Gooch returned to the field in 1715 when the English repelled the so-called Jacobite uprising in Scotland in which Scottish rebels attempted to regain the British throne for the namesake son of deposed King James II. Gooch won promotion to the rank of major, but probably because peacetime promotions were notoriously slow in coming, he resigned his commission not long thereafter and retired to Middlesex County, near London, where he and his wife had one son.
Gooch's affable personality and the experience exercising responsibility that he had gained while in the army enabled him to earn the respect of the proud and experienced political leaders in Virginia without affronting them. He liked the Virginia planters, and they liked him, allowing him to enjoy a happier administration and a better working relationship with the political leaders of the colony than any governor since Sir William Berkeley in the seventeenth century. Gooch was patient and kept his opinions to himself when it was to his advantage, as he revealed in the many letters that he wrote to his brother. In one letter, the governor related how he had neutralized the bad temper of James Blair, who was the president of the College of William and Mary, a member of the governor's Council, and the bishop of London's commissary, or personal representative, in the colony, by persuading him with kindness. On the whole, Gooch and his family were happy in Virginia. His son lived in the colony for the remainder of his short life, married, fathered a child, and became a well-regarded Virginia gentleman.
Gooch also supported and signed a bill to impose a tax to pay part of the cost of erecting a lighthouse at Cape Henry. Even though he personally endorsed the bill in hopes that the king would approve it, merchants in England and legislators in Maryland objected to the taxes and the Crown disallowed that bill, as it did a bill Gooch later signed to impose an additional tax on imported alcohol. By cooperating with the planters and risking the displeasure of the Crown by signing the revenue bills, Gooch gained prestige and influence in Virginia.
Tobacco Inspection Act
On the critical issue of tobacco, Gooch took the lead and pressured the assembly to pass a controversial measure, the 1730 Act for Amending the Staple of Tobacco; and for Preventing Frauds in His Majesty's Customs, popularly known as the Tobacco Inspection Act. The most important law passed during his long administration, it established a system of tobacco warehouses throughout Virginia and required every person who raised tobacco to have the crop inspected and graded before it could be exported. The assembly repealed the 1728 act that had failed to limit tobacco production. The new law required instead that the poorest quality tobacco, usually referred to as trash tobacco, be destroyed to keep it from depressing the market.
The 1730 act was initially unpopular with many farmers. In several counties north of the Rappahannock River, mobs burned at least four new inspection warehouses. In order to quiet the minds of the law's opponents and reconcile doubtful planters to its provisions, Gooch wrote the first piece of political propaganda of its kind to be published in Virginia. The recently established printing office of William Parks issued it in 1732 without disclosing Gooch's authorship. It was entitled A Dialogue between Thomas Sweet-Scented, William Oronoco, Planters, both Men of good Understanding, and Justice Love-Country, who can speak for himself, Recommended To the Reading of the Planters. By a sincere Lover of Virginia. In seventeen pages of imagined conversation, Gooch allowed his fictional trio to explain plainly but not condescendingly how the act would work to raise tobacco prices by improving the quality of the tobacco that English merchants purchased. He also attempted to quiet the fears that apprehensive men entertained about how the inspection system would function.
It is not clear whether Gooch persuaded many doubters, but for a few years after passage of the law the crops were good but not so good as to drive down the price per pound. On the whole, prices rose and remained relatively high, a consequence of the law operating as intended in combination with other market factors. Higher prices reconciled most planters to the inspection system, and Gooch refrained from making the appointment of inspectors a political issue as Spotswood had done.
Following the death of Governor George Hamilton, the earl of Orkney, early in 1737, Gooch had reason to hope that his nearly a decade of successful administration in Williamsburg would be rewarded with appointment as Hamilton's successor. The position would have given him the full governor's salary and fees and substantially increased his income. Politics and patronage worked as usual in London, however, and the king's ministers selected William Anne Keppel, the second earl of Albemarle, as Hamilton's successor. Disappointed, Gooch worked out with Keppel a new arrangement for payment of a part of the governor's salary and fees, and continued as lieutenant governor in Virginia.
In 1746 George II appointed Gooch a brigadier general and commander of an American regiment given the task of driving the French out of Quebec. Gooch's health prevented him from taking the field, however. Later in the year, on November 4, the king made Gooch a baronet, entitling him to be addressed and referred to as Sir William, the only governor or lieutenant governor of Virginia so honored during his term in office. The following year, Gooch received a promotion to major general.
The many changes were partly responsible for the General Assembly's making the first complete overhaul of the laws of Virginia in decades. Gooch probably did not attempt to exercise any influence on the new code. His health had remained poor since the Cartagena expedition, and some of the work consisted of technical legal amendments, although the assembly members enacted some substantive changes to Virginia's laws. When adjourning the assembly in May 1749 after it completed the revision, Gooch complimented the assembly members on their work. "The Patience and Judgment you have shewn," he told the burgesses and Council members, "in going through that arduous Undertaking, the Revisal of the Laws; and the Spirit and Prudence with which you have transacted the other weighty Concerns of the Government, this tedious session; afford me the fullest Satisfaction, and intitle you to my most hearty Thanks."
Gooch then sailed back to England and probably lived most of his final years in his wife's native Middlesex County near London. He visited Bath several times in hopes of improving his health but without success. Gooch died on December 17, 1751, probably on the way home from Bath as reported in several death notices, and was buried in Saint Nicholas Church in his native town of Great Yarmouth. An elaborate funerary monument that his widow had erected displayed his birth and death dates and the highlights of his career until a 1942 bombing raid during World War II (1939–1945) almost completely destroyed the church.
- A Dialogue between Thomas Sweet-Scented, William Oronoco, Planters, both Men of good Understanding, and Justice Love-Country, who can speak for himself, Recommended To the Reading of the Planters. By a sincere Lover of Virginia (1732)
October 21, 1681 - Sir William Gooch is born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk County, England, the son of Thomas Gooch and Frances Lone Gooch.
1697 - By this year, both of Sir William Gooch's parents are deceased.
1701–1714 - Sir William Gooch serves in the War of Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne's War.
April 14, 1714 - Sir William Gooch and Rebecca Staunton marry in the English colony of Middlesex.
1715 - Sir William Gooch fights with the English to quell the Jacobite uprising in Scotland, and resigns his commission soon after. He returns to Middlesex County, near London, to live with his wife and son.
January 23, 1727 - Sir William Gooch is appointed the lieutenant governor of Virginia, succeeding Hugh Drysdale.
1728 - The General Assembly names the new county of Goochland in honor of the lieutenant governor, Sir William Gooch.
May 1730 - The General Assembly passes An Act for amending the Staple of Tobacco; and for preventing Frauds in his Majesty's Customs, outlining a controversial plan for the inspection of tobacco before it goes to market.
1732 - Sir William Gooch anonymously publishes a propaganda piece in the form of a dialogue and supporting the Tobacco Act of 1730.
1737–1749 - Lieutenant Governor William Gooch administers the government in Williamsburg in the absence of Governor William Anne Keppel, second earl of Albemarle, who remains in England.
October 1740–May 1741 - Sir William Gooch commands the American regiment in the failed British expedition against Cartagena (later part of Colombia). He suffers ankle injuries that leave him partially crippled, and possibly contracts malaria.
1745 - By this year, Lieutenant Governor Sir William Gooch has begun to call for the suppression of illicit "ministers under the pretended influence of new light, extraordinary impulse, and such like fanatical and enthusiastic knowledge."
1746 - Sir William Gooch is appointed brigadier general by George II, with the assignment to drive the French out of Quebec. Gooch cannot maintain active duty because of poor health.
November 4, 1746 - Sir William Gooch is made a baronet by George II.
January 31, 1747 - Sir William Gooch offers a reward to anyone who can identify an arsonist in the fire destroying the Capitol building in Williamsburg. No evidence of arson is ever discovered.
1747 - Sir William Gooch receives a promotion to major general.
May 1749 - Sir William Gooch signs a bill naming the town of Staunton, after his wife, Rebecca Staunton Gooch.
August 1749 - In poor health, Sir William Gooch sails back to England after retiring as lieutenant governor.
December 17, 1751 - Sir William Gooch dies in England. He is buried in Saint Nicholas Church in Great Yarmouth.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Tarter, B., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Sir William Gooch (1681–1751). (2016, November 9). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Gooch_Sir_William_1681-1751.
- MLA Citation:
Tarter, Brent and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Sir William Gooch (1681–1751)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 9 Nov. 2016. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: December 8, 2015 | Last modified: November 9, 2016