Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nathaniel Bacon, a hero against colonial tyranny

Nathaniel Bacon was born ca 1647 at Friston Hall in England and died in Williamsburg, Virginia. He descends from John Bacon and Margery Thorpe of England which lineage also includes the famous Sir Francis Bacon. The Bacon family came to Virginia at an early time and played political roles in the colony. Governor Berkeley was unpopular in Virginia because he refused to call a new election for the House of Burgesses from 1661 to 1676 and did nothing to resolve Indian plunders and massacres in the area. Resulting issues was a loss of Dutch trade and the revival of propriety land grants. It was Bacon who had the courage to face Governer Berkeley with the Indian issue. When the Governor, engaged himself in profit from trading with the Indians, refused to do anything about it, Bacon gathered a number of dissidants or unhappy citizens to form a rebellion. This rebellion included the historical burning of the colonial capital, Jamestown, in 1676. The governor, somewhat intimidated, then allowed for the election of a new House of Burgesses and Nathaniel Bacon was elected, but was only seated temporarily when the governor was enroute to Jamestown with his army. Bacon quickly left Jamestown, rallied a mob, and attacked the Occaneechi, Tutelo, and Saponi Indians. Then he pillaged their trading base (today this is Clarksville) before marching back to the capital and demanding that the House of Burgesses pass certain legislation to protect the colonists. Meanwhile, Berkeley fled to the plantation of John Custis on the Eastern Shore and managed to seize the ship sent by Bacon to capture him. Berkeley returned to Jamestown, however was forced to retreat again while Bacon's forces captured and then burned the town. Before meeting the governor in battle, Bacon died of a "bloody flux", a tragic end for such a brave soul. Thus, his forces dissolved without his charismatic leadership, and the General Assembly quickly repealed most of the liberal laws it had passed. Nathaniel Bacon took the lead in fighting for the protection and individual rights of the colonists. Had he been in England, he would have doubtless been put in prison. As it was, he was branded a scoundrel by local british subjects. These events were perhaps the first acts against tyranny in the british crownt, and doubtless were one of many things which led to the colonists finally throwing the tea in the sea!   The genealogy of the Bacon family traced back to England and into Virginia is available to members of www.virginiapioneers.net

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