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Francis Fauquier

Francis Fauquier
Francis Fauquier was a man in his 50s when he was appointed lieutenant governor and commander-in-chief of Virginia in 1758.

He was born in London in 1703, the son of a Huguenot doctor who had fled to England after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, when the persecution of French Protestants was resumed. His father married Elizabeth Chamberlayne, daughter of a London merchant, and five children were born to them.

Dr. Fauquier was a talented man who held several positions in his adopted country. In 1696, he became financial agent to Thomas Neale, Minister of the Mint, and then Neale's Deputy for Mint Affairs. Dr. Fauquier continued as deputy to Isaac Newton, Neale's successor in 1699.

He was elected Director of the Bank of England in 1716 and remained in this position until his death in 1726. He left a good-sized estate to his wife and children.

Francis Fauquier inherited as his share 5,000 pounds capital stock in both the Bank of England and the South Sea Company, and 15,000 pounds in joint stock of the South Sea Company, where his father's brother was a director.

Life in England

After his marriage to Catherine Dalston, daughter of a Cumberland baron, Francis Fauquier resigned his commission. In 1730, he established his home in Hertfordshire, although he maintained his contacts with the British capital.

Two sons, Francis Jr. and William, were born after they moved to the country, where they lived for many years, with occasional visits to London.

Like his father, Fauquier was a man of many interests. He developed a taste for science, and, in 1753, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He loved music and played several instruments.

Always interested in finance and economics, he served three terms (1748-1757) as a director of the South Sea Company. It was during this time that he published in 1756 his "Essay on Ways and Means of Raising Money for the Support of the Present War without Increasing the Public Debt." In this work, designed to guide the British government in financing the "Great War for Empire" against France, Fauquier showed his concern for the poor by advising against a tax on necessities, proposing instead a graduated type of capitation levy.

Although the government did not accept this idea, his pamphlet went through three editions in two years and made such a favorable impression on authorities that it probably helped in his appointment as lieutenant governor of Virginia.

Fauquier himself felt that he owed his position to George Montagu Dunk, Earl of Halifax and president of the Board of Trade, then the principal maker of colonial policy.

Also, Fauquier's connections with the London financial world and his family background helped in his appointment

Lt. Gov. Fauquier

When Fauquier arrived in Virginia in June 1758, the French and Indian War had been going on for two years. His title of lieutenant governor meant that he served as deputy to Gen. Jeffrey Amherst, who, busy with strategic and logistical duties elsewhere, never came to Virginia; therefore, many responsibilities fell upon Fauquier.

For the next five years, much of his time and effort was given to the support which the colony of Virginia was supposed to contribute to the fighting on the frontier. Militia had to be recruited and money raised to pay for supplies and maintenance.

After the danger of French attack in the West was relieved, consultations with the Indians were carried on to prevent attacks on the settlers beyond the mountains, and to promote the continuation of the profitable fur trade.

Economic problems in the colony at this time were legion. Hard currency was scarce. The Board of Trade in London regulated all imports and exports, and trading could be done only with the "Mother Country."

The main source of income was tobacco. When harvests were poor, the planters were heavily in debt to the London merchants. To relieve this situation, the colony began to issue paper money based on the current value of tobacco, to be redeemed by future taxes within 10 years.

This was opposed by the London merchants, who demanded payment of colonial debts in specie (coin).

Times of discord

Aggravating this situation after the war was over was the Stamp Act, passed by Parliament to raise revenue to help pay the costs of the war and maintain British troops in America to protect the frontiers from Indian attack.

The House of Burgesses protested this law, which required the use of official stamps on business and legal documents, as well as such articles as college diplomas and playing cards.

Fauquier had earlier advised his superiors in London against efforts to collect revenue directly in America. In October 1763, a riot nearly occurred when George Mercer, who had been appointed collector for Virginia, arrived in Williamsburg.

Fauquier made his presence known, and due to the respect and love which the colonists felt for their governor, he was able to conduct Mercer to safety, and the mob dissolved. Soon after this, Mercer abandoned his office and no stamps were sold in the colony.

But the governor's troubles were not over with the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766.

The next year, Parliament passed the Townshend Act, which levied import duties on paper, paint, glass and tea. Again the colonists protested, and in 1768, the Virginia Assembly declared that Parliament had no right to tax the colony.

The stress which Fauquier endured during the last years of his life due to the continual tension between England and the colonies undoubtedly caused his final illness, and led to his death in March 1768.

Throughout his governorship, Fauquier was able to maintain a good working relationship with both his Council (men appointed by the Crown) and the House of the Burgesses, as well as his superiors in London.

In many ways, Francis Fauquier was a man ahead of his time. His concern for the insane led him to urge the Assembly to establish a mental hospital in Williamsburg. He had served on the board of such a hospital in London.

Much to his disappointment, the Assembly refused to act during his lifetime, but in 1770, passed the legislation to establish an asylum in Williamsburg, the first of its kind in North America.

Fauquier also disapproved of slavery, although as governor he had a few slaves in the palace as servants. In his will, he stated that the slaves were to have six months after his death to choose new masters.

They were to be sold at 75 percent of their market value. If they had not chosen within the six-month period, his executors and close friends were to be allowed to buy them, also at the discount price.

Colonial society

Fauquier had good friends among the leaders and the intellectuals of the colony, including Professor William Small of the College of William and Mary and the learned lawyer George Wythe.

Through them, Thomas Jefferson, then a student, was introduced to the palace circle. Jefferson attended many of the intimate dinner parties and musical evenings enjoyed so much by the governor.

Jefferson later commented that "at these dinners I heard more good sense, more rational and philosophical conversation, than I had ever heard before." He considered Fauquier one of the ablest colonial governors.

Throughout his term of office, Fauquier continued his scientific studies, keeping a daily record of the Tidewater weather and preparing a report of a hailstorm in Williamsburg which the Royal Society published in 1759.

Francis Fauquier was buried in the north aisle of Bruton Parish Church at Williamsburg, following a simple service which he had requested in his will "to be without any vain Funeral Pomp and as little expense as Decency can permit; Funeral Obsequies being apparent to me to be contrary to the Spirit of the Religion of our Blessed Saviour."

He was very much mourned by the colonists, who realized that they had lost a good friend and a spokesman for their interests at a time when tension was increasing between England and America.

Perhaps one of the greatest tributes paid to him was the fact that at the time of the Revolution, the citizens of Fauquier County did not decide to change the name of the county, as was the case in Shenandoah County, renamed when the people there rejected the memory of Lord Dunmore.

Throughout his life, Francis Fauquier exemplified the best qualities of an 18th-century gentleman; always loyal in his duty to the Mother Country, yet possessing an open mind to the needs of the colony which he governed. He contributed much to the political and intellectual life of England and America.

By Anne Brooke Smith
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