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Bacon’s rebellion was an uprising between 1676 and 1677 in the Virginia colony that occurred between the English and the Indians, and the civil war between Jamestown colonists and their government. The rebellion was led by Nathaniel Bacon in opposition to the Governor of Virginia.
Bacon’s rebellion is attributed to economic problems and heavy English losses caused by a series of naval wars. Other causes of this rebellion were low prices for tobacco, unjust high taxes, increase in disputes over native Indian homelands, corruption whereby the Governor of Virginia offered special treatments for his favorites and deprived the locals their rights and increased commercial competition from Maryland and the Carolinas.
Bacons’ rebellion took root in 1641 when Sir William Berkeley replaced Sir Francis Wytt as the Governor of Virginia. In 1646, Powhatan chief signed a peace treaty to end the Powhatan Wars which led to the establishment of a boundary between the Indians and English lands. In 1652, Berkeley was deposed from Governorship by a Puritan force from England but was later reappointed in 1660.
Nathaniel Bacon arrived in Virginia Colony in 1674 with his wife and bought the Curles Neck tobacco plantation in Henrico County. He traded with local Indians in completion with Berkeley which led to a fierce rivalry between the two men. In 1675, Berkeley appointed Bacon as a new member of the Virginia Council of State. In the same year, the locals demanded that Powhatan Indians be removed from their lands which led to conflicts with Doeg tribe. This led to the murder of 14 Susquehannock Indians who then launched a retaliatory raid. John Washington therefore led a party from Virginia into Maryland and surrounded Susquehannock fortified village. After six weeks, the colonists attached and killed five chiefs who came out to parley. In order to avoid war, Berkeley decided to build new forts. This decision was totally criticized by some colonists whose idea was that the Indians be removed from their land in order to increase taxes.
In 1676, Bacon led the militiamen to resist the instructions of the governor and prepared to attack friendly Indians. This made Berkeley brand him a rebel whereby he was arrested but later was released with restrictions. Bacon returned to Jamestown with his militiamen ready to start war against the Indians making Berkeley give in to his demands (Ethan, 2012). Berkeley changed his mind later and was labeled by Bacon a traitor making him recruit men to fight Bacon’s rebellion.
In 1677, the rebellion fell apart after the death of Bacon and the rebels’ army were made to surrender and hanged by Berkeley. Bacon property was confiscated after being found guilty of treason marking the end of Bacon’s rebellion.
How the Characteristics of the Region of Colonial America Impacted the Conflict
In 1676, Virginia was a colony in turmoil. It was characterized by uneasy truces, shifting alliances and warfare. The rebellion made the government in Virginia fear the threat of civil war. Its popularity also created suffering to the small farmers making the locals complain due to land ownership issues, voting rights restrictions, high taxes and low tobacco prices. Berkley attempted to negotiate peace with the Native Americans making him avoid violation of treaty obligation which would have made the situation worse. This made a most of the white population to start infiltrating the land of Indians (Ethan, 2012).
Bacon’s rebellion was seen as a standpoint in American history. Before the start of the conflict, Virginia was a small colony but became the center of agriculture and commerce. This led to disputes over native Indian homelands that were to be removed from their treaty-protected lands.
The government of Virginia was governed through Navigation Acts which changed the trade system for the tobacco traders making them unable to sell to customers from France. The Dutch ships were also restricted from transporting goods from Virginia. This economic crisis led to the causes of Bacon’s Rebellion.
Moreover, the colony had indentured servants who no lands to grow their crops yet were supposed to pay high taxes. News of the rebellion made the indentured servants flow to the colony creating labor shortage. This made the plantations look to Africa for a source of labor.
Discuss the American ideals or philosophies that may have caused Bacon’s Rebellion to occur. How have these ideals and philosophies changed to the way we live today?
There are various ideologies that led to the occurrence of Bacon’s Rebellion. One of these is multiple motivations for the warfare which set the ground for the dynamic sociopolitical atmosphere. The regular appearance and reappearance of new alliances, policies, conflicts and enemies led to the occurrence of the rebellion.
These ideologies have led to creation of boundaries between nations. This also created geographic isolation which has led to the creation of political and cultural differences between locals.
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Discuss your perspective on the event, including, but not limited to, what was inevitable or avoidable, and what was beneficial or costly.
Bacon’s Rebellion was a significant event which highlighted the mistreatment under British rule and ignited the fire of rebellion in different states. The rebellion also encouraged white populism and waged a war against the Indians who originally owned the land.
The rebellion led to the end of use of indentured servants and encouraged the use of African slaves. This led to the end of any further uprising. The event marked the first time an average citizen can demand his rights in front the government.
- Ethan A.S. (2012). Cockacoeske, Weroansqua of the Pamunkeys, and Indian Resistance in Seventeenth-Century Virginia, American Indian Quarterly vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 288-317
- Rice & James (2012). Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.