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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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Lauren E. Hernandez

Sheflin

History 105 – Question #1

18 September 2018

Nathaniel Bacon: An Early American Hero

Life in America during the 1670s was a whirlwind of growth for the now dominating country. Settlers coming from England were establishing a New World as their own. This transition into new life included indentured servants, slavery, and rebellion. Establishing new land without a government present on that soil will create tension; which is what happened in the Chesapeake Region. Within the Virginia colony, colonists struggled to survive on the Frontier due to living arrangements and the environment. Under the rule of Governor William Berkeley, a ‘peace’ between Indians surrounding the colony and those who lived within came about. However, tensions arose among colonists, and a leader was produced. Nathaniel Bacon, a Virginia colonist, challenged his governor’s perspective on Indians and how the two settlements should continue their lives. Events leading up to and during 1676 involving Bacon, are what made him a historical hero.

Initial events involving Bacon’s uprising start with how the colonists’ lived his or her daily lives. Looking back at American history, high taxes seem to be a subject of popularity during different decades. Specifically looking at the 1670’s, taxes were high which caused those involved to be unsatisfied (Gardener, Nathaniel Bacon). On top of these taxes, life on the Frontier meant harsh weather conditions and competition for land with Indians (Gardener, Nathaniel Bacon). Harsh weather meant crops being damaged and locals not having sufficient sources of food. Similarly, competing with Indians who have lived on the soil for years ahead of the English caused tensions between the two. Nathaniel Bacon living in this world with his peers, under the rule of William Berkeley, created an anger inside of him that could not be held in. Berkeley wanted a sort of peace between settlers and Indians in this daily life, however, Bacon and other colonists did not agree (Rice, p. 43). In historical data, he is labeled as a rebel by challenging the governor on fighting the Indians with a military force (Gardener, Nathanial Bacon). Berkeley of course declined this proposition, most likely because of his power over Bacon in the established hierarchy (Rice, p. 43-45). Seeing how these two men went back and forth fighting with each other on how the colony would carry out daily activities, shows power tension going back in American history to the very beginning and lasting to this day.

Bacon’s Rebellion is a landmark event in early American history because it represents the tensions created within a colony that reverberate to this day. Bacon having challenged Berkeley about needs in the colony not being met by the current government and getting what he wanted, even with his volunteers by his side, is what I believe to be the fuel for rebellion (Rice, p. 43). Seeing how the colony was not being as efficient as it could, Bacon formed a rebellion involving 500 followers who fought along with him in order to come to a different way of life (Gardener, Nathaniel Bacon). This following is what sticks out in history because it shows a possible precursor to a civil war (Gardener, Nathaniel Bacon). Two opposing sides fighting for a different way of life, yet both come from the same physical place. Similar events or tactics are repeated in American history, showing how this time has lasted to this day.

Nathaniel Bacon became a hero for the Virginia colony following his death during his battle for a better life. A hero because he stood up for the people he lived alongside and knew life could be better for them all. There are still those circumstances in 1676 where not every person will be satisfied. However, Bacon was looking out for the greater good of the people in the colony (Gardener, Nathaniel Bacon). He felt that there needed to be a dominance above the Indians or a thick line drawn to show power. This power would allow more food to be grown as well as better living conditions on the Frontier. An argument can be made that Berkeley and Bacon were both fighting for themselves. Meaning, the dominance over the colony being something either of them held was of upmost importance creating a selfish leader. I think that this is a fair assumption, however, this is the case for any leader in American history. A certain level of selfishness needs to be present in order for one to come out on top over the other. In Bacon’s case, his desire for power came from the dissatisfaction he shared with other colonists, but he was the one who took charge and rose above all others in order to challenge Berkeley. This made him a hero among the Virginia colonists and to those in future American history.

Nathaniel Bacon challenged Governor William Berkeley on his leadership of the Virginia Colony in 1676 through a chain of events leading up to the rebellion and with that battle itself. Coming out of the masses as a leader, he fought for his views on a better life for the colony on the Frontier especially regarding the Indians who established the land long before settlers. He met his demise on October 26, 1676 following his rebellion. To this day, he can be known as a hero in American history for his actions towards saving his community and fighting for his rights for a better life in the colony. His actions have reverberated through history, causing similar events to occur with the same motive but maybe not the same tactics.

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