George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 31 October 1768]

31. Dined at the Mayor’s. Ent[ertaine]d at the Govr. in Ditto.

Colonial Virginia had a number of towns, such as Alexandria, that had a board of trustees with very limited powers. Two colonial towns, however, were incorporated in the eighteenth century: the Borough of Norfolk (1736) and the City of Williamsburg (1722). Under such a charter, the city gained governmental powers comparable to those of a county court, including a city hustings court and the right to one representative in the House of Burgesses. The city government consisted of a board of 6 aldermen, a 12-member common council, a recorder, and a mayor, the last of whom was elected from among the aldermen on 30 Nov. of each year. James Cocke, a prominent merchant, was mayor for 1767–68, and 1772–73. Cocke’s home was about a block west of the Governor’s Palace (walker description begins Leola O. Walker. “Officials in the City Government of Colonial Williamsburg.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 75 (1967): 35–51. description ends , 36, 49).

In a session held the previous spring, which GW had not attended, the Virginia House of Burgesses had unanimously resolved to endorse a Massachusetts protest of the Townshend Acts by which Parliament, beginning late in 1767, imposed duties on certain British exports to the colonies: tea, glass, lead, paints, and some types of paper. Denying Parliament’s right to levy such duties without consent of the colonists, the burgesses had petitioned both houses of Parliament and the king for repeal of the acts and had hinted that there would be a boycott of British goods into Virginia if their request was denied. The new governor was especially instructed by the king in Council to “converse with, the members of our . . . council [in Virginia], separately and personally, as also with the principal persons of influence . . . and endeavor to lead them . . . to disclaim the erroneous and dangerous principles which they appear to have adopted.” The ship Rippon was to remain to assist Botetourt, including the ferrying from Boston of British troops, in case Botetourt encountered any “sudden commotion of the populace” (labaree [1] description begins Leonard Woods Labaree, ed. Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors, 1670–1776. 2 vols. 1935. Reprint. New York, 1967. description ends , 1:364–65; Lord Hillsborough to the Lords of Admiralty, 28 July 1768, P.R.O., C.O.5/1346, f. 75).

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