Conceived in Liberty (1975). In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon began a mutiny against the governor of Virginia, William Berkeley, because Bacon (and many other Virginians) wanted to pursue a more vigorous war against the Indians than Berkeley would allow. This mutiny was the spark that lit the flame of Bacon’s Rebellion.
Why? Why revolution? This question is asked in fascination by contemporary observers and historians of every revolution in history. What were the reasons, the "true" motives, behind any given revolution? The tendency of historians of every revolution, Bacon’s Rebellion included, has been to present a simplistic and black-and-white version of the drives behind the revolutionary forces.
Thus, the "orthodox" version holds Nathaniel Bacon to have been a conscious "torchbearer" of the later American Revolution, battling for liberty and against English oppression; the version of "revisionist" history marks down Bacon as an unprincipled and Indian-hating demagogue rebelling against the wise statesman Berkeley. Neither version can be accepted as such.
The very search by observers and historians for purity and unmixed motives in a revolution betrays an unrealistic naïveté. Revolutions are mighty upheavals made by a mass of people, people who are willing to rupture the settled habits of a lifetime, including especially the habit of obedience to an existing government. They are made by people willing to turn from the narrow pursuits of their daily lives to battle vigorously and even violently together in a more general cause.
Because a revolution is a sudden upheaval by masses of men, one cannot treat the motives of every participant as identical, nor can one treat a revolution as somehow planned and ordered in advance. On the contrary, one of the major characteristics of a revolution is its dynamism, its rapid and accelerating movement in one of several competing directions. Indeed, the enormous sense of exhilaration (or of fear, depending on one’s personal values and one’s place in the social structure) generated by a revolution is precisely due to its unfreezing of the political and social order, its smashing of the old order, of the fixed and relatively stagnant political structure, its transvaluation of values, its replacement of a reigning fixity with a sense of openness and dynamism. Hope, especially among those submerged by the existing system, replaces hopelessness and despair.
The counterpart of this sudden advent of unlimited social horizons is uncertainty. For if the massive gates of the political structure are at last temporarily opened, what path will the people now take? Indeed, the ever-changing and -developing revolution will take paths and entail consequences perhaps only dimly, if at all, seen by its original leaders.
A revolution, therefore, cannot be gauged simply by the motivations of its initiators. The paths taken by the revolution will be determined not merely by these motives, but by the resultant of the motives and values of the contending sides as they begin and as they change in the course of the struggle clashing with and interacting upon the given social and political structure. In short, by the interaction of the various subjective values and the objective institutional conditions of the day.
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For masses of men to turn from their daily lives to hurl themselves against existing habits and the extant might of a ruling government requires an accumulation of significant grievances and tensions. No revolution begins in a day and on arbitrary whim. The grievances of important numbers of people against the state pile up, accumulate, form an extremely dry forest waiting for a spark to ignite the conflagration. That spark is the "crisis situation," which may be intrinsically minor or only distantly related to the basic grievances; but it provides the catalyst, the emotional impetus for the revolution to begin.
This analysis of revolution sheds light on two common but misleading historical notions about the genesis of revolutions in colonial America. Conservative historians have stressed that revolution in America was unique; in contrast to radical European revolutions, American rebellion came only in reaction to new acts of oppression by the government. American revolutions were, therefore, uniquely "conservative," reacting against the disruption of the status quo by new acts of tyranny by the state. But this thesis misconceives the very nature of revolution.
Revolutions, as we have indicated, do not spring up suddenly and in vacuo; almost all revolutions European or American are ignited by new acts of oppression by the government. Revolutions in America and certainly this was true of Bacon’s Rebellion were not more "conservative" than any other, and since revolution is the polar archetype of an anticonservative act, this means not conservative at all.
Neither, incidentally, can we credit the myth engendered by neo-Marxian historians that revolutions like Bacon’s Rebellion were "class struggles" of the poor against the rich, of the small farmers against the wealthy oligarchs. The revolution was directed against a ruling oligarchy, to be sure; but an oligarchy not of the wealthy but of certain wealthy, who had gained control of the privileges to be obtained from government. As we have pointed out, the Bacons and Byrds were large planters and the revolution was a rebellion of virtually all the people wealthy and poor, of all occupations who were not part of the privileged clique. This was a rebellion not against a Marxian "ruling class" but against what might be called a "ruling caste."
No common purity of doctrine or motive can be found among the Bacon rebels, or, for that matter, in the succeeding rebellions of the late 17th century in the other American colonies. But the bulk of their grievances were certainly libertarian: a protest of the rights and liberties of the people against the tyranny of the English government and of its Virginia agency. We have seen the accumulation of grievances: against English mercantilist restrictions on Virginian trade and property rights, increasing taxation, monopolizing of trade by political privilege, repeated attempts to impose feudal landholdings, tightening rule by the governor and his allied oligarchs, infringements of home rule and local liberties, and, to a far lesser extent, persecution of religious minorities.
On the other hand, there is no denying that some of the grievances and motives of the rebels were the reverse of libertarian: hatred of the Indians and a desire for land grabbing, or, as in the allied and later rebellions in neighboring Maryland, hatred of Roman Catholicism. But even though the spark of Bacon’s Rebellion came from an antilibertarian motif pursuit of more rigorous war against the Indians, and Bacon’s motives were originally limited to this it is also true that as the rebellion developed and the dynamics of a revolutionary situation progressed, the other basic grievances came to the fore and found expression, even in the case of Bacon himself.
It should also be recognized that any revolt against a tyrannical state, other things being equal, is ipso facto a libertarian move. This is all the more true because even a revolution that fails, as did Bacon’s, gives the people a training ground and a tradition of revolution that may later develop into a revolution more extensively and clearly founded on libertarian motives. If cherished in later tradition, a revolution will decrease the awe in which the constituted authority is held by the populace, and in that way will increase the chance of a later revolt against tyranny.
Overall, therefore, Bacon’s Rebellion may be judged as a step forward to liberty, and even a microcosm of the American Revolution, but despite, rather than because of, the motives of Bacon himself and of the original leaders. Nathaniel Bacon was scarcely a heroic and conscious torchbearer of liberty; and yet the dynamics of the revolutionary movement that he brought into being forged such a torch out of his rebellion.
After the start of the mutiny at Jordan’s Point, Berkeley, having tried to stop the movement, denounced Bacon and his followers as rebels and mutineers and proceeded west against them. He missed Bacon, however, who had gone north to New Kent County to gather men who were also "ripe for rebellion." Meanwhile, masses of Virginians began to join Bacon on the most hysterical and bigoted grounds. Berkeley’s unfortunate act of war of March 1676 had declared war not only against enemy Indians but just as roundly against neutrals. The peaceful and neutral Pamunkey Indians, fearful and unhappy at this prospect and terrorized by the Baconians, fled to the wilderness of Dragon Swamp on the Gloucester peninsula.
To many Virginians, it was incomprehensible that Berkeley should proclaim men as traitors whose only crime seemed to be hard-line pursuit of victory against all Indians; at the same time, Berkeley was clearly soft on the Pamunkeys. The protests poured in: how can anyone tell "friendly" Indians from enemy Indians? "Are not the Indians all of a color?" Thus, racism and war hysteria formed a potent combination to sweep away reason, as a time-honored phrase of the racists, "You can’t tell one from another," became logically transmuted into "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." Or, as the Baconian rebels put it:
Away with these distinctions … we will have war with all Indians which come not in with their arms, and give hostages for their fidelity and to aid against all others; we will spare none. If we must be hanged for rebels for killing those that will destroy us, let them hang us.
Alarmed, Berkeley rushed back to the capital and to appease the people called an election at long last for the House of Burgesses. The election was called in mid-May for a session to begin in early June. This was the first election since the beginning of Berkeley’s second reign. This in itself was a victory against tyranny. Meanwhile, Bacon and his band of Indian fighters proceeded against the Susquehannocks, but soon veered their attention, as usual, to the friendly but far less powerful Occaneechees, whom Bacon had even persuaded to attack the Susquehannocks. The Occaneechees had given Bacon’s exhausted and depleted band food and shelter, and had attacked the Susquehannocks themselves in Bacon’s behalf. The Occaneechees presented their prisoners to Bacon and the prisoners were duly tortured and killed.
A dispute, however, arose over the plunder from the raid and especially over a half-dozen friendly Manikin and Annaleckton Indians who had been prisoners of the Susquehannocks and had helped the Occaneechees destroy the Susquehannock camp. The Occaneechees naturally wanted to keep the plunder from the Susquehannock raid, and to free the friendly Indians they had liberated. But Bacon demanded the plunder for himself and insisted that the Manikins and Annalecktons be turned over to him as slaves.
Bacon fell into a dispute with the Occaneechee chief, who balked at selling food to his men, whereupon Bacon launched a surprise attack on the Indians, burning and slaughtering over 100 Indian men, women, and children, and kidnapping others. To Bacon went the plunder and, in addition, an Occaneechee stock of valuable beaver fur. Some contemporary accounts assert the fur was Bacon’s major aim in the surprise attack. In any case, Bacon returned from this irrelevant act of butchery as the leader of a band of heroes in the eyes of the bulk of the Virginia people, and insisted more than ever that all Indians were enemies: "this I have always said and do maintain." Undaunted by Berkeley’s denunciation of Bacon for treason and rebellion and his expulsion of Bacon from the council, the freemen of Henrico County unanimously elected Bacon and his associate James Crews as burgesses. Joining the inner councils of Bacon’s Rebellion were two wealthy and influential Virginians: William Drummond, tobacco planter and former governor of Albemarle colony, and the intellectual Richard Lawrence, who had lost land through legal plunder to a favorite of Berkeley’s.
Ignoring the election results, Berkeley sent an armed force to capture Bacon and bring him back to Jamestown. Here ensued a patently spurious reconciliation scene, with Bacon in open assembly confessing his guilt and Berkeley, out of character, granting him forgiveness. Clearly an uneasy truce had resulted from the glowering confrontation of armed force and the threat of full-fledged civil war. For Berkeley knew that 2,000 men were armed and ready to come to Bacon’s rescue. Berkeley also restored Bacon to his seat in the Council, perhaps to retire him to what at this point was a less important seat.
With Bacon quieted, the House of Burgesses, largely supporters of Bacon and certainly anti-Berkeley, did very little. A few feeble essays in reform were quickly stifled by the domineering governor. Except for acts restricting trade with the Indians, and imposing dictates on avowedly friendly Indians by forbidding them to hunt with guns even on their own reservations, the assembly did little and certainly nothing against Berkeley. Indeed, they saw fit to eulogize Berkeley’s rule. Bacon, warned of a plot on his life and seeing how reconciliation had only succeeded in dangerously weakening the revolutionary movement, calming the people, and taming the assembly, escaped from Jamestown. He still lacked official sanction to fight Indians.
Returning home, Bacon raised an armed troop and on June 23 invaded Jamestown, where, under bayonet, he forced Berkeley and the assembly to grant him the commission to fight the Indians the original point of the rebellion. But now the Baconian assembly, emboldened by the Bacon victory, pushed through in a few days a series of reform measures that became known as "Bacon’s Laws."
Several of these measures were invasive of liberty: the inevitable laws for more stringent war and regulation against the Indians, prohibition on the export of corn, restrictions on the sale of liquor. But the bulk of the laws were in a libertarian direction: requiring annual rotation of the powerful office of sheriff; prohibiting anyone from holding two local offices at the same time; penalizing excessive charges levied by public officials; providing for triennial elections for the local vestry boards by the freemen of the parish (thus ending the closed oligarchical control of the vestries).
Moreover the assembly ended the absolute control of the appointed justices of the peace, meeting in secret conclave, over county taxes and expenditures. Annual election by all the freemen was provided, for choosing an equal number of representatives to sit with the judges imposing the county levies and expenditures. Furthermore, the law of 1670 taking the voting for burgesses away from nonlandholding freemen was repealed. Thus, a true revolution had developed from a mere movement to crush Indians more efficiently. Indeed, some leading conservatives hinted darkly of anarchy and menace to private property; one leading Berkeleyan sneered that Bacon’s followers were too poor to pay taxes and therefore wanted none levied at all. In the meanwhile, Bacon protested that revolution was farthest from his mind, as perhaps it was, that all he wanted was to fight the Indians. Armed with his coveted commission he proceeded west to do so.
Governor Berkeley, however, was not content with this relatively peaceful resolution of the problem, and he determined on civil war. Berkeley once more cried treason and rebellion against Bacon and proceeded into Gloucester County to raise a counterrevolutionary armed force. Hearing of this treachery, Bacon and his men marched eastward, where the militia of Gloucester County mutinied and to the governor’s face chanted, "Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!" Berkeley, in disgrace and opposed by the bulk of the people, fled to obscure Accomack County on the Eastern Shore, where he lamented: "How miserable that man is that governs a people."
Bacon was now impelled by the logic of events to a radical and revolutionary position. For, despite his wishes, he was now irrevocably a rebel against Governor Berkeley; and since Berkeley was the agent of the king, a rebel against the king of England as well. The logic of events now compelled Bacon to favor total independence from England; for him it was now independence or death. So swiftly had the dynamic of revolution pushed events forward that the man who, just three months before, had had no thoughts of rebellion, who only a few weeks before had only wished to crush Indians more effectively, was now forced to fight for the independence of Virginia from the Crown.
Grievances were abounding in neighboring Maryland and Albemarle. Bacon began to envisage a mighty all-Chesapeake uprising Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina to gain freedom from subjection to England. The neighboring colonies were indeed ripe for rebellion, and William Drummond, a leading Baconian and former governor of North Carolina, helped stir up a rebel movement there led by John Culpeper, who visited Jamestown during the turbulent rebellion of 1676.
But Bacon had a critical problem: if the choice was only independence or death for him, that choice did not face the rest of the Virginians. Thus, one of Bacon’s followers, on hearing him talk of plans to fight English troops, exclaimed, "Sir, you speak as though you designed a total defection from His Majesty and our country!" "Why, have not many princes lost their dominions so?" Bacon calmly replied. Less chary of a radical policy was Sarah, wife of William Drummond, who, breaking a stick in two, exclaimed, "I care no more for the power of England than for this broken straw."
Bacon now faced a twofold chore: the cementing of the Virginia people behind the new, difficult, and radical task; and the smashing of the Berkeley forces before they could rally. Unfortunately, it is not surprising that a man dedicated to a hard line against the Indians would not hesitate in a hard line against his own people. Bacon began to wield the weapon of the compulsory public-loyalty oath. From his headquarters at the Middle Plantation (later Williamsburg), Bacon issued a call for a convention of the leading men of the colony. Once at the convention, Bacon issued a manifesto, grandiosely entitled the "Declaration of the People," demanding surrender of Berkeley and 19 of his closest cohorts in four days. Refusal to surrender would mean arrest for treason and confiscation of property.
In the declaration, several accusations were leveled against Berkeley: (1) that "upon spacious pretense of public works [he] raised great unjust taxes upon the commonality"; (2) advancing favorites to high public offices; (3) monopolizing the beaver trade with the Indians; (4) being pro-Indian.
Bacon now assumed dictatorial authority over the colony. He forced the convention to subscribe to an oath of allegiance. The first clause caused no trouble a pledge not to join Berkeley’s forces. The second part caused a great deal of trouble a pledge to oppose any English forces sent to aid Berkeley. The Virginians balked at open revolution against the Crown. Bacon, however, locked the doors and forced the assembled men to take the entire oath. Bacon now proceeded to terrorize the mass of Virginians to take the same oath, and arrested any who refused. Terror is a poor way to persuade someone to be loyal, and from this moment Bacon’s formerly great popularity in the colony began to ebb.
At this juncture, when smashing Berkeley’s forces was the order of the day, Bacon permitted himself to be diverted to the old sport of killing Indians. Instead of pursuing the Indian war against the tribes actually fighting, Bacon again found it convenient to attack the hapless and neutral Pamunkey Indians, who had fled to the swamps and wilderness of Gloucester County to be left alone. After wasting many days trying to find the Pamunkeys in the swamps and, of course, plundering as they went, Bacon’s forces found the Pamunkeys’ camp and plundered, captured, and slaughtered the unresisting Indians. Bacon was a hero once more.
While Bacon was off to raid the Pamunkeys, Berkeley had seized the opportunity to win control of the fleet, Jamestown, and the principal river areas. In contrast to Bacon’s reliance upon volunteers for his army, Berkeley raised his counterrevolutionary force by the promise of plunder from the estates of those who had taken Bacon’s oath, and the promise of subsidy and exemption from virtually all taxes. Each party was soon promising liberty to the servants of the opposing side.
Marching on Jamestown again, Bacon now drove Berkeley out of the capital. In the course of the battle, Bacon used a new stratagem: he kidnapped some of the wives of the Berkeley leaders and threatened to place them in the front line if the Berkeley forces fired upon their fortifications.
Power corrupts, and the repeated use of aggressive violence spirals inevitably upward and outward. So with Nathaniel Bacon Jr. Beginning with the Indians, Bacon increasingly extended despotism and violence against Virginian citizens. After capturing Jamestown, Bacon burned it totally to the ground, on the flimsy excuse of hypothetical military necessity. The forces of Giles Brent, now a colonel, in the northern counties, which had shifted from Bacon’s to Berkeley’s cause, were marching south, but Brent’s men deserted him completely when they heard of Bacon’s victory at Jamestown.
