A sleepy town on the Northern Neck
Thea Marshall reminds us of a tiny town on the Northern Neck. It's sleepy today, but a couple of hundred years ago, it would awaken the world.
If you're thinking about driving through the Northern Neck, perhaps you'll check out the historic sights on the Fourth of July weekend. You'll easily find the major ones, Stratford Hall and George Washington's birthplace, the museums, large and small, lots of other things. You'll also drive through very sweet and sleepy river towns whose roles in history, well, they've been enormously dramatic, but with nothing left to look at than a most undramatic gray steel historic marker.
And Leestown is a perfect example. The ubiquitous John Smith, he strayed onto the shores of Leestown in 1608, as he explored the Rappahannock river trying to find a route to China. It was then a robust Indian village, a bit too robust. One of Smith's men died during an Indian attack. George Washington and Martha dined and yes, slept in Leestown a few times, actually, on their way to Williamsburg.
But far more exciting was an event of really heroic proportions, and it happened a full ten years before the Declaration of Independence, when the British Parliament imposed the notorious Stamp Act on the colonies, a stamp duty on all papers used for legal documents.
Well, it's been said it ignited a very early spark of revolution. Thomas Ludwell Lee, along with 114 other of Westmoreland's prominent and influential planters, furious at taxation without representation, well, they met at Leestown and what resulted after impassioned discussion and debate is what is known today as the Leestown Resolves, signed February 27th, 1766, petitioning King George to do away with the Stamp Act.
Among those 115 who signed Lee's document were six Lees, five Washingtons and Spence Monroe, father of president James Monroe. While all six of the resolutions making up the Leestown Resolves have the glorious ring of freedom, the third is my favorite and it reads, in part: "As the Stamp Act does absolutely direct the property of the people to be taken from them without their consent, expressed by their representatives, and as in many cases it deprives the British-American subject of his right to trial by jury, we do determine, at every hazard, and paying no regard to danger or to death, we will exert every faculty to prevent the execution of the said Stamp Act in any instance whatsoever within this colony."
So is it any wonder that Leestown and all of the Northern Neck, well, they've been known as the 'Southern cradle of our nation's democracy.'
This is Thea Marshall.