Mr˙ Cary reported from the Committee appointed to inquire into the causes of the late Disturbances and Commotions, that the Committee had inquired accordingly, and had directed him to report the causes of the said Disturbances and Commotions, as they appeared to them, to the House; and he read the Report in his place, and afterwards delivered it at the Clerk' s table, where the same was read, and is as followeth, viz:

It appears to your Committee, by the testimony of Doctor William Pasteur, that on Friday morning, the twenty-third of April last, there was a commotion in the City of Williamsburgh, occasioned by the Governour' s removing some powder from the publick magazine; that a common hall being assembled he attended; an address was presented to his Excellency the Governour, and an answer received, as published in the Virginia Gazette; that the people, at the request of the Corporation, retired peaceably to their habitations; that, during the commotion, the Captains Foy, Montague, and Collins, walked the main street unmolested; that, in the morning of the twenty-third of April, the said Pasteur, attending a patient at the Palace, accidentally met with his Excellency the Governour, who introduced a conversation relative to what had passed the preceding day, and seemed greatly exasperated at the people' s having been under arms; when the said Pasteur observed, that it was done in a hurry and confusion, and that most of the people were convinced they were wrong. His Lordship then proceeded to make use of several rash expressions, and said that though he did not think himself in danger, yet understood some injury or insult was intended to be offered to the Captains Foy and Collins, which he should consider as done to himself, as those gentlemen acted entirely by his particular directions; that his Lordship then swore by the living God, that if a grain of powder was burnt at Captain Foy or Collins, or if any injury or insult was offered to himself or either of them, that he would declare freedom to the slaves, and reduce the City of Williamsburgh to ashes. His Lordship then mentioned setting up the royal standard, but did not say that he would actually do it, but said he believed if he did, he should have a majority of white people, and all the slaves, on the side of Government; that he had once fought for the Virginians, and that, by God, he would let them see that he could fight against them, and declared that in a short time


he could depopulate the whole Country. That his Excellency desired the said Pasteur immediately to communicate this to the Speaker and other gentlemen of the Town, for that there was not an hour to spare: adding also, that if Finnie and George Nicholas continued to go at large, what he had said would, from some misconduct of theirs, be carried into execution. That the said Pasteur immediately communicated this matter to the Speaker and several other gentlemen of the Town, and it soon became publickly known; in consequence of which two of the principal gentlemen of the City sent their wives and children into the country. That his Excellency at other times, more than once, did say he should not carry these plans into execution unless he was attacked. That the inhabitants of Williamsburgh were soon after informed, by an express from Fredericksburgh, that the people in that part of the country were in motion towards this City. That the next morning after this report, the said Pasteur, attending a patient at the Palace, again met accidentally with the Governour, who declared to the said Pasteur, that if a large body of people came below Ruffin' s Ferry, (a place about thirty miles from this City,) he would immediately enlarge his plan and carry it into execution; but said that he should not regard a small number of men, adding, he then had two hundred muskets loaded in the Palace. The said Pasteur saith, that, to the best of his knowledge, at the time Lady Dunmore and family removed from Williamsburgh on board the Fowey, man-of-war, then lying at York, the inhabitants of this City were very peaceable.

It appears to your Committee, from the testimony of Benjamin Waller, that the morning after the powder was removed from the publick magazine, the people in the City of Williamsburgh were much alarmed, and assembled, some with, and others without arms; but when the Corporation reported the Governour' s answer to their Address, they, by the persuasions of the Magistrates and other principal gentlemen of the Town, dispersed and were quiet, except in the evening, when a report prevailed that the Marines were landed, and intended to attack the Town; they expressed great uneasiness, and went with their arms to the magazine to guard it, but soon dispersed, except a few, who acted as a patrol that night. That the next day Dr˙ Pasteur came to the said Waller' s house and informed him of the Governour' s threatening, that if himself, his family, or Captain Collins, were insulted, he would declare liberty to the slaves, and lay the Town in ashes; and that the Governour had desired him to communicate this his declaration to the Magistrates of the City, for that there was not an hour to lose. That these declarations gave the said Waller and the other inhabitants of the Town great uneasiness. That several days afterwards his Excellency came to the said Waller' s house on some private business, and in the course of conversation his Lordship said that Captain Collins had only taken fifteen half barrels of powder from the magazine; that some was not good, and others not full; but that he believed that one whole barrel might be got out of three half barrels; whereupon the said Waller took the liberty to mention to his Lordship, that he was sorry to tell his Excellency that he had lost the confidence of the people, not so much for having taken the powder, as for the declaration he made of raising and freeing the slaves; to which he answered, that he did say so, and made no secret of it, and that he would do that or any thing else, to have defended himself, in case he had been attacked. That his Lordship farther observed, that some slaves had offered him their service at the time the Hanover men were coming down, but that he had sent them away. The said Benjamin Waller farther says, that several young gentlemen of the Town, and others, had formed themselves into a company, (by the name of an Independent Company,) to learn the military exercise, and elected the Colonel of the Militia for their Captain, and that they usually mustered once a week. That when his Excellency returned from the Indian expedition last fall, many of the said company waited upon him in their uniform, to congratulate his Lordship on his return; but the said Waller heard they were coolly received. That said Waller says that he never heard of any powder being lodged in the magazine from the Rippon, man-of-war, until since the removal of the powder, and then only from report, the truth of which he does not know.


