Robert Beverley on Bacon’s Rebellion, 1704
- The reasons are subtle. It’s not feasible that 2 or 3 traders would do it for a monopoly on Indian trade. People wouldn’t get behind it to overthrow a popular governor unanimously elected & who had served for many, many years.
- 4 ingredients:
- 1 – Low price of tobacco. It worried farmers & nothing could be done about it
- 2 – The colony was split up into proprieties against what the original charters had laid out. King Charles II gave 2 grants in Virginia. In 1674, these were put into execution & the people clamored again it because it had violated the charters. Representatives were sent to speak to the king. The grants were replaced by large taxes on voting & cases for trial. These taxes were highly regressive, causing a lot of financial stress on the poor. No representative in England could or would do a thing about it
- 3 – These were followed by a series of taxes on trade between plantations. It only had the effect of limiting trade & making tax agents rich. The public had absolutely no benefit from it. Taxes also on fisheries & whalers while their English counterparts didn’t have any taxes at all
- 4 – Disturbances on the frontiers by Indians. People began to take out their resentment of the preceding 3 points on the Indians. Tobacco had become so unprofitable, many saw a good opportunity in fighting Indians. This movement got steam & had Colonial Nathaniel Bacon as its leader, who was an English gentleman – very bold, charming & charismatic. He had been a Virginia council member for a few years. Not only did the mob look to him as their voice, they had him as a general. He played up how Indian mischiefs were seen & told them they ought to address the situation in an armed way
- He was able to make his followers devoted to
him. He spoke of their misfortunes & tried to get the governor to allow him
& his group to go after the Indians. He was so popular that the governor
couldn’t flatly deny him but he did play for time, hoping the situation would
- Bacon was making preparations to march so he would be ready upon the governor’s approval. But once he was ready, the governor told him to disperse his group & come into see him upon threat of being labeled a rebel
- Bacon was at first surprise but then took 40
men with him down to Jamestown to see the governor. He was too wild in his
discussion with the governor, which got him kicked out of the council. Bacon
took his supporters out of town, with authorities following them. Bacon was
then forced to land & speak with the governor, who admitted that he had
reacted to the situation hastily in suspending him, & readmitted him to the
- Bacon demanded being a general of a group of volunteers to fight Indians. The governor tried to dissuade him but with no luck because there had been news that the Indians had robbed & murdered settlers. Bacon slipped out of town & put together a group of 600 men & marched to Jamestown. He urged the assembly to do something
- The governor now refused anything to Bacon & followers. The assembly urged the governor to allow it because Bacon & his men scared them. The governor reluctantly agreed, giving Bacon a monopoly on Indian trade. Once Bacon had left, the governor & assembly convened & declared Bacon & his men to be rebels, who had to surrender. The followers refused to allow any harm come to Bacon. They marched back into Jamestown
- The Governor had gathered troops under Robert Beverley. There were skirmishes with some dead, some taken prisoners. After a couple of months of fighting, Bacon died in battle. The followers could not remain united & eventually were pardoned, although some leaders were barred from public office
- After all of this, the governor asked for
troops to be brought from England, none of which were ever used.
- The governor died before ever getting any thanks from the king.