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Declaration by the Convention of Virginia, on Lord Dunmore' s Proclamation of November 7



By the Representatives of the People of the Colony and Dominion of VIRGINIA, assembled in General Convention.


Whereas Lord Dunmore, by his Proclamation, dated on


board the ship William, the 7th day of November, 1775, hath presumed, in direct violation of the Constitution and the laws of this country, to declare martial law in force, and to be executed throughout this Colony, whereby our lives, our liberty, and property, are arbitrarily subjected to his power and direction; and whereas the said Lord Dunmore, assuming powers which the King himself cannot exercise, to intimidate the good people of this Colony into a compliance with his arbitrary will, hath declared those who do not immediately repair to his standard, and submit in all things to a government not warranted by the Constitution, to be in actual rebellion, and thereby to have incurred the penalties inflicted by the laws for such offences; and hath offered freedom to the servants and slaves of those he is pleased to term Rebels, arming them against their masters, and destroying the peace and happiness of His Majesty' s good and faithful subjects, whose property is rendered insecure, and whose lives are exposed to the dangers of a general insurrection: we, as guardians of the lives and liberty of the people, our constituents, conceive it to be indispensably our duty to protect them against every species of despotism, and to endeavour to remove those fears with which they are so justly alarmed.

If it were possible the understanding of men could be so blinded that every gleam of reason might be lost, the hope his Lordship says he hath ever entertained of an accommodation between Great Britain and this Colony, might now pass unnoticed; but truth, justice, and common sense, must ever prevail, when facts can be appealed to in their support. It is the peculiar happiness of this Colony that his Lordship can be traced as the source of innumerable evils, and one of the principal causes of the misfortunes under which we now labour. A particular detail of his conduct since his arrival in this Colony, can be considered only as a repetition, it having been already fully published to the world by the proceedings of the General Assembly, and a former Convention; but the unremitting violence with which his Lordship endeavours to involve this country in the most dreadful calamities, constantly affords new matter for the attention of the publick, and will remove every imputation of ingratitude to his Lordship, or of injustice to his character. His Lordship is pleased to ascribe the unworthy part he has taken against this Colony to a necessity arising from the conduct of its inhabitants, whom he hath considered in a rebellious state, but who know nothing of rebellion except the name. Ever zealous in support of tyranny, he hath broken the bonds of society, and trampled justice under his feet. Had his Lordship been desirous of effecting an accommodation of these disputes, he hath had the most ample occasion of exerting both his interest and abilities; but that he never had in view any such salutary end, most evidently appears from the whole tenor of his conduct. The supposed design of the Canada bill having been to draw down upon us a merciless and savage enemy; the present manoauvres amongst the Roman Catholicks in Ireland, and the schemes concerted with Doctor Connolly, and other vile instruments of tyranny, which have appeared by the examination of said Connolly, justify the supposition, and most fully evince his Lordship' s inimical and cruel disposition towards us, and can best determine whether we have been wrong in preparing to resist, even by arms, that system of tyranny adopted by the Ministry and Parliament of Great Britain, of which he is become the rigid executioner in this Colony. The many depredations committed also upon the inhabitants of this Colony, by the tenders and other armed vessels employed by his Lordship for such purposes, the pilfering and plundering the property of the people, and the actual seduction and seizure of their slaves, were truly alarming in their effects, and called aloud for justice and resistance. The persons of many of our peaceable brethren have been seized and dragged to confinement, contrary to the principles of liberty, and the Constitution of our country. Yet have we borne this injurious treatment with unexampled patience, unwilling to shed the blood of our fellow-subjects, who, prosecuting the measures of a British Parliament, would sacrifice our lives and property to a relentless fury, and unabating avarice. If a Governour can be authorized, even by Majesty itself, to annul the laws of the land, and introduce the most execrable of all systems, the law martial; if, by his single fiat, he can strip us of our property,


can give freedom to our servants and slaves, and arm them for our destruction, let us bid adieu to every thing valuable in life; let us at once bend our neck to the galling yoke, and hug the chains prepared for us and our latest posterity.

It is with inexpressible concern we reflect upon the distressed situation of some of our unhappy countrymen who have thought themselves too immediately within the power of Lord Dunmore, and have been induced thereby to remain inactive. We lament the advantage he hath taken of their situation, and at present impute their inactivity in the cause of freedom and the Constitution, not to any defection or want of zeal, but to their defenceless state; and whilst we endeavour to afford them succour, and to support their rights, we expect they will contribute every thing in their power to effect their deliverance. Yet, if any of our people, in violation of their faith plighted to this Colony, and the duty they owe to society, shall be found in arms, or continue to give assistance to our enemies, we shall think ourselves justified, by the necessity we are under, in executing upon them the law of retaliation.

Impressed with a just and ardent zeal for the welfare and happiness of our countrymen, we trust they will, on their part, exert themselves in defence of our common cause, and that we shall all acquit ourselves like freemen, being compelled by the disagreeable, but absolute necessity, of repelling force by force, to maintain our just rights and privileges: and we appeal to God, who is the sovereign disposer of all events, for the justice of our cause, trusting to His unerring wisdom to direct our councils, and give success to our arms.


Virginia, December 13, 1775.