Bacon's Rebellion

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What was the outcome of Bacon's Rebellion?

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The 1670s was a turbulent time for the government of Virginia. Tobacco prices had begun to decline, taxes were on the increase, and there was a general feeling by many citizens the government had become too much like an aristocracy. Feeding into this idea was the addition of property ownership as a condition for voting. Compounding the problem was the threat of violence from Native American tribes attempting to stop the progress of settlers moving west. The government seemed powerless to protect citizens.

In an ironic twist, a relative of the Governor frustrated by the lack of attention to the Native American attacks and what appeared to be no interest in the welfare of its citizens decided to solve the problem without the assistance from the government. In 1676 Nathaniel Bacon with a small band of like-minded citizens formed a militia to defend farms from continuous assault. This did not sit well with the government, and after Bacon was elected to the legislature, agents of the government arrested him. Once released frustrated and angry, Bacon set out to capture Jamestown forcing the governor to flee. For a time Bacon and his followers were able to hold out against the military of the government. Before the government could muster a force to expel Bacon from Jamestown, he contracted dysentery and died effectively ending the rebellion.

There is debate among historians as to how effective Bacon's rebellion was in changing the attitude and positions of the Governor. The direct impact was the removal of the Governor from office, but this was temporary. The Governor was recalled back to England and some historians speculate his handling of the Bacon Rebellion may have been the cause. Others believe he was not meeting the economic goals set by investors, and low return of investment may have been the root of his return to England. The threat from Native American attacks was reduced significantly. However, as many historians point out many of the tribes had already decided the settlers had superior weapons and military strength. Prolonged attacks on settlements would not force the settlers to move or stop expansion. Many of the tribes had begun moving further west to avoid confrontation. Given the rebellion was the idea of one man who managed to recruit a significant amount of support, Bacon's early death ended further action on the other issues of taxation and government overreach that vexed the colonists. Historians can only speculate the changes that might have occurred if Bacon had not met an untimely death.

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