John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, 4th Viscount of Fincastle, Last Royal Governor of Virginia Colony

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John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, 4th Viscount of Fincastle (Murray), Last Royal Governor of Virginia Colony

Also Known As: "4th Earl of Dunmore"
Birthplace: Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland, Now United Kingdom
Death: February 25, 1809 (76-77)
Ramsgate, County of Kent, England, Now United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Isle of Thanet, Kent, England, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of William Murray, 3rd Earl of Dunmore and The Hon. Lady Catherine Anne Murray, Countess of Dunmore
Husband of Lady Charlotte Stewart, Countess of Dunmore
Father of Lady Catherine Bouverie; Lady Augusta Murray; George Murray, 5th Earl of Dunmore; Lt-Col. the Hon Alexander Murray; Private and 3 others
Brother of Private; Lady Virginia Murray; Lady Elizabeth Murray; Lady Catherine Murray of Dunmore and Captain, Honourable William Murray

Managed by: Douglas John Nimmo
Last Updated:

About John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, 4th Viscount of Fincastle, Last Royal Governor of Virginia Colony,_4th_Earl_of_Dunmore

John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (1732 – 25 February 1809) was a British peer and colonial governor. He was the son of William Murray, 3rd Earl of Dunmore, and his wife Catherine (née Murray). He is best remembered as the last royal governor of the Colony of Virginia.

Early career

He was born in Scotland in 1732. Murray succeeded his father in the earldom in 1756 and sat as a Scottish representative peer in the House of Lords from 1761 to 1774 and from 1776 to 1790.

Colonial governor of New York

He was named as the British governor of the Province of New York from 1770 to 1771. Soon, however, in 1770, Virginia's governor, Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt (Lord Botetourt) died, and Dunmore was named to replace him.

Colonial governor of Virginia

Dunmore actively served as royal governor of the Colony of Virginia from 25 September 1771 until his departure to New York in 1776; he continued to hold the position until 1783 when American independence was recognised, and continued to draw his pay.

Despite growing issues with Great Britain, Lord Botetourt had been a popular governor in Virginia, even though he served only five years. Lacking in diplomatic skills, Dunmore maintained a contentious relationship with the colonists.

During his term as Virginia's colonial governor, he directed a series of campaigns against the Indians known as Lord Dunmore's War. The Shawnee were the main target of these attacks, and his purpose was to strengthen Virginia's claims in the west, particularly in the Ohio Country. However, some have accused him of colluding with the Shawnees and arranging the war to deplete the Virginia militia and help safeguard the Loyalist cause, should there be a colonial rebellion.

When the House of Burgesses of the Colonial Assembly recommended the formation of a committee of correspondence to communicate their concerns to leaders in Great Britain in March 1773, he immediately dissolved the Assembly. Many of burgesses gathered a short distance away at the Raleigh Tavern and continued discussing their problems with the new taxes and lack of representation in England.

At this time colonists in Massachusetts were also at sharp odds with the British, and punitive action had been taken. As a gesture of support, the reconvened House of Burgesses passed a resolution making 1 June 1774 a day of fasting and prayer in Virginia. In response, Dunmore again dissolved the House.

From 1774, Dunmore was continually clashing with colonial leaders. Dunmore saw rising unrest in the colony and sought to deprive Virginia militia of supplies needed for insurrection. The Second Virginia Convention had elected delegates to the Continental Congress. Dunmore issued a proclamation against electing delegates to the Congress, but did not take serious action. On 23 March, Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech at the Second Convention and the accompanying resolution calling for forming an armed resistance[3] made Dunmore "think it prudent to remove some Gunpowder which was in a Magazine in this place." Dunmore gave a key to Lieutenant Henry Colins, commander of H.M.S. Magdalen, and ordered him to remove the powder, provoking what became known as the Gunpowder Incident. On the night of 20 April 1775, royal marines loaded fifteen half barrels of powder into the governor's wagon intent on transporting it down the Quarterpath Road to the James River to be loaded aboard the British ship. This was discovered while underway, and local militia rallied to the scene, and riders spread word of the incident across the colony.

Confronted by Hanover militia

The Hanover militia, led by Patrick Henry, arrived outside of Williamsburg on 3 May. That day, Dunmore evacuated his family from the Governor's Palace to his hunting lodge, Porto Bello in York County, adjacent to the York River.[6] On 6 May, Dunmore issued a proclamation against "a certain Patrick Henry . . . and a Number of deluded Followers" who had organised "an Independent Company . . . and put themselves in a Posture of War."

As hostilities continued, Dunmore left Williamsburg himself on 8 June 1775, retreating to Porto Bello where he joined his family. From there, being dislodged by the Virginia rebels and wounded in the leg, he took refuge on the British warship Fowey in the York River. Washington's comment in December 1775 was, “I do not think that forcing his lordship on shipboard is sufficient. Nothing less than depriving him of life or liberty will secure peace to Virginia, as motives of resentment actuate his conduct to a degree equal to the total destruction of that colony.”

Lord Dunmore's Proclamation

Dunmore is noted for Lord Dunmore's Proclamation, also known as Lord Dunmore's Offer of Emancipation, on 7 November 1775, whereby he offered freedom to slaves who abandoned their Patriot masters to join the British. This was the first mass emancipation of slaves in North America. As governor of Virginia, Dunmore had withheld his signature from a bill against the slave trade. However, by the end of the war, an estimated 100,000 escaped slaves sought refuge with the British, an estimated 20,000 of them served in the army, though the majority served in noncombatant roles.

He organised these Black Loyalists into the Ethiopian Regiment. However, after the Battle of Kemp's Landing, Dunmore became over-confident, which precipitated his defeat at the Battle of Great Bridge, 9 December 1775. Following the defeat at Great Bridge, he loaded his troops, and many Virginia Loyalists, onto British ships; as there was an outbreak of smallpox at the time, this had disastrous consequences, particularly for the ex-slaves; some 500 of the 800 members of the Ethiopian Regiment died.

Final skirmishes and return to Britain

On New Year's Day in 1776, Dunmore gave orders to burn waterfront buildings in Norfolk from which patriot troops were firing on his ships. In doing so, he fell into another trap, as this gave the rebels an excuse to burn the entire city. When it became apparent that his supporters were not going to be able to return to Virginia, Dunmore retreated to New York. Some ships of his refugee fleet were sent south, mostly to Florida, but the rumour that their black passengers were resold into slavery appears to be based on propaganda stories circulated by the anti-British forces at the time. When he realised he could not regain control in Virginia, he returned to Britain in July 1776. He continued to serve in his post as Governor of Virginia until 1783, when the independence of the United States was recognised.

From 1787 to 1796, he served as governor of the Bahamas.

Other References

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John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, 4th Viscount of Fincastle, Last Royal Governor of Virginia Colony's Timeline

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland, Now United Kingdom
January 22, 1760
Airth, Stirling, Scotland, UK
January 27, 1761
Airth, Stirlingshire, Scotland, UK
April 30, 1762
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, UK

Scotland's People Old Parish Registers- Birth
Date of Birth: 30/04/1762
Parish: Airth
Parish reference number: 469/
Parish reference: 20 158


October 12, 1764
Airth, Stirlingshire, Scotland, UK
June 17, 1767
Airth, Stirling, Scotland, UK

17/06/1767 MURRAY, SUSANNA (Old Parish Registers Births 469/ 20 158 Airth) Page 158 of 372

Quote: "17 June 1767, Dunmore: The Right Honourable Earl of Dunmore and Lady Charlotte Stewart had a child born and baptised", next words illegible, "called Susanna"

December 16, 1770
Dunmor, Meath, Scotland, UK