Skip to main content

John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore Papers

Identifier: SC 01295

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Papers concerning John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, and last royal governor of Virginia. There are three Virginia-related items: a land grant, 1773; account, 1774-1776, of Lord Dunmore concerning one of his plantations; and letter, 1775, written by Lord Dunmore while on board the Royal William. Papers also include a letter, 1768, concerning Lord Dunmore's desire to be elected one of the Scottish peers of Parliament and a letter, 1770, concerning his brother-in-law. The majority of the items concern Lord Dunmore's service as governor of the Bahama Islands. The collection was previously identified as "Dunmore Family Papers (II)," 74s D92. The title was changed in March 2018 to better reflect the contents.


  • Creation: 1768-1804


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical Information:

John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (1730-1809), was a British peer and colonial governor. He was the son of William Murray, 3rd Earl of Dunmore, and his wife Catherine (nee Murray).

Murray succeeded his father in the earldom in 1756 and sat as a Scottish Representative Peer in the House of Lords from 1761 to 1774 and from 1776 to 1790. He was the British governor of the Province of New York from 1770 to 1771 and the Virginia Colony, from September 25, 1771 until his departure to New York on New Years Eve, 1776. During his term as Virginia's colonial governor, he directed a series of campaigns against the Indians known as Lord Dunmore's War. The Shawnee were the main target of these attacks, and his purpose was to strengthen Virginia's claims in the west, particularly in the Ohio Country. However, some have accused him of colluding with the Shawnees and arranging the war to deplete the Virginia militia and help safeguard the Loyalist cause, should there be a colonial rebellion.

From 1774 on, Dunmore was continually clashing with the Colonial Assembly. He left Williamsburg on June 8, 1775, retreating to his hunting lodge, Porto Bello, and had to take refuge on the British warship Fowey in the York River when the American Revolutionary War began. When he realized he could not regain control in Virginia, he returned to Britain in July 1776.

He is noted for Lord Dunmore's Proclamation on November 7, 1775, whereby he offered freedom to enslaved Africans who joined his Army. This was the first mass emancipation of slaves in North America, however, after his retreat he resold these men back into slavery. He organized these Black Loyalists into the Ethiopian Regiment. However, after the Battle of Kemp's Landing, Dunmore became over-confident, which precipitated his defeat at the Battle of Great Bridge, December 9, 1775. Following this defeat, he loaded his army onto British ships and retreated to New York.

From 1787 to 1796, he served as Governor of the Bahamas. Lord Dunmore married Lady Charlotte, daughter of Alexander Stewart, 6th Earl of Galloway, in 1759. Their daughter Lady Augusta Murray was the daughter-in-law of King George III. Dunmore died in March 1809 and was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son George. The Countess of Dunmore died in 1818.


0.18 Linear Feet

Acquisition Information:

Purchase from H. P. Kraus during 10/1974; gift of John Blair during 3/1976; purchase from Joseph Rubinfine during 4/1983; and gift of Ralph H. Wark and Patrick Hayes during 4/1983.


The collection was previously identified as "Dunmore Family Papers (II)," 74s D92. The title was changed in March 2018 to better reflect the contents.

Guide to the John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore Papers
Finding Aid Authors: Special Collections Staff.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository