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Every story has another story behind it.

Any event that takes place can be seen from different perspectives, things become even more complicated when it comes to history, because when you read written excerpts of different historians belonging to different communities you will encounter different views for the same event and it becomes difficult to take a stand. Bacon Rebellion is one of the historical events that have always been a topic of debate. Some consider it to be the first revolution or reformation led by Nathaniel Bacon in 1675-76, coincidentally just hundred years before America's Independence, and some consider it to be just a political game played by Nathaniel Bacon to gain more wealth, respect and power. When it comes to taking a stand I believe, after reading the documents about the rebellion, that Nathaniel Bacon was an opportunistic, self-centered, wealthy politician who in order to fulfill his own desires took advantage of the angry settlers who were in the miserable condition due to the trade, low tobacco prices, export duty charges, insufficient land masses and Indian threats1. He aggravated the mischievous activities of Native Indians and turned the angry mobs attention from government flaws to the mischief of Native Indians so that through their anger he could fulfill his own desires.2 Nathaniel Bacon was born in England, brought up at one of the Inns of Court in England and had a moderate fortune and was later sent to Virginia colony3.

Robert Beverley, The History (London, 1705), Page 1, para. 2. Robert Beverley, The History (London, 1705), Page 2, last line. Robert Beverley, The History (London, 1705), Page 2, last para, line 3.

Soon after arriving to Virginia colony he secured his position in the council mainly because of his good relations with Berkeley and other members of the political elite4. He had purchased some land outside Jamestown and was having trouble with Indians. As Daniel Richter quotes in his book, Facing East from Indian Country, Berkeley's efforts to keep the peace by building defensive forts and enforcing boundaries between Native and English territories were among many ways in which he betrayed the colonists' true interests"5. It becomes clear that Bacon knew that Governor Berkeley supported peace among Indians and English settlers and therefore he had little or no support from him if he wanted to go against Indians. So, when he found the opportunity through angry settlers he did not miss the chance. It is difficult to imagine how a small fight between settlers and Native Indians turned into a rebellion. As we go through the excerpts from Robert Beverley's The History and Present State of Virginia, "For it cannot be imagined, that upon the instigation of two or three traders only, who aimed at a monopoly of the Indian trade, as some pretend to say, the whole country would have fallen into so much distraction; in which people did not only hazard their necks by rebellion, but endeavored to ruin a governor, whom they all entirely loved, and had unanimously chosen and later when he says, Neither can it be supposed, that upon so slight grounds, they would make choice of a leader they hardly knew, to oppose a gentleman that had been so long and so

Robert Beverley, The History (London, 1705), page 2, last Para. Daniel Richter, Facing East, page 106, Para. 2, line 8

deservedly the darling of the people"6, we realize that the rebellion led by Nathaniel Bacon was not just a reformation but was more than that. It indirectly says that Nathaniel Bacon with his charismatic speech misguided the angry mob towards his own interests and against Berkeley. Daniel K. Richter, in his book "Facing East from Indian Country" quotes the lines of the unsympathetic royal investigators which strengthen this view point and tells that Nathaniel Bacon was nothing but an opportunity seeker who wanted higher power in Virginia's government. The lines of the royal investigators were, "he pretended and boasted what great service he would do for the country in destroying the common enemy, securing their lives and estate, liberties, and such like fair frauds . . . which he seduced the vulgar and most ignorant people to believe . . . so that their whole hearts and hopes were set now upon him"7. There were many things which were causing distress and problems among the settlers, one of which was the threat from the native Indians. Though this was not a major issue, Bacon directed the settlers frustration towards it. Through his powerful speeches he collected the settlers and made them march against the Indians and against the government. The settlers too found a scapegoat against whom they could place the blame for their misfortunes. Beverley in his book describes Bacon as a young, bold, active person with extraordinary qualification and later in the same paragraph he also adds, "For this reason he

Robert Beverley, The History (London, 1705), Para. 1. Daniel Richter, Facing East, Page 106, 2nd para, last 6 lines

no sooner gave countenance to this riotous mob, but they all presently fixed their eyes upon him for their general, and accordingly made their addresses to him. As soon as he found this, he harangued them publicly. He aggravated the Indian mischiefs, complaining that they were occasioned for want of a due regulation of their trade. He recounted particularly the other grievances and pressures they lay under, and pretended that he accepted of their command with no other intention but to do them and the country service, in which he was willing to encounter the greatest difficulties and dangers"8. This describes how Bacon turned the mob against the Indians who were native of that place and were living there for centuries. These lines from Beverley's book clearly portray Bacon as an opportunity seeker for higher power and wealth. There were many reasons for this great outburst as we already discussed and all these things together lead to poverty and restricted economic

independence. Daniel Richter quotes the lines of Governor Berkeley in his book Facing East from Indian Country, "six parts in seven at least are poor, indebted, discontented, and armed"9 clearly indicates that the settlers were facing all the problems at the same time. Nathaniel Bacon saw, in the crowd, a potential to fight against the government and Indians. Without wasting any time he joined the mob and directed them towards the Indians with whom he personally had problems. He realized it early that the angry mob is ready to fight against the government sooner or later and it will be profitable for him to

Robert Beverley, The History (1705), page 2 para 9 line 4 Daniel K. Richter, Facing East, Page 106, para 2, line 3

join the mob as a leader and then overthrow the existing governor and establish his own government so that he has the highest power in Virginia. He made this work through the settlers by pointing out their grievances and winning their confidence by supporting them in killing the Indians. His plan almost worked but he died unexpectedly in 1676 by dysentery10. The results of this Rebellion were horrible for the Native Indians, as Daniel K. Richter quotes the lines of the royal commissioners according to whom the cause of the rebellion was mainly the "violent intrusions of divers English into their lands", he writes that Bacon's Rebellion was an unmitigated disaster for the Native population of the Chesapeake region11.The royal commission that came to Virginia to find the cause made some legal reformations which reduced the powers of the governor and reduced the salaries of the Assembly members12. The Act of Assembly was passed, according to which any assembly will work for two years and after which a new assembly will be elected13. Berkeley was asked to return to England and was replaced by Herbert Jeffreys14. Although some of the legal reformations were made within the


Daniel K. Richter, Facing East, Page 107, para 2, line 11-12 Daniel K. Richter, Facing East, Page 107, last line


Royal Commissioners A True Narrative of the Late Rebellion in Virginia, Page 10, opening para and point 2.

Royal Commissioners A True Narrative of the Late Rebellion in Virginia, Page 10, point 1.
13 14

Daniel K. Richter, Facing East, Page 107, para 2, line 14-15


government, it did not improve the life of the settlers and Indians much15. Native Indians realized that it was difficult for them to fight against the settlers and signed the peace treaties in 1677 and 1680 which effectively confined the Pamunkeys and their allies to territories within a three-mile radius of their existing town16. Nathaniel Bacon was an opportunistic, self centered politician who exploited the settlers grievances for his own interests. Just for higher power, wealth and respect he murdered Native Indians who had lived there for centuries. The rebellion led to some reforms in the Virginia's government but nothing much was done for the common people. Higher protective measures were taken to maintain peace with native Indians. Everything came back to where it was before the rebellion with some minor improvements. Nathaniel Bacon, like all European predecessors, hatched an insidious plan for his personal interest at the stake of the lives of many Native Indians.

Name:Devansh Garg


Daniel K. Richter, Facing East, Page 107, para 2, line 15-16 Daniel K. Richter, Facing East, page 108, para. 1, line 6