No complaints, however, as this is one of my favorite markers. It penetrates deep into some of the city’s richest history.
These are the moments that reward the tedious task. If I don’t sell one book, I will still always have these digs of ore. The sidetrack does extend the process, but sometimes I can’t turn away from their siren song.
I can’t try and vet every marker, but when the history is significant, it’s important to learn more. In this case, the historic event was the Council of Royal Governors, taking place at the Carlyle House in April 1755.
The Carlyle House in Fairfax Street was the headquarters of Gen Braddock during the French and Indian War, and was the scene of the Council of Royal Governors Dinwiddie of Virginia, Shirley of Massachusetts, Delancy of New York, Morris of Pennsylvania and Sharp of Maryland, at which the first suggestion was made by British officials in council, of taxing the American Colonies.
Just six years prior, Alexandria had been founded downstream from the fall line of the Potomac and where the Federal City of Washington would rise forty years later. The lots were laid out and sold on Cameron Street, just steps from where John Carlyle would build the most handsome manor for miles and miles.
In those early days, tobacco warehousing, inspecting, loading and shipping was job one for Alexandria. When France challenged England’s claims to the riches in and near the Ohio Valley, Carlyle and the town leaders teamed with the mother country. To that end, His Majesty King George II sent General Edward Braddock to the colonies to expel the French from their fortifications at places like Fort Duquesne. He arrived in Alexandria in early April 1755 and made his Headquarters at Carlyle’s Georgian-style home.
Joining him on April 14 and 15 were the five colonial Governors, representing Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Something like 1,200 British soldiers and 800 militia mostly from Virginia bivouacked on the outskirts of town. In the warmer mansion, Braddock informed the Governors the need of a “Common Defense” fund to supplement the monies England would provide for materiel and manpower. They said no.
Was this the first time the British raised the idea of taxing the Colonies?
We’ll probably never know. But the civic pride still prevails in Alexandria.
In his book on Carlyle, James Munson writes,
More important than anything coming out of the Carlyle House Council was the fact of the gathering itself. It was the first of its kind in America.
"The Carlyle House and its Associations," Richard Henry Spencer, William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine, July 1909, via JSOR
"Col. John Carlyle, Gent., A True and Just Account of the Man and His House," James D. Munson, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, 1986.
“The Grandest Congress Ever Known,” Ross Netherton, Carlyle House Docent Dispatch, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, May 2002