tv Open Phones with Joseph Beatty CSPAN December 25, 2015 8:25pm-9:02pm EST
down his house with the women and children inside. anyone who does not agree with them up there in new england suffers some violent repercussions. >> when they meet in the raleigh tavern, whatever they agree on is simply an agreement among gentlemen. it's not a government measure because it's not a government. how do you enforce something if you have no authority? >> it doesn't have any royal license at all. this is a radical action. what you don't realize is all the county militias are going back to the control of the county lieutenants. >> as it should be, yes? >> the governor can't call them up anymore. whoever the county lieutenants are, they're the only ones that can call them up. >> are there 5,000, 6,000 red coats coming here? will they close the ports? >> we have an opportunity that we can create forces here in virginia.
we can put together our own men. if the right men are in control in each of the counties, we can put together our own virginia forces. >> those very same men talking about my right to the free briton are the same people who write laws to make me chattel property. if i have children, then my children go to my master who can sell and buy us as he sees fit. still they complain about their rights and liberties. >> and we are back live here on american history tv on c-span 3. we are in the colonial williamsburg historic area, where a c-span bus is at the end of the palace green. aboard the bus this morning is joseph beatty. mr. beatty, our viewers were just watching what happened, the dissolving of the house of burgesses.
explain who was governor dunmore. >> so governor dunmore was the last royal governor of virginia. he came to virginia in 1771. by that point things were already in some state of turmoil. and he stayed through the very earliest parts of the rising conflict as the revolution started, but left williamsburg in 1775 and left virginia in 1776. >> why? >> well, the things really heated up. what you saw in the -- or what we just saw with the dissolving of the house in some ways really kind of marked a point of no return for any hopes of peaceful reconciliation with the royal government. and so things really started to -- you know, tensions started to rise, and people in town, after the house was dissolved,
the burgesses set up a shadow government. and eventually, you know, things sort of came to a head at the same time that lexington and concord saw their fight. here in williamsburg we saw under the governor's order powder removed from the magazine here in town. and this really in some ways was sort of the spark that set things off here. and this led to some real open confrontation, really, with the governor. and i think he found it unsafe to be here in town anymore and decided he was safer elsewhere. >> what was the house of burgesses? >> so the house of burgesses was the legislative body that represented virginians. it was the first representative
body in colonial british north america. it was established in 1619. in some ways it was kind of modelled after parliament. each county sent two representatives to the house and electors, the qualifications for what made a person an elector changed over time, but by the time we get to the 18th century we're looking at land owning white men. they had to hold a minimum amount of land, but these folks elected representatives to the house of burgesses. and these folks really worked on the laws of the colony with the governor and his council sitting sort of at the top of this body, in some ways mirroring the kind of structure of parliament. >> so, mr. beatty, did what our
viewers just see, did that really happen and how do we do know? >> it did happen. dunmore did indeed dissolve the house of burgesses. we have -- thomas jefferson wrote in his diary and wrote letters to folks describing and recollecting the events of the day. it was certainly a memorable occasion for them. dunmore wasn't the first and only governor to dissolve the house of burgesses. this was in the governor's prerogative. but this incident was a little bit different, because as tensions had been increasing, dunmore really saw this as an affront to his authority, i think, and a challenge to royal authority, that the house at that point was really sort of acting in open defiance. and particularly with their open
and vocal support of their countrymen in massachusetts, dunmore felt, as the scene portrayed, this was intended to really stir the population up. in some ways i think he felt it was intended to stir the population up against him. and so this -- i've lost myself. >> that's okay. let me ask you this. so at this point, in 1774, how long had virginia been a colony, and what did that mean? >> so virginia had been a colony since 1607. at this point, if my math is any good, that's almost 170 years. and so, you know, virginia was
the first successful permanent british colony in north america, predated massachusetts or the plymouth by 13 years. so, you know, virginia was the largest and most populous colony in british north america and was really a powerful outpost of the british empire. so for this to be happening was i would say a significant event. and i think dunmore really -- it may be going a little too far to say he took it personally, but i think he did take it a little bit personally,burgesburgesses,e acting in open defiance.
>> we're talking about to historian joseph beatty. he's going to take your questions, your texts about what's happening in virginia, a colony in the 1770s. here is how we have the phone lines divided. if you live on the west coast, 202-748-8999. you can join the conversation on facebook if you like, or go to twitter, @c-spanhistory, and we'll take your comments there as well. mr. beatty, you were just talking about virginia becoming one of the first colonies, but how did it compare to the other colonies? >> so virginia was started really as a commercial enterprise, which is in some ways much different from the impulses that started the colonies at plymouth and massachusetts.
you know, they were looking for religious freedom or freedom from religious persecution. and here virginia was established as a business venture. they were seeking gold, which they didn't really find. they were seeking timber, which they found an awful lot of. and they were looking to turn this into a commercial venture, really to extend the new and emerging british empire. in some ways that makes virginia's early days different from some of the other colonies. and we can see, if we look at the examples of the other colonies that started afterwards, some are formed on the principle of religious freedom or freedom from religious persecution and others are founded on a more commercial
basis. i think virginia is sort of the first of these that starts out really on the essence of trade. >> and what challenges did virginia present that these other states did not to the british? >> in the early years or just as a colony in general? >> as a colony in general. as they set it up as a business venture, as you were talking about, so what challenges were there? >> so one of the challenges is that people who are interested in making money and improving their share in life don't always take a long-term view of their situation. and so if you look at plymouth or massachusetts, the colony was settled by families, by men and women, sometimes children. we see multigenerational families moving in.
and they established towns and sort of grew along the model of towns as the center of their community. and here in virginia, really in this sort of commercial enterprise, after they made it through the really difficult first years where merely staying alive was a real challenge, once the colonies started to develop, folks were -- who came here were mostly men. not to say that there weren't women, but it was a predominantly male population, and they were looking at and were interested in making some money and hopefully heading back to england. and so they didn't do things like build towns in the same way they did in new england. and once tobacco becomes really the cash crop of virginia, it forces and really encourages the population to spread out and disperse, which means that we don't see here in virginia in the very early years the kind of
robust community center towns like we do in new england. so virginia was in some ways kind of a challenging environment to live in with disease and all this, but it was a sort of challenging environment also because of the way the population started to move around and the way the economy started to develop. >> let's get to calls here for mr. beatty. david is up first from rochester, new york. hi, david. >> caller: hi. thank you for this program. i'm disabled. i'm not able to get to williamsburg, but this is a wonderful program and i appreciate it. my question is, lord dunmore tried to incite the black slaves to join the british side. they offered their freedom.
how did this effect the blacks in williamsburg and how many blacks at that time were enslaved and how many were free? thank you. >> thanks. that's a great question. there's really two things here. dunmore's proclamation offered freedom for people who would fight for the british side at the beginning of the war. and this was -- had really important and kind of powerful ramifications here in town. it really, really stirred up people here against dunmore, against royal authority. it's kind of ironic because dunmore's goal in this was to -- he almost wanted to do something so profoundly shocking that it would stir the loyalists up to really rise up from their
slumber and put down this rebelli rebellion. instead it had the opposite effect, rather than stirring up loyalists to put down the rebellion, it stirred up the rebels to really fight harder and stronger. in williamsburg, at the time of the revolution, the population here in the city was 1,880, and about 52% of that population was african-american and the majority of those folks were enslaved. a small but significant number of people fled to dunmore's side. enough that he was able to muster together his ethiopian regiment. but i don't know that it had quite the effect that he had wished that it would have,
either in terms of its outcome with loyalists or with stirring up the population, i mean, gaining support from enslaved people. this was, if you consider the perspective of enslaved people facing this decision, this is a really -- this is fraught. you know, do you choose to stay on with the situation that you know or face a situation that's in many ways entirely unknown, and you don't know what commitment the british have to really holding up their end of the bargain. so that's a great question, thanks. >> we'll hear from linda next in michigan. hi, linda, you're on the air. >> caller: thank you. i would like to know -- i was down to williamsburg this last august and i've been there years
before. it is absolutely fantastic. i do have a question. how often do they go through the buildings and redo them and stuff, to keep things up to par? and when the fighting was, when washington and adams and the other founders came, how long were they there in williamsburg to start the capital there in williamsburg? thank you very much, and have a great day. >> thanks. so that first question -- i love this question. thanks for asking it. we have curators of our historic properties and maintenance folks that go through our properties and our buildings on a rotating basis and do the really valuable and essential maintenance to keep them standing.
