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French and Indian War

Report From Governor Robert Dinwiddie on the Present State of Virginia, January 1755

extracted from

The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie, Volume I, R. A. Brock, editor
(Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1883), pages 380-390.


Report From Governor Dinwiddie on the Present State of Virginia.

Transmitted the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, January, 1755.

The Boundaries of the Dom’n of Virg’a, as they were first establish’d by the Charter of King James the 1st, Anno. 1606, were from Cape Comfort, now called Cape Henry, 200 Miles North along the Sea Coast, and the same Distance South from the same Cape, and West to the So. Sea, together with all Islands in both Seas, lying within 100 Miles of the Main Land; in w’ch Tract is comprehended [a] great Part of y’t w’ch is now called No. Carolina, all the Province of M’yl’d, and part of Pennsyvania. But the Boundaries of Virg’a, as it is now circumscribed, are to the East and So. East, the main Atlantick Ocean, on the South, a due West line from the Mouth of Curratuck Inlet, w’ch lies in the Lat. Of 36 D., and 30 M., divides Virg’a from No. Car., and on the No., a Line from the Sea, thro’ y’t Isthmus called the E. Shore to the Bay of Chesapeak opposite to y’t Point of Potowmack River called Watkin’s Point, which lies in Lot 38; and thence, the s’’d River Potowmack divides this Colony from Maryl’d unto the true Meridian of the first Fountain of Potowmack, w’ch is the utmost Boundary of M’yl’d Westward. And then Virg’a resumes its ancient Breadth, and has no other Limits to the West y’n w’t its first Royal Charter assigned it, and y’t is to the So. Sea, including the Isl’d of California, but, according to its Breadth from the West Line, w’ch divides it from No. Car. On the So., to the first Fount’n of Potowmack on the No., it will extend on the Western side of M’yl’d as far as the Latitude of 40 No. and So., northerly on the Back of Pennsylvania. The Situat’n is under the same Paralel with some of the finest Countrys in the World, and undoubtedly the Co’try is capable of the same Product’s, as the Fertility of the Soil is equal to any of them, since, with little Labour, every Thing is propagated w’ch the Planter has attempted. The Air is temperate; the extreme Heat in Sumer, or Cold in Winter, is but of short D’ration, as they are frequently relieved with intervening cold, and warm Breezes. The Western Boundary as yet is not well known, nor can it be expected to be fully known for some Ages. The British Subjects have for some years settled within a few Miles of the River Ohio, on the other side of the Allagany Mount’s, w’ch settlem’t was approved of by the Ind’s, and a Grant of the Land was made to H. M’y, the K. of G. B., by the Six Nat’s at the Treaty of Lancaster. These settlem’ts I was willing to fix as our pres’t Boundary to the Westw’d, as it is part of the Lands belonging to the five Nat’s, w’ch, by the Treaty of Utritch, is expressly allowed to be under the Dom’n of the Crown of G. B., and as further, the Lake Champlain, formerly called Lake Iroq[u]ois, and the Co’try So’w’d of it, as also the Lakes Ontorio and Erie have, by all ancient authors, both Fr. and English, been allowed to belong to the five Nat’s of Ind’s, and in Course, by the above Treaty, to be under the Protect’n of the B. Crown. Notwithstand’g the above Treaty, the Fr. have, subsequent thereto, built several Forts on the Lands Belong’g to the Five Nat’s, and a remarkable strong one at Crown Point to the So’w’d of Lake Champlain. The Treaty of Aix la Chapelle, confirm’g the Treaty of Utritch, has no weight with the Fr., but it appears y’t the Conquest of ye whole Cont’t seems to be the object of their Attent’n. The Fr., since the above Treaties, have erected many Fortresses on the Lands belong’g to the Five Nat’s, who are actually under the Protect’n of G. B., and contrary to Law and Justice, erect these Forts as the Marks of Possess’n, and they have been constantly increasing their Forces by importing Numbers of People from France in a Private Manner, not to be notic’d, or observed by the Powers in Europe. They have, for the last seven years, robb’d our Subjects, trading with the Ind’s in our back Co’try, and sent their Persons Prisoners to Quebeck, all w’ch is a most notorious Infract’n of the above Treaties. Not satisfied with these clandestine and Private Robberies, they have now taken off the Mask, and y’s last Sumer declared, in this part of the World, y’r Intent’s. I was ordered by H. M’y to build some Forts on His Lands on the River Ohio. In Obedience thereto, I ordered out some Soldiers and Tradesmen to begin a Fort on the Forks of Monongahela, till I was qualified by our Assembly to send stronger Forces to y’t Fort, and to build some others. The Fr., with an armed Force from Canada, came down the River Ohio, surpriz’d our People, took Possess’n of His M’y’s Forts, and robbed and plundered all our poor settlers y’t were near to y’t River, some of whom had lived peacibly there upwards of 10 Years. I raised w’t Men the small Pittance our Assembly granted in Feb’y last, enabled me to do, who, with an Independ’t Coy H. M’y was pleased to order from So. Car., on their march to the Ohio, were attacked by the Fr. and Ind’s, with a much superior Force, many of our Men were killed and the rest obliged to such a Capitulat’n as their inferiority of numbers and the situat’n of their Affairs compelled them to comply with. These Transact’s in the Time of tranquil Peace between the two Crowns, I conceive is with’t Preced’t, and I am convinc’d there is no conduct’g an Expedit’n with’t Aid from Home, and an Act of the B. Parliam’t to oblige the Colonies to raise Money for their own Protect’n. But to ret’n to the present State of Virg’a. The establish’d Constitut’n of the Gov’t of Virg’a is as follows:

