4th Earl of Dunmore, PC (1730 – 25 February
1809), generally known as Lord Dunmore, was a
Scottish peer and colonial governor in the
American colonies and The Bahamas. Murray was
born in Tymouth, Scotland, the eldest son of
William Murray, 3rd Earl of Dunmore.
Jacobite army was defeated at the Battle of
Culloden in 1746, William Murray was imprisoned
in Tower of London and his family was put under
house arrest. By 1750, William Murray had
received a conditional pardon. John Murray was
now aged twenty and joined the British Army. In
1756, after the deaths of his uncle and father,
he became the fourth Earl of Dunmore.
named the British governor of the Province of
New York from 1770 to 1771. Soon after his
appointment, in 1770, Virginia's governor,
Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt (Lord
Botetourt) died, and Dunmore was eventually
named to replace him.
diplomatic skills, Dunmore tried to govern
without consulting the House of Burgesses of the
Colonial Assembly for more than a year, which
exacerbated an already tense situation.
finally convened the Colonial Assembly in March
1773, which was the only way he could deal with
fiscal issues to financially support his war
through additional taxation, the burgesses
instead first resolved to form a committee of
correspondence to communicate their continued
concerns about the Townshend Acts and Gaspee
Affair to Great Britain. Dunmore immediately
postponed the Assembly. Many of burgesses
gathered a short distance away at the Raleigh
Tavern and continued discussing their problems
with the new taxes, perceived corruption and
lack of representation in England. When Dunmore
reconvened the Assembly in 1774, the burgesses
passed a resolution declaring 1 June 1774 a day
of fasting and prayer in Virginia. In response,
Dunmore dissolved the House.
again reconvened as the Second Virginia
Convention and elected delegates to the
Continental Congress. Dunmore issued a
proclamation against electing delegates to the
Congress, but failed to take serious action. In
March, 1775, Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty,
or give me Death!" speech delivered at St.
John's Episcopal Church in Richmond helped
convince delegates to approve a resolution
calling for armed resistance.
In the face of
rising unrest in the colony, Dunmore sought to
deprive Virginia's militia of military supplies.
Dunmore gave the key to the Williamsburg
magazine to Lieutenant Henry Colins, commander
of HMS 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 and the
British warship. Local militia rallied, and word
of the incident spread across the colony.
militia, led by Patrick Henry, arrived outside
of Williamsburg on 3 May. That same day, Dunmore
evacuated his family from the Governor's Palace
to his hunting lodge, Porto Bello in nearby York
County. On 6 May,
Dunmore issued a proclamation against "a
certain Patrick Henry... and a Number of
deluded Followers" who had organized "an
Independent Company... and put themselves in a
Posture of War."
threatened to impose martial law, and eventually
retreated to Porto Bello to join his family.
Dislodged by the Virginia rebels and wounded in
the leg, on 8 June, Dunmore took refuge on the
British warship HMS Fowey in the York
River. Over the next months, Dunmore sent many
raiding parties to plunder plantations along the
James, York and Potomac rivers, particularly
those owned by rebels. The raiders exacerbated
tensions, since they not only stole supplies
they also encouraged slaves to rebel. In
December, Washington commented “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
noted for Lord Dunmore's Proclamation, also
known as Lord Dunmore's Offer of Emancipation.
Dated 7 November 1775, but proclaimed a week
later, Dunmore thereby formally offered freedom
to slaves who abandoned their Patriot masters to
join the British. Dunmore had previously
withheld his signature from a bill against the
slave trade. The proclamation appeared to
respond to the legislature's proclamation that
Dunmore had resigned his position by boarding a
warship off Yorktown nearly six months earlier.
However, by the end of the war, an estimated 800
to 2000 escaped slaves sought refuge with the
British; some served in the army, though the
majority served in noncombatant roles.
organized these Black Loyalists into his
Ethiopian Regiment. However, despite winning the
Battle of Kemp's Landing on 17 November 1775,
Dunmore lost decisively at the Battle of Great
Bridge on 9 December 1775. Following that
defeat, Dunmore loaded his troops, and many
Virginia Loyalists, onto British ships. Smallpox
spread in the confined quarters, and some 500 of
the 800 members of the Ethiopian Regiment died.
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.
However, the fire spread. The city burned, and
with it any hope that Dunmore's loyalists could
return to Virginia. Dunmore retreated to New
York. Some ships of his refugee fleet were sent
south, mostly to Florida. When he realized he
could not regain control in Virginia, Dunmore
returned to Britain in July 1776. Dunmore
continued to draw his pay as the colony's
governor until 1783, when Britain recognized
From 1787 to 1796, Dunmore served as governor of
the Bahamas. Dunmore died on February 25, 1809
and was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest