Nov 26, 2020 in History

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Nathaniel Bacon is a very important figure in American history, due to the memorable role he played as a colonist during the 17th century. He should feature in the program American Faces due to the rebellion he instigated in Virginia in 1676. Bacon was angered by the fact that social and economic power was concentrated in the hands of the elite, leaving servants and laborers without sufficient economic independence. Virginia Governor, William Berkley concentrated power in the hands of his cronies and failed to retaliate against natives, whenever they violated the settlers and their property. Nathaniel Bacon was a member of the governing council and he chose to direct his anger at the government, which was unwilling to assist settlers and the native Indians, whom he felt had contributed immensely to the fate of the settlers. In 1676, he organized his supporters and they slaughtered Indians, burned their settlements to the ground, and plundered the estates of the elite. He also issued a Declaration, challenging the political and economic privileges of the governor's inner circle of elites. The importance of Nathaniel Bacons' rebellion was that it united people from all walks of life in Virginia and they came together to challenge the authority, entrenching the need for leaders to seek consent from the ruled, to exercise authority.

Explain which major theme(s) of American history this person captures.

The major theme in American history captured by Nathaniel Bacon is the theme of revolution. Historians consider it to be among the rebellions that eventually culminated in the American Revolution, which occurred 100 years later. Governor William Berkley was highly respected in Virginia since he has ruled the colony for more than thirty years. The governor beseeched the people not to trust Nathaniel Bacon, as he had only lived among them for two years. Bacon's rebellion can be attributed to various economic, social, and political problems in Virginia, which had damaging effects on the welfare of the colonists. Rather than investigate the root cause of the problems, the colonists chose to blame the governor and the local Indians. The governor was reluctant to wage war, as he advocated for peace, justice, and reconciliation. The governor consistently urged the colonists to exercise restraint and refrain from murdering innocent Indians, but Nathaniel Bacon disregarded all his advice. Bacon went ahead to seize and attack Indians indiscriminately and took over the governorship until he died.

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Another theme captured by Nathaniel Bacon in American history is the theme of having written declarations which formed an important foundation for the American constitution. The grievances that caused him to wage a revolution are contained in the Declaration that he issued in 1676. The major complaint was the fact that the governor had failed to expand the colony of Virginia in any way, yet he had raised unjust taxes, which had been used for personal purposes. Nathaniel's second complaint was that the governor had abused justice by appointing ignorant and scandalous favorites as judges. He further complained that the governor had monopolized the beaver trade, leaving the other colonists in the hands of poverty. The governor also failed to protect the subjects by failing to punish Indians for the murders, robberies, and invasions they committed against the settlers.

The governor was further blamed for biased appointments of his favorites without informing the people or consulting with them and for causing destruction and civil war due to failure to seek the consent of the people. Nathaniel Bacon made the declaration in the name and consent of the people of the colony of Virginia. The declaration also had the names of the other leaders of the rebellion. The declaration could have inspired the declaration of Independence, which was signed by the founding fathers one hundred years later, during the American Revolution in 1776. In the declaration of independence, the founding fathers listed their grievances against the King of England, just as Nathaniel Bacon had listed his grievances against the governor in his declaration. 3: Why these themes are important to a broader understanding of American history.

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The themes are important to a broader understanding of American history because the revolution resulted in a reduction of taxes, unification of people from different races and nations, giving the rights that had been taken away back to freemen. Governor Berkley executed several supporters of Nathaniel Bacon, resulting in the loss of his governorship when King Charles II heard about the cruel nature of the executions. The theme that stands out is the need for those in authority to seek the people's consent and consult them before making crucial decisions and appointments. The principle of the free will of the people is one of the foundations of American democracy and it has played a significant role in preventing tyrants from ascending to power. The theme of revolution also played a crucial part in the attainment of independence from British colonialists and the creation of free and just economic and political systems in the country. 4: You should describe one event related to this person's life that you think the producers should incorporate into the program.

The governor granted Nathaniel Bacon three pardons, but Bacon rejected them scornfully and continued with the rebellion. Bacon organized a militia and attacked several Indians, raising the hostilities between the Native Americans and the settlers. Governor Berkley branded Bacon a traitor and threatened to execute him for treason. Bacon did not relent and continued to attack Indians. Bacon received massive support from fellow colonists, farmers, servants, and even slaves. Bacon's rebellion compelled the governor to come up with stricter policies, regarding the treatment of Native Americans. 5: How does this incident dramatize or illustrate significant problems in the Colonial period?

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The incident illustrates several significant problems during the colonial period, particularly the racial tensions between the Native Americans and the European Settlers. The colony was suffering from massive economic problems such as high taxes, rising prices, and bad weather, but instead of addressing the root causes of the problems, the settlers chose to vent their anger on innocent Native Americans by attacking them and burning their places of residence. After the rebellion, Native Americans were subjected to harsher rules, including being required to live in reserves. Up to this day, Native Americans have never recovered from the marginalization, suppression, and discrimination that they were subjected to during the colonial period.


Nathaniel Bacon was a very brave and courageous man. He had lived in Virginia for two years, yet he had the confidence to challenge a governor who had been in power for around thirty years. He was also a very intelligent man since he was able to draft a declaration, which succinctly expressed his grievances with the governor's administration policies. He was a tactful and skillful organizer since he was able to mobilize the support of people from different cultural, economic, and racial backgrounds to challenge authority. The bravery and confidence, demonstrated by Nathaniel Bacon, continued to inspire other revolutionary figures and freedom fighters in American history, ranging from the founding fathers to Martin Luther King. Nathaniel Bacon should feature in the program, American Faces to inspire current and future generations.

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