It also appears to your Committee, from the testimony of John Randolph, esq˙, Attorney-General, of the City of Willianisburgh, that the morning after the removal of the powder, many of the people were under arms at the Court-House. That he does not recollect he heard the Governour expressly say he would proclaim freedom to the slaves, but is well satisfied such was his Lordship' s intention, if it had been necessary for him to take up arms in defence of his person. That he does not recollect he ever saw any of the people under arms (except on the removal of the powder) but the volunteer company when exercising; which company had been formed a considerable time before the disturbance happened. That he thought Lady Dunmore had no reason, but the timidity of her sex, to suspect any injury would be done her or her family; nor did he know that Lord Dunmore had just cause to apprehend danger, unless he gave credit to the reports carried to him, which were of such a nature as to justify an opinion that his person was not safe. That he is of opinion, and that he informed the Governour so when he, with other gentlemen, waited upon him with the address of the House, that his person was in no danger. That his Lordship was almost every day at his, the said Randolph' s, house, distant above a quarter of a mile from the Palace, and in particular the evening of his departure, and that his Lordship received no insult, as he knows of, in passing to and. from thence. The said Randolph says that he understood from the Governour, in case armed people came to Williamsburgh, he would fix up the royal standard to distinguish the friends of Government from its foes; and that if negroes, on that occasion, offered their services, they would be received. That the Governour informed him (by one of his servants) some negroes had offered their service, but ordered his servant to bid them go about their business. That the morning after the removal of the powder, the said Randolph saw Captain Collins, Captain Foy, and, he believes, Captain Stretch, pass through the people unmolested.

It also appears, by the testimony of John Dixon, esq˙, Mayor of the City of Williamsburgh, that, in the opinion of the inhabitants, the Militia of the City being on an indifferent, footing, and they having heard of an independent company established at Norfolk, were desirous of forming one in Williamsburgh. That such company was accordingly formed, and, although he does not know the Governour was ever present when they were exercised, the said Dixon never heard he disapproved of it. That his Honour the President, while the Governour was out on the Indian expedition, directed the keeper of the publick magazine to furnish the company with muskets. That a Committee was chosen in the City, agreeable to the directions of the Congress, but not to act, as be knew of, under the Committee. That upon the Governour' s return from the Indian expedition, one of the company waited upon his Excellency, to inform him the company intended to pay their compliments to him the next morning, before the Palace, if agreeable to Lady Dunmore, who was then indisposed; but his Lordship being out of the way, the person who went, left his compliments of the above import. That the next morning the said Dixon, as captain, with part of the company, drew up in Palace-street, and paid the usual compliments. That his Lordship did not come out to meet them; but some time afterwards there was a message delivered by Mr˙Blair, from his Excellency, that he would have done himself the pleasure of waiting upon them, if they had staid a little longer, as he did not expect they would have finished their exercise so soon. That the morning after the powder was removed, many of the inhabitants being much alarmed, and greatly incensed against Capt˙ Foy and Capt˙ Collins, assembled at the Court-House under arms; but does not believe, nor has he heard any injury or insult was intended to the Governour. That some time after the Governour' s answer to the address of the Corporation was read, the people, upon the interposition of the Magistrates, and other gentlemen, were satisfied, and returned home in quiet. That after the Governour had declared, what Captain Collins had done was by his order, their resentment against Captain Collins subsided. That the same evening the powder was removed a report prevailed that a number of armed men from Captain Collins' s schooner had landed at Burwell' s Ferry, about four miles from Williamsburgh, with design, as was supposed,