A chief Gov’r, appointed by His M’y, who always resides in G. B.; A L’t Gov’r, appointed also by H. M’y, who presides over the Affairs of Gov’t; A Council, consist’g of 12 Gent’n, appointed by Mandamus from H. M’y. The Dom’n has now 30 Counties, who elect two Members for each co’ty; one for the College of W. and M’y, one for the City of W’msb’g, one for Jas. Town, and one for the Borough of Norfolk, in all 104 Memb’rs, who are called at Meet’g, the Ho. of Burgesses. The Lieut. Gov’r, Council, and Ho. of Burgesses, are the Gen’l Assembly of this Colony, and are impowered to enact Acts for the good Gov’t of the Co’try. These Acts are duly transmitted to G. B., soon after each Session, for His M’y’s Assent and Approbation; w’n they receive H. M’y’s Sanc’n they become Laws. The administrat’n of Justice. First, There are in each Co’ty, Courts held monthly by Persons comissioned by the Gov’r, who have not only the Power of Justices of the Peace, but have Cognizance of all Suits, of w’t value so ever, arising within their respective Jurisdict’s, both at Comon Law and in Chancery, except only such criminal Offences as are punishable with the Loss of Life or Member. And for the City of W’msburg, there is a Court of Hustings held Monthly, before the Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen, for all Suits at comon Law aris’g within the Town, hav’g equal Jurisdiction in all Suits at comon Law with the County Courts. There is the like Court in the Bor’o of Norfolk; these are the inferior Courts in this Gov’t, and from their Judgem’t, an Appeal lies to the Gen’l Court. The Appeallant giving Security to prosecute the same with effect. The Gen’l Court consists of the Gov’r and Members of the Council, any five whereof make a Quorum; this Court is held in Apr. and Oct’r, and has Jurisdict’n of all Causes, real, Personal and mixt, at comon Law, bro’t hither, originally exceeding the Value of £ 10 Sterling, or by Appeal or Supercedeas (w’ch is in the Nature of a Writ of Error) from the Inferior Courts, all Criminal Offences are here tryable, and it is also a Court of Chancery for matters of great Value. But, by a late Act of Assembly, no Appeal or Superseceas lies from the Judgem’t or Decree of any inferior Court, unless the Debt or Damage, or Thing in dem’d {exclusive of the Costs) exceeds the Value of 5 £; Except’g only where the Title or Bounds of Lands are in Question, and from the Gen’l Court an Appeal lies to the King and Council in any Causes of 300 £ St’g and upwards; Secondly, There are two Courts of oyer and terminer held Yearly, the one the second Friday in June, the other the second Tuesday in Dec’r, wherein all Criminals y’t happen to be comitted after the respective Gen’l Courts, are tried. The Judges here, are only such as are Members of the Council, and sit by the Governor’s Comiss’n, pursuant to H. M’y’s Instruct’s in y’t behalf; Thirdly, For the pubishm’t of Slaves committ’g Capital Crimes, a Com’o. of Oyer and Terminer is issued by the Gov’r, directed to the Justices of the Peace in the Co’ty where the offence is committed, to try the offenders, on Proof of the Fact by Witnesses, with’t any Jury, and on Convict’n, the Comiss’rs award Execution, and set a Value on the Slave, w’ch Valuat’n is afterwards p’d the Owner by the Gen’l Assembly as an Encouragement to the People to discover the Villain[ie]s of their Slaves; Fourthly, For Breaches of the Acts of Trade, and for determin’g Controversies concern’g Mariners’ Wages, and all Maratime Affairs, there is a Court of Ad’lty, held before a Judge Constituted by Comiss’n under the Seal of the High Court of Ad[mira]lty of G’t B’n. And to this Court belongs an Advocate, Register, and a Marshall, appointed by the Gov’r, who is also by Co’o. Vice Admiral of all the Sea Coasts, Rivers and Creeks within this Gov’t. This Court is not held at any certain Time, but is called and held, as Business or Occasion may require, and from this Court an Appeal lies to the King in Council. The Gov’r sh’d have a Com’o for trying Pyrates; none such to be found here, tho’ I am informed my Predecessor had such a Comiss’n. There is a Court of the Comissary of the Bishop of London, w’ch only relates to the Punishm’t of the Imoralities of the Clergy, and proceeds by Monition, Suspension, or Deprivation, as the Nature of the Offence deserves, and from thence there lies an Appeal to the Delegates appointed by His M’y’s Comiss’n in England. Having treated of the Courts of Justice of this Gov’t, it may not be improper to mention here how His M’y’s Mercy is dispensed to Offenders who are proper Objects thereof; and herein, such is the grace and Favo. of the Crown, y’t the Gov’r is invested with a Power to pardon all Crimes and Offences, Treason and willful Murder only excepted, and in these he has a Power of reprieving, untill, on a fair Represent’n of the Circumstances of the Fact, the King is pleased to signify His Com’ds for pardoning or executing the Sentence.

