John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore

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John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (1732 – 25 February 1809) was a British peer and colonial governor. He was the son of William Murray, 3rd Earl of Dunmore, and his wife Catherine (née Murray). He is best remembered as the last royal governor of the Colony of Virginia.


Early career

He was born in Scotland in 1732. Murray succeeded his father in the earldom in 1756 and sat as a Scottish representative peer in the House of Lords from 1761 to 1774 and from 1776 to 1790.

Colonial governor of New York

He was named as the British governor of the Province of New York from 1770 to 1771. Soon, however, in 1770, Virginia's governor, Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt (Lord Botetourt) died, and Dunmore was named to replace him.[1]

Colonial governor of Virginia

Dunmore actively served as royal governor of the Colony of Virginia from 25 September 1771 until his departure to New York in 1776; he continued to hold the position until 1783 when American independence was recognised, and continued to draw his pay.

Despite growing issues with Great Britain, Lord Botetourt had been a popular governor in Virginia, even though he served only five years. Lacking in diplomatic skills, Dunmore maintained a contentious relationship with the colonists.[2]

During his term as Virginia's colonial governor, he directed a series of campaigns against the Indians known as Lord Dunmore's War. The Shawnee were the main target of these attacks, and his purpose was to strengthen Virginia's claims in the west, particularly in the Ohio Country. However, some have accused him of colluding with the Shawnees and arranging the war to deplete the Virginia militia and help safeguard the Loyalist cause, should there be a colonial rebellion.

When the House of Burgesses of the Colonial Assembly recommended the formation of a committee of correspondence to communicate their concerns to leaders in Great Britain in March 1773, he immediately dissolved the Assembly. Many of burgesses gathered a short distance away at the Raleigh Tavern and continued discussing their problems with the new taxes and lack of representation in England.

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