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Bacon’s Rebellion: Background, Opposing Forces and Significance

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Mariya D.
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  1. Background
  2. Force 1: Berkley
  3. Force 2: Bacon
  4. Force 3: Freemen
  5. Force 4: The Indians
  6. Force 5: The English Crown
  7. Consequences of the Clash of Interests:

By the time Nathaniel Bacon arrived in Virginia from England, the economic and political situation in the colony was already far from satisfactory. Hence, a precondition for the rebellion existed long before Bacon's appearance on Virginia political scene. Several factors contributed to growing instability in the society. Among these factors were corruption in the colony's government, decrease of tobacco prices, tax increase and continuous threat of Indian attacks. The disproportion between lowering income, raising taxes and growing colony population worsened the situation which triggered tension in the society. This served as an advantageous background that enabled Bacon to develop his personal ambitions of both political and economic nature.

In the years preceding Bacon's Rebellion, William Berkley formerly known as a talented politician, popular with the colonists and with the royal officials, eventually lost a part of his supporters. In order to restore 'status quo ante' (the way things were before) and to win over the settlers, Berkley had to resort to propaganda. In his 'Declaration and Remonstrance', Berkley stated: ?Now my friends I have lived amongst you four and thirty years as uncorrupt and diligent as ever [a] governor was. Bacon is a man of two years amongst you. His person and qualities [are] unknown to most of you?? (Hollitz 2007, 33) . But despite this reassurance of his loyalty to the colonists, he could not regain lost support. Attempting to balance between the interests of the Crown, the government elite's and the settlers' interests, Berkley tried to please too different political forces. This attempt became the reason of his fiasco and the political forces would inevitably clash.

Nonetheless, it would be a generalization to attribute the Virginia rebellion of 1676 solely to Bacon's figure. Several political forces operated behind this conflict.

[...] Their own indignation and Bacon's efficient leadership directed their martial ardor not only against the Indians, but also against the existing government. Force The Indians Even though the Indians were an influential force themselves, they also served as a cause for the fight between Berkley's and Bacon's followers. Fighting, in fact, each other, both Berkley and Bacon tried to play the Indian card. The Indian theme was appealing to all social groups as they all suffered either from decrease of trade with the Indians or from the Indians' attacks on their lands. [...]


[...] Nonetheless, the King's Assembly did not try to justify Bacon's Rebellion, as their only concern was to establish peace in the colonies and to get people back to work, so that they could fill the English treasury. Consequences of the Clash of Interests: Although Bacon's Rebellion cannot be compared, in its major outcomes, to the American Revolution, it still had a very significant historical impact. Perhaps, its indirect effects outweigh the direct ones. Thus, Bacon's Rebellion could not avert the Indian threat or stop the corruption, even though a new government came to power. [...]

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