The Virginia Gazette

Today in the 1770s: November 7

WILLIAMSBURG, November 7, 1775.
Mr. Purdie, Here you have a proclamation that will at once slow the baseness of lord Dunmore's heart, his malice and treachery against the people who were once under his government, and his officious violation of all law, justice, and humanity; not to mention his arrogating to himself a power which neither he can assume, nor any power upon earth invest him with. Not in the legions of horrid hell, can come a devil more damn'd in evils, to top D****e. By his EXCELLENCY, etc. PROCLAMATION 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 most disagreeable, but now absolutely necessary step, rendered so by a body of armed men, unlawfully assembled, firing 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 destroy the well-disposed subjects of this colony. To defeat such treasonable purposes, and that all such traitors, and their abetters, may be brought to justice, and that the peace and good order of this colony may be again restored, which the ordinary course of the civil law is unable to effect, I have thought fit to issue this my proclamation, hereby declaring, that until the aforesaid good purposes can be obtianed, I do, in virtue of the power and authority to be given, by his majesty, determine to execute martial law, and cause the same to be executed throughout this colony; and to the end that peace and good order may the sooner be restored, I do require every person capable of bearing arms to resort 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 such offences, such as forfeiture of life, confiscation of lands, etc. etc. And I do hereby further declare all indented servants, negroes, or others (appertaining to rebels) free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining his majesty's troops, as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this colony to a proper sense of their duty, to his majesty's crown and dignity. I do farther order, and require, all his majesty's liege subjects to retain their quitrents, or any other taxes due, or that may become due, in their own custody, till such time as peace may be again restored to this at present most unhappy country, or demanded of them for their former salutary purposes, by officers properly authorised to receive the same. Given on board the ship WILLIAM, off Norfolk, the 7th day of November.

Virginia Gazette (Purdie) November 24, 1775
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Dunmore's Proclamation inflamed the residents of Virginia by establishing martial law within the colony and defining the penalties for "traitors" who refused to remain loyal to the king. The most inflammatory part of the proclamation was Dunmore's giving freedom to the indentured servants and negroes belonging to rebels and authorizing them to join his majesty's troops. The decision to join Dunmore's forces was a difficult one for slaves to make. The offer of freedom did not apply to slaves owned by loyalists, many slave families were split between loyalists and rebels, and the uncertainty of what lay ahead caused many slaves to remain with their rebel masters.

Sources: Selby, p66-7

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