May 7, 2004
"Virginia Declares Independence" May 10-16 in the Historic Area
From 1765, the time of the controversial Stamp Act, the British colonies of North America were subjected to illegal taxation, denial of rights and liberties, and finally, martial law and threats against person and property.
In the spring of 1776, the free citizens of Virginia elected representatives to go to Williamsburg and vote for independence from Great Britain. But they understood that independence would come at a dear price: sacrifice, suffering and, most likely war. The Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg will re-create many of the events leading up to Virginia’s critical vote that influenced the Continental Congress in Philadelphia toward a Declaration of Independence for all of the North American colonies.
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. “The Army Comes to Virginia.” Powder Magazine. In June 1775, the Congress in Philadelphia established the Continental Army and appointed George Washington its commander in chief. Early in 1776, Virginia’s regiments were absorbed into the Continental Line. Learn about the transformation of Virginia’s fighting force from county militia companies to a professional army.
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. “Choosing Independence.” Capitol. Delegates to Virginia’s 5th governing convention discuss the long road to revolution and the impending vote for independence.
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. “The Widow’s War.” The Randolph Site. Peyton Randolph, Virginia’s most powerful politician and president of the first and second Continental Congresses, died in the fall of 1775. Now his widow, Elizabeth Harrison Randolph, must manage his estate and political legacy against the backdrop of revolution and civil war. The community of 27 slaves who reside at the Randolph property must decide whether to stay with their mistress or run to the British in search of freedom!
10 a.m. – noon, 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. “Republican Women.” Mary Stith House. Until recent years, Williamsburg’s 18th-century women have seen themselves as proud subjects of the British monarch. How will they define themselves as citizens of a republic? What will they teach their children about the meaning of self-governance?
2 – 4 p.m. “Liberty for Whom, Freedom from What?” Mary Stith House. George, from the Raleigh Tavern and Betty, the cook from the Randolph House, discuss the ironies of their masters’ cries for independence from Britain, and what, if anything American independence will mean for them as slaves.
9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. “Choosing Independence.” Capitol. Delegates to Virginia’s 5th governing convention discuss the long road to revolution and the impending vote for independence.
4:30 p.m. “Resolved Unanimously! Virginia Declares Independence.” Capitol. Virginia’s Resolution for Independence, adopted on May 15, 1776, is read and accompanied by a military salute and field music.
A Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket is required for most programs.
Lorraine C. Brooks