we have a powerful charge to steward these buildings and these sites and these stories into the future, and it wouldn't be possible without these folks who do that every day. i saw one day the schedule of building maintenance, and it was projected out for three or four years. and this is an incredible ongoing process. so some sites see maintenance annually. some sites see maintenance every two or three years. and some sites see maintenance, you know, maybe every nine years or so. it's essential to do this kind of work. we sort of take it for granted that these buildings stand and are in good repair. but it's through the really hard work of folks who go through there and make sure that things are really sound and stable and touch up the paint.
it's a wonderful sight to walk down the street and to see our guests stop and watch our workers paint the buildings. and they ask about, you know, how do you do that. it's a really cool thing to see. your second question -- >> she asked -- >> i'm sorry. >> i was just going to remind you she asked about when the founding fathers came to williamsburg and how long they were there. >> right. so it sort of depended on who they were. someone like washington would come when the house of burgesses was in session, so he would stay for a couple of weeks or a couple of months maybe at a time. someone like jefferson who attended the college of william and mary and studied with george here in town would have been here for much longer. so the situation sort of varied depending on which of these individuals you see. as the colonial capital, most of the -- well, essentially all of
the really important business at the colonial level was administered here. so if these individuals had business that needed to be done with the state, they had to come here. so this was a busy place with people coming and going and visiting, sometimes for longer and sometimes for shorter. by all accounts, it was a pretty happening place. >> and when did williamsburg become the capital? >> so williamsburg becomes the capital of virginia in 1699. previous to that, it had been -- so from 1607 to 1698, the capital was in jamestown. and in 1698, the statehouse in jamestown burned down for the third time, and they started to -- or they took the opportunity to see if there was
a better location. and williamsburg at that time was known as middle plantation. it was the home to the college of william and mary. it had an established church here at bruton parish. a couple of college students and one of their professors leaned a little bit or lobbied on the assembly to say, maybe you should consider coming here. geographically we're in a relatively high location about right in the middle of the peninsula. we have fairly good access to the york and james river systems. they did the math and decided that a move here to middle plantation would be good, and once they made that decision, changed the name to williamsburg, and laid out and planned the city here. >> going back to the dissolving of the house of burgesses, you
know, what's the reaction of the town? we saw a little bit of it during that street scene. but what's the reaction from the town? >> folks in town had a lot on their minds. the move that caused the house to be dissolved was this call for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer in support of their friends in massachusetts. and, you know, this was because of the boston port act which was going to close boston. but this was one in a long chain of acts we now call them -- they called them the intolerable acts or the coercive acts. so this was one in a long chain of other dictates coming down from london.
so folks here in town were concerned because there was some uncertainty. they didn't know what was happening. and i think there was real fear that what was happening in boston could happen here. and, you know, we don't -- here in williamsburg don't have the same kind of port that boston has, where the british could blockade the port. but, you know, our access here by water is through the mouth of the chesapeake bay. and there's a real concern among people that if the british could blockade boston, that they could blockade the bay too, and that virginiians here would face
some of the same consequences that were happening in massachusetts. so people were concerned. there was a real uncertainty. and, you know, there had been recent conflicts on the border with pennsylvania, the boston tea party, you know, there are things that are causing people to have concern. and so, you know, the reaction here was rightly -- i think people were anxious, but once the house reassembled at the raleigh tavern and set up this shadow government, it probably caused another layer of uncertainty because as you heard in some of the chatter on the street afterwards, is this really going to work, can they do this? and to sort of top things off, just a few weeks after he dissolved the house, dunmore left for ohio on a war campaign. and so we were left here with a
dissolved house, a shadow government, and no royal governor. i think people were a little concerned. >> let's go to richmond, virginia. william, hi there. >> caller: well, hi. thank you. i'm enjoying the show immensely. i have enjoyed wonderful extemporaneous conversations with the historical interpreters in colonial williamsburg. my question is, how are these people chosen and trained to provide such great in-depth information? thank you. >> thanks. that's a great question. we have a couple of different types of interpreters who face the public here. and the folks you're describing were probably our first person interpreters who take on a historic personage and enact that person's character in life.
