We picked this dispatch as today's "Best."
Yeah, yeah…so he was an egotistical young man with too much time in his hands. He owned land. He was rich. He was spoiled. And, according to some people, he was also the First American Patriot.
One hundred years before the American Revolution, Nathaniel Bacon led a rebellion against the British that earned him this lofty title. He rallied the poor, the indentured servants, the slaves-all of whom were frustrated and angry at their situations-and gave them leadership and a chance to fight for a better life. His personal goals weren't exactly selfless - he wanted to kill Indians more than emancipate slaves. But so what? At least he shook up the system.
Arthur's servants would probably beg to differ. Coming to America as an indentured servant was no walk in the park. You were considered someone's property (just like a slave) until you paid off your debts, and even then, there was no guarantee that you'd be set free. Indentured servants were poor people (mainly white) who wanted the same thing everyone else did-land. But life in Europe was hard and there were hardly any jobs available, so people sold themselves off to come to America. Because they couldn't pay for the passage over, they became indebted (or indentured) to the person who paid for them. Paying off debts could take up to seven years, and some people never managed to do so.
Indentured servants, like free blacks and slaves, were not living the American Dream.
No wonder, then, that Nathaniel Bacon's call for an end to unjust taxes and the corrupt practices of the elite sounded good to the poor. He was a charismatic speaker and politician who would probably kiss babies and pose for photos if he were running for office today. He would be saying, "I feel your pain! Vote for me!" And in fact, people did. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1676, but was arrested by the Governor when he tried to set up army detachments to fight Indians. The Indians were only protecting their land from invasions by the white colonists, but Bacon thought that was reason enough to kill them all!
So in 1676, when "Bacon's Rebellion" occurred, Indians were being attacked for defending their land, the poor (white and black) were resentful of the rich for monopolizing the land and power, and the rich were doing their best to control their own interests. Things got ugly. Bacon's followers, by now in the thousands, burned down Jamestown, the capital of Virginia at the time, and then took over Arthur Allen's brick home. They barricaded themselves in his house for four months and were defeated only when British reinforcements arrived.
While all this was happening, Bacon died (he was only 29!). Without its leader, the rebellion fizzled out. The British pardoned all of those who turned themselves in, but ended up hanging 23 rebel leaders anyway. They retook power and doubled their efforts to keep the poor in check. Arthur Allen's son got his house back and managed to increase his wealth to 8,500 acres.
Perhaps. It's impossible to say for sure why Bacon did what he did. He may have wanted to go fight Indians and appease his ego, but he could have also felt sorry for the poor and angry at the unfair taxes levied on them. Regardless, Bacon's Rebellion showed the wealthy that poor people would fight for the right to economic advancement and better opportunities. They just needed a leader.
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Kevin - Another slab of Bacon: a rebel without a clue