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To George Washington from Edmund Pendleton, 21 April 1775

From Edmund Pendleton

Apl 21. 1775.

Dr Sir

I have procured a Copy of Dr Savage’s Bill Which I now inclose you with the other papers, as I imagine Yr Answer may be drawn above with more convenience to you. As to the Release he sets up, ’twil be necessary to set forth where it was made by your consents, or on her privy examination in Court, so far as you are acquainted wth the Facts.1 it will be time enough to have the Answer agt October, & indeed I fear ’twil be of no use then, as all late Accounts from ⟨Br⟩itain seem to promise Us other emploiment before that time. We have a loose Report that the Govr has taken the Key of the Magazine, & that a sloop with a Company of Marines was lying in each of the Creeks, which it was Supposed were to take the Arms & Amunition from thence. Some of our Independants had a strong inclination to go immediately & secure the Arms & Amunition.2

I have as yet heard nothing From the Speaker fixing the time of our setting out, indeed from some disturbances in the City, by the Slaves,3 I doubt whether he will go—I purpose however to set off at all events Wednesday morning the 3d & shall be glad to meet you at upper Malbrough thursday night.4 My Complts to Mrs Washington and the young pair. I am Dr Sr Yr mo. humble Servt

Edmd Pendleton

ALS, DLC:GW. GW docketed this letter: “From Colo. Edmd Pendleton and Robt H. Harrison Esq. 26th Feby & 21st Apl 1775 respectg the Suit—Mrs Savage agt Dr Savage.” The letter of 26 Feb. was from Harrison.

2Between three and four o’clock on the morning of 21 April Lt. Henry Colins of the British armed schooner Magdalen which lay in James River arrived at the magazine in Williamsburg with a detachment of marines. Lord Dunmore, believing that the armed men raised in the several counties might seize the gunpowder stored there, had procured the keys to the magazine from the keeper and given them to Colins. The marines quietly loaded fifteen half barrels of gunpowder onto a wagon before an alarm was sounded. Despite the alarm the powder was spirited away and transported to the Fowey man-ofwar stationed off Norfolk. Although many in the gathering mob of citizens wanted to storm the governor’s palace to demand the return of the powder, cooler heads prevailed. Later in the day the Common Hall, the municipal governing body, met and prepared a surprisingly mild address to the governor requesting that the powder be returned to the magazine. The reason set forth for the immediate return of the powder was that “various reports at present prevailing in different parts of the country, we have too much reason to believe that some wicked and designing persons have instilled the most diabolical notions into the minds of our slaves, and that, therefore, the utmost attention to our internal security is become the more necessary” (Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia description begins William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. A Documentary Record. 7 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1973–83. description ends , 3:54–55). Dunmore refused to comply with the request, saying he had removed the powder to a more secure place after “hearing of an insurrection in a neighbouring county.” In case of an insurrection he promised “upon his word and honour” that “it should be delivered in half an hour” (ibid., 55). In a few days word of Dunmore’s actions spread, and the independent companies of several outlying counties prepared to march to the capital. They first, however, sought the opinions of such moderate men as GW and Speaker Peyton Randolph, who cautioned against any military action. Before the end of the month, word was received from Massachusetts of the first shots fired in the coming conflict. For an account of the events of these critical days in Virginia and Dunmore’s flight to the Fowey, see ibid., 3–10. See also Prince William Independent Company to GW, Spotsylvania Independent Company to GW, both 26 April, and Albemarle Independent Company to GW, 29 April, and note 2 of that document.

3Nothing has been found in the Williamsburg newspapers indicating a slave “disturbance” in the city.

4GW left Mount Vernon on Thursday for the Congress at Philadelphia and spent that night in Upper Marlboro, Md. (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:327).

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