Historian Rick Atkinson’s superb 2019 The British Are Coming is the first volume of what I believe will be a trilogy on the American Revolution.
Atkinson of course writes about the proclamation issued in November 1775 by Virginia’s royal governor, Lord Dunmore – the proclamation freeing some slaves and today paraded by advocates of the New York Times’s “1619 Project” as a key piece of evidence that the American Revolution was waged chiefly to protect slavery.
Many critics of the 1619 Project have pointed out this stubborn fact about Dunmore’s Proclamation – a fact that all but fully discredits the 1619 Project’s use of this Proclamation: November 1775 is seven months after April 1775 (when the silversmith Paul Revere and the tanner William Dawes rode, and shots were fired at Lexington) and five months after the battle of Bunker Hill. Critics have also pointed out that, regardless of the timing of Dunmore’s Proclamation, its substance doesn’t do for the 1619 Project’s fallacious thesis what supporters of that Project wish it to do.
Here’s Atkinson (page 185; emphasis added):
On November 7, using his confiscated printing press, Dunmore declared martial law and issued a proclamation: “I do hereby further declare all indentured servants, Negroes, or others (appertaining to rebels) free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining His Majesty’s troops as soon as may be.” Liberation applied only to the able-bodied slaves of his foes. There would be no deliverance for his own fifty-seven slaves – abandoned in Williamsburg when he fled and for whom he would claim compensation from the government – nor would loyalists’ chattel be freed. The governor intended to crush a rebellion, not reconfigure the social order.
The rebellion came first; Dunmore’s Proclamation followed. And the former caused the latter, not – as 1619 Project proponents would have it – the reverse.