Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bacon's Rebellion

The Context
~~Tobacco prices were dropping due to over-production
~~Backcountry farmers were being bombarded with new taxes
~~There were no political opportnities because there hadn't been elections in more than a decade
~~There were struggles over the hogs; the Susquehannok began to raid the freely roaming animals which belonged to the backcountry farmers
~~The backcountrymen ask Governor Berkley and the House of Burgesses for immediate action; the backcountrymen want all Indians killed and want war against "all Indians in general for they are all enemies"
~~Governor Berkley and the coastal elites want to build year...on lands owned by elite speculators; they also want to use "friendly" Indians (the groups who trade with the English) as a buffer against "hostile" Indians (the groups who trade with the French) further down.

Nathaniel Bacon agrees to lead an alread-convened militia to kill Indians, without the approval of Governor Berkley. War against the Indians turns into a war against the coastal elite power. Bacon's army marches on Jamestown and burns it, wreaking havoc on coastal Virginia. Coastal slaves are promised freedom by both sides, but Bacon is on the rise. In late summer 1676, Africans join the poor whites in the rebellion. Berkely, desperate to regain control, strikes out at Bacon's army and at all Indians (killing Indians was his key to establish his credibility with the backcountry farmers). Bacon dies suddenly and there is a leadership vacuum; eventually, the armed rebellion collapses but not before entire backcountry race relations are destabilized. Governor Berkley, to set an example, hangs a few of the rebellion leaders, but he does pardon hundreds more.

Consequences of Bacon's Rebellion
~~Backcountry Englishmen gain political clout; now the government can't ignore their wishes.
~~Genocidal assumptions shape backcountry culture--Indian killing becomes a rite of passage for young Englishmen and is described as "defense", such as killing wolves or "other pests".
~~Indians leave and go over the mountains, joining with the Shawnee of Kentucky. The Indians who stay in the backcountry will assimilate or live in near-isolation.
~~There is an immediate sharpening of the color line and the outlawing of miscegenatory marriages; this in turn tightens race-based servitude and expands political participation of white men regardless of class status.
~~English completely stop importing indentured servants from Europe.
~~Race will trump class as a marker of social standing in the colony.

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