American colonial history: The early seeds of revolution



The tyranny that was instituted by Andros in New England was paralleled by despotic proceedings in some of the other colonies. In Virginia these led to a rebellion which was for a time successful. Unlike the inhabitants of the more northerly colonies, the Virginians were stanch advocates of the Church of England and partisans of the king, and were intolerant alike of religious and democratic heresies. When Charles I. was executed the planters of Virginia declared for his son, and only submitted under show of force to the Commonwealth. They gladly welcomed Charles II. to the throne, and accepted with acclamation a royal governor, Sir William Berkeley. It was not long, however, ere they found reason for a change of opinion. Despotic measures were put in force, the Assembly, instead of being re-elected every two years, was kept permanently in session, and the inhabitants became the prey of venal office-holders.

Commercial laws were instituted which bore severely upon the planters. Tobacco could be sent to none but English ports, and every tobacco-laden ship had to pay a heavy duty before leaving Virginia, and another on reaching England. Berkeley had the true composition of a tyrant, as is shown in his memorable utterance, "I thank God there are no free schools, nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience into the world, and printing has divulged them and libels against the best governments. God keep us from both!"

To the evils above mentioned were added a series of Indian depredations, which grew in extent till more than three hundred of the settlers had been killed. The government showed little disposition to repress these savage outrages, and the people grew exasperated. At this juncture a young man named Nathaniel Bacon came forward as a leader, and the people readily supported him in what soon assumed the proportions of a rebellion against the constituted authorities.

The death of Bacon ended the rebellion, though disastrous consequences to his adherents followed. Berkeley sated his revengeful spirit upon those who fell into his hands, many of whom were executed. The governor had sent to England for troops, and employed them in executing his schemes of revenge. The Assembly at last insisted that these executions should cease. Nothing decisive was gained by the rebellion, yet it clearly showed the spirit of resistance to tyranny in the Virginians.

To the evils above mentioned were added a series of Indian depredations, which grew in extent till more than three hundred of the settlers had been killed. The government showed little disposition to repress these savage outrages, and the people grew exasperated. At this juncture a young man named Nathaniel Bacon came forward as a leader, and the people readily supported him in what soon assumed the proportions of a rebellion against the constituted authorities.

The determination not to submit to tyranny,in the colonies, declared itself in the Carolinas at the same period. Several open revolts there took place, which may be briefly described. Many of the adherents of Bacon had taken refuge in North Carolina, where they were welcomed, and it is probable that their influence intensified the democratic sentiment of the people, who soon after broke out into rebellion against the arbitrary revenue laws. A vessel from New England was seized as a smuggler, upon which the people flew to arms, and imprisoned the president of the colony and six of his council. The people chose their own governors for several years thereafter. In 1688 another revolt occurred against Seth Sothel, one of the proprietors, and governor of the province. He was tried for oppressing the people, and banished from the colony. Revolts of a like character took place in South Carolina. Governor Colleton, who sought to carry out Locke's system of government, and to collect the rents claimed by the proprietors, drove the people into a rebellion. They took possession of the public records, and held an Assembly despite the governor, who thereupon called out the militia and proclaimed martial law. This increased the exasperation of the colonists, and the governor was impeached and banished. He was succeeded by Seth Sothel, who had been banished from North Carolina. In 1692, after two years of tyranny, this governor was also deposed and banished.





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