It is not in my opinion that killing Indians is good. The impression that it is, is given in this w/u. Colonists of Colonial America killed Indians for many reasons, land, safety, more land, ect. but whether they were right or wrong to do so cannot be discussed here.
One hundred years before the American Revolution, the fight for freedom had begun in Virginia. In 1676 a small band of colonial farmers was able to bring a corrupt government to its knees (and who doesn't enjoy doing that?).
Virginia in 1676 was governed by Governor William Berkeley and a corrupted House of Burgesses that blindly followed Berkeley. In his previous two terms as governor, Berkeley was, in the least, a decent man; but his third term saw a major change (some blame it on his wife) in that he became cold, distant, and very selfish. He granted legal favors (and made up laws) to his aristocratic friends, most of whom were members of the House of Burgesses. This combination of a selfish Governor and a blind sheep House caused little good to the colonists of Virginia. In fact, to keep the masses unaware of his ploys, Berkeley was contented that there was no means to spread ideas except word of mouth, which he discouraged amongst the clergy. Indeed, there weren't any Public Schools nor Printing Presses in Virginia at the time. Berkeley bent his will only to prevent rebellion, and knowing that an informed populous was detrimental to his rule. He viewed that "learning had brought disobedience into the world," and his laws showed as much.
The populace, however, was very well aware that they were being mistreated and abused by the powers above. The influx of immigrants and newly freed indentured servants put a strain on available land for tobacco farming. Colonists were pushed further and further into the wilderness or were given land that was of poor quality for tobacco. As unease rose, the colonists eyed the land north of the James River, which was reserved for the Indians. The dropping prices of tobacco in the 17th century lead to an increased desire for more land to farm tobacco. However, this increase in the amount of tobacco on the market only deflated the value further; tobacco farming was a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' affair.
Also plaguing the populace was a stagnant electorate that was very supportive of the governor. Taxes could not be passed without the consent of the people, or, more accurately, the consent of the members of the House of Burgesses. With the highly sympathetic House, Berkeley had no trouble raising taxes and creating taxes that would line the pockets of him and his friends but leave the common man suffering.
The final straw seemed to have come from the Government's policy regarding Native Americans. Previous laws had prohibited trade with the Indians, but Berkeley's corrupt group of elites held a monopoly of trade with the Indians. The desire for trade led the Government to actually protected the Indians against colonial invasion (through crops or actual militaristic forces) rather then aide the colonists and alleviate stress upon them. Attacks from hostile tribes were always possible, and frontiersman abandoned their crops and houses to seek shelter in small frontier towns because the Government would not protect them.
And indeed, in 1675, an attack on a small household by the Doegs tribe. A small group of foot soldiers chased and murdered some Indians found near the scene, without so much as finding out which tribe they belonged to. Shortly thereafter the same thing happened with groups of the Susquehannocks with the same group of foot soldiers; this time the mistake was realized before too much damage was done. But the damage had been done, and a brief war between the Susquehannocks and the colonists of Maryland and Virginia. The Susquehannocks eventually fled their besieged fort, after the loss of their "great men," and in their flight left a score of bloody bodies of colonists; men, women, and children. One would assume that after such behavior, Governor Berkeley would disfavor the Indians and seek punishment, but instead he was still in support of the Indians, saying "If [the Indians] had killed my grandfather and grandmother, my father and mother and all of my friends, yet if they had come to treat of peace they ought to have gone in peace."
The Susquehannocks were not done with their massacre yet, however, during the first few days in 1676 a small band of them raided plantations near the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. In response to this raid, surprisingly, Berkeley formed a sizable force to make peace or war with the Susquehannocks. At the last minute, however, Berkeley changed his mind and disbanded the force, leaving the massacre of thirty-six colonists unanswered, and the faith and safety of the entire colony hindered. In the area of the previous attack, more attacks occurred, and remained unanswered still.
Not until March of that year were some measures taken to protect the citizens of Virginia. A series of forts was built along the frontier boundary and populated by garrisons that were not allowed to fire upon any Indians without special permission from the Governor. And, naturally, taxes were raised to support and maintain these forts. The colonists did not believe, with good reasoning, that the forts would be sufficient enough to protect them from/prevent any Indian attack.
As one may suspect, this was the final straw. The colonists decided that the only useful defense was a good offense, especially against the Indian threat. So, rather than wait for another raid and more unfulfilled promises by Berkeley, a sizable force of farmers rallied together to take matters into their own hands. They failed to be granted a commission to march against the Indians, and so, lacking a competent commander, they marched without commission; marched against Native forces that were better armed than they were, due to the trade by the elitists. Still lacking a formal leader, the rag-tag group of farmers began calling for volunteers and causing worry amongst the organized Government.
