William Berkeley and Nathaniel Bacon

The two central figures in the saga of Bacon’s Rebellion are William Berkeley, the longtime governor of Virginia, and Nathaniel Bacon, one of the colony’s wealthiest residents. The two were related by marriage; Berkeley’s second wife was Bacon’s cousin. William Berkeley was appointed governor in 1641 and brought an unabashedly elitist view to the post. He believed fervently that the upper classes should rule over the lower classes. He also praised the fact that in 1671, Virginia had no free public schooling or printing presses, reasoning that both developments led to disobedience and heresy. Berkeley’s government focused on making the colony’s wealthiest men even wealthier. Through an oppressive system of taxation and stuffing the pockets of legislators with the taxes of common planters and the profits from the Crown’s lucrative monopoly on the deerskin trade, Berkeley managed to offend large numbers of people. If Bacon’s Rebellion was a class war, Berkeley was clearly among the elite. Nathaniel Bacon, the leader of the revolt against Berkeley, was a recent arrival in Virginia, having moved to the colony in 1674. When he reached America, he was already one of Virginia’s wealthiest individuals, as his father had given him 1,800 pounds to start him off in a world where small-time planters could hope to clear 3 pounds a year after expenses. Bacon was a charismatic man in his mid-20s, whose exposure as a confidence man had forced his exile to Virginia. He took up residence along the James River on a previously established plantation and began to purchase lands as far north as the Falls of the James, site of the present-day city of Richmond. Though Berkeley offered the young man a post in the prestigious Governor’s Council in recognition of his high social standing, Bacon initially took little interest in politics. But when his personal property came under threat from attack by natives, he became overtly critical of the Berkeley regime. Nathaniel Bacon – First American Rebel – Page 2 William Berkeley vs. Nathaniel Bacon – YouTube Nathaniel Bacon, Saint or Sinner? : The Colonial Williamsburg …

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