After driving Berkeley’s forces back to the Eastern Shore, Bacon enforced his loyalty oath on more masses of people, seized provisions for his army from the populace, and punished several citizens by martial law. Even his cousin, Nathaniel Bacon Sr., was not spared the plunder meted out to the leading opponents of the rebellion, even though the elder Bacon had previously warned his cousin of an attempt on his life. The elder Bacon’s property was looted to the loss of £1,000.
Just as Bacon made ready to proceed against Berkeley and the Eastern Shore, this leader of revolution fell ill and died on October 26, 1676. In a few short months he had brought Virginia and perhaps the neighboring colonies to the brink of revolutionary independence from Great Britain. Who knows what might have happened had Bacon lived? Without the inspiration provided by their leader, the rebellion fell apart and Berkeley’s forces conquered the disorganized rebel units.
One of the last of the rebel bands to yield was a group of 400 Negro slaves and white servants, fighting for their freedom in Bacon’s army. Captain Thomas Grantham of the Berkeley forces persuaded them to disarm by promising them their freedom, after which he delivered them back to their masters.
Governor Berkeley was not a forgiving soul, and he now instituted a veritable reign of terror in Virginia. As he defeated each of the rebel units, he court-martialed and hanged the leaders. Neither was Berkeley very discriminating in his court-martialing and hanging parties; in one of them he included Thomas Hall, clerk of New Kent County, who had never taken up arms in the rebellion but who had angered Berkeley in other matters. It was enough, however, that Hall, "by divers writings under his own hand … a most notorious actor, aided and assisted in the rebellion."
One of the hanged rebels protested, no doubt truthfully, that he had always been a loyal subject of the Crown and only meant to take up arms against Indians. As in the case of many rebels, he was hanged in a cause the rapid progress of which had traveled far beyond his understanding. When the eminent William Drummond, who had incurred the dislike of Berkeley even before the year’s events, was captured in the swamps and dragged in before the governor, Berkeley gloated: "Mister Drummond! You are very welcome. I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia; Mister Drummond you shall be hanged in half an hour."
To which Drummond steadfastly replied, "I expect no mercy from you. I have followed the lead of my conscience, and done what I might to free my country from oppression." Allowing for a few hours missed, the promise was indeed carried out, and Drummond’s ring confiscated by Berkeley for good measure.
Most defiant of the captured rebels was Anthony Arnold, who delivered a trenchant attack on the rights of kings:
They have no rights but what they got by conquest and the sword, and he that can by force of the sword deprive them of it has as good and just a title to it as the king himself. If the king should deny to do me right I would make no more to sheath my sword in his heart or bowels than of my mortal enemies.
The court hung "the horrible resolved rebel and traitor" Arnold in chains, openly regretting that it could not draw and quarter him as well. Berkeley also proceeded to confiscate the estates of one rebel after another, thus recouping his own personal fortunes.
Unfortunately for Berkeley’s uninterrupted pleasure, the king’s commissioners arrived in January with a general pardon for all rebels. What is more, the commissioners promised that they would redress the grievances of the people. The king further ordered Berkeley back to England. But Berkeley, defying the commissioners, continued imposing his own loyalty oaths, seizing more property for his own use, and delaying publication of the king’s pardon. He finally published the pardon, but exempted 18 nameless people an excellent way of cowing the Virginians so as to keep them from bearing their grievances to the commissioners. Civil trials for treason proceeded apace, and several more were hanged.
Furthermore, the subservient assembly now met and quickly repealed all of the bold acts of liberal reform of Bacon’s assembly of June 1676. Under Berkeley’s direction, the assembly proceeded to hang many more rebels by acts of attainder, and to fine, imprison, banish, and expropriate still more. Some rebels were ordered to pay heavy fines and appear before the assembly with halters around their necks, kneeling to repent of their guilt and beg for their lives. If freed by the assembly, they were forced to repeat the same ordeal before the county court.
All leading supporters of the rebellion were barred thereafter from holding public office. Even the hapless indentured servants who followed Bacon were sentenced to imprisonment whenever their terms of service should expire. Anyone who had written or spoken anything favoring the rebellion, or even criticizing anyone in authority, received heavy fines, the pillory, flogging, or branding on the forehead. Yet the jails were not filled, being kept clear by banishments and executions.
