Bacon’s Rebellion

This paper explores a war between two actual cousins that resulted in Bacon’s Rebellion. One cousin was called Sir William Berkeley (the heavy-handed English governor). He was the English civil wars’ veteran. Nathaniel Bacon was the other cousin who appeared to be a lazy and immature schemer. His dad sent him to Virginia, hoping that he would grow up. After arriving in Virginia, Berkeley gave Bacon a seat on the council and a land (Rothman 497). Apart from these privileges, other people found life in Virginia harsh. The land was practically filled with starvation and drought. People were also fighting with Native Americans. However, most of the activities was done by the white indentured servants. In reality, they appeared a little more than slaves (Dzelzainis 139). Bacon’s Rebellion’s immediate cause was the refusal by Governor Berkeley to retaliate for a series of frontier settlements’ attacks by the Native Americans.

Have any questions about the topic? Our Experts can answer any question you have. They are avaliable to you 24/7.
Ask now

Form the beginning, Virginia was a harsh place for human habitat, especially when the first settlers of Jamestown resorted to cannibalism for making it through the 1609’s severe winter. These conditions failed to get much better throughout the 17th century (Dzelzainis 143). Eventually, there was a dire need for Bacon’s Rebellion, which started in 1676. During this time, the economy of Virginia was struggling. The terrible weather ruined harvests and destroyed homes. As a consequence, the colonist decided to look for scapegoats. In particular, the scapegoat was found in the tribes of local Native America. In 1675, for example, the colonists strike back at the Native Americans when they raided a plantation on the Virginia frontier (Machain 295). However, the colonist attacked the wrong tribe. As part of power play, Nathaniel Bacon stoked resentment against Sir Governor Berkeley. At this time, Berkeley refused to retaliate.

The 1676 – 1677 Bacon’s Rebellion holds its place in the books of history as the first Rebellion in the New World’s English colonies. Nathan Bacon led the Virgin settlers to rebel against Governor William Berkeley’s rule. The grievances of Bacon against the governor stemmed from his dismissive policy to the western frontier’s political challenges. Specifically, Bacon was not allowed to participate in fur trading with Native Americans (Dzelzainis 143). Besides, Berkeley left him out of his inner circle of political agenda. During this time, the popular uprising against Berkeley was incited by the Doeg people attacks. Berkeley failed to address the colonists’ demand regarding their safety. As a consequence, several Virginians from all races and classes rose in arms against Governor Berkeley (Machain 296). In addition to attacking Native Americans, they chased the governor from various regions such as Virginia and Jamestown. Ultimately, these thousands of Virginians torched the capital.

Apparently, a few armed merchants from London were the first people to suppress the Bacon’s Rebellion. The captains of these merchant ships sided with the loyalists, including Governor Berkeley. Soon after, the forces of the government from England arrived to reform the colonist to be under direct royal control (Rothman 497). These government forces were able to defeat the pockets of resistance after spending several years in the war. Bacon led the first Rebellion in the colonies of America in which discontented frontiersmen participated. The ruling class was much disturbed by the alliance between the Africans and the European indentured servants. The bond-servitude between the Africans and the European indentured servants was able to unite these groups to rebel against the ruling class (Dzelzainis 141). Many of the Africans were enslaved until freed or dead. In their response, the ruling class decided to harden the slavery’s racial caste to divide the two races. Even though the farmers failed to succeed in their initial plan to drive remove the Native Americans from Virginia, Bacon’s Rebellion resulted in the recalling of Berkeley to England.

Initially, the colonists were begged by Berkeley to show restraint in the way they were dealing with the Native Americans. However, Bacon and his supporters could not listen to any of this advice. At one point, some friendly Native Americans were seized by Bacon for supposedly stealing corn. They were accused of waging an illegal war against the nearby friendly tribes. The continued escalation of the situation forced Governor Berkeley to push for a compromise. He called for an assembly after confiscating the weapons from the local Native Americans (Dzelzainis 143). In this assembly, the war was declared on all the Native Americans who were considered harmful. In addition, a defense was set up around the colony. In the colony, tension continued to rise following the increase of taxes that the war brought. Moreover, some people accused Berkeley of practicing favoritism in the assembly. For example, the best trade options were handed to his cronies (Machain 297). As a consequence, the anti-Berkeley locals then elected Bacon a volunteer militia’s “general’ to fight the Native Americans.