The Gov’r has also a Power to remit all Fines and Forfeitures occurring to the Crown, under the Value of 10 £ St’g, and if above, he may suspend the levying such Fines and Forfeitures untill H[is] M’y’s Pleasure is known, but this Indulgence does not reach to the Inhabitants of the No’ern Neck, the Fines, &c., being granted to L’d Fairfax, the Proprietor thereof. Thus much for the Civil Constitut’n of this Dom’n, so far as relates to the making and Execut’g the Laws and the Administrat’n of Justice. For matters of State, there is a Council appointed by the King, to be assisting to the Gov’r in all Things relating to the King’s Service, such as the disposing of his Lands, the managing his Revenue, the appoint’g of Justices of the Peace, Sheriff and Coroners, and other Officers of Trust, who receive their Commiss’s from the Gov’r.

[They are also] for the better ordering the Tributary Ind’s and mak’g War or Peace with foreign Ind’s and Nat’s. and various other Matters w’ch Concern the Publick Peace of the Gov’t, and w’ch do not fall under the Direct’n of positive Laws.

The Trade of this Colony is principally conducted by Ships from G. B. I suppose not less y’n 120 Sail are here annually, with the Produce of y’s Dom’n. The Trade exclusive of the above, consists of about sixty Sail, Ships, Scows, Brigantines, Schooners and Sloops, w’ch are navigated by 500 Sailors, besides the small Shallops, w’ch are constantly employ’d in transport’g the Comodities from our River, and in loading the Ships bound for G. B. The Trade in general has greatly increas’d for the last 10 Years and [is] chiefly supported, as to the Shipping, with Cordage, Sail Cloth, &c., from Home. The People in y’s Dom’n are supplied from G. B. with all sorts of Woolen Manufactories such as B’d Cloth, Kersey, Duffills, Cottons, Crapes, Ruggs, Blankets, Norwich and other Stuffs, Hatts, Stocks, Shoes, and all sorts of Linens, British, Irish and Gurnsey, all sorts of Household Furniture, and wear’g apparel, with Calicoes, Persians and other East India Goods; Sail Duck, Cordage, with all manner of Iron Ware, as Locks, Hinges, Nails, Carpenter’s, Joiner’s and Smith’s Tools, Axes, Hoes, Anchors, Fire-Arms. With Wines, Spices, Fruits, Loaf-Sugar, and Strong Beer, and other Family Necessaries amot’g to, by Comput’n, 300,000 [£] St’g. The Trade from y’s [Colony] is chiefly to G. B. and the B. Colonies; some Times, Staves, Wheat, and Indian Corn to Lisbon and the Islands of Maderia. From Lisbon, the Remittances are made to G. B. From Maderia, they have Wine for their Goods. The Produce of this Co’try, and its amo. may be computed, as follows:

*50,000 Hhds. Of Tob’o @ 4 £ per Hhd. £ 20,000
10,000 bbls. Pitch and Tar @ 8s., £ 4,000
4,000 Tons Pig Iron @ £ 5, £ 20,000
Deer Skins and Furs, £ 20,000
40,000 Bush’s Wheat @ 2s. 6d., £ 5,000
250,000 Bush’s Indian Corn @ 12d., £ 12,500
10,000 lbs. Bees-Wax @ 12d., £ 500
30,000 lbs. Beef and Pork @ 40s., £ 60,000
Pipe Head’g, bl. Staves with Shingles, £ 10,000
Snake Root, Jenzang, &c., £ 2,000
[Total] £ 334,000

*The exports of tobacco for the period 1750-6, were: 1750, 48,567; 1751, 46,703; 1752, 48,380; 1753, 59,847; 1754, 50,803; 1755, 47,687; 1756, 28,432 hogsheads.

This Colony has no Trade with any foreign Plant’n except to some of the Dutch Islands of St. Eustatia, and Curracoa; from thence, they some Times smuggle in some Fr. Sugars and Rum. To prevent this, the Collectors and Nav’l Officers are directed to be very careful in inspect’g their Clearances, and search’g their Vessels, but the Co’try is so Extensive, with many Creeks and Bays, y’t they run their Goods before they come to Enter at the Custom Hos., but I cannot learn y’t much collusive Trade is carried on from this Dom’n. There are large quantities of Iron Oar in many Places, and some Furnaces for manufacturing it, fit to send to G. B.; some Appearances of Copper, but for want of proper Persons acquainted with Minerals, the People don’t prosecute their Searches with Spirit. There are also Tin, Lead, and Antimony in several Places near the Great Mount’s, and, I doubt not, other rich Minerals; but [for] the want of Persons of Knowledge, and [of] Monied Men, these Discoveries must be Dormant for some Time.

The Number of Inhabitants, from the most exact Acc’ts I can have, of White and Black, are 230,000, and the[y] Annually increase in Numbers. There are 50 Counties, each has a Co’ty Lt., Colo., Lieut. Colo. and Major, and according to the largeness of the Co’ty, their Militia is divided into Compa’s, each Company hav’g a Capt., Lieut. And Ensign, and our Militia may now amo. to 27,000 Men from 21 to 60 Years of Age. In order to bring the Militia into good Discipline, and a proper Use of their Arms, I divided this Dom’n into four Districts, and appointed experience’d Persons to be Adjutants, to teach the officers, and y’n the private Men their Exercise, w’ch I hope, will in Time bring the Militia into good Order and Discipline; for our whole Dependence (under God) must be on them, for we have no Forts in y’s Dom’n. There was one erected at the mouth of Jas. River, but as it was built on a Sandy Foundat’n, the Sea and Weather destroy’d it, [so] y’t the Guns lie dismounted, and [are] of no Use. There are two small Batteries on York River, [which] are only of Service to protect the Merch’t Ships in y’t River, and [are] of no Defence ag’st an Enemy y’t have Force sufficient to attack them by Land, or a Ship Force to run up the river, may demolish them both. And I wish the Colony was in good Circumstances to build Forts of some better Materials than Wood; but the small Funds w’ch the Assembly here is able to raise, are not equal to so considerable an Undertaking; and in War, with’t some of H. M’y’s Ships of War, y’s Domin’n w’d be subject to the Insults of small Privateers. This is highly worthy of [the most] serious considerat’n. [Of the] Indians: The tributary Ind’s, subject to the Rules of this Gov’t, are much reduced and very inconsiderable; there are at pres’t only the Pamunkey and Nottaways, their Numbers together, are not above 60 fight’g Men, they are seated among the Inhabit’ts and live in Peace and Amity with them. The other Nat’s of Ind’s y’t are near us, and profess Fr’dship and League with the English, are the Six Nat’s to the No’wards, the Catawbas, Cherokees, Chickasaws and Creeks to the So’w’d. The different Nat’s on the River Ohio, the Picts, Twightwees, and shawnesse to the Westw’d, if they be not seduced by the Fr., who are between Us and them. This Colony has always been happy, and in form Peace with the Ind’s till lately, the Fr. have, by Threats and fair Promises, seduced some of the Ind’s from the B. Interest, and with great injustice invaded H. M’y’s Lands, plundered and Robbed many of his Subjects, and carried many of them to Quebeck. The Fr. do not make regular Settlements, but build Fortresses as marks of Possession, with’t Justice or any Shadow of Right to the Lands where they build their Forts, and make Incursions among our frontier Settlem’ts (who lie scattered for the Benefit of the best Lands) and rob them of their Cattle, Corn, &c., and often murder them. This is the miserable Situat’n of this Colony at pres’t, and with’t Aid from G. B., by the Infatuation and Neglect of the Assemblies on this Cont’t, must rem’n a Prey to the Enemy’s Depredations. The Revenue within y’s Dom’n, 2s. on every Hhd. of Tob’o exported, abat’g an Allowance of 10 [per] C’t to Masters of Vessells, for pay’g it in Bills of Excha.; 2dly, Fifteen Pence [per] Ton on all Ships and Vessells trad’g here, comonly called Port Duties; 3dly, Six Pence [per] Head on every Passenger imported; 4ly, Fines and Forfeitures for Breaches of the Penal Laws, Contempts of Courts of Justice, Breaches of the Peace, or Convict’n of Felons or Tresspasses; 5ly, Rights for tak’g up Lands, which is 5s. for every 50 Acres. The three first Branches of the Revenue are appropriated by the Act of Assembly for rais’g the same, as are also the forfeitures for Breaches of the penal Laws, for and towards the Support of Gov’t, and its Contingent Cha’s, and for maintaining Forts and Fortifications. The casual Fines and Forfeitures in the fourth Branch, were first appropriated to the Support of Gov’t by Warr’t from King Chas. The 2nd, and have continued so ever since. The last Branch, of Rights for Land; was established by Order of the Gov’r and Council, in the Year 1699, to supply the defect of Importat’n Rights, on which only, People were then entitled to take up Lands, and since y’t Time, it has made a considerable Addit’n to the Revenue. All these Revenue’s together, amo’t, Comunibus Annis, to ab’t 6,500 £. The establish’d Exp’s of Gov’t, includ’g Gov’r and Council, and other Officer’s Salarys, amo’ts to Yearly, as by particular Acc’t below, to 4,345 £. The extra Exp’s, Incidents, &c., are not easily to be computed, because they rise and fall as the Exigences of Gov’t require, and at pres’t are very high, by [reason of] Messengers, Expresses, Repairs of Gov’r’s Ho., and other Incidents, as also, Alarms of Inva’s from Ind’s, or other great Exp’s in Pres’ts to Ind’s, repairing Fortificat’s, and many other Affairs, that makes me incapable to fix any annual Sum on these different Dutys and Services, w’ch now amo’ts to a considerable Sum. The Establishm’t now p’d out of the stand’g Revenue, are as follows:

The Go’r’s Salary [per] Ann., £ 2,000
Gent. of the Council, [per] Warr’t, £ 1,200
Judges and Officers of O. and Ter. Courts, £ 200
Auditor Gen’l of Plantat’s, [per] Warr’t, £ 100
Solicitor of Virg’a Affairs, £ 200
King’s Atto’y Gen’l, £ 70
Clerk of the Council, £ 100
Four Adjut’s, each £ 100, £ 400
Armourer, £ 12
Gunners of Forts, £ 47
An Allow’ce for Ministers to Preach before the Gen’l Court,£ 16
    £ 4,345

A further Allowance for each Sermon preached before the General Assembly. The Rec’r Gen’l holds his Place by Pat’t from H. M’y, and is allowed 5 [per] Ct. on all the Money he receives. The Deputy Auditor acts by Com’o. from the Auditor Gen’l of the Plantat’s, and has in lieu of Salary 5 [per] Ct. on all the Money he audits. The Bishop of London’s Comissary has an annual Salary out of H. M’y’s Quit Rents, of £ 100 [per] Ann. These are the only establish’d Cha’s on the stand’g Revenue. The foregoing is a true state of the Dom’n of Virg’a in the different Branches of its Constitut’n.

R. D.


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