Some hapless Virginians were caught in the middle in the civil war. Thus Otto Thorpe. Wishing not to sign Bacon’s compulsory loyalty oath, Thorpe finally did so when his wife was threatened. Later in the rebellion, Thorpe refused to aid Bacon further and had his property confiscated by the rebels as a consequence. Then, when Berkeley returned to power, he sent Thorpe to jail for swearing to the Baconian oath and confiscated his property once more.
The commissioners sadly concluded that no peace could come to the colony, either internally or with the Indians, until Berkeley had been completely removed from his post and the general pardon carried out. The only real supporters of Berkeley in his fanatic campaign of vengeance were 20 friends of his among the oligarchy, known as the Green Spring faction. The commissioners reported that the Green Spring group was continually pleading for the punishment of the guilty, who were "little less than the whole country." The commissioners, indeed, estimated that of all the people in Virginia (who now numbered about 40,000) only 500 had never supported the rebellion.
Finally, the assembly, under pressure of the commissioners, forced the reluctant Berkeley to stop the hangings. As one assemblyman stated, if not for this interference, "the governor would have hanged half the country." Under pressure of the commissioners, the assembly of February 1677 also reenacted a few of the most innocuous of the reform laws of the previous year.
Despite the intimidation and terror, a large number of grievances were sent to the assembly and the commissioners by the people of Virginia. The most common grievance concerned the levying of heavy and unjust taxes by officials, taxes that were used for expenditures over which the people had no control. Typical was a petition from Surry County, which prayed the authorities "to ease us His Majesty’s poor subjects of our great burdens and taxes." The petition asked:
Whereas there yearly came a great public levy from James City we never knew for what to the great grief and dissatisfaction of the poor upon whose shoulders the levy chiefly lay, we most humbly pray that for the future the collectors of the levy (who instead of satisfaction were wont to give churlish answers) may be obliged to give an account in writing what the levy is for to any who shall desire it.
The Surry county petition also humbly asked for a free election for every assembly so that they could find redress for their grievances.
Not surprisingly, this humble petition received its typical answer: severe punishment for the petitioners by the assembly, for the high crime of "speaking or writing disrespectfully of those in authority." Other grievances mentioned in petitions were favoritism, illegal fees charged by local officials, restriction of the right to vote, monopoly of the Indian trade, and the arbitrary seizing of property by the government.
While the commissioners were hardly zealous in defending the people against Berkeley’s oppression, they at least arranged a peace with the Indians, and the great Indian war was happily ended. Finally, the commissioners decided to carry the king’s order into effect, and they ousted Berkeley. Leaving for England, Berkeley made his exit in characteristic fashion, kicking and snarling all the way, and bitterly denouncing the ambition, incompetence, and ignorance of the appointed lieutenant governor left in charge. At long last, on May 5, 1677, Berkeley embarked for England, dying soon after his arrival.
Perhaps Berkeley’s most appropriate epitaph was the reported comment on the Virginia affair by King Charles II: "That old fool has hanged more men in that naked country than I did here for the murder of my father."
The shadow of Berkeley still fell over the unhappy colony, however, as Virginia, not knowing of his death, still believed that Berkeley would soon engineer his return. The colony was still in the hands of Berkeley’s henchmen, the Green Spring oligarchs who had been reestablished in their lucrative and powerful offices. Leading members of this faction were Colonel Philip Ludwell, Colonel Thomas Ballard, Colonel Edward Hill, and Major Robert Beverley. It also included Colonel John Washington and Richard Lee.
Green Spring’s control was especially strong after the commissioners had returned to England in July. The Green Spring faction ran the council, and engineered corrupt elections to the House of Burgesses. They continued to drag rebels into court to seize their property and they levied another large poll tax on the colony, again laying the heaviest burden on the poorest citizens. Petitions from the counties to redress grievances continued to be punished in the by-now-traditional manner: severe punishment for statements highly scandalous and injurious to authority.
Finally, in October, news of Berkeley’s death arrived in Virginia, and the king was finally able to get his complete and general pardon published. The Baconian remnants, still hiding in the woods, were able to emerge and resume their normal lives. But if Berkeley was at last truly dead, his system was not; Berkeleyism and the Green Spring faction continued to rule the colony. In fact, the next governor, Thomas Lord Culpeper, was a relative of Lady Berkeley. The revolution had failed, but it continued to live on in the hearts of Americans who cherished the memory of its near victory a beacon light for future rebellions against tyranny.