Fitzhugh, William (1651?-1701)
William Fitzhugh (1651?-1701)
Merchant and Planter. William Fitzhugh was born in Bedford, England, the son of a wealthy woolen draper. Little is known of his early life. Already a lawyer when he immigrated to Virginia in 1670, he acquired a large estate and proved successful as a tobacco grower and exporter. By 1672 he became the Stafford County representative to the House of Burgesses and gained a reputation as an expert on the colony’s laws.
Beverley. In 1682 Fitzhugh served as defense attorney for Maj. Robert Beverley, the clerk of the House of Burgesses. The governor and the council (the upper house in Virginia) asked the major for copies of the Burgesses’ journals. But Beverley, determined to protect the independence and authority of the Burgesses for whom he worked, refused to turn the journals over until that body had met and expressly authorized such an action. The governor became infuriated and had Beverley arrested. Fitzhugh defended Beverley to the best of his ability, but he was convicted in 1685.
Other Activities. Fitzhugh also served as a lieutenant colonel in the militia and a justice of the peace. As a supporter of the Stuarts and an accused Roman Catholic, he was forced to take the Oath of Allegiance in 1693. That same year he completed a brief history of Virginia, but it was never published and is no longer extant. In the late 1690s he attempted to recruit French Huguenot refugees to settle on his lands. Fitzhugh died on 21 October 1701 of dysentery after returning from a trip to England. In his lifetime he acquired 54,054 acres of land.
Richard Beale Davis, William Fitzhugh and His Chesapeake World, 1676-1701 (Chapel Hill: Published for the Virginia Historical Society by the University of North Carolina Press, 1963).