Sir William Gooch, 1st Baronet (21 October 1681 – 17 December 1751), born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, and died in London, served as Governor of Virginia from 1727 through 1749. Technically, Gooch only had the title Royal Lieutenant Governor, but the nominal governors, George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney, and Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, were in England and did not exercise much authority. Gooch’s tenure as governor was characterized by his unusual political effectiveness. One of his greatest successes was the passage of the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730. The Act called for the inspection and regulation of Virginia’s tobacco, the most important crop of the colony. Tobacco planters were required to transport their crop to public warehouses where it was inspected and stored. The Act raised the quality of Virginia’s tobacco and reduced fraud; this greatly increased the demand for Virginia tobacco in Europe.
Gooch’s military policy focused on protecting the western territory from Native Americans and French encroachment. He promoted the settlement of the Shenandoah Valley in order to buffer the rest of the colony from Indian attacks, and to prevent the French from settling the land. However, in the early 1730s, Western expansion was fraught by the Iroquois invasion each spring, as settlements inevitably fell along their war-trails leading south. Gooch decided to broker peace between the Six Nations and their southern enemies, to end the warfare. He hired Conrad Weiser to negotiate in the winter of 1736 and 1737, before the war season began. Weiser was successful in negotiating an armistice, allowing Gooch to authorize settlement of the Shenandoah Valley.
He had many military credentials including fighting under John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough in his campaigns in the Low Countries and with Admiral Edward Vernon in his expedition against Cartagena, New Grenada (now in Colombia) as part of the War of Jenkins' Ear. During King George's War, Gooch received an appointment as brigadier-general in charge of the army raised to invade Canada, but declined. Gooch was made a baronet in 1746 and a major general in 1747. Also in 1747, Gooch made a speech condemning all religious groups aside from the established Church. However, in 1738, Gooch had given a group of Presbyterians the right to settle new territory under the conditions of the English Act of Toleration. In 1749, Gooch left Virginia and returned to England.
Gooch married Rebecca Staunton (for whom Staunton, Virginia is named), the daughter of a squire in Middlesex, England. The two had a son named William who grew up in Williamsburg. William became a naval officer, but died of the “bloody flux” at the age of 26, shortly before his parents returned to England.
Gooch honored himself with the naming of Goochland County, Virginia in 1727.
- Walton, Joseph Solomon. "Conrad Weiser and the Indian policy of colonial Pennsylvania". Historic Pittsburgh Text Collection. University of Pittsburgh. http://digital.library.pitt.edu/cgi-bin/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=pitttext;cc=pitttext;xc=1;g=pitttextall;type=simple;q1=gooch;sort=occur;didno=00aee8104m;rgn=full%20text;idno=00aee8104m;view=image;seq=0043;node=00aee8104m%3A1.11. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
- Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,[page needed]
- Leigh Rayment's list of baronets
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