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Bacon's Rebellion

By Edited May 6, 2015 1 0

When a government ignores the cries of victimization and murders of its people, revolt becomes inevitable. If actions against such injustices aren't taken, civilian patriots will inevitably rise up to enact proper measures  to rectify these injustices and protect the rest of the people from further exposure to such threats. This was the case in the Virginia colony in the late fifteenth century with Governor William Berkeley and Nathaniel Bacon and what would arguably become the first American Revolution. Nathaniel Bacon's Declaration accused Governor William Berkeley of being a traitor to the people of the colony; while Governor Berkeley accused Bacon of being a rebel traitor as well, Bacon's declaration provides a far more convincing argument by citing specific instances that potentially incriminated Governor Berkeley.

            Governor William Berkeley responded  to Bacon's Rebellion in May of 1676 in an expedient manner referring to him as a “rebel” and a “traitor.” Berkeley noted that Bacon had only been in country for two years before the uprising began, and little was known of him, his capabilities, or his intentions. In contrast,  Governor Berkeley had been in Virginia for 34 years, he was well established, well-respected, and known as “uncorrupt” in the eyes of the people. This argument had very little factual support and didn't do much in order to garner the support of the rebels.

            In the Declaration by Nathaniel Bacon, written in July of 1676, there were several accusations made against Governor Berkeley. The document cited several instances, from unjust taxation and appointing  a corrupt magistrate to protect criminal Indians, improper suppression of external enemy forces, and creation of a commission for civil war without the consent or knowledge of the colonial people. These accusations prompted Bacon and his supporters to go on an all out search for Governor Berkeley and his associates and capture them, holding them as them prisoner as traitors. Ultimately, however, Berkeley escaped and Bacon and his supporters burned Jamestown to the ground.

            Overall both of the arguments had their merits as well as their shortcomings. Governor Berkeley's argument used longevity and earlier reputation to his advantage, but did very little to incriminate Nathaniel Bacon or condemn his actions. On the other hand, Bacon notes several specific instances of injustices that stemmed from the actions of Governor Berkeley  then directly states how Berkeley is culpable for all the aforementioned wrongdoings. Bacon further goes on to suggest how to rectify the problem, by  hunting down all the guilty parties and calling them out as traitors. These elaborations and suggestions give Bacon the edge with his argument over Governor Berkeley's over-generalized accusation.

            Overall, even though Bacon wasn't able to live to see Governor Berkeley return to the colony to face the rebels, his document for the rebellion ultimately provided the colonists with the more convincing logic to follow and led to an uprising which ousted Berkeley and led to Jamestown being infiltrated and burnt to the ground to illustrate how landowners felt about the lack of defensive action against attacks by the Native Americans. This revolutionary action would set the groundwork for what would eventually evolve into the American Revolution.

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