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Lawmaker History

Having been reared in a household where public service was a matter of course, it seemed natural for the younger Charles to develop an interest in public affairs and a strong sense of civic duty. Charles’ father held several important offices in the county of Albemarle, was an officer in the militia, and represented Albemarle in the House of Burgesses, 1748-49. 

     Colonel Lynch his career in politics in 1766 when he was chosen one of Bedford County’s Justices of Peace. In Colonial times, the Justice of Peace, who was appointed by the governor, supervised the county. He tried persons accused of crimes, settled disputes over property, recorded and executed wills, and set prices for services and products where a public interest was involved. 

     In 1769, at the age of thirty-three, Lynch was selected as one of Bedford County’s delegates to the House of Burgesses and was a representative during those critical years leading Revolutionary War. As a member of the political party in early America called Whigs, Charles was firmly in the patriot camp. When the burgesses met at the Capitol in Williamsburg, some of the compelling issues with which they dealt included taxation by the British Parliament, denial of the right to develop lands beyond the boundary of the Western frontier, and the challenge to Virginia’s right of self-government. The dominant issue, however, was one of power—should Britain or America dictate the terms of their mutual association, or separation? 

     Governor Botetourt dismissed the House of Burgesses in 1769 when he became upset with the Virginia lawmakers protesting against the English government rules. The adjourned session met at Raleigh Tavern to draw up resolves stating to the King grievances of the colonists. These became known as the non-importation agreement. Lynch and the other burgesses signed the agreement not to import English goods until the wrongs were addressed. Although in the period following the agreement relative quiet prevailed, British injustices increased, and there was a breakdown of the royal authority in Virginia.

    Governor Dunmore adjourned the General Assembly of burgesses and senators in 1774 when the burgesses became angry over the treatment of Boston citizens following the Boston Tea Party. With the dissolution of the Assembly, a series of five Revolutionary Conventions was held in its place during the period from 1774-1776 and Charles Lynch was one of Bedford County’s members. The first Convention was held at Raleigh Tavern in August 1774, and the members agreed to stop all trade with England. They suggested a call for a Continental Congress.  

     In March 1775 the second Revolutionary Convention met at St. John’s Church in Richmond. It was at this Convention that delegate Charles Lynch heard Patrick Henry make his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in which he warned Virginians that they must be prepared for war. This convention then authorized the formation of a county militia for defense. 

     On May 6, 1776, the fifth and last Revolutionary Convention met in Williamsburg and declared Virginia a free and independent state. They adopted Virginia’s Bill of Rights and first State Constitution. They abolished the Colonial Council, consisting of the King’s men, and established a General Assembly composed of a House of Delegates and a Senate. The Assembly elected the first governor, Patrick Henry. Lynch was in this first House of Delegates representing Bedford County in 1776 and remained until 1778.

     Charles Lynch’s visits to Williamsburg when the Assemblies were held provided unique opportunities. Virginians who lived great distances from each other came together in those special public times. One could depend on seeing others at the various inns, ordinaries, and taverns. People attended balls, banquets, lawn fetes, and displays of fireworks. There were concerts, lectures, theatre performances, fairs, and horse races. Craftsmen displayed their works and merchants showed the latest fashions from London. In addition to goods, Lynch and his counterparts could not have avoided bringing a ferment of ideas back to their plantations and settlements.  

     In 1781 Lynch served as Sheriff in Bedford County shortly before the General Assembly passed an act providing for Campbell County to be formed from the existing county of Bedford. On February 7, 1782, in the home of Micajah Terrell, Charles Lynch’s brother-in-law, a commission met and organized Campbell County’s first government. Charles Lynch was on the first court and served as Justice of Peace for three years (1782-1784). 

     In the period 1784-1789, Lynch served in the state Senate in Richmond as an elected representative of Bedford, Campbell, Henry, and Pittsylvania Counties and of Franklin County when it was added to this group in 1787. The 1788 Senate session was the first to meet in the new Capitol building. Lynch’s election to the Senate reaffirmed the people’s faith and trust in him as a leader. 

     After twenty-three years of public service, at the age of fifty-two, Charles ended his lawmaking career. During this time he had worked with such outstanding people as Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, John Blair, and John Marshall.

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