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A new exhibit in the Museum of Culpeper History examines the course of the independence movement in Culpeper County prior to the Revolutionary War.
American resistance to British rule stiffened when Parliament enacted a series of taxes on the American colonies to help cover the expenses of the Seven Years War with France. Colonists objected to the fact that they had no direct representation in that governing body. “That’s the meaning of the phrase ‘no taxation without representation’”, said the museum’s executive director John Christiansen. “The British Parliament was supposed to be a representative body with members elected from various districts in Great Britain, but the colonies were not given the opportunity to vote for these representatives or send their own. They had been voting for delegates to their own colonial legislatures for decades, so that really angered them.”
The tax that attracted the greatest protest was the Stamp Act of 1765, which required all public and legal documents – even playing cards – to have a tax stamp. Culpeper’s sixteen justices of the peace, the most influential men in the county, resigned rather than enforce the tax.
Although Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, they followed it up with a series of other taxes, all of which resulted in further colonial protests. A tax on imported tea in 1773 attracted the most dramatic protest to date when protestors in Boston boarded a ship and threw its cargo of tea into the harbor in what became known as the Boston Tea Party. In response, Parliament closed the port of Boston and disbanded the Massachusetts colonial legislature. When Virginia’s House of Burgesses passed a resolution of support, that body too was disbanded by Virginia’s royal governor.
Local communities across Virginia gathered to consider a statewide convention to discuss the future of the colony. Culpeper held a public meeting at the county courthouse on July 7 and issued a public statement of thirteen resolutions known as the Culpeper Resolves.
The Culpeper Resolves were a declaration of Culpeper County’s support for American constitutional rights, self-sufficiency, and self-governance. Over thirty counties in Virginia issued public resolutions starting with Prince William County on June 6. The sentiments expressed in these documents guided the actions of the First Virginia Convention that summer as Virginia took its first steps towards declaring itself free from any British authority. These sentiments were echoed throughout the colonies and led to the gathering of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774.
The exhibit will be on display throughout 2024.
Additional Resource to help plan your trip: https://www.virginia.org/