to remove the arms from the magazine; whereupon many of the inhabitants repaired to the magazine, to prevent such design being executed; but by the advice of some gentlemen, they all dispersed except such as patrolled that night. That the inhabitants appeared to be in perfect tranquillity, till a report was spread of his Excellency' s throwing out some threats respecting the slaves, when there seemed to be great uneasiness; but nothing more was done but doubling the usual patrol. That after the alarm was over the first day, he remembers to have seen Captain Foy and Captain Montague walk the streets, and he believes without insult; and frequently saw them, Captain Collins and other officers, do the same, without their swords, unmolested by the inhabitants.

It also appears, by the testimony of Joseph Hutchings, Colonel of the Militia of the Borough of Norfolk, that some years ago the inhabitants, judging it would be a means of their greater security, proposed raising an independent company, that, by their being more regularly trained, they might be more capable of acting upon an emergency; that some time afterwards, his Excellency Lord Dunmore being at Norfolk, the said Hutchings informed him of the intention of the inhabitants, and asked his advice how to act as to granting commissions, the company intending to choose their own officers; that his Lordship highly commended the proposal, advised the said Hutchings to encourage and grant commissions to such officers as might be chosen, and expressed his wishes that the example might be followed throughout the Country. That about two years afterwards his Lordship was again at Norfolk, when the company was completely formed and regimented; and, having drawn them up, his Lordship marched through the lines in order to review them, and again expressed great satisfaction.

Your Committee then proceeded to examine several gentlemen, merchants, natives of Great Britain, who reside in different parts of this Colony, respecting the disposition of its people, and its internal peace, the causes of the late commotions, and the progress thereof; and it appears to your Committee, from the depositions by them taken, as follows:

It appears, from the testimony of Hugh Hamilton, of the County of Westmoreland, that the Courts of this Colony have always proceeded in criminal business as usual, but declined trying civil causes immediately on the lapse of the Fee-Bill, which, together with the Non-Exportation Agreement, was, in his opinion, the cause of stopping that business, rather than an inclination of withholding justice, his acquaintances having the same inclination to pay their debts as before the stoppage of the Courts. That Committees had been chosen within these twelve months, and independent companies formed, in his and the neighbouring Counties about the month of February last, for the defence of the Colony, and that he never heard they were designed to protect the Committee. That, in his County, the gentlemen have been at proper pains to preserve order; and it has been recommended, to the Militia to acquire a knowledge of the military exercise. That the people within his acquaintance have been very orderly, and that he never saw any commotion before the powder was taken from the magazine; that there was an alarm concerning the slaves prior to this transaction, which was greatly increased by the report of the Governour' s intention to declare them free,, That he never discovered the smallest inclination in any of the inhabitants to be independent of Great Britain; but, on the contrary, a most eager desire for a connexion, as stood prior to the acts of Parliament imposing taxes on America; and he is persuaded a redress of grievances complained of would establish a perfect tranquility throughout this Colony, and produce a reconciliation with the Parent State.

It appears, from the testimony of Thomas Mitchell, of the County of Louisa, that the loss of the Fee-Bill is generally assigned, and, he believes, was the immediate cause of stopping the civil proceedings in the courts of justice; but apprehends their not being resumed is owing to the commercial mode of opposition. That no independent company was formed in the said County until the 8th of May, 1775, or thereabouts, nor a Committee chosen until some months after the Association entered into and it is his opinion the said company was raised with a view to put


the Colony into a state of defence, but believes it would assist their Committee, if called on. That no commotions have happened in the said County, but that the Governour' s declaration to give freedom to the slaves greatly inflamed the minds of those who believed it; but does not think that belief was general. That he does not think the Colony wish to be independent of Great Britain, and is satisfied a redress of the grievances complained of would restore tranquillity and reconciliation.

It appears, from the testimony of James Lyle and Robert Donald, of the County of Chesterfield, that the reason assigned for stopping the Courts in civil proceedings was the expiration of the Fee-Bill; and they are of opinion, that their refusing to proceed now is owing to the adopted mode of commercial opposition. That no independent company was formed in Chesterfield till a few weeks ago, and that they were intended for the general defence of the Country, and not, as they know, designed for the protection of the Committee, or to be under their direction; but they believe they would protect the Committee, if required. That the inhabitants were quiet and peaceable prior to the removal of the powder, and were greatly alarmed and exasperated at the Governour' s declaration of giving freedom to the slaves, since which uncommon diligence has been used in training the Independent Company and the Militia to arms; but the people have always behaved themselves orderly, paying the greatest regard to the prudent advice of their officers. That they have no reason to believe the people wish an independence of Great Britain, and firmly believe a redress of the present grievances would establish general tranquillity throughout this Colony, and a reconciliation with Great Britain.

It appers, from the testimony of Thomas Hodge and James Robison, of King George County, Charles Yates and Henry Mitchell, of Spottsylvania, and Robert Gilchrist and Patrick Kennan, of Caroline, that the expiration of the Fee-Bill was the immediate cause of stopping the Courts in civil causes. That it has been since considered as a political means of obtaining a redress of grievances, by interesting the British merchants, who have property here, in our behalf; and that, since it has been determined to discontinue the exports, it has been thought necessary; but the Courts proceed in criminal cases as usual. That Committees have been established to enforce the resolutions of the General Congress, and, independent companies formed to learn the use of arms, at different periods: in Spottsylvania some time last winter, in Caroline in February or March last, and in King George since the last Colony Convention in March, They do not know that they were: established to protect the Committees, but believe the defence of the Colony was the first and principal motive. That some of the Independent Company of Spottsylvania have acted under the direction of their Committee, but the Caroline, company refused to enlist, unless they were to he solely under the direction of officers of their own choosing. That there never were any commotions among the people till after the powder was removed from the magazine, when, in consequence of that transaction, there was a great assembly of armed men at Fredericksburgh, and adjacent places; but they were very orderly and peaceable, and upon advice of a Council they appointed, and some of the Delegates of this Colony, they all retired to their respective homes. That about this time they understood the Governour had made a declaration of freedom to the slaves, which was not generally believed; but as far as it gained credit, it tended greatly to inflame the people. That they do not believe any part of this Colony wish an independence of Great Britain, though they cannot undertake to judge of the views of individuals; and they hope and think, a redress of the present grievances would restore tranquillity here, and produce a reconciliation with the Parent State.

It appears, from the testimony of Archibald Ritchie, of the County of Essex, that the cause generally assigned for stopping the proceedings of the Courts in civil causes (the criminal proceedings going on as usual) was the expiration of the Fee-Bill; but that he believes the measure was politically adopted for carrying more effectually into execution the purposes of the Association, That the volunteer company in the County of Essex was formed about three weeks ago, not merely for protecting the Committees; but believes


they would do so, if required. That previous to the seizure of the powder, the state of the Colony, as far as his observation extended, was a general acquiescence in the resolves of the Provincial and General Congress; and that in consequence thereof, no commotion happened in that County. That he does not know of any one that wishes independence of Great Britain; but, on his oath, cannot say there are none such. That he has not the least doubt, if the grievances complained of were redressed, perfect tranquillity would be established between Great Britain and the Colonies.

It appears, from the testimony of Charles Duncan, of the County of Chesterfield, near the Town of Petersburgh and Blanford, that the loss of the Fee-Bill, in his opinion, was the immediate cause of the stop to the proceedings in the Courts in civil causes, (the criminal going on as usual.) That a volunteer company in the said County was formed some time after the Convention at Richmond, and, in his Opinion, solely for putting the Country into a posture of defence, without any regard to the protection of the Committee. That the state of the Colony, before the removal of the powder, was peaceable and orderly; and a strict compliance with the resolves of the Continental and Provincial Congress was, he thinks, the cause of maintaining that good order, so little to be expected in a country deprived of so essential a part of its laws. That the removal of the powder certainly occasioned the commotions complained of, and he believes, so far as the Governour' s declarations gained credit, they contributed to those disturbances; but there were none such in the neighbourhood where be lives. That he never heard any person wish an independence of Great Britain, and is clearly of opinion a redress of the present grievances would immediately produce a hearty reconciliation.

