This Day (Making Like Maxwell Edition)

Published:May 20, 2013 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1775, Robert Bolling published a long elegy in the Virginia Gazette mourning the deaths of Virginia militamen at the hands of Indians during Dunmore’s War (1773–1774). Bolling was a burgess and something of a hipster wine guy who was once jailed for challenging one of the more flighty of the William Byrds to a duel. He later was sued by his own brother. (Bolling’s attorney was Thomas Jefferson.)

What he really wanted to be when he grew up, though, was a poet, and the Gazette was happy to publish all twenty-one tedious stanzas by this great-great-grandson of Pocahontas, thereby doing violence both to basic meter and to the dignity of Virginia Indians. If you must, you can find an example here.

Meanwhile, on page four of the Gazette that day was a personal ad by one John Maxwell of Lancaster:

This is only speculation, of course, but perhaps Bolling’s stanzas were the last straw.

Speaking of leaving the colony, on this day in 1703, six members of the governor’s Council sent the Crown a list of grievances against Governor Francis Nicholson, with the hope that he might make like John Maxwell. Among the governor’s alleged offenses was the use of abusive language (he had called the councilors “Rogues, Villians, Raskalls, Cowards, Dogs, &c.”) and his persistent and unsubtle courtship of one of the councilors’ eighteen-year-old daughter—pursuing her even after she had become engaged to someone else!

The Crown, as you might imagine, was not impressed. So while John Maxwell left the colony of his own accord, alas, Governor Nicholson did not.

IMAGES: Find archived issues of the Virginia Gazette online at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.