How did the business of tobacco in Colonial Virginia contribute to Bacon's Rebellion?
The deteriorating relationship between frontier tobacco farmers in Virginia and the Native Americans living there led to Bacon’s Rebellion. But an underlying cause of the rebellion was low tobacco prices. The most fertile farmland for tobacco had been claimed by the “tidewater gentry” who made up the elite class of the politically powerful. Small farmers were forced to turn to the backcountry to farm which led to fighting with the Native Americans. At the same time the Navigation Acts of 1660 and 1663 confined the tobacco trade to England. The Navigation Acts along with an overproduction of inferior tobacco led to low tobacco prices. Higher taxes along with low tobacco prices in turn led to a rising resentment against the Virginia colonial government. When the colonial government seemed to ignore the frontier farmers’ problems with the Native Americans, this resentment turned into Bacon’s Rebellion.
As the tobacco economy developed in Virginia in the early to mid 1600s, the lure of land brought indentured servants to America, poor people seeking opportunity and willing to trade 5 or 7 year contracts for paid passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Bacon was not an indenture, but a wealthy planter looking to capitalize on the development of the tobacco trade.
But the expansion of the plantations also encroached on native lands, causing increased tension and violence to break out. Governor William Bradford tried to keep control of the situation and refused to grant permission for settler militias on the frontier to attack local tribes. They did so anyway. Bradford offered to build defensive forts but this only convinced Bacon that the Governor would not do what it took to protect them. This would lead to Bacon's rebellion in 1676.