All successful rebellions need a leader to organize and shape the rebellion to best suit the people's needs. Nathaniel Bacon, a prominent member of colonial society at the time, stepped in to fill the void that the rebellion lacked (despite being tricked into it). Almost immediately Bacon and his group went on the war-path, and almost as fast as they had done so, had Governor Berkeley declared Bacon and his followers to be "rebels and mutineers," and a troop of soldiers was assembled and charged with the capturing of "General" Bacon; which proved to be pointless.
The war-path would take Bacon's "army" of about 300 men into the colony of Carolina where they found a small trading post run by the Ockinagee Indians. These Indians were protected by Berkeley for purposes of trade, and through the Ockinagee, it was believed, that the Susquehannocks came to posses their munitions. Bacon quickly made little of the fort despite a dwindling number of men and supplies. This victory, in the name of the common people of Virginia, led to increased support for the rebellion, especially within the 'urban' centers. Upon his return to Virginia, Bacon replied to Berkeley's allegations of rebellion, saying in a manifesto;
"If virtue be a sin, if piety be 'gainst all the principles of morality, goodness and justice be perverted, we must confess that those who are now called rebels may be in danger of those high imputations, those loud and several bulls would aifright innocents and render the defence of our brethren and the inquiry info our sad and heavy oppressions treason. But if there be, as sure is, a just God to appeal to, if religion and justice be a sanctuary here, if to plead the cause of the oppressed, if sincerely to aim at his Majesty's honor and the public good without any reservation or by-interest, if to stand in the gap after so much blood of our dear brethren bought and sold, if after the loss of a great part of his Majesty's colony, deserted and dispeopled, freely with our lives and estates to endeavor to save the remainders, be treason, Lord Almighty judge and let the guilty die."
Berkeley, finding almost all of Virginia was against him, dismantled the forts he erected, and, for the first time in fourteen years, held an election for the House of Burgesses
, in an attempt to win the people's support
once again. This plan backfired, however, as a Reformist Government
, known as the June Assembly
was elected that was vastly more sympathetic to the people's will than to Berkeley's own. Amongst these newly elected Burgesses was Bacon himself; accompanied by forty armed body guards. Bacon and his troupe were soon arrested, and brought before the House of Burgesses, where Bacon pleaded guilty and was 'forgiven' by Berkeley, rather than made into a martyr
. With new-found political power
, Bacon quickly began to shape and improve upon the policies and laws that Berkeley had abused so. Bacon quickly restored universal suffrage
(amongst men), and reformed and inspected the Colony's expenses and accounts. He also created laws that called for regular elections and prohibition of all trade with Indians; the set of laws he drafted were known as "Bacon's Laws
." The acts were bitterly passed by Berkeley.
Legal reform, it seemed, was not enough. An extension of "General" Bacon's Indian Campaign was to be enacted. This time, instead of 300 poorly provisioned farmers, Bacon would have 1,000 men and provisions for all.
Berkeley would soon show his true colors, however. He continually procrastinated giving the necessary commissions for Bacon's army to attack Indian tribes, and was even secretly plotting to arrest or assassinate Bacon. Bacon was warned about the plot, and was able to escape in the night. It was rumored that Bacon was raising a force to raze Jamestown, so Berkeley mustered four "great guns" to defend the only land route to the city, but could only find 30 sympathetic colonists to stand against Bacon; who returned with 400 men and 120 cavalry. Back in the State House, the Governor would once again rebuke the people's hero as a traitor and a rebel, and offered to settle the matter with swords in a duel. Bacon refused, however, and only wished to receive the necessary commission to be able to legally attack Indian forces (Bacon, from the beginning, had wished to side with Berkeley and work things out peacefully and legally). Finally, Bacon threatened to use his armed guards to "kill Governor, Council, Assembly, and all" if he did not receive the commission. He received it, the next day, along with thirty blank ones for officers to serve under him. Berkeley also signed a petition to the King of England for military aide at this time. During all of this, the Indians did not sit idly by. In June, Indians killed eight colonists only a short distance of 25 miles away from Jamestown. In response Bacon marched his thousand-man army against the Indians. While Bacon was away, Berkeley was informed that the citizens of Gloucester County were supportive of him, because of Bacon's demand for men and horses in his Indian Campaign. The people there asked for protection from "such outrages" again, and Berkeley quickly agreed. He also found cause to raise an army himself to attack the Indians, but secretly, his target was Bacon, who was unaware of this event, but not for long. Bacon became aware of Berkeley's plot, and quickly mustered his army to meet Berkeley's. Berkeley's army also learned of the deception planned, and disbanded, cheering "Bacon" the entire time. Berkeley retreated, eventually, into the Cheasapke Bay to await help from England.
