Bacon's Rebellion

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DOCUMENT #6


From a letter written by Nathaniel Bacon's wife to her sister in London, June 29, 1676.

Dear Sister,

I pray God keep the worst Enemy I have from ever being in such a sad condition as I have been in since my (previous letter to you), occasioned by the troublesome Indians, who have killed one of our Overseers at an outward plantation which we had, and we have lost a great stock of cattle, which we had upon it, and a good crop that we should have made there, such plantation Nobody durst come nigh, which is a very great loss to us.

If you had been here, it would have grieved your heart to hear the pitiful complaints of the people, the Indians killing the people daily the Governor not taking any notice of it for to hinder them, but let them daily do all the mischief they can; I am sure if the Indian were not cowards, they might have destroyed all the upper plantations and killed all the people upon them; the Governor so much their friend, that he would not suffer any body to hurt one of the Indians; the poor people came to your brother to desire him to help against the Indians, and he being very much concerned for the loss of his Overseer, and for the loss of so many men and women and children's lives every day, he was willing to do them all he good he could; so he begged of the Governor for a commission in several letters to him, that he might go out against them, but he would not grant one, so daily more mischief done by them, so your brother not able to endure any longer, he went out without a commission. The Governor being very angry with him put out high things against him, and told me that he would most certainly hang him as soon as he returned... The fight [with the Indians] did continue nigh a night and a day without any intermission. They did destroy a great many of the Indians, thanks be to God, and might have killed a great many more, but the Governor were so much the Indians' friend and our enemy, that he sent the Indians word that Mr. Bacon was out against them that they might save themselves.

 

DOCUMENT #7


From the petition of grievances from citizens of Isle of Wight County.

... We having a long time lain under great oppressions, and every year being more and more oppressed with great taxes, and still do load us with greater and unnecessary burdens; it was enacted by the Governor and assembly for the building of forts back in the woods upon several great men's Lands, under pretense of security for us against the Indians, which we perceiving and well knowing that their pretense was no security for us, but rather a ruin to the country, which was the cause of our [up]rising with intents to have our taxes Lowered, not that we rose in any ways of Rebellion against our most [dear] Sovereign Lord the King as by our actions may appear, for we no sooner rose. But we sent in a petition ani our grievance to Sir William Berkeley, who was not at home butthe Lady Berkeley promised that she would acquaint his Honor with our business, and by her request or command, we every man returned home...

 

DOCUMENT #8


From Beverly's History.

[Nathanial Bacon had received a good education in England] and had a moderate Fortune. He was young, bold, active, of an inviting Aspect, and powerful Elocution. In a Word, he was every way qualified to head a giddy and unthinking Multitude. Before he had been Three Yars'in the Colony, he was, for his extraordinary Quialifications, made one of the Council. And in great Honour and Esteem among the People.

 

DOCUMENT #9

From N. Bacon's account of the Indian troubles, June 18, 1676.,

By an Act of State, it was provided for the better security of the country, That no Trade should be held with the Indians, notwithstanding which our present Governor monopolized a trade with the Indians and granted licenses to others to trade with them for which he had every 3rd skin [beaver or fox pelt], which trading with the Indians has proved so fatal to these parts of the world, yet I fear we shall be all lost for this commerce having acquainted the Indians ... with our manner of living and discipline of war, has also brought them generally to the use of Fire Arms with such dexterity, that ourselves often hire them to kill Deer....

Things standing in this posture, they have entered into general bloody war... the murders and depradations they have committed here are horrible and continual, laying a great part of the country desolate, and forcing the inhabitants to fly from their dwellings to their ruin; the Governor, who from the Neighbor Indians receives this tribute and benefit by the trade, still protecting them for these many years against the people and tho the complaints of their murders have been continual yet he hath connived at the great men's [Indian chiefs?] furnishing them with ammunition (which by the Law is death) and the sad effects thereof. Now the Governor having placed me here in a place of trust, I thought it my duty to discharge my conscience in it, by introducing a looking after the welfare of the people here, they being poor, few, and in scattered habitations on the Frontiers and remote part of the country, nigh these Indians ... ; I sent to the Governor for a commission to fall upon them, but being from time to time denied, and finding that the country was basely for a small and sordid gain betrayed, and the lives and fortunes of the poor inhabitants wretchedly sacrificed, resolved to stand up in this ruinous gap, and rather expose my life and fortune to all hazards than basely desert my post and by so bad an example make desolate a whole country in which no one dared to stir against the common Enemy...

Upon this I resolved to march out upon the Enemy with which volunteers I could then get, but by so doing found that I not only lost the Governor's favor, but exposed my very life and fortune at home as well as abroad... ; but considering the necessity, I still proceeded, and returned with a greater victory from sharper conflict than ever yet has been known in these parts of the world....

Editor's Note: In Sept. 1676 news of Bacon's uprising reached England. The Crown removed Gov. Berkeley from office and recalled him to London. In Oct. the King appointed a commission to investigate the rebellion, and in Feb. 1677 the Commissioners,. their assistants, and several hundred troops arrived in Virginia. The Commissioners received petitions of grievances, sworn testimony from private citizens, and reports from local officials. The final report entitled A True Narrative of the Late Rebellion in Virginia, By the Royal Commissioners 1677, was presented to the King's Privy Council in Oct. 1677.

 



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