It appears, by the testimony of Archibald Bryce, of the County of Henrico, that the expiration of the Fee-Bill was the reason assigned by the Court for stopping the proceedings in civil cases (the criminal going on as usual;) and he believes the commercial mode of opposition is the reason why the business of the Courts is not resumed. That the suspension in civil proceedings took place in June, 1774; and, some time in the fall, a Committee was chosen, agreeable to an article of the General Association; That the Independent Company of Henrico has not been formed above six weeks, and he believes the principal design of their institution was to put the Colony into a proper state of defence. That he knew of no commotions in the Country before the seizure of the powder; and as very few took up arms upon that occasion, he was informed that at the request of one of the representatives of the County they returned to their habitations. That he thinks, as far as the Governour' s declaration gained credit with the people, it served to irritate their minds, and might possibly be a means of continuing the commotions in the Country. That he believes the Colony in general do not wish an independence, and that a redress of grievances would establish tranquillity, and produce a reconciliation. It appears, by the testimony of Thomas Montgomery, of the County of Prince William, that, previous to the powder' s being seized, Committees of Correspondence, and of Observation, to carry into effect the resolutions of the Congress, and volunteer companies, were formed; military discipline was taught, arms and ammunition Were industriously procured. That upon the report of the Governour' s having seized the powder, many people marched to Fredericksburgh; where, upon a meeting of several Counties, it was determined, in consultation, they should return to their respective homes. That the Court proceeds in criminal cases. In civil cases, the proceedings are stopped; owing, as he thinks, to the expiration of the Fee-Bill, but not to the determination against imports and exports, which he thinks did not necessarily produce that effect. Having observed the same inclination in the people to do justice to their creditors as usual, he thinks the above steps do not proceed from any inclination to withhold justice. That no other commotions or disturbances have happened in the County but what were produced by the alarm of seizing the powder; and these subsided soon, and the people returned to their own habitations. That the political measures are adopted by all classes of men. That the Independent Company was


formed in that County about September, and its design was to protect the Colony in general, and the County in particular; and that he has heard it observed, this institution would aid the execution of the resolutions of the Committee. That he believes few, if any persons in the Colony, wish an independence of Great Britain; but, on the contrary, is of opinion that a redress of grievances would establish tranquillity here, and a perfect reconciliation with the Mother Country, as he thinks they entertain not a desire but of dependance on the Mother Country, on constitutional principles.

It appears by the testimony of Archibald Govan, Thomas Evans, John Johnson, and George Braikenridge, of the County of Hanover, that proceedings in criminal cases went on as usual. That all civil law proceedings (except motions against Sheriffs and other publick officers) were stopped in June, 1774. In November, a Committee, in conformity to a regulation of the Congress, was chosen, to carry into execution the American Association, and an Independent Company enlisted, but not embodied. That, for the interruption of suits in civil cases, they assign the expiration of the Fee-Bill as the principal cause, and do not attribute, that measure to the adoption of the commercial opposition, as this political measure took place, some months after the Courts had stopped their proceedings. That as to the commotions, they say none have occurred, except in one instance, which proceeded from the Governour' s seizing the powder, which was heightened and increased by his threatening to enfranchise the slaves. That those causes induced the Independent Company to choose their officers, and march out about twenty miles towards Williamsburgh; but how they conducted themselves on their march, they can give no information. That they think the independent companies were formed to put the Country into a state of defence; yet they suppose they would have aided the Committee. That the Colony, in their opinion, desires not an independence of Great Britain; and that a redress of the present grievances would reestablish tranquillity, and produce a reconciliation with the Parent State.

It appears to your Committee, from the testimony of Andrew Sprowle, Archibald Campbell, and James Ingrain, of the County of Norfolk, and Samuel Donaldson, of the County of Nansemond, that in these Counties the Courts, as usual, proceed in criminal cases. For the causes of stopping the proceedings in civil suits, they assign the expiration of the Fee Bill as the primary one; but, as a secondary cause, they think this measure was adopted to carry the purposes of the Association more effectually into execution, which, by distressing the mercantile part of the British Nation, was intended to interest them in favour of the Colony, and to produce in the end an accommodation. That the Town of Norfolk as yet, has no independent company, but one formed before the existence of Committees, with the approbation of the Governour, and under his commission. In Nansemond County, an independent company was formed in May last; not for the avowed purpose of protecting Committees, but in conformity to the direction of the last Convention. That before the seizure of the powder, a general acquiescence under the resolutions of the General and Provincial Congress marked the political character of this Colony; and, in the above mentioned Counties, no commotions were excited by this conduct of the Governour, since in neither did the report that an insurrection was Intended by the slaves, produce that effect. That they think it the universal wish to have a constitutional dependance on Great Britain; and that a redress of grievances will immediately establish tranquillity, and be productive of a reconciliation with the Parent State.

Ordered, That said Report do lie upon the table, to be perused by the Members of this House.