49 Facts About Alexander Spotswood


Alexander Spotswood was a British Army officer, explorer and lieutenant governor of Colonial Virginia; he is regarded as one of the most significant historical figures in British North American colonial history.


Alexander Spotswood's tenure was characterised by a growing conflict with the Virginian political classes, which ended with his removal from office.


Years later, between 1730 and 1739, Alexander Spotswood was Postmaster General for British America and, with his young friend Benjamin Franklin, extended the postal service network north of Williamsburg and improved its efficiency.


At the outbreak of the War of Jenkins' Ear, Alexander Spotswood was called back into army service.


Alexander Spotswood was born in Tangier, a city on the African shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, in 1676.


Alexander Spotswood's family had ancient baronial origins and had enjoyed great prestige until the time of the English revolution.


In 1684, following attacks of native Berber troops under the guide of governor Ali ben Abdallah, the city of Tangier was evacuated and the Alexander Spotswood family returned to England, where the father died in 1688.


Alexander Spotswood served first in Ireland and then in the Flanders.


Alexander Spotswood was part of it as deputy quartermaster general.


Alexander Spotswood survived the and kept the cannonball, which he used to show his friends and guests.


Alexander Spotswood returned to the Flanders almost two years later.


Alexander Spotswood's ambitions, fuelled by the many but never kept promises of promotion, were continuously frustrated.


Three days later, Alexander Spotswood was in Williamsburg, the capital of the colony, where he was sworn in as governor, in the newly built Capitol.


Alexander Spotswood favoured the council's opinion, and this was the first public conflict of interests between the Crown, of which Alexander Spotswood would be for years to come a staunch supporter, and the wishes of the local ruling classes.


Alexander Spotswood, well aware that it was a real war, considering how badly equipped the militia was, requested weapons and ammunition from England, which however would take a few months to arrive.


Alexander Spotswood's aim being to prevent other tribes from joining the Tuscarora revolt, he headed south with the 15,000 militia men and stopped on the bank of the Nottoway River.


Yet another initiative by Alexander Spotswood caused him to lose the favour of the Virginian elite.


The measure should have put an end to the illegal trade that took place along the border and which, according to Alexander Spotswood, was one of the reasons for the unrest of the Indians, and at the same time was against the interests of the colonials who were trading privately with the Indian tribes.


Shortly after the law was passed, Byrd left for England on personal business, but certainly with the intention of bringing Alexander Spotswood discredit in the various branches of the royal administration.


In early 1716, an anonymous letter from Virginia to the London Board of Trade denounced Alexander Spotswood for alleged violations of the law, even more strongly than previous still anonymous letters, and accused him of greed and tyranny.


The second settlement established by Alexander Spotswood was Germanna, situated north of a bend of the Rapidan River.


Alexander Spotswood engraved the king's name on a rock and in an empty wine bottle introduced a card containing the British claim on the river and its territory.


Over a century later, in 1835, William Alexander Spotswood Caruthers published a chivalric novel, The Knights of the Golden Horse-Shoe, telling a somewhat revisited history of the expedition.


At the beginning of the year 1717, a large group of influential London merchants wrote a letter to the Board of Trade declaring that the legislation promoted by Alexander Spotswood harmed the commercial interests of both the motherland and Virginia itself.


The king thus put a veto on the Tobacco Inspection Act and on the Indian Trade Act, and Alexander Spotswood was forced to revoke both.


The House of Burgesses opposed public funding of Fort Christanna, which had to be dismantled as a consequence, although Alexander Spotswood feared that this would destabilise the border, leaving local Indian tribes without British support and at the mercy of the Carolina tribes.


The reason for this opposition was to be found in the resistance, on the part of the Virginians, to royal prerogatives affirmed by Alexander Spotswood, who claimed for the governor the right to appoint judges in criminal trials.


And, despite Byrd's scheming against him in London and the revocation of his laws, Alexander Spotswood still enjoyed the protection of the King's ministers and of the members of the Board of Trade.


Alexander Spotswood quickly had former Queen Anne's Revenge quartermaster William Howard arrested, who had apparently retired from piracy and lived in Virginia, suspecting that he was still in contact with Blackbeard.


Ocracoke was in North Carolina, out of his jurisdiction, but Alexander Spotswood was now determined to capture the pirate as quickly as possible, dead or alive, even by violating the sovereignty of another colony.


Alexander Spotswood soon faced sharp criticism from the House of Burgesses for his moves against the pirates, and when a dispute arose between Alexander Spotswood and Eden, the governor of North Carolina, over the legality of the arrest and killing of Blackbeard and his crew.


The Alexander Spotswood estate formed the core of the Spotsylvania County, which was established in 1720 in his honour.


Meanwhile, the buildings of the Governor's Palace and of the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, which Alexander Spotswood had personally collaborated to design, were completed.


Alexander Spotswood had already obtained an accurate map of the entire western area of the Mississippi River System, hitherto virtually unknown to the British, to be used for an expedition to Lake Erie, where Spotswood intended to establish a settlement.


Alexander Spotswood set sail for New York and from there, along with Pennsylvania governor William Keith and some New York government spokesmen, he left by land for the city of Albany, located on the banks of the Hudson River.


Alexander Spotswood gave the Indian Chiefs pearl necklaces as a gift to demonstrate British good will.


Alexander Spotswood made a personal gift to the Indians of fine fabrics and work tools.


When he arrived in Williamsburg, Alexander Spotswood learned that, despite the popular support he enjoyed, the king had decided to revoke his position as governor.


Alexander Spotswood's activities included raising livestock, producing naval supplies, pitch, tar, and turpentine.


So, with the intention of coming to an advantageous agreement with the British Government in London on the amount of taxes due, and at the same time consolidating his right of ownership, Alexander Spotswood left for England in 1724.


Alexander Spotswood's stay in England lasted longer than expected on account of some complications, which included quantifying the extension of the land in his possession and the amount of tax to be paid.


Up till now, at age forty-eight, Alexander Spotswood had remained a bachelor waiting for the opportunity to marry a woman of high social standing.


Now, on this occasion and in the capital, shortly after his arrival, Alexander Spotswood married Anne Butler Brayne, the daughter of a London esquire and godchild of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormond.


Alexander Spotswood accepted instead a less up-front mandate, which allowed him to return to projects developed during his years as governor: in 1730 he was appointed with a ten-year term Postmaster General for the thirteen colonies and the West Indies.


In 1732, Alexander Spotswood extended the postal system to Williamsburg, where the mail started to arrive on a weekly basis.


Alexander Spotswood entered into a partnership with the young publisher Benjamin Franklin, with whom he developed a personal friendship, appointing him, in 1737, postmaster for his city, Philadelphia.


Alexander Spotswood, who had not lost interest in military affairs, proposed to the general command of London that he personally recruit a regiment of volunteers to be employed in South America.


Alexander Spotswood was to be the leader and the organiser of a military expedition against the Spanish stronghold of Cartagena de Indias, in present-day Colombia.


Alexander Spotswood's body was probably buried in Annapolis, but it is possible that it was brought back home to his Temple Farm property near Yorktown and buried near the York River.