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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Carlson, Marybeth (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Virginia (1)
8 (1988)

Introduction,   pp. xxiii-xxxix


Page xxiii

Introduction
The Declaration of Rights and the Constitution
Virginia was one of the centers of opposition to British colonial rule,
especially after 1774 when British policy became increasingly restrictive
and non-conciliatory. In late March 1774 Parliament, angered by the
Boston Tea Party, adopted the Boston Port Bill, closing the Port of
Boston on 1 June. On 24 May the House of Burgesses resolved that
1 June be a day of fasting and prayer. On 26 May Lord Dunmore,
the royal governor, dissolved the House. Some of the burgesses then
issued a call for the members to meet in Williamsburg on 1 August.
The burgesses met in the first revolutionary convention from 1 to 6
August, appointed delegates to the First Continental Congress, and
adopted an association calling for complete non-importation. From
this point, a succession of revolutionary conventions and the royal
governor competed for control of the colony. Between March and
August 1775 the second and third revolutionary conventions met and
appointed delegates to the Second Continental Congress. Fighting broke
out between British troops and the Virginia militia.
On 15 November 1775 Lord Dunmore, flushed with a victory over
the patriot militia at Kemp's Landing, proclaimed martial law; freed
slaves and indentured servants willing to fight for Great Britain; and
established a loyalist association. The next day Robert Carter Nicholas,
the president pro tempore of the third revolutionary convention, sum-
moned that body to reconvene on 1 December. On 4 December the
Second Continental Congress declared that Dunmore's action was
equivalent to "tearing up the foundations of civil authority and gov-
ernment," and it urged Virginia "to resist to the utmost the arbitrary
government intended to be established therein." Congress also rec-
ommended that if the convention of Virginia found it necessary to
establish a new form of government, it should "call a full and free
representation of the people, and that the said representatives, if they
think it necessary, establish such form of government as in their judg-
ment will best produce the happiness of the people, and most effec-
tually secure peace and good order in the colony, during the contin-
uance of the present dispute between Great Britain and these colonies."
Although the second session of the third revolutionary convention
(actually called the fourth revolutionary convention) probably received
the congressional recommendations on 13 December, no action was
taken for some time.
Many of the delegates to the fifth revolutionary convention, elected
in April 1776, were instructed to urge Congress to declare indepen-
xxiii


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