Author: Randall Shrock

a professor of history at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana

Alexander Spotswood (1676–1740)

Alexander Spotswood served as lieutenant governor of Virginia from 1710 until 1722, ruling robustly in the absence of Governor George Hamilton, earl of Orkney. Born in Tangier, Morocco, Spotswood moved with his mother to England in 1683 and joined the military in 1693. After a seventeen-year military career, Spotswood was commissioned lieutenant governor of Virginia. Spotswood initially sought to improve relations with American Indians through regulated trade, to end piracy, and to increase gubernatorial power. He frequently and publicly expressed his unbridled contempt for those members of the House of Burgesses and governor’s Council who disagreed with his policies and practices. But by the end of his administration, Spotswood had shifted from seeking to impose imperial will on Virginians to becoming a Virginian himself. He constructed ironworks in Spotsylvania County, making him the largest iron producer in the thirteen colonies, and designed and constructed the Bruton Parish Church building, a Williamsburg powder magazine, and the Governor’s Palace. He also served as deputy postmaster general for North America after 1730. He died in 1740 in Annapolis, Maryland, while raising troops for the British campaign against the Spanish in South America.


Robert Dinwiddie (1692–1770)

Robert Dinwiddie was a member of the governor’s Council from 1742 to 1751 and then lieutenant governor of Virginia from 1751 to 1758. Born into a Scottish merchant family, Dinwiddie began his public career in Bermuda, where he worked as an Admiralty agent and collector of customs before earning a seat on the colony’s governor’s Council. In 1738, the Crown appointed Dinwiddie surveyor general for the southern part of America, and he lived in in Virginia from 1741 until 1745. He returned in 1751, this time as lieutenant governor and immediately shocked the colony by instituting a fee of one pistole for signing and sealing every patent conferring legal title to land. The House of Burgesses loudly objected and sent representatives to London. In 1754, the Crown found a compromise, upholding Dinwiddie’s fee but only on patents of 100 acres or more. Controversy followed Dinwiddie into the French and Indian War (1754–1763). His policy of corporate and imperial advancement led to conflict with the French and the defeat of Virginia forces under George Washington at Fort Necessity in 1754. The politics of the resulting war made governing difficult for Dinwiddie, and he resigned in 1758, soon after defying a British order, handed down by Governor John Campbell, fourth earl of Loudoun, that put an embargo on all colonial exports. Dinwiddie returned to England and died there in 1770.


Lewis Burwell (1711 or 1712–1756)

Lewis Burwell, often referred to as President Lewis Burwell to distinguish him from others of the same name, was a member of the governor’s Council (1743–1756) and served as acting governor of Virginia for a year beginning in November 1750. Born in Gloucester County to a prominent family that included Robert “King” Carter, Burwell was educated in England before returning to Virginia and serving in the House of Burgesses (1742). The next year, George II appointed him to the Council, and in 1750, he became the body’s senior member. With the governor and lieutenant governor away from Virginia at the time, this made him president, or acting governor. During his year as president, the General Assembly never met, but Burwell did commission the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia. Ill health limited his role in later years, and he died in 1756.