we generally hire folks who have a background in acting and train them on the historical information they need to support their role. and so we have several different and so we have several different levels and programs of training that go through preparing people to understand what's happening in williams burg as a place, what life in the 18th century was like here. once that happens, we sit them down with a historian and help them flush out the character. we have a bunch of talented folks who are out in the historic area who help each other and support each other in finding the best ways of communicating, the best ways of sharing information.
later on here, our viewers will get a chance to talk to president thomas jefferson who ease been doing that for 22 years here. thomas, you're next, jacksonville, florida. >> caller: yes, good morning. i'd like to first thank mr. vice president beatty for specifying that virginia was the oldest british colony in north america. one of my many visits of williams burg coincided with the archaeological site of the coffee house. i was curious to know if there are any other archaeological digs on going or reconstructions like the coffee house.
thanks, i neglected to point out that the spanish did establish the first european settlement at st. augustine right down the road from you. so, yes, we have a variety of excavations going on -- i don't want to say all the time but on going. we have determined the location or existence of the porch that may have been attached to the site there and we've been working with others in excavations at the bray school.
so, yes, we do have on going excavations. i don't think we have any grand plans for new sites to e merj. although just a few weeks ago, we cut the ribbon last week on our new market house, which is our new historic structure here in town. if you're familiar with the site, it's on market where more or less in between the magazine and the courthouse. this is our newest structure. >> mr. beatty, we've got a couple here. one viewer texts in laura dunbar's war has been considered by some to be the first battle of the revolution can you discuss. at the beginning of the war, what was the percentage of loyalists versus patriots.
>> dunmar's war -- dunmar's war, they may well be one of the first battles of the revolution. if we consider the timing of things, i think this's some cause to argue that although i don't want to steal too much thunder from lexington and concord, i think there's some plan to this. dunmar left a frontier that was growing increasingly unstable and down. i'm going to have to ruminate on that a little bit. the question about the numbers of loyalists here in virginia
for a long time, historians argue about a third of the population was loyalist during the war. recently, we've sort of revised those numbers down to about 15 or 20%. >> business affairs. we see debate in public, in private, in the newspapers. people are clearly debaying the loyalists versus patriot causes. but people really -- loyalists,
to be honest, really suffered and had a lot at stake during the war. especially in the very early years as things were gaining steam. i think there were a number of people elsewhere in other colonies who probably kept their thoughtings to themselves and decided to ride it out quietly and see what would happen. so the shosht answer is it's kind of hard to say how many loyalists there were. but, you know, in the big picture, historians are of the mind that it's about 15-20%, maybe stretch a little on either end of that. >> bob, you are on the air, sir? >> caller: hi, good morning. thanks for taking my call. i had seen a documentary ri on
williams burg some years ago, maybe on pbs. and there was an excavation which involved the wheel found dais of the 19th century. one of them was the civil war hustler. basically two questions. i just wonder any follow up that's been done on that? and the second part is related. there was a battle of williams burg in the civil war, as well. i'm curious toe find out if your educational addressed that. >> thanks for that. i'm not familiar with the excavation. i'm trying to locate that excavation that you're refere e referencing. and i don't want to give the
wrong information to get off track. >> we really focus on a period of up to about 1785. but we do have educational programming through our hero programs formally electronic field trips and our teacher an professional development programming that that's not really one of our core functions. >> it's anticipated next we're going to be hearing from a historical interpreter fled williams burg. tell our viewers before they see this, why did they leave?
approaching the fall las would have been allowed into the front room and most of their business, you know, at that point, it would be determined if their business would allow them to enter into the residence itself when you entered the front room, there's a room off to the right where business could be done more or less in the lobby. without allowing people into the rest of the governors residence. but as you stepped into the front room of the palace, you would have seen, as you do today, an impressive display of arms and armament.
it was a powerful display of force, of the kind of force that the governor had at his disposal if he chose to use it. the palace was and still remains an impressive structure. so for folks who are going to see the governor or just passing through town, it was a powerful symbol of loyal thoerty. >> that's coming up with a tour of that, but justin, thank you. appreciate it. and this runs about 20 minutes. after that, we'll continue on with taking your questions and kmebts about what is happening in virginia and the 1770s. we are live this m