Anglo-Indian Conflict

As mentioned, Virginia had been at peace with most of its native neighbors for three decades. A brisk trade in deerskins had allowed Native Americans access to the trade goods they desired, and the colonial legislature, mainly friends of Berkeley, reaped the profits. In 1675, however, the peace began to unravel. A group of Doeg Indians, who had been swindled by an English planter, began to conduct raids on frontier plantations. The Virginia settlers, who had been able to disguise their hatred of Native Americans during a time of peace, retaliated. Unfortunately, they attacked the Susquehannock, another Iroquoian-speaking people who, while not particularly numerous, were adept at hit-and-run tactics and could strike plantations quickly with minimal risk of casualties on their part. The English settlers’ inability or unwillingness to distinguish between groups of Native Americans sparked further conflict. The situation worsened when the English murdered a group of Susquehannock headmen, who were attempting to negotiate terms of peace. Frontier planters, already disgruntled with the power and arrogance of the colonial establishment and hungry for new lands to put under the plow, seized the opportunity. They proposed an all-out race war between Native Americans and whites, regardless of whether Virginia had established friendly relations with specific native communities. Governor Berkeley balked at the idea, which would remove one of the forces that had increased his and his friends’ fortune. He also resisted the proposal because rapid settlement in the western part of the colony would siphon off valuable labor and rents from the eastern part. Berkeley instead proposed a system of defensive forts, which planters to the west viewed as wasteful and expensive. The dispute led to a civil war pitting Berkeley and his followers (and to a lesser extent the Crown) against Bacon and a coalition of westerners, those who had not benefited from patronage, small planters, and indentured servants. Bacon promised immediate freedom to servants who aided his destruction of Berkeley’s government. Bacon’s first action as a rebel leader was to carry out indiscriminate attacks on the region’s Native Americans, including Algonquian speakers, who had long been friendly toward Virginia. While this increased his popularity among his neighbors, it angered Berkeley to the point that he declared Bacon guilty of treason, and the governor raised an army to deal with Bacon’s threat. For his part, Bacon, having subdued or sufficiently terrorized Native Americans to force them into exile, turned his army toward Jamestown in early 1676 with the intention of unseating Berkeley. While it may be appealing to view Bacon as a champion of the common white man, it is equally likely that he and his followers simply wanted a larger piece of the tax revenue pie. Still, Bacon was shrewd enough to recognize his need for allies wherever he could find them. In addition to freeing indentured servants, he also encouraged his followers to sack the plantations of those who remained loyal to Governor Berkeley. Bacon’s Rebellion succeeded in the short term. In the summer of 1676, Bacon’s army pushed Berkeley’s forces out of Jamestown. The governor and his supporters took refuge on the Eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. In September, to dissuade them from returning, Bacon took the symbolic step of burning the colonial capital. During the rebellion, Bacon and his supporters enacted a series of laws that came to be known as Bacon’s Laws. The success of Bacon’s Rebellion was short-lived, and so was Nathaniel Bacon. Just over a month after the burning of Jamestown, Bacon died from dysentery. Without its charismatic leader, the rebellion that bore his name crumbled quickly, and Berkeley’s retribution was fast and harsh. Twenty-three of the rebels were hanged, and Berkeley turned his forces loose on the plantations of Bacon’s followers. The government of Charles II took an interesting stand on the issue. The king could not stand for open rebellion against authority, but his advisers also recognized that Berkeley’s policies had incited the conflict. Though Virginia had become a Crown colony in the wake of Native American attacks in the 1620s, the Crown developed a greater interest in Virginia’s affairs after Bacon’s Rebellion. Charles II dismissed Berkeley, calling him a fool, and sent an army to Virginia to restore order. The long-term effects of Bacon’s Rebellion are as complex as its origins. Though the Crown takeover weakened when the newly appointed governor and many of the royal troops died of disease, former supporters of Berkeley did not use the opportunity to retaliate against the remaining Baconites. Instead, they extended an olive branch to western planters. And the House of Burgesses reduced the poll tax, seeking a broader-based coalition of planters. Interestingly, one effect of the rebellion was racial. One of the last parties of Bacon’s supporters contained African Americans, and as such raised the specter of class warfare against the great planters. The great planters, in turn, reached out to other white Virginians and began to divide Virginia even more sharply along lines of black and white. Similarly, colonial leaders recognized that Bacon’s harsh Native American policy was exceedingly popular, particularly in western areas, and began to lead incursions against Native Americans, dividing peoples that had coexisted between 1644 and 1676. Virginia society was transformed in the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion, and the main result was a united front of great planters and common planters against the colony’s nonwhite population. Categories of race that had previously been fluid hardened into a caste-like system. Bacon’s Rebellion should not be held responsible for all of the changes in Virginia at the time. (For instance, an increase in tobacco prices helped large and small planters recognize their similarities.) It did, however, highlight the tensions of colonial society. Virginia emerged from the conflict a more prosperous, yet increasingly racialized, colony. Matthew Jennings See also: Bacon, Nathaniel; Berkeley, Sir William; Chesapeake; House of Burgesses; Riots; Tobacco; Virginia; Virginia (Chronology); Document: Governor William Berkeley on Bacon’s Rebellion (1676). Bibliography Middlekauff, Robert, ed. Bacon’s Rebellion. New York: Rand McNally, 1964. Taylor, Alan. American Colonies. New York: Viking, 2001. Washburn, Wilcomb E. The Governor and the Rebel: A History of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957. Webb, Stephen Saunders. 1676: The End of American Independence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985. Anglo-Zulu War – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Some corner of a foreign field The Economist Indian Wars & Battles ***

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