Bacon's Rebellion


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From The History and Present State of Virginia, published in 1705 by Robert Beverly (the son of the Robert Beverly referred to in some of these documents).

The occasion of the Rebellion is not easy to be discovered. But 'tis certain that there were many things that concurred towards it. For it cannot be imagined, that upon the Instigation of Two or Three Traders, as some pretent 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 Governour, whom they all entirely loved and had unanimously chosen; a Gentleman who had devoted his whole Life and Estate to the Service of his Country; and against whom in Thirty Five Years Experience there had never been one single Complaint... So that in all Probability there was something else in the Wind, without which the Body of the Country (would have) never been engaged in that Insurrection.

Four things may be reckoned to have been the main Ingredients towards his intestine Commotion. First, the extreme low Price of Tobacco, and the ill usage of the Planters in the Exchange of Goods for it, which the Country, with all their earnest Endeavours, could not remedy. Secondly, the Splintering [of] the Colony into Proprieties, contrary to the original Charters; and the extravagant taxes they were forced to undergo, to relieve themselves from those Grants. Thirdly, the heavy restraints and Burdens laid upon their Trade by Act of Parliament in England. Fourthly, the Disturbance given by the Indians. . . .



From a petition of grievance submitted to the Royal Commissioners by the Inhabitantt of Surry County in March or April 1677 (note the date).

That great quantities of tobacco was levied [ed. note, since there was a shortage of hard currency in Virginia, taxes were usually paid with specified amounts of tobacco] upon the poor Inhabitants of this Colony for the building of houses at James City which were not habitable by reason [of their not being] finished.

That the 2 [shillings] per hogshead Imposed by the act for the payment of his majesty's officers and other public debts thereby to ease his majesty's poor subjects of their great taxes: we humbly desire that an account may be given thereof.

That it has been the custom of County Courts at the laying of the levy to withdraw into a private Room by which means the poor people not knowing for what they paid their levy did always [wonder] how their taxes could be so high.

We most humbly pray for the future the County levy may be laid publickly in the Court house.

That we have been under great exactions of sheriff's and Clerk's fees for these several years. The assembly having assertained [only] some fees and left the rest to ... the County Courts, we most humbly pray that for the future all clerks and sheriff's fees may be [recorded and accounted for] and a great penalty laid upon [those who refuse to comply].

That contrary to the laws of England and this Country... sheriffs have usually continued [in office] two years...we humbly pray that for the future that no person may continue sheriff above one year.



From a petition of grievances from the citizens of Isle of Wight County (on the frontier) to the Royal Commissioners dated March 5, 1677 (note the date).

Also we desire that there may be a continual war with the Indians that we may have once done with them.

Also we desire that every man may be taxed according to the tracks of land they hold.

We desire you [to call our Burgesses] to account and examine the collectors for the collecting of the 2 [shilling] and 2 [pense] a hogshead, which hath been this many years received but to what use it is put we the poor, ignorant inhabitants knows [not] ...

We desire to know for what we do pay our Levies every year and that it may no more be laid in private but that we may have free liberty to hear and see every particular for what it is raised, and that there may be no more [allotments] be given to no particular persons what soever neither in public or private. . .

Whereas there are some great persons both in honor rich in Estate and have several ways of gains and profit are exempted from paying Levies and the poorest inhabitants being compelled to pay the great taxes which we are burdened with.



From the History of Bacon's and Ingram's Rebellion written by an unknown resident of Virginia'during the period. The author shows a first hand familiarity with the people and course of events in the Rebellion. The manuscript is a contemporary account.

... For in a very short time they (the Indians] had, in a most inhumane manner murdered no less than 60 innocent people, no ways guilty of any actual injury done to these ill disarming, brutish heathens.... they daily committed abundance of unguarded and unrevenged murders upon the English; which they perpetrated in a most barbarous and horrid manner. By which means abundance of Frontier Plantations became either depopulated by the Indian cruelties, or deserted by the Planters fears, who were compelled to forsake their abodes, to find security for their lives; which they were not to part with, in the hands of the Indians; but under the worst of torments. For these brutish and inhumane brutes, least their cruelties might not be thought cruel enough, they devised a hundred ways to torture and torment those poor souls with, whose wretched fate it was to fall into their unmerciful hands.



From Beverly's History.

This Addition of Mischief [Indian attacks on white frontier settlements] to Minds already full of Discontent, made People ready to vent all their Resentment against the poor Indians. There was nothing to be got by Tobacco; neither could they turn any other Manufacture to Advantage; so that most of the poorer Sort were willing to quit their unprofitable Employments, and go Volunteers against the Indians.

At first they flocked together tumultuously, running in Troops from one Plantation to another without a Head; till at last the seditious Humour of Colonal Nath. Bacon, led him to be of the Party. . . .[He] harangued them publickly. He aggrevated the Indian Mischiefs, complaining, that they were occasioned for want of due Regulation of the Trade. He recounted particularly the other Grievances and Pressures they lay under; and pretended that he accepted 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. He farther assured them, he would never lay down his Arms, till he had revenged their Sufferings upon the Indians, and redressed all their other Grievances.


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