In 1676, about 1,000 Virginians broke out of control led by a 29-year-old planter, Nathaniel Bacon. They fiercely resented Virginia's Governor William Berkeley for his friendly policies towards the Indians. When Berkeley refused to retaliate for a series of savage Indian attacks on frontier settlements (due to his monopolization of the fur trading with them), the crowd took matters into their own hands. The crowd murderously attacked Indians and chased Berkeley from Jamestown, Virginia. They torched the capitol.
As the civil war in Virginia continued, Bacon suddenly died from disease. Berkeley took advantage of this and crushed the uprising, hanging more than 20 rebels. Charles II complained of the penalties dealt by Berkeley.
Due to the rebellions and tensions started by Bacon, lordly planters looked for other, less troublesome laborers to work their tobacco plantations. They soon looked to Africa for their cheap labor.
Not a contemporary depiction.
Although the following letters & proclamations are not easy to read, they reflect life in 17th century Virginia in rather amazing detail. A woman named Ann Cotton wrote her eyewitness account of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia in 1676. The letter is at once an intricate puzzle & a revealing look at the society & events of the era. At the time, the letter sent to England was a journalistic effort of some note. Today the letter is a primary-source history of continuing consequence & intrigue. Exactly who was Ann Cotton, & who are all of the folks she refers to in her account with often veiled or obscure references?
It is difficult to determine exactly who Ann Cotton was, but the evidence indicates that a woman named Ann appeared early in the colony with her future husband, John Cotton. Ann Cotton may have been Ann Dunbar whose name appeared on several headright lists next to John Cotton. The names John Cotton & Ann Dunbar first appear together in Drummond's 1661 headright application. Then in Nov. 1666, John Paine applied for a headright for 18 people and listed John Cotton & Ann Dunbar side by side. Some suggest that John Cotton may have married a 2nd Ann, Hannah Anne Graves.
John & Ann Cotton bought the Wheeler plantation Hampton Parish. The records show that a deed dated Feb 18, 1658/59, by which Francis Wheeler sold all his land between King's and Queen's Creeks to Thomas Beale, who sold it to John Cotton, December 31, 1666, who later conveyed it to Col. Nathaniel Bacon. John Cotton in a deed in 1666, named a wife Ann. (William and Mary College Quarterly 5 (1) 123-4). In 1676, a John & Ann Cotton were living at Queen's Creek.
An Account of Our Late Troubles in Virginia. Written by An. Cotton, of Q. Creeke
To Mr. C. H. at Yardley in Northamptonshire. Sir. I haveing seene yours directed to (text missing) and considering that you cannot have your desires satisfied that way, for the forementioned reasons, I have by his permition, adventured to send you this briefe acount, of those affaires, so far as I have bin informed. The Susquehanians and Marylanders of friendes being ingaged enimyes (as hath by former letter bin hinted to you) and that the Indians being ressalutely bent not to forsake there forte; it came to this pointe, yt the Marylanders were obliged (findeing themselves too weake to do the worke themselves) to suplycate (too some granted) aide of the Verginians, put under the conduct of one Collonel Washington (him whom you have sometimes seene at your howse) who being joyned with the Marylanders, invests the Indians in there forte, with a neglegent siege; upon which the enimye made severall salleys, with as many losses to the beseegers; and at last gave them the opertunity to disart the Fort, after that the English had (contrary to ye law of arms) beate out the Braines of 6 grate men sent out to treate a peace: an action of ill consequence, as it proved after. For the Indians having in the darke, slipt through the Legure, and in there passage knock’d 10 of the beseigers on the head, which they found fast a-sleep, leaving the rest to prosecute the Seige, (as Scoging’s Wife brooding the Eggs which the Fox had suck’d) they resolved to imploy there liberty in avenging there Commissionres blood, which they speedily effected in the death of sixty inosscent soules, and then send in there Remonstrance to the Governour, in justification of the fact, with this expostulation annext: Demanding what it was moved him to take up arms against them, his professed friends, in the behalfe of the Marylanders, there avowed enimyes.
Declaring there sorow to see the Verginians, of friends to becom such violent enimies as to persue the Chase into anothers dominions; complains that their messengers, sent out for peace, were not only knocked on the head, but the fact countenanced by the governor, for which finding no other way to be satisfied, they had revenged themselves by killing ten for one of the English, such being the disproportion between their men murdered and those by them slain, theirs being persons of quality, the other of inferior rank professing that they may not have a valuable satifaction for the damage they had sustained by the English, and the Virginians would withdraw from their aid from the Marylanders' quarrel; that then they would renew the league with Sir W. B., otherwise they would prosecute the war to the last man, and the hardest send of.
This was fair play for fowl gamesters. But the proposals not to be allowed of as being contrary to the honor of the English, the Indians procede, and, having drawn the neighboring Indians into their aid in a short time, they commited abundance of unguarded and unrevenged murders, by which means a great man of the outward plantations were deserted, the doing whereof did not only terrify the whole colony, but supplanted what esteem the people formerly had for Sir W. B., whom they judged too remiss in applying means to stop the fury of the heathen, and to settle their affections and expectations upon one Esquire Bacon, newly come to the country, one of the council, and nearly related to your late wife's father in law, whom they desired might be commissioned general for the Indian war, which Sir William, for some reasons best known to himself, denying, the gentleman, without any scruple, accepted of a commission from the people's affections, signed by the emergencies of affairs and the country's danger, and forthwith advanced with a small party, composed of such that own his authority, against the Indians, on whom, it is said, he did signal execution.
