Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tensions in Colonial society: King Philip's War and the Bacon Rebellion.

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Throughout the late 1600s tensions arose from many different groups of people. While some colonists were fighting to keep their land, others were fighting for their own rights and personal freedoms. Conflict arose between the native Americans and the colonists during Bacon’s rebellion and King Philip’s War.

Tensions in the colony were so great that revolts were necessary and often occurred. In 1676 Nathaniel Bacon led a revolt in colonial Virginia. Sir William Berkeley, the governor of Virginia, failed to defend the frontier against attacks by Native Americans. The revolt was precipitated by problems such high taxes, low prices for tobacco, and resentment against special privileges given to those that were close to the governor. Bacon commanded two unauthorized but successful expeditions against the tribes and was then elected to the new house of burgesses. Not only was there conflict between the tribes and colonists, but as well between Bacon and Berkeley. When Bacon attempted to take his seat, Berkeley had him arrested. Soon after Bacon was released. Bacon met with his supporters, and marched on Jamestown. He convinced Berkeley into granting him a commission to continue his campaigns against Native Americans. The Native Americans were causing many problems between the colonists and their land. Berkeley could not stand up and beat Bacon and his supporters, although he did gather enough strength to return to Jamestown. There he proclaimed Bacon and his supporters rebels. Bacon then recaptured the capital but feared he might not be able to hold it against attack. He was trying hard to protect his land and the colonists. Later, he set fire to the town. This meant that Bacon had full control of the colony. No longer were there any conflicts between Bacon and Berkeley. Soon after the town was set on fire, he died and the rebellion collapsed. Native Americans then stopped attacking and the tidewater aristocracy, who were a group of wealthy landowners, maintained their power. Another example in colonial life of tensions between the colonists and the Native Americans was King Philip’s war. The major cause of King Philip’s war was the trampling of Native cornfields by colonists’ livestock. While colonists were legally responsible for damage, such laws were difficult to enforce in remote area. Increased competition for land for planting, hunting and fishing, caused friction between the two groups. Changes in the regional economy, such as collapse in the fur trade, led many Native People to support themselves by selling their land. With other governments (Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut) all competing to establish their territories, Plymouth wanted exclusive rights to purchase land from the Wampanoags. In 1675, hostilities broke out in the town of Swansea, and the war spread as far north as New Hampshire, and as far southwest as Connecticut. Not all Native People, however, sided with Philip. Most Natives who had converted to Christianity fought with the English or remained neutral. The English, however, did not always trust these converts and interned many of them in camps on outlying islands. Also, some Native communities on Cape Cod and the Islands did not participate in the war. Native soldiers fighting on the side of the colonists helped turn the tide of the war, which ended in 1676 when Philip was killed by a Wampanoag fighting with Captain Benjamin Church.

Overall, it seemed that the colonists had a hard time protecting their land, and fighting off attacks by the Native Americans. In both rebellions, there were devastating effects, and the colonists came out the victors. The Native Americans were key figures in causing tensions in colonial America in the late 1600s.

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