Robert Dinwiddie - Encyclopedia

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ROBERT DINWIDDIE (1693-1770), English colonial governor of Virginia, was born near Glasgow, Scotland, in 1693. From the position of customs clerk in Bermuda, which he held in 17 27-1738, he was promoted to be surveyor-general of the customs "of the southern ports of the continent of America," as a reward for having exposed the corruption in the West Indian customs service. In 1743 he was commissioned to examine into the customs service in the Barbadoes and exposed similar corruption there. In1751-1758he was lieutenant-governor of Virginia, first as the deputy of Lord Albemarle and then, from July 1756 to January 1758, as deputy for Lord Loudon. He was energetic in the discharge of his duties, but aroused much animosity among the colonists by his zeal in looking after the royal quit-rents, and by exacting heavy fees for the issue of land-patents. It was his chief concern to prevent the French from building in the Ohio Valley a chain of forts connecting their settlements in the north with those on the Gulf of Mexico; and in the autumn of 1753 he sent George Washington to Fort Le Boeuf, a newly established French post at what is now Waterford, Pennsylvania, with a message demanding the withdrawal of the French from English territory. As the French refused to comply, Dinwiddie secured from the reluctant Virginia assembly a grant of £io,000 and in the spring of 1754 he sent Washington with an armed force toward the forks of the Ohio river "to prevent the intentions of the French in settling those lands." In the latter part of May Washington encountered a French force at a spot called Great Meadows, near the Youghiogheny river, in what is now southwestern Pennsylvania, and a skirmish followed which precipitated the French and Indian War. Dinwiddie was especially active at this time in urging the co-operation of the colonies against the French in the Ohio Valley; but none of the other governors, except William Shirley of Massachusetts, was then much concerned about the western frontier, and he could accomplish very little. His appeals to the home government, however, resulted in the sending of General Edward Braddock to Virginia with two regiments of regular troops; and at Braddock's call Dinwiddie and the governors of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland met at Alexandria, Virginia, in April 1755, and planned the initial operations of the war. Dinwiddie's administration was marked by a constant wrangle with the assembly over money matters; and its obstinate resistance to military appropriations caused him in 1754 and 1755 to urge the home government to secure an act of parliament compelling the colonies to raise money for their protection. In January 1758 he left Virginia and lived in England until his death on the 27th of July 1770 at Clifton, Bristol.

The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia (1751-1758), published in two volumes, at Richmond, Va., in 1883-1884, by the Virginia Historical Society, and edited by R. A. Brock, are of great value for the political history of the colonies in this period.

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