David S. Krop


(Under the direction of Dr. Carl E. Swanson) Department f History, April 2008.

When Alexander Spotswood arrived at Jamestown on June 21, 1710, he assumed the responsibilities held by the Council and House of Burgesses for the previous three years.During his administration, Spotswood feuded with his Council and witnessed the Burgesses gain greater power.This gradual shift of power into the hands of native-born Virginians culminated during Spotswood's term in office.Spotswood's reluctance to placate their desires ultimately reduced his effectiveness in passing legislation.

Despite a particularly troubling middle four years in his administration, in which Spotswood and the Council feuded over the Virginia Indian Company, revenue accounting, and the creation of a court of oyer and terminer, Spotswood fought to protect the maritime interests of the crown.He established a system of fortifications to protect local waterways.He fought to maintain a standing fleet of guard ships and sought a protected convoy of the tobacco fleet.His greatest efforts in insuring the maritime interests of Virginia concerned his active opposition to piracy.He fought pirates in local waters, defeated Blackbeard off Ocracoke without consulting the Assembly or Governor Charles Eden of North Carolina, and pursued pirates in the Caribbean.

Upon conclusion of his administration, he continued his ironworks, assumed the roles of deputy postmaster-general, quartermaster general, and died while preparing to attack Spanish interests in Cartagena. Spotswood defined the role of an active governor and did much to protect Virginia's maritime interests despite sometimes overwhelming difficulties with members of the Assembly.

But where does Spotswood fit in the larger picture of British colonial administration?Some historical studies suggest his feuding with the Assembly limited his effectiveness while others state his actions increased prosperity in Virginia.To better gauge his place in colonial American history, this study of royal colonial government and biographic profile of Spotswood will define the role of governor in the colonial system and address the varying criteria necessary to establish the framework for evaluating a governor's effectiveness.I will also briefly examine the administrations of other colonial governors such as William Gooch of Virginia, William Shirley of Massachusetts, Robert Hunter of New York, and Charles Eden of North Carolina for comparative purposes.Only by placing Spotswood in such a context will his success be accurately measured.