Bacon's Rebellion


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From the Royal Commissioners' Narrative.

... Bacon had got over the [James] River with his Forces and hastening away into the woods, went directly and fell upon the Indians and killed some of them [which] were some of our best Friends .... the people [would notl understand any distinction of Friendly Indians and Indian Enemies, for at that time it was impossible to distinguish one nation from another, they being deformed with paint of many colours...

So the common cry and vogue of the Vulgar was, away with these Forts, away with These distinctions, we will have war with all Indians ... we will spare none.



Testimony given by Mrs. William Bird, neighbor of the Bacon's (early 1677?)

[She stated] that before ever Mr. Bacon went out against the Indians, there were said to be above two hundred of the English murdered by the barbarous Indians, and posts [messages] came in daily to the Governor, giving notice of it, and yet no course was taken to secure them, till Mr. Bacon went out against them. And that [Mrs. Bird's] husband had 3 men killed by the Indians before Mr. Bacon stirred, which was made known to the Governor, who notwithstanding was so possessed to the contrary that he would not believe it to be any other than a mere pretence, for to make war against the Indians, and that the 3 men were alive and well, and only shut up in a chamber to make the world believe they were murdered. She further affirmed that neither Mr. Bacon nor any with him had injured any English man in their persons or Estates, and that the country was generally well pleased with what they had done, and she believed most of the council also, so far as they durst show it.



Excerpt from a letter written by William Sherwood, member of the House of Burgess and appointed Attorney General for the colony in 1677, to Sir Joseph Williamson, a member of the King's Privy Council in London. The letter is dated June 1, 1676.

... a nation of Indians called [Susquahannas] having killed some of the Inhabitants of this Country were pursued and several destroyed by the English and Sir Wm. Berkeley our honorable Governor (who hath had long experience of war with the Indians) that he might provide for the safety of this Country caused our Assembly... to...enact that forts should be built at the heads of several rivers, being the most way for security of our frontier plantations, but as no good Law can be so made to please all men, especially the rude sort of people, one Mr. Nathanial Bacon a person of little ekperience and but of two years [residence] in the country, thinking himself wiser than the law, hath stirred up a great number of indigent and dissatisfied persons to obstruct the proceedings upon the acts of Assembly, raising forces [and] Marching in warlike posture, in terror of his Majesty's good subjects, the intent of which so near as all sober men Judge, is the subversion of the Laws and to Level all [ed. note - to level meant to "reduce" society to a democracy, impose political and social equality] , this Mr. Bacon being styled by the rabble their General ... he having entered into Oaths to stand by them and notwithstanding the great care of our Governour and his several proclamations.... This Country hath had thirty four years' experience of the valour, conduct, Justice and Impartial proceedings of our honourable Governor, who hath endeavoured the General good of the Country, by spending his estate amongst us, yet he and all authority ... are by the rabble condemned.



From the Royal Commissioner's Narrative.

[At the beginning of 1676] the assembly met to consult for the Safety and defense of the Country against the Incursions and destructions of the Indians...What care the Assembly took to prevent these massacres was only to build Forts at the heads of each River and on the Frontiers and confines of the Country, for erecting of which and maintaining Guards on them a heavy levy [tax] was laid by act of Assembly on the People; throughout the country universally disliked, as being a matter from which was expected great charge [cost] and little or no security to the Inhabitants. The Situation of the Virginia Plantations being [surrounded] with thick woods, swamps and other cover, by the help of which the enemy might at their Pleasure make their approaches undiscovered... Their sculking nature being apt to use these advantages. The unsatisfied People finding themselves still liable to the Indian cruelties...gave out in Speeches that they were resolved to Plant tobacco rather than pay the tax for maintaining of Forts, and that the erecting of them was a great Grievance, Juggle and cheat, and of no more use to them than another Plantation with men at it, and that it was merely a Design of the Grandees to engross all their tobacco into their own hands. Thus the sense of this oppression and the dread of a common approaching calamity made the giddy-headed multitude mad and precipitated them upon that rash overture of Running out upon the Indians-themselves, at their own voluntary charge.. . only they first by Petition humbly craved leave or commission to be led by any commander as the Governor should please to appoint...But instead of Granting this Petition the Governor by Proclamation under great Penalty forbad the like Petitioning for the future.

This made the People jealous that the Governor for the lucre of the Beaver and other trade etc. with the Indians, rather sought to protect the Indians than them. Since after public Proclamation prohibiting all trade with the Indians (they complain) he privately gave commission to some of his Friends to truck with them, and that those persons furnished the Indians with Powder, Shot etc., so that they were better provided than his Majesty's Subjects.



From History of Bacon's... Rebellion.

It seems, in the first rise of the War, this Gentleman [Bacon] had made some overtures unto the Governour for a Commission, to go and put a stop to the Indian proceedings. But the Governour, at present, either not willing to commence the quarrel (on his part) till' more suitable reasons presented, for to urge his more severe prosecution of the same, against the heathen: or that he doubted Bacon's temper, as he [Bacon] appeared Popularly inclined; a constitution not consistent with the time, and the peoples dispositions; being generally discontented, for want of timely provisions against the Indians, or for Annual impositions [taxes] laid upon them, too great (As some said) for them to bear, and against which they had some considerable time complained, without the least redress. For these, or some other reason, the Governour refused to comply with Bacon s proposals.


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