The Day They Buried Great Britain: Francis Fauqueir, Lord Botetourt, and The Fate of Nations

Excerpts from the Preface
by Roger Hudson

History has been obliging in juxtaposing Francis Fauquier and Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt, and George Morrow makes the most of the opportunity when comparing these successive governors of Virginia . . . Fauquier was a failure, a classic example of what happens when an ambassador or colonial civil servant takes on local coloring where he has been posted, and “goes native.” Botetourt on the other hand was suave, patrician competence personified, a very safe pair of hands, though ones with an iron grip when necessary. If Botetourt suffered any suggestion of self-doubt . . . it must have been dispelled by the reception he received in Williamsburg. He was soon drowning its inhabitants in a sea of his much admired “condescension,” that peculiarly 18th-century quality: as George Morrow so neatly puts it, “He did not stand on his dignity, he sat on it.”

Excerpts from Part I: "The Governor Who Loved Virginians" on Governor Fauquier by George Morrow

Thomas Jefferson called Fauquier “the ablest man” ever to fill the job of Governor. Jefferson meant it as a compliment, as of course it was, but perhaps not in the way that he intended. Fauquier was an able man but a weak governor. He did his duty (though not always with conviction), claimed to be candid (and often was) but seemed to vacillate between excessive irritability and excessive humility.

Born in March of 1703 into a wealthy French Huguenot immigrant family from which he inherited £25,000, Fauquier was a director of the South Sea Company, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a member of the Society of Arts and a former manager and governor of the Foundling Hospital of London. He was a friend of George Frederick Handel, is said to have known William Hogarth well and is described in his proposal for membership in the Royal Society as “A Gentlemen of great merit, well versed in Philosophical & Mathematical inquiries, and a great promoter of useful Learning.” During his Williamsburg years he presided over a parti carré of amateur scientists consisting of himself, his good friend and neighbor George Wythe, William and Mary Professor of Natural Philosophy William Small, and Small’s star student, the 21-year-old Thomas Jefferson. He was a great observer of scientific phenomenon – in a gentlemanly sort of way – and in 1758 sent an account of a hail storm observed in Williamsburg to be read at a meeting of the Royal Society in London. He was also a fine musician, something of a religious skeptic and a gambler who was rumored to have lost his entire patrimony at the table (untrue) and “made gambling fashionable in Virginia” (only partly true)...

Excerpts from Part II: "A Dawning Happiness: The Self-Executing Government of Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt" by George Morrow

Norborne Berkeley, Baron Botetourt, the second-to-last royal governor of Virginia, was that rarest of all things in colonial America: a British governor who was loved as much by the people he governed as he was by the administration in London.

Why Botetourt should be a favorite of the British Ministry is not hard to guess. He was a good Tory, a friend of King George III and the first choice of Viscount Hillsborough, the newlyappointed secretary of the government’s reorganized Department of American Affairs. Among Virginians, Botetourt was to enjoy a reputation which ran the gamut from good to great. Planter Landon Carter described his brief term in office (1768–1770) as “a dawning happiness.” The legend on the statue of the Governor commissioned by the House of Burgesses after his death expressed its warmest gratitude for the “zeal and anxiety” Botetourt had shown in seeking to heal the “wounds and restore tranquility and happiness to th[e] whole extensive continent” of America. Clearly, Norborne Berkeley would have been a hard act for any ministerial appointee to follow; for the reputed gamester, whoremaster and drunkard who succeeded him, Lord Dunmore, he was all but impossible...