In his absence, he and those with him, were declared rebels to the state, May 29, and forces raised to reduce him to his obedience, at the head of which the governor advanced some 30 or 40 miles to find Bacon out, but not knowing which way he was gon, he dismisseth his army, retireing himself and councell, to James Towne, there to be redy for the assembly, which was now upon the point of meeting: Whither Bacon some few days after his return hom from his Indian march, repared to render an account of his servis; for which himself and most of those with him in the expedition, were imprissoned; from whence they were freed by judgment in court upon Bacon’s tryall, himself readmitted into the councell and promised a commission the Monday following (this was on the Saturday) against the Indians; with which deluded, he smothers his resentments, and beggs leave to visit his Lady (now sick, as he pretended) which granted, he returnes to Towne at the head of 4 or 5 hundred men, well Arm’d: reassumes his demands for a commission. Which, after som howers strugling with the Governour, being obtained, according to his desire, hee takes order for the countreyes security, against the attemps of sculking Indians; fills up his numbers and provissiones, according to the gage of his commission; and so once more advanceth against the Indians, who heareing of his approaches, calls in their Runers and scouts, be taking themselves to there subterfuges and lurking holes.
The General (for so he was now denominated) had not reach’d the head of York River, but that a Post overtakes him, and informes, that Sr. W. B. was a raiseing the Traine-bands in Glocester, with an intent, eather to fall into his reare, or otherways to cutt him off when he should return wery and spent from his Indians servis. This strange newes put him, and those with him, shrodly to there Trumps, beleiveing that a few such Deales or shufles (call them which you will) might quickly ring both cards and game out of his hands.
He saw that there was an abselute necessety of destroying the Indians, and that there was som care to be taken for his owne and Armys safety, other-ways the worke might happen to be rechedly don, where the laberours were made criples, and be compeld (insteade of a sword) to make use of a cruch. It vext him to the heart (as he said) to thinke, that while he was a hunting Wolves, tigers and bears, which daly destroyed our harmless and innosscent Lambs, that hee, and those with him, should be persewed in the reare with a full cry, as more savage beasts.
He perceved like the corne, he was light between those stones which might grinde him to pouder; if he did not looke the better about him. For the preventing of which, after a short consult with his officers, he countermarcheth his Army (about 500 in all) downe to the midle Plantation: of which the Governour being informed, ships himself and adhearers, for Accomack (for the Gloster men refused to owne his quarill against the Generall) after he had caused Bacon, in these parts to be proclaimed a Rebell once more, July 29.
Bacon being sate down with his Army at the midle Plantation, sends out an invitation unto all the prime Gent: men in these parts, to give him a meeting in his quarters, there to consult how the Indians were to be proceeded against, and himself and Army protected against the desines of Sr. W. B. against whose Papers, of the 29 of May, and his Proclameation since, he puts forth his Replication and those papers upon these Dellama’s.
First, whether persons wholy devoted to the King and countrey, haters of sinester and by-respects, adventering there lives and fortunes, to kill and destroy all in Arms, against King and countrey; that never ploted, contrived, or indevioured the destruction, detryement or wrong of any of his Majesties subjects, there lives, fortunes, or estates can desurve the names of Rebells and Traters: secondly he cites his owne and soulders peaceable behaviour, calling the wholl countrey to witness against him if they can; hee upbrades som in authorety with the meaneness of there parts, others now rich with the meaneness of there estates, when they came into the countrey, and questions by what just ways they have obtained there welth; whether they have not bin the spunges that hath suck’d up the public tresury: Questions what arts, sciences, schools of Learning, or manufactorys, have bin promoted in authorety: Justefyes his adverssion, in generall against the Indians; upbrades the Governour for manetaneing there quarill, though never so unjust, against the Christians rights; his refuseing to admit an English mans oath against an Indian, when that Indians bare word should be accepted of against an Englishman: sath sumthing against ye Governour concerning the Beaver trade, as not in his power to dispose of to his owne profit, it being a Monopeley of the crowne; Questions whether the Traders at the heads of the Rivers being his Facters, do not buy and sell the blood of there breatheren and country men, by furnishing the Indians with Pouder, shott and Fire Arms, contrary to the Laws of the Collony: He araignes one colonel Cowells asscertion, for saying that the English are bound to protect the Indians, to the hassard of there blood. And so concludes with an Appeale to the King and Parliament, where he doubts not but that his and the Peoples cause will be impartially heard.
Bacon's Castle in Virginia
To comply with the Generalls Invetation, hinted in my former letter, there was a grate convention of the people met him in his quarters; the result of whose meeting was an Ingagement, for the people (of what qullety soever, excepting servants) to subscribe to consisting of 3 heads. First to be aideing, with there lives and estates, the Generall, in the Indian war; secondly, to opose Sr. Williams designes, if hee had any, to hinder the same; and lastly, to protect the Generall, Army and all that should subscribe this Ingagement, against any power that should be sent out of England, till it should be granted that the countreys complaint might be heard, against Sr. William before the King and Parliament. These 3 heads being methodized, and put in to form, by the Clarke of ye Assembly, who happened to be at this meeting, and redd unto the people, held a despute, from allmost noone, till midnight, pro and con, whether the same might, in the last Article especially, be with out danger taken. The Generall, and som