Betty Wood on Dumore's Proclamation and the fear of slave rebellion
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Q: How did Dunmore's Proclamation play into the colonists' ever present fear of a slave rebellion?
A: I think Dunmore's Proclamation raised the specter of slave rebellion not merely in Virginia but elsewhere in British America. Here, it seemed to enslaved people, was a concrete offer of freedom in exchange for risking life and limb on behalf of the British. Whether or not the British would ever have given that freedom at the end of the war, I think, was something that remained to be seen. But a little bit later on in the war, Lord Dunmore explained that, of course, these young African American men would not be given their freedom (once in the British army, forever in the British army), and suggested that he was actually doing slave owners a favor by removing potential rebels from the slave communities. But in the first instance, the proclamation, I think, reflected a military necessity. But the implications of that proclamation, I think, still had to be worked out as the war progressed. Betty Wood
Professor of History
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