Dunmore's New World
The Extraordinary Life of a Royal Governor in Revolutionary America--with Jacobites, Counterfeiters, Land Schemes, Shipwrecks, Scalping, Indian Politics, Runaway Slaves, and Two Illegal Royal Weddings
Publication Year: 2013
Dunmore's New World tells the stranger-than-fiction story of Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, whose long-neglected life boasts a measure of scandal and intrigue rare in the annals of the colonial world. Dunmore not only issued the first formal proclamation of emancipation in American history; he also undertook an unauthorized Indian war in the Ohio Valley, now known as Dunmore’s War, that was instrumental in opening the Kentucky country to white settlement. In this entertaining biography, James Corbett David brings together a rich cast of characters as he follows Dunmore on his perilous path through the Atlantic world from 1745 to 1809.
Dunmore was a Scots aristocrat who, even with a family history of treason, managed to obtain a commission in the British army, a seat in the House of Lords, and three executive appointments in the American colonies. He was an unusual figure, deeply invested in the imperial system but quick to break with convention. Despite his 1775 proclamation promising freedom to slaves of Virginia rebels, Dunmore was himself a slaveholder at a time when the African slave trade was facing tremendous popular opposition in Great Britain. He also supported his daughter throughout the scandal that followed her secret, illegal marriage to the youngest son of George III—a relationship that produced two illegitimate children, both first cousins of Queen Victoria.
Within this single narrative, Dunmore interacts with Jacobites, slaves, land speculators, frontiersmen, Scots merchants, poor white fishermen, the French, the Spanish, Shawnees, Creeks, patriots, loyalists, princes, kings, and a host of others. This history captures the vibrant diversity of the political universe that Dunmore inhabited alongside the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. A transgressive imperialist, Dunmore had an astounding career that charts the boundaries of what was possible in the Atlantic world in the Age of Revolution.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
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This project began as a doctoral dissertation at the College of William and Mary. Over the years, it has received vital support from a number of institutions, including the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History; the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library of Colonial Williamsburg; ...
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Sometime before nine o’clock on the morning of 5 December 1793, a couple identifying themselves as Augustus Frederick and Augusta Murray were married at St. George’s Church in Hanover Square, London. The bride had arrived in a hackney coach, the equivalent of a modern taxi, wearing a “common linen gown” beneath a winter cloak. ...
One • Family Politics, 1745– 1770
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Lady Augusta Murray was not the first close relation to jeopardize Dunmore’s place in the empire. Nearly half a century earlier, his father, William Murray of Taymount, had risked the family’s future on the success of an ill-fated revolution. In the summer of 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, better known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” ...
Two • The Absence of Empire, 1770– 1773
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Two ships brought Lord Dunmore’s baggage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1770. One wrecked on its approach to Manhattan—an ill omen. That the other arrived safely was fortunate, for in addition to the new governor’s furniture it was carrying a four-thousand-pound gilt equestrian statue of George III. ...
Three • Promised Land, 1773– 1774
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In August 1774, Lord Dunmore left the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg to confront a coalition of Shawnee and Mingo warriors in the remote Ohio River Valley. It was an unusual step for someone in his position, traveling so many mountainous miles on such a dangerous mission. ...
Four • A Refugee’s Revolution, 1775– 1781
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Early on the morning of 8 June 1775, cannon fire resounded off the coast of Yorktown, Virginia. Amid the mounting crisis over colonial rights, it was an ominous sign. Two months earlier, Lord Dunmore had set off a furor when he ordered the secret removal of gunpowder from the Williamsburg magazine. ...
Five • Abiding Ambitions, 1781– 1796
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Even accepting that American loyalists came in all shapes and sizes, with backgrounds and motives as disparate as the colonies themselves, those who populate Dunmore’s story are something of a revelation. Mainly from the South and West, they possessed none of the staid rationality, reverence for tradition, or moderation of mind that define familiar icons of loyalty.1 ...
Conclusion, 1796– 1809
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The appointment of William Dowdeswell as governor of the Bahama Islands in late 1797 more or less made it official: Dunmore’s career in the empire was over. His would not be a restful retirement. Between the saga of Lady Augusta’s marriage and the family’s finances, sources of anxiety were legion and every day a struggle. ...
A Note on Method: Biography and Empire
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Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 12 b&w illus., 5 maps
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Early American Histories