Why did some colonial Virginians continue to support the King?

Lesson Plan

Dunmore’s Proclamation, Library of Congress

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Upper Elementary, Middle, High School


VS.4, VS.5, US1.5, US1.6, VUS.4, VUS.5

Demonstrating Comprehension; Comparing and Contrasting; Determining Cause and Effect; Using Information Sources; Organizing Information; Questioning and Critical Thinking Skills

This lesson also meets national standards for social studies.



As a class, students will examine a political cartoon The Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, or, Tarring & Feathering, as well as selected quotes from Samuel Seabury, and participate in a class discussion

Student will use a graphic organizer to list what expectations colonists (free, indentured, and enslaved) may have had for either complying or disobeying with Dunmore’s Proclamation.

Essential question: 

Why did some colonial Virginians continue to support the King?


Featured Sources

Source A: The Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, or, Tarring & Feathering political cartoon

Source B: Dunmore’s Proclamation, 1775

Source C: Selected quotes, Samuel Seabury (below)

Additional Materials

Great Expectations Graphic Organizer

Primary Source Analysis Tool


Step 1: Project the political cartoon The Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, or, Tarring & Feathering for the class. Lead a class discussion using the following prompts:

Ask students to list and explain explicitly what they see in the image.

Once the class has come to a consensus, have students remark on what mood is set by the actions depicted, including a look at colors used and setting.

How does this relate to the images used in the previous supporting question that related to tea?

Why might this be considered “propaganda”?

Step 2: Project the following quote by Anglican clergyman Samuel Seabury, the first Bishop of Connecticut:

“If I must be enslaved let it be by a King at least, and not by a parcel of upstart lawless Committeemen. If I must be devoured, let me be devoured by the jaws of a lion and not gnawed to death by rats and vermin.” — writing “A Westchester Farmer” Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress, 16 Nov 1774

Lead a class discussion using the following prompts:

Would you characterize Samuel Seabury as a Loyalist or Patriot? Why?

What symbolism does Seabury use in his statement?

What message is Seabury trying to convey?

Step 3: Distribute copies of the graphic organizer, primary source analysis tool, and Dunmore’s Proclamation to the class. As the class begins examining the primary source, share the following information:

On November 7, 1775, on board His Majesty King George’s ship William, Lord Dunmore, Governor of the rebellious colony of Virginia, declared martial law. Colonists who continued to oppose the laws of the King would be traitors. It was Dunmore’s desire to raise an army of those loyal to the King so that right order could be restored to the King’s colony. He thereby issued the following order:

“…I do hereby further declare that all indented servants, Negroes or others, …free, that are able to and willing to bear arms, they joining his Majesty’s Troops, as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing the Colony to a proper sense of their duty, to His Majesty’s crown and dignity.”


Using a primary source analysis tool, have students work to examine Dunmore’s Proclamation. Students should use those results to complete the graphic organizer.

Extension Activity — Circle of Perspectives: Dunmore’s Proclamation

Step 1: After examining Dunmore’s Proclamation, ask students to brainstorm different viewpoints relating to this primary source as a class. Be sure to give the initial brainstorm enough time for students to really stretch and explore diverse ideas. If students need help thinking of different viewpoints, try using the following prompts:

Who (and what) is affected?

Who is involved?

Who might care?

Step 2: After the brainstorm, ask each student to choose one of these viewpoints. Give them time to prepare to speak from that perspective and to embody the viewpoint using the following script skeleton to structure what he or she says:

I am thinking of … From the point of view of …

I think …

A question I have from this viewpoint is …

Step 3: Once students have prepared their “characters”, students should be ready to go around the class and act out their various perspectives. Taking turns, ask students to speak briefly about their chosen viewpoint using the script skeleton. Invite them to stand up and use gestures and movement if necessary. The discussion at this point might move fairly quickly, capitalizing on the immediacy of the experience as each student goes through the script and shares a perspective. The array of responses will hopefully be broad and distinct, as each student should strive to produce a unique viewpoint. If some students choose the same character, encourage them to perform differently.

Further Analysis

Ask students to write a response piece looking at how Dunmore’s Proclamation may have influenced colonists towards the side fighting for independence.