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Their distance from centers of authority made settlers in the Chesapeake difficult to subject to authority. The most serious challenge to established power was Bacon's Rebellion. A split developed between the ruling faction in Jamestown under Sir William
Berkeley and settlers at the western edge of settlement. When Berkeley refused to authorize an expedition against Indians who had been attacking outlying settlements, western planters took matters into their own hands.
Under Nathaniel Bacon, the westerners demonstrated a willingness to attack not only Indians but the governor as well. Bacon and his followers marched on Jamestown and forced Berkeley to grant them authority for further attacks on Indians. Later they burned Jamestown. Not long after, Bacon became ill with a "violent flux" and died. An English squadron then arrived and restored order. On the surface, the uprising changed nothing. Bacon's followers and their opponents had no differences that could not be compromised; both wanted cheap labor. In the quarter century following Bacon's Rebellion, the Chesapeake region became committed to black slavery, and slave ownership resulted in
large differences in wealth.
Bacon's Rebellion was a rebellion by backwoods colonists against the coastal elites. It occurred in Virginia in 1676.
The issues at play in this rebellion were class, power, and relations with the Native Americans. The rebels were largely those outside of power. The leaders were less wealthy than the true elites and the followers were taken from the lower rungs of society. This was a rebellion of "outsiders." The impetus for the rebellion was related to Native Americans. The coastal elites profited from trading with Native Americans without having to fear them. This was because their own homes were on the coast, away from areas where Indians still lived in large numbers. Therefore, they pursued policies that were friendly to the Indians. This served as a catalyst for rebellion among those who lived on the frontier and were more in competition with and endangered by the Native Americans.
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