A part of North American history is known as Bacon’s Rebellion, and indeed it is one of the most intriguing parts of Jamestown’s immigration history. This was a power struggle between two individuals who were no less than stubborn and selfish.
The two main individuals who played a part in Bacon’s Rebellion were the governor of Jamestown, Sir William Berkeley, and his cousin through marriage, Nathaniel Bacon, Jr. Governor Berkeley was an English Civil Wars veteran, a fighter of Native Americans, and during his first term as Governor, the King’s favorite. He had also made a name for himself as a playwright and a scholar. His name was deeply respected, as was his name as Governor of Virginia.
Bacon was a total opposite of Berkeley in character. He was intelligent, to be sure, but he was also a troublemaker and schemer. In fact, his father had sent him to Virginia in the hopes that he would mature. When he arrived, his cousin Berkeley treated him with respect and extended him friendship, giving him land and even allowing him a seat on the council.
Over time, however, Virginians, including Bacon, began to feel frustrated. There were economic difficulties, issues caused by weather, and other problems that led the colonists to feel the need to place blame on someone for the misfortunes they were suffering. This scapegoat took form in the local Native Americans.
Issues between the Native Americans and the colonists did not make anything any easier for all parties involved. The colonists began to demand much of Berkeley regarding their safety, and feeling that their demands were being ignored, an uprising began.
Over one thousand Virginians rose up to bring the confrontation to their governor, and they were led by none other than Nathaniel Bacon, Jr. They attacked Native Americans and chased Governor Berkeley from Jamestown before they ultimately set fire to the capital. Before aid could arrive sent from England, Bacon perished from dysentery. After his death, Bacon’s Rebellion soon lost steam.
The governor, then aged 71 years, returned to power and put to death the remaining leaders of the rebellion. He also moved to seize rebel property without the benefit of trial. A later investigation completed by a committee sent from England resulted in Berkeley being removed as governor and returned to England, where he died in 1677.
Bacon’s Rebellion was a power struggle between two individuals with two larger than life personalities. Between the two of them, they nearly destroyed Jamestown.