Wednesday, October 8, 2008

They Say 2; Bacon's Rebellion

Although Bacon’s Rebellion is often popularized as a credible American revolution in which Nathaniel Bacon is depicted as a commendable leader in an attempt to institute righteousness, contradictory sources illustrate the rebellion as an immoral onslaught, demonstrating nadir human injustice. Howard Zinn & Rebecca Stefoff clearly demonstrate the more popular analysis of Bacon’s Rebellion in the book, A Young Peoples History of the United States, in which they claim, “Bacons Rebellion brought together groups from the lower classes…they started an uprising because they were angry about the way the colony was being run.” (pg. 35) The essence of Howard Zinn and Rebecca Stefoffs argument portrays Bacon, and the rebellion as a justified attempt by unified Virginia commoners to disband their perverse colonial government. Another example by these authors reaffirms the positive side of the rebellion stating “Many Virginians scraped out a living in poverty or worked as servants in terrible conditions…these unhappy Virginians found a leader in Nathaniel Bacon.”(pg.37) From this viewpoint, Bacon’s followers also justified killing numerous of local Indians merely as defense.

Another perception of Bacon’s Rebellion is one which that emphasizes on the immorality, prejudice, and brutality of Bacon’s Rebellion. An author that upholds this standpoint is Michael Puglisi of Marian College. In his article, “Whether They Be Friends or Foes” Puglisi insists that Bacon’s followers had, “lack of regard for the integrity and the well-being of the tributary tribes” and furthermore supports this statement by describing a scene in which Bacon and his army “attacked a peaceful Indian village…killing and taking (the natives) prisoners and looking for plunder.” (pg.78) Bacon’s supporters showed actions of unpardonable cruelty, “even killing an elderly native woman, the queen’s nurse, for providing them with incorrect information in their (natives) pursuit.”(Puglisi, “Whether They Be Friends or Foes” pg.78) Although most colonists agreed that their real enemy during the Rebellion was the corrupt Colonial Government, Puglisi also stated in his article that Bacon "claimed that by organizing the unauthorized campaign against the encroaching Indians he was providing a release for the colonist's frustrations." Even Howard Zinn and Rebecca Stafoff acknowledge the fact that Bacon's intentions in the Rebellion weren't purely related to the colonist's interests, stating, "(regarding Bacon) He probably cared more about fighting Indians than about helping the poor."(pg.37)

A very controversial debate concerning Bacon’s Rebellion regards its very basis. Many sources make the claim that the Rebellion was sparked by either unreasonable colonial rule, hostile land encroaching natives, or sometimes even both. For instance, Michael Puglisi makes the allegation in his “Whether They Be Friends or Foes” article that the ruling regime was to blame, stating, “The frontier colonists were apparently dissatisfied with government efforts to protect their new settlement”. (pg 77) On the contrary position, Howard Zinn in his “A Young Peoples History of the United States” explains that Virginia’s enraged commoners rebelled to level themselves with the wealthy “social elite” and, “about the huge difference between the rich in the poor in Virginia.” Although both of these authors make for valid conclusion, Robert Beverly differentiates himself from the crowd, insisting that, “The occasion of the rebellion is not easy to be discovered…but ‘tis certain that there were many things that concurred towards it.”(“The History & Present State of Virginia” pg.6) Beverly clearly illustrates that he is credibly knowledgeable in relation to this event, by mapping out four particular predicaments that ignited the rebellion. Beverly first suggests that the first piece that provoked the rebellion was, “the extreme low price of tobacco, and the ill usage of the planters in the exchange of it.”(pg 6) Although the price of the tobacco was a setback all in-itself, Beverly’s paints “the splintering of the colony into (numerous) properties” as the second thing that proceeded the revolt. The third component that supposedly was also a motive for the rebellion, according to Beverly, was the “heavy restraints and burdens laid upon their (the colonists) trade by Act of Parliament in England”. He finishes his argument by listing “the disturbance given by the Indians…”(pg 6) as the last predicament provoking Bacon's Rebellion.

1 comment:

aleks said...

Personally, i thought that my revision of "They Say" 2 was more of a progression or continuation than anything else. I added a new section that focused on the origin or causes of Bacon's Rebellion and what "They Say" about the rebellion's basis.

The comments that i received from my peers were generous and informed me that i was on the right track.