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The Correspondence of William Nelson
Edited by John C. Van Horne
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On October 15, 1770, upon the death of Lord Botetourt, the royal governor of Virginia, and the resignation of octogenarian John Blair as president of the Council, William Nelson (1711–1772) of Yorktown, the next senior member of the Council, became acting governor of the colony. Nelson served in that capacity until the arrival of Lord Dunmore, Botetourt's successor, in September 1771.
Nelson's tenure was a period of relative calm in Virginia. But it was the calm before the storm of the tumultuous four-year administration of Lord Dunmore. Although his administration was outwardly peaceful, the questions raised in Nelson's correspondence with crown officials in London contributed to the greater dilemma of imperial administration that was finally resolved in the American Revolution. Did Virginia, for example, control its own domain west of the Appalachians or could its lands be granted against its wishes to Englishmen and Pennsylvanians? Or, was jurisdiction over the personnel of the colonial church to reside in London or in Williamsburg? Although a royal appointee, Nelson was a native Virginian and was by no means blind to the interests of the colony. His correspondence as acting Governor, in consequence, steers an even course between the opinions of the leading Virginians, in many cases his own
kinsmen, and those of his royal master in England.
Virginia Historical Society Documents Series, Volume 11.
176 pages, hardcover, ISBN 0813905850, published by The University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1975.