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Fairfax Resolves

The seemingly more genteel Southern colonies had long regarded Massachusetts as the home of sharp Yankee traders, sanctimonious religious zealots and intemperate political radicals. Those perceptions were changed in early 1774 when Parliament began imposing the Coercive Acts as punishment for the Boston Tea Party and other acts of defiance. With the Bay Colony singled out for stern treatment, many of its neighbors adopted a much more sympathetic view. George Mason One such response occurred in Virginia. On July 17, 1774, George Mason and Patrick Henry visited George Washington at Mount Vernon to discuss the emerging American plight. A statement was drafted, largely the work of Mason, that became known as the Fairfax Resolves. This short document provided the following:

  • a concise summary of American constitutional concerns on such issues as taxation, representation, judicial power, military matters and the colonial economy
  • a proposal for the creation of a nonimportation effort to be levied against British goods
  • a call for a general congress of the colonies to convene for the purpose of preserving the Americans’ rights as Englishmen
  • a condemnation of the practice of importing slaves as an “unnatural trade;” its termination was urged
  • a veiled threat was aired in the reminder that the colonists were “Descendants not of the Conquered, but of the Conquerors.”
On the following day, July 18, the Resolves were endorsed by a Fairfax County convention, a public protest meeting staged at the local courthouse with Washington presiding. In short order the resolutions were taken on to the House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress. The Fairfax Resolves summarized the feelings of many colonists in mid-1774 — a conviction that their constitutional rights were being violated by British policies, but no mention of independence was made and only a hint of support for armed resistance was offered. The Resolves also marked a step forward in inter-colonial cooperation as more Americans began to realize that a threat against one colony was a threat against all. Finally, political rivalries in Virginia were muted to some degree, allowing such figures as Washington and Mason to work productively with the more radical Henry, Richard Henry Lee and others.
See timeline of the American Revolution.