IN 1756 the people of Virginia lived in fear. A year earlier General Edward Braddock had marched against the French and Indians on the colony's western frontier. Braddock had been overwhelmed, and now Virginians faced invasion. The Reverend Samuel Davies summoned them to battle, lest "Indian savages and French Papists, infamous all the World over for Treachery and Tyranny, should rule Protestants and Britons with a Rod of iron." Virginians, Davies was sure, would never give up their freedom. "Can you bear the Thought," he asked them, "that Slavery should clank her Chain in this Land of Liberty?" 1 British troops turned back the French, and Virginia was spared enslavement to papists and savages. Yet in that "Land of Liberty" even as Davies spoke, two-fifths of all the people were in fact already enslaved, under the iron rule of masters who were "Protestants and Britons."
Twenty years later the people of Virginia were again in peril. The mother country, having saved them from the French, now herself threatened to reduce them to slavery through the devious method of Parliamentary taxation. With the other English colonies in America they sprang to arms, to determine, as Edmund Pendleton put it, "whether we shall be slaves." 2 George Washington, who had helped to fight off enslavement to papists, prepared to fight again and grieved that "the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or inhabited by Slaves." It was, he thought, a sad alternative. But, he asked, "Can a virtuous____________________