The official beginning of Bacon’s Rebellion marked the ejection of the Native Americans from their lands. Berkeley responded by riding to the headquarters of Bacon with three hundred men. Such an incident made Bacon flee into the forest (Machain 305). In quick response, Berkeley issued two proclamations after declaring Bacon a rebel. In the first place, Berkeley would pardon the men of Bacon if they return home immediately. Also, Bacon would be put on trial after being removed from his council seat. However, Bacon continued attacking a friendly Native American tribe after ignoring the orders of Governor Berkeley (Dzelzainis 144). During the attack, Bacon stole all the beaver pelts of the friendly Native American tribe. However, the governor agreed to pardon Bacon as he was facing anger from the colonists. Meanwhile, Bacon was expected to return to England to face trial.

It is evident that Bacon did not decline this offer. Instead, the ruling body of Virginia (the House of Burgesses) is the one who ordered that Bacon has to beg for forgiveness for all the crimes he committed. Funnily, the conflict was then escalated to new heights when Bacon was elected to a seat in the same House of Burgesses by the locals. He was arrested and forced to apologize immediately after arriving for the Assembly (Machain 309). Before that, there was no way Bacon would assume his elected seat. Instead, he walked away only to return with the militia. At this point is when he was dared by Berkeley to shoot himself. However, Bacon chose to back down. Afterward, Bacon was given his commission as a leader of the militia. However, he then refused the offer (Rothman 498). His ultimate dream was to become the general of all the forces in Virginia that fight the Native Americans.

Berkeley gave him free rein for attacking the Native Americans mainly because of his mob. Following such an incident, the “Declaration of People” was issued as Berkeley fled Jamestown. Bacon’s Rebellion was officially declared. Essentially, the declaration referred to Berkeley as an incompetent and corrupt leader. An oath demanding Bacon’s total support was included in the declaration (Dzelzainis 145). Berkeley continued to fight even after fleeing the region. His loyalist forces were marshaled to capture the fleet of ships of Bacon. Jamestown was also fortified with their defenses. Nevertheless, the followers of Bacon began to kidnap prominent supporters of Berkeley. They were paraded along the very fortifications of the governor. For the second time, Berkeley fled to Jamestown (Rothman 498). Bacon still found it challenging to capture Berkeley himself, although Jamestown was in ruins (Machain 313). As a result, he began losing his men’s support, especially the ones who wanted Berkeley caught. Nathaniel Bacon later died on October 26 of dysentery before he could fall far from grace (Rothman 497).

In conclusion, it was surprising to witness the constant fight between two cousins, Berkeley and Bacon. At one point, Nathaniel Bacon stoked resentment against Sir Governor Berkeley. However, Berkeley refused to retaliate at this time. Consequently, the escalation of the situation increased the frontier fighting between the settlers and the Native Americans. Evidently, Berkeley was a corrupt leader. It has been witnessed that people accused him of practicing favoritism in the assembly. For example, the best trade options were handed to his cronies. As a consequence, the anti-Berkeley locals then elected Bacon a volunteer militia’s “general’ to fight the Native Americans. Such behavior was one of the primary reasons for the emergence of Bacon’s Rebellion.


Works Cited

Dzelzainis, Martin. “The Feminine Part of Every Rebellion”: Francis Bacon on Sedition and Libel, And the Beginning of Ideology.” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 1, 2006, pp. 139-152. Project Muse, doi:10.1525/hlq.2006.69.1.139.

Machain, Carla Martinez et al. “Deterring Rebellion.” Foreign Policy Analysis, vol. 7, no. 3, 2011, pp. 295-316. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.1111/j.1743-8594.2011.00139.x.

Rothman, Joshua D. “Eva Sheppard Wolf. Race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner’s Rebellion. Race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner’s Rebellion”. The American Historical Review, vol. 113, no. 2, 2008, pp. 497-498. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.1086/ahr.113.2.497.