On August 3rd, 1676 (the real/official date of the rebellion's beginning), all the counties willing sent representatives to Williamsburg. Bacon drafted an oath, basically a pledge of allegiance to himself and to the Colony of Virginia:
1. You are to oppose what forces shall be sent out of England by his Majesty against me [Bacon], till such time I [Bacon] have acquainted the King with the state of this country, and have had an answer.
2. You shall swear that what the Governor and Council have acted is illegal and destructive to the country, and what I [Bacon's] have done is according to the laws of England.
3. You shall swear from your hearts that my [Bacon's] commission is legal and lawfully obtained.
4. You shall swear to divulge what you have heard at any time spoken against me [Bacon].
5. You shall keep my[Bacon's] secrets and not discover them to any person.
The war-path soon followed. York
received word that it was facing raids by hostile Indian tribes and sought Bacon's aide. Bacon would not pass up an opportunity such as this, so he hastily secured Virginia politically and militarily, issued a group to arrest Berkeley and send him back to England, and then marched to York.
The war against the Indians was designed to be a absolute victory over all the Indian tribes, including the used-to-be-friendly Pamunkey tribe. The campaign was largely unsuccessful, Bacon's forces were only able to capture around 50 or 60 Indians and killed far fewer. In one battle, the only 'trophies' Bacon's men received were one dead squaw and a captured infant.
After much of his provisions had been used up and army reduced to about 150 men (due to division, not casualties), Bacon finally turned home; only to learn that Jamestown had been captured by Berkeley and 600 men-at-arms. Bacon, naturally, moved to retake the city, and was able to gather a force of about 300 men who were "so few, weak, and tired." Bacon's men dug trenches and garrisoned the only land route that connected Jamestown to the mainland. Berkeley, seeing this, decided to use his old trick of feigning friendship. Bacon did not buy this trick this time, however, and the besiegement of Jamestown began the next day. Bacon's fortifications were so well made, that neither ship cannon nor musket volley was able to claim a single of his men's lives. At one point during the siege, Bacon captured two artillery and in order to safely mount them, he kidnapped the wives of those loyal to the Governor, and placed them at the sites where the cannon were to be placed. Once the cannons were successfully set up, he sent all the women safely home. No sooner than the cannons mounted, however, then all of Berkeley's men had disbanded, and the poor Governor forced to flee again, with the 20 men that still remained loyal to him. To prevent Berkeley from either retaking the town, or from besieging the rebels while quartering there, Bacon razed the city in its entirety.
Bacon the then set about to do the dirty work of political clean up. The colony was in great disarray, not having much of a government for some time. Unfortunately, the siege of Jamestown proved to be Bacon's undoing. Not because it was a failure, nay, it was because of the malaria filled swamps that his men were entrenched in. Bacon died on the 1st of October, 1676, and left his rebellion unfinished, and once again, leaderless and disorganized. Bacon's death left a man named Ingram in charge of the entire rebellion, but it was very apparent that the entire rebellion required so wholly on Bacon that without him, the movement was doomed. After receiving news of Bacon's death, Berkeley was quick to skewer the forces remaining that would oppose him. In the following days, Ingram saw that his forces were being captured far faster than he was able to organize, and surrendered to Berkeley. Others, including Bacon's good friends Mr. Drummond and Mr. Lawrence had fled. Drummond was hung, and the fate of Lawrence is not known.
By January of the following year, all of Virginia had been subdued, and Governor Berkeley set about to undue the changes of Bacon's Laws. At this time, also, the help from England finally arrived. However, it would seem Berkeley learned his lesson, of sorts. The salaries of the members of the House of Burgesses were reduced and elections were now held every two years. After peace had finally settled and the Royal Investigation into Bacon's Rebellion had been finished, Sir William Berkeley returned to England to plead his case to King Charles II, but he died soon after arriving in England; his case was never heard.
All in all Nathaniel Bacon's Rebellion was a smashing success. Bacon's Laws became permanent, and the Indian threat was removed once and for all, relieving all the colonists that didn't hang already. One hundred years prior to the American Revolution, the colony of Virginia took up arms against oppressors and succeeded in changing their lives for the better. A testament to the American's desire for freedom.