In Bacon's Rebellion, were the Baconites justified in revolting? 

Expert Answers
ecofan74 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The question of justification is always a difficult one to answer, particularly when it comes to the question of revolution. Ultimately, the question becomes whether Bacon’s motivations justified his actions, and whether the Baconites were justified in addressing the perceived threat of the Native American tribes in the way they did. Like Berkeley, Bacon seemed to be acting not merely on the idea that the lives and livelihoods of colonists were at stake. Berkeley benefited a great deal from trade with the Native Americans, and Nathaniel Bacon, also seeking to improve his own lot, tried to get in on the trade; however, Berkeley and a number of his close associates snubbed him in his bid for power. Based purely on this perceived insult, perhaps the Baconites were justified in their rebellion. Concerning Bacon’s other actions during the rebellion -- particularly the pursuit of the governor and the burning of the capital at Jamestown after the governor declared Bacon a rebel – his actions were certainly not justified.

When looked at from another angle, however, the picture appears quite different. Bacon, in his zeal, did not bother to specify or distinguish between different Native American populations, assuming them all to be more or less the same. Bacon took as his primary target the Susquehannock Indians, a tribe that was quite peaceful and posed no serious danger. Whether the threat was real or only perceived, the fact that Bacon and his followers showed no real concern for the objects of their pursuit suggests they were not justified in their actions.