Proclamation of Earl of Dunmore (1775)

After colonists rose up in Virginia, Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia issued this Proclamation.
Lord John Murray, Earl of Dunmore
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concepts 1 and 10.

By His Excellency the Right Honorable JOHN Earl of DUNMORE, His MAJESTY'S Lieutenant and Governor General of the Colony and Dominion of VIRGINIA, and Vice Admiral of the fame.  
As I have ever entertained Hopes that an Accommodation might have taken Place between GREAT-BRITAIN and this colony, without being compelled by my Duty to this moft difagreeable but now abfolutely neceffary Step, rendered fo by a Body of armed Men unlawfully affembled, bring on His MAJESTY'S [Tenders], and the formation of an Army, and that Army now on their March to attack His MAJESTY'S troops and deftroy the well difpofed Subjects of this Colony. To defeat fuch unreafonable Purpofes, and that all fuch Traitors, and their Abetters, may be brought to Juftice, and that the Peace, and good Order of this Colony may be again reftored, which the ordinary Courfe of the Civil Law is unable to effect; I have thought fit to iffue this my Proclamation, hereby declaring, that until the aforefaid good Purpofes can be obtained, I do in Virtue of the Power and Authority to ME given, by His MAJESTY, determine to execute Martial Law, and caufe the fame to be executed throughout this Colony: and to the end that Peace and good Order may the fooner be [effected], I do require every Person capable of bearing Arms, to [refort] to His MAJESTY'S STANDARD, or be looked upon as Traitors to His MAJESTY'S Crown and Government, and thereby become liable to the Penalty the Law inflicts upon fuch Offences; fuch as forfeiture of Life, confifcation of Lands, &c. &c. And I do hereby further declare all indentured Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His MAJESTY'S Troops as foon as may be, for the more fpeedily reducing this Colony to a proper Senfe of their Duty, to His MAJESTY'S Leige Subjects, to retain their [Qui?rents], or any other Taxes due or that may become due, in their own Cuftody, till fuch Time as Peace may be again reftored to this at prefent moft unhappy Country, or demanded of them for their former falutary Purpofes, by Officers properly authorifed to receive the fame.  
GIVEN under my Hand on board the ship WILLIAM, off NORPOLE, the 7th Day of NOVEMBER, in the SIXTEENTH Year of His MAJESTY'S Reign.  
(GOD save the KING.)  

This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2h42t.html.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    For what reason does Dunmore say impels him to issue the Proclamation?
    In opposition to his authority, armed colonists assembled in order to attack the British troops. This proclamation was to bring the colony back into order.
  2. Question
    What does the proclamation demand of the Virginian colonists?
    They are placed under martial law; expected to bear arms on behalf of England against the “traitors.”
  3. Question
    What does it proclaim on behalf of indentured servants and enslaved people?
    That if they fight on behalf of England, they will be free when the colony is returned to order.
  4. Question
    How may encouraging enslaved people to fight on behalf of England have encouraged or discouraged white colonists from rebellion against England?
    Answers may vary:
    Discouraged: This could cause some colonists to stop their rebellion in order to prevent the colonies’ slaves from being freed, as it would increase the number of British troops, but also disrupt their economic and societal structure.
    Encourage: By threatening the economic and societal structure built on slavery, colonists may have been more inclined to fight against England to protect it.
  5. Question
    What factors would have impacted the appeal of Dunmore’s call to arms to enslaved people?
    Answers may vary: Many enslaved people may not have had the ability to rise up. Some scholars believe that enslaved persons’ motivation for fighting was not about vengeance against their captors, but about how to secure freedom. Thus, their decision would have reflected this consideration.
Reveal Answers