Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DINWIDDIE, Robert, colonial governor of Virginia, born in Scotland about 1690; died in Clifton, England, 1 August 1770. While a clerk in the customs department, he detected his principal, a collector of customs in the West Indies, in gross frauds on the government, and as a reward for this service he was made surveyor of customs for the colonies, and soon afterward lieutenant governor of Virginia. He arrived in the colony in 1752, and in December of that year transmitted to the board of trade an elaborate report in favor of annexing the Ohio valley for the extension of British settlements, and of constructing a line of forts, and making an alliance with the Miami Indians, to secure the settlements against French aggressions. He discerned the military capacity of Washington, whom in 1753 he appointed adjutant general of one of the four military districts of Virginia, with the rank of major, and sent as a commissioner to expostulate with St. Pierre, the French commander on the Ohio, for his aggressions upon British territory, and to demand the withdrawal of the French troops. Major Washington delivered to the French commander Dinwiddie's letter, asserting that the lands on the Ohio belonged to the British crown, demanding to know by whose authority an armed force had crossed the lakes, and insisting on their speedy departure.
The governor was incensed at the French soldier's reply, to the effect that it did not become him to discuss treaties, and, calling his council together, determined, by their advice, to expel the French from the disputed territory. Washington's expedition followed. The capture of Fort Trent by the French was the first overt act of the war. The British government, after seeking explanations at the French court, sent Braddock with two regiments to aid the colonists. Dinwiddie ,net five of the other colonial governors at Annapolis, and afterward at Alexandria, and planned expeditions against Fort Duquesne, Niagara, Frontenac, and Crown Point. He was highly incensed at the tardiness of the House of Burgesses in voting money for the public defense, and at their refusal to put it under his absolute disposal. In 1754 he suggested to the British board of trade the propriety of taxing the colonies for the purpose of raising funds to carry on the war, and in the succeeding year was one of the five colonial governors who memorialized the ministry to the same effect. He urged the imposition by the British parliament of a general poll tax and a general land tax in America, on the ground that it was impossible to obtain joint efforts of the colonies by appealing to their assemblies. After the defeat of Braddock he continued to busy himself with the military operations on the frontiers, displaying great incapacity, and wearying Washington, then in command of the colonial troops, by frequent exhibitions of ill temper, folly, or caprice. His arrogance brought him into collision with the legislature, while his avarice led him to exact illegal or obsolete fees, and he was at length recalled, leaving Virginia in January 1758. At the time of his departure he was charged with appropriating to his own use £20,000 placed in his hands to compensate the Virginians for money expended in excess of their proportion of the expenses of the war, for which he never satisfactorily accounted.
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