Williamsburg, VA  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Williamsburg Area Features

Choosing Revolution

Photo Credit: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg VA

Beginning in the 1760s and continuing through the American Revolution, Williamsburg was a center of debate among diverse peoples with conflicting opinions and loyalties. At issue was the choice between independence from or continued allegiance to England.

As a colony, Virginia’s trade, economy and government were dominated by Great Britain. Virginians began questioning the way in which British ministers and Parliament were managing the colonies. Virginians also began to doubt the integrity of the British government, fearing that it had been compromised by corruption. In 1765, Virginia joined her sister colonies in protesting The Stamp Act. They organized economic boycotts to protest the imposition of the Townshend Duties and tea taxes. Voters gathered at county courthouses to discuss the issues and instruct their legislators on how best to represent them on key issues.

Citizens formed militia groups – independent companies – to enforce the boycotts and demonstrate their resolve for political change.

Young, more assertive leaders like Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington urged strong, direct protest against British policies. And they gathered popular support for their position.

Together at the Capitol in Williamsburg, these new leaders debated issues of freedom and liberty for Virginians. More than once, their debates so disturbed Virginia’s royal governor Lord Dunmore, that in 1774 he dissolved the legislature. They were not to be silenced.

When the governor prohibited them from meeting at the Capitol, Virginia’s new leaders exercised their British right of free assembly and met at the Raleigh Tavern.

Relations between Britain and Virginia deteriorated through the years. By 1775, armed Virginians marched in the streets of Williamsburg. Governor Dunmore feared for the safety of himself and his family. He left the Governor’s Palace for the safety of British Navy warships which were sailing in the Chesapeake Bay.

For ten years, Virginians had debated the meaning of liberty and freedom as British subjects. By 1775 some realized that the only way to protect their basic freedoms was to separate from the mother country. Others could not bring themselves to take such a radical step. They believed the only effective path was for loyal British citizens to reform the British political system.

Virginians of all social ranks – free blacks, slaves, native Americans and working-class whites – examined their lives and their futures to choose loyalty to the crown or revolution. At Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll discover that they, just like us, struggled to fulfill the dream of making real the promise of America.

 

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