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This Day (No We're Not & So Are You! Ed.)


We’ve been doing these “This Day” things for a year now, and on this day last year I mentioned how somewhere, somehow John Rolfe and Pocahontas were celebrating an anniversary. I also mentioned some blah blah blah about the explorer Richard Byrd so … in an attempt not to repeat myself, I could talk about Robert E. Lee‘s epic retreat west from Petersburg—a retreat that only ended with his surrender at Appomattox—but frankly, things don’t get really interesting in that department until tomorrow.
Which leaves me no choice but to introduce you to Francis Nicholson, who on this day in 1705 was rather unceremoniously dispatched (as the British like to say) from his position as governor of Virginia. As a soldier, Nicholson had cultivated a certain military gruffness. He was, by his own account, “very much given to passion,” leading him to sometimes hurl abusive language at his own councilors. They complained to the Crown that they were not, in fact, “Rogues, Villains, Raskalls, Cowards, Dogs, &c.,” and that the governor should apologize for calling them such. They also were shocked that such a man, whose “many gross immoralities and pranks of Lewdness and rudeness to women” were well known, should publicly court the eighteen-year-old daughter of one of their own, going so far as to profess his admiration for her in a speech before the House of Burgesses!
It was embarrassing, and really, he must go.
Of course, all of the political considerations were just as important but not nearly as interesting, so suffice it to say that the Crown relented and the stuffed shirts in Williamsburg won themselves a new governor.
IMAGE: A detail from page 1 of the councilors’ petition to the Crown against Nicholson (Virginia Historical Society)

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