Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




The first years of freedom were not calm ones for the people of the new Republic. This was as true in Virginia as elsewhere. in the State itself there was the ever present danger of slave insurrection and the Wars of the French Revolution which raged in Europe were in grave danger of spreading into this hemisphere. This situation caused the State to make provisions to secure four thousand stands of farms for its militia in 1796. This proved to be a very difficult task, for the European hostilities had seriously limited the amount of arms available.

Though Virginia had produced a large portion of the arms manufactured in the Colonies during the Revolution, the two principal armories were longer functioning. One, at Westham, on the James River, had been destroyed by a British force under Benedict Arnold. The larger one, located at Fredericksburg, had been abandoned because of a lack of funds. The Governor sent John Dawson and others to several of the northern states in an effort to procure the needed four thousand stands of arms. After visiting and negotiating with a number of North arms manufacturers, Mr. Dawson finally recommended Mr. James Swan of Boston to furnish the weapons. The specifications of these weapons were listed in a letter from Mr. Dawson to Mr. Swan on September 11, 1796.

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