Bacon's Rebellion (1675-1676) and the beginning of
the racial caste system
the racial caste system
After the restoration of Charles II to the throne at the end of the English Civil War, Parliament passed the Navigation Acts of 1660-63. The tobacco planters in Virginia were no longer able to sell to customers in France, and Dutch ships were prohibited from trading with Virginia. This was not a new concept; mercantilism was based on the assumption that the mother country should receive most of the benefits from the colonies.
The administration of Governor Berkeley became unpopular with small farmers and frontiersmen, because of the following reasons:
-Restrictions on the right to vote — the institution of a new land ownership requirement,
-Low tobacco prices
-A pervasive sense of subordination to an aristocratic minority
-Lack of protection from Native American attacks
Berkeley was not opposed to fighting Indians who were considered enemies, but attacking friendly Indians, he thought, could lead to what everyone wanted to avoid: a war with "all the Indians against us." Berkeley also didn't trust Bacon's intentions, believing that the upstart's true aim was to stir up trouble among settlers, who were already discontent with the colony's government.
When Bacon threatened to act without authorization, Berkeley declared him a rebel. The response was a public wave of support for Bacon, frightening Berkeley enough to finally schedule an election for a new House of Burgesses. Bacon was elected, and Berkeley let him take his seat on the Council briefly. Bacon quickly left Jamestown, rallied a mob, and attacked innocent Occaneechi, Tutelo, and Saponi Indians. He pillaged their trading base at modern-day Clarksville at the confluence of the Dan and the Roanoke (Staunton) River, then marched back to the capital. The House of Burgesses, intimidated by the mob, passed legislation demanded by Bacon. The governor fled, along with a few of his supporters, to Virginia's eastern shore.
Each leader tried to muster support. Each promised freedom to slaves and servants who would join their cause. But Bacon's following was much greater than Berkeley's. In September of 1676, Bacon and his men set Jamestown on fire.
Bacon died of a "bloody flux" (very likely dysentary) before he and Berkeley met in battle. His forces dissolved without his charismatic leadership, and the General Assembly quickly repealed most of the liberal laws it had passed.
Berkeley's response was very harsh, hanging nearly two dozen men and seizing their estates to compensate his allies whose plantations had been plundered by Bacon's rebels. Charles II is reported to have been surprised at Berkeley's repression, saying "That old fool has hanged more men in that naked country than I have done here for the murder of my father." Charles recalled Berkeley to England, where the governor died.
1680's -- Status of the child is determined by the status or condition of the mother.
Timothy Breen on the relationship between black slaves and white indentured servants
Q: Given that there is a situation of black and white indentured servants, how did they begin to interact or deal with one another? Is there any sense of a commonality that crosses over differences of race or ethnicity? A: There are many ways that human beings divide themselves up. Class is one, [and] gender, race, ethnicity. There's a number of ways that people divide themselves up. And in early Virginia, race was a category that people recognized. Black people recognized difference, and sometimes, I would even argue, celebrated difference. But in this highly competitive, depressingly abusive world, poorer whites and poorer blacks -- people who were marginalized in this system of dependent labor -- oftentimes reached out to each other in ways that suggest that, at least in the first 50 or 60 years of Virginia, ...people of African background and English background were able to work together in ways that, again, in later period of American history, were impossible. William Smith Mason Professor of American History
Timothy H. Breen