Bacon's Rebellion


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From "The Declaration and Remonstrance" issued by Gov. Berkeley in late May 1676. The proclamation denounced Bacon as a rebel for setting out against the Indians without a commission, and for continuing these actions despite orders from the Governor to cease.

... about the year 1660, Col. Mathews the then Governor died, and then in consideration of the service I had done the Country, in defending them from, and destroying great numbers of Indians, without the loss of three men in all the time that war lasted, and in [consideration] of the equal and uncorrupt Justice I had distributed to all men, Not only the Assembley, but the unanimous votes of all the Country concurred to make me Governor...

... perhaps I have erred in things I know not of, if I have I am so conscious of human frailty, and my own defects, that I will not only acknowledge them, but repent of and mend them; and not like the Rebel Bacon persist in error only because I have committed [the error] and tells me in [several] of his letters that it is not for his honor to confess a fault, but I am of the opinion that it is only for devils to be incorrigable...

Now, my friends, I have lived 34 years among you, as uncorrupt and diligent as ever [a] Governor was; Bacon is a man of two years among you, his person and qualities unknown to most of you...

... if Mr. Bacon can show one precedent or example where such [actions] in any Nation whatever was approved of, I will mediate with the King. ..and excuse him [Bacon]; but I can show him a hundred examples where brave and great men have been put to death for gaining Victories against the command of their Superiors.

Lastly... I would have preserved those Indians that I knew were hourly at our mercy, to have our spies and intelligence to find out our bloody enemies, but as soon as I had the least [bit of information] that they were also trecherous enemies, I gave out commissions to destroy them all...

To conclude, I have done what was possible both to friend and enemy, have granted to Mr. Bacon three pardons, which he has scornfully rejected, [intending more to subvert than... to maintain the Laws, by which only, and [with] God assisting grace and mercy, all men must hope for peace and safety....



From Mathews' Beginnings ... of Bacon's Rebellion....

[After their "battle" with the Indians] they returned home where Writts were come up to Elect Members of an Assembly, When Mr. Bacon unanimously chosen for One [seat], who coming down the River was Commanded by a Ship with Guns to come aboard, where waited Major Hone the High Sheriff of James Town ready to Seize him, by whom he was Carried down to the Governor and by him received with a Surprizing Civility in the following Words "Mr. Bacon have you forgot to be a Gentleman?" "No, may it please your Honour," Answered Mr. Bacon; "Then," replied the Governor, "I'll take your Parole," and Gave him his Liberty.

[The day following Bacon's arrest and release during the opening session of the Assembly] the Governour stood up and said "if there be joy in,the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth, there is joy now, for we have penitent sinner come before us. call Mr. Bacon;" then did Mr. Bacon upon one knee at the Bar, deliver a Sheet of paper Confessing his Crimes, and begging Pardon of God the King and the Governour, Whereto (after a short Pause) He Answered "God forgive you, I forgive you"...When Colonel Cole (one of the Council) said, "and all that were with him;" "yea," said the Governour "and all that were with him," Twenty or more Persons being then in Irons Who taken Coming down in the same and other Vessals with Mr. Bacon.

About a Minute after this the Governour, Starting up from his Chair a Third time said, "Mr. Bacon! if you will live Civily but till the next [session of the] Quarter Court, I'll promise to restore you again to your Place [on the Governor's Council]."



From the Royal Commissioner's Narrative.

Bacon feigns a most deep sense of shame and sorrow for his Guilt, and expresses the greatest kind of obligation to Gratitude towards the Governour imaginable. And to make it look the more real and sincere drew up an humble Submission for and acknowledgement of his so late crimes and disobedience, imploring thereby the Governor's Pardon and Favor...

After a short while [Bacon] was sent for in again and had his pardon confirmed to him, Is restored into favor and readmitted into the [Governor's] council, to the wonder of all men.



From History of_Bacon's ... Rebellion.

