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in the History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia by Pendle- ton, the Fincastle Resolutions are as follows: “Resolved, that the spirited and meritorious conduct of Patrick Henry, Esq., and of the rest of the gentlemen volunteers attending him on the occasion of the removal of the gunpowder out of the magazine at Williamsburg, very justly merits the very hearty appro- bation of this committee, for which we return them our thanks, with an assurance that we will, at the risk of our lives and fortunes, sup- port and justify them with regard to the reprisals they made. “Resolved, that the council of this colony, in advising and co- operating with Lord Dunmore in issuing the proclamation of the 3rd of May last, charging the people of this colony with an ungovern- able spirit and licentious practices, is contrary to many known mat- ters of fact, and but too justly shows to us that those who ought to be mediators and guardians of our liberties are become the abject tools of a detested administration. “Resolved, that it is the opinion of this committee that the late sanguinary attempt and preparation of the king’s troops, in the colony of Xarragansett Bay, are truly alarming and irritating, and loudly call upon all, even the most distant and interior parts of the colonies, to prepare and be ready for the extreme event, by a fixed resolution and a firm and manly resolve to avert ministerial cruelty in defence of our reasonable rights anti liberties.” At the same time in another section of the country we find Vir- ginia citizens opposing the royal authority in the famous “Parson’s Cause.” Since tobacco was the staple crop of Virginia the ministers of the Established Church were paid in tobacco. As a result, the ministers charged immense fees for their services, shipped the to- bacco to England and received large sums of money in return. The colonists objected to these excessive charges and wished to lower the rates. Of the many different protests offered by the colonists, we find the protest of the York County citizens, who, led by Patrick Henry, had the greatest influence, in the York Hampton parish we find the citizens rebelling against the exorbitant sums charged by the Reverend John Camni. Camm sued the colonists and even went to England in favor of his cause, but after a long trial and heated debate, the colonists won their case. This protest of the York County citizens is considered to be one of the earliest protests against the oppressions of the king. Later on the Virginia assembly suggested a general congress to consider what should be done. This suggestion met with much
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Later vve find the work that Smith laid down was picked up and carried on by Lord Delaware, who brought supplies and aid to the colonists when they were in destitute circumstances. The colony became stronger in a few years and prospered under the governorship of Dale and George Yeardley. In the year 1619 the first real legislative body was established in Virginia, which is usually termed the House of Burgesses and was a law-making body that has been used as a pattern for almost all of the State legislatures and may be called the “pioneer law making body” in the new country. Thus from the very beginning we find Virginians establishing principles and ideals which years later a nation would follow. When Charles II came to the throne in England, the first direct opposition to royal tyranny occurred in Virginia. Governor Berke- ley, a favorite of Charles II, was Virginia’s royal governor. Berke- ley, an ardent royalist and a harsh and self-opinionated man, refusing to protect the colonists from the depredations of the Indians, the young Virginian, Nathaniel Bacon, defied the royal authority and raised troops to protect the plantations, and, in an indirect way, caused the removal of Berkeley from the governorship. From that time on we find the attitude of the colonists in general was hostile, and this condition was constantly growing worse. All during these pre-Revolutionary days, when things were darkest, we find the liberty loving Virginians leading in protests, holding up the principles of right and justice against the tyranny and oppression of the British king. The very first serious opposition came from Virginia in the form of Patrick Henry’s resolutions which in general stated : “That the general assembly of this colony has the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants of this colony, and that every attempt to vest such power in any person or persons whatsoever, other than the general assembly aforesaid, has a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American freedom.” These resolutions caused an angry debate in the Virginia assem- bly which gave rise to Patrick Henry’s famous speech in which, after denouncing the tyranny of the Stamp Act, he exclaim ed: “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, and George III may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.” Thus a Virginian dared to challenge the authority of an Empire when he knew he was right. Also in our own Southwest Virginia we find opposition against the oppression of the king in the form of the Fincastle Resolutions, which were signed at Fort Chiswell. According to the account given 128
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cordial response from the other colonies and as a result, on September 5, 1774, the first Continental Congress convened at Philadelphia. As time went on conditions grew worse, and by the time the second Continental Congress convened, on that May morning in 1775, the call of the bugle and the roll of the war drums sounded throughout the land. Already the first blood had been shed on the green slopes of Massachusetts and there was nothing for the loyal patriots to do now but declare war. Congress, after assuming res- ponsibility for the army before Boston, appointed as commander- in-chief one ot Virginia’s noblest sons, Colonel George Washington. Thus we enter into the most prolonged conflict our people have ever known, the Revolutionary War, the war where a liberty loving people uttered the battle cry against the cruel hand of a tyrant. Again Virginia came to the front and one of her sons, Patrick Henry, called his beloved State to arms with this time honored speech : “Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale which sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? For- bid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me give me liberty or give me death.” 1 think that this speech of that great Virginian thrills the heart of any true Virginian today as it must have thrilled that little gather- ing in St. John’s Church, Richmond, over a century and a half ago. As a reply to that plea Virginia’s sons took up arms and went forth to battle for their country and their beloved State with faith and trust in the principles of right written on their honest countenances. On May 15th, 1776, according to the account in Latane’s History of the United States, the Virginia Convention adopted a resolution directing its delegates in Congress to propose that the colonies declare themselves free and independent states, and on June 7th another prominent Virginian, Richard Henry Lee, made the motion in Con- gress “that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British cro.vn and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” This resolution was seconded by John Adams. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted. This document was drawn up by that great Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, and was written with such perfection that only slight 130
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