... in the morning, before his [Bacon's] trial, he was, in his Enemies hopes, and his Friends fears, judged for to receive the Guardian due to a Rebel, (and such he was proclaimed to be) and ere night, [he was] crowned the Darling of the Peoples hopes and desires, as the only man fit in Virginia, to put a stop unto the bloody [depredations] of the Heathen; [but] with in two or three days, the peoples hopes, and his desires, were both frustrated by the Governours refusing to sign the promised Commission. At which being disgusted, [Bacon] begged leave of the visit his Lady [wife] ... he said, had informed him, [that she] was indisposed ... which request the Governour (after some contest with his own thoughts) granted, contrary to the advice of some about him who suspected Bacons designs, and that it was not so much his Lady's sickness, as the distempers of a troubled mind, that caused him to draw to his own house, and that this was the truth, with in a few days was manifested, when that he returned to Towne at the head of 500 Men in Arms.



From a letter to Sir Jos. Williamson dated June 28, 1676 from William Sherwood.

Thursday [the] 22nd It was generally reported (and before night, confirmed) that Mr. Bacon was marching hither with 500 men in Amrs, the Governour thereupon orders that four great Guns should be drawn from the fort to sandy Bay....

Friday 23rd This morning all men [were] ordered to lay by their Arms...Mr. Bacon with at least 400 [on] foot, the scum of the Country, and 120 [on] horse entered the sandy Bay, there leaving a party to secure the passage, then marched into Town... and draws his forces against the state house, where the Governour council and Burgesses were setting, expecting this firey mans actions, and first he sends one of his Captains requiring the Governour to send some of the Council to him. . .[Bacon] demanded 1st that a commission should immediately be sent him as General of all volunteers against the Indians: 2ndly to know how the 1000 men ordered by the Assembly to be raised should be paid, if by Levy, the declared they would not submit to it, all crying out No Levies ... The Governor went to him saying for prevention of the [spilling] of Christian blood let you and I decide this controversy by our swords, come along with me; Mr. Bacon answered that was not his business, he came for redress of the peoples grievances. ...[the Governour] said to him his hand should be cut off rather than he would consent to [grant the commission]; he [Bacon] swore his usual oaths he would have it, upon which... these proposals were sent to the Burgesses to consider ... who debating longer than he thought fit, Mr. Bacon comes under the window of the house, calls to them saying, you Burgesses I expect your speedy result, his soldiers mounting their Guns ready to fire; Immediately (for in this minute if not all night have been in a flame) the Burgesses make it their request to the Governour to Issue forth such a commission....

Saturday 24th This morning the forced commission was delivered to Mr. Bacon, and some time after Capt. Gardner [who arrested Bacon a few days before] coming to Town, was secured by the Soldiers, and Mr. Bacon went into the house of Burgesses with his guard requiring 1st, that several persons who had been active in obeying the Governour's Commands should be made uncapable of all offices, 2nd, that being informed the Governour had writ[ten] to his Majesty desiring Aid for suppressing the tumults here and declaring Mr. Bacon a Rebel, It should be discovered whether it was [true], and publicly contradicted by the Governour, Council and Burgesses.... These demands were sent to the Governour who declared he would rather suffer death than condescend to the [demand] but considered the Ruin that threatened, the Governour was requested by the Burgesses to grant whatever Bacon demanded ... Now raggtagg and bobtail carry a high hand, a Guard is set upon the Governour and the rabble are appointing new Councilors.

Sunday 25th This day the house of Burgesses met to prepare business to Mr. Bacon's dispatch... now he gives out he will punish some of the Councilors, many persons are forced to lie obscurely; yet we were in hopes they would have marched out of Town in that they had the commission, and not loose time, [some frontier counties] being left without any forces whilst they were Lording it over us... But about Noon comes the sad news that the Indians had this morning killed 8 persons at the head of Chickahomony [river] and in New Kent [county] ... on Monday morning Mr. Bacon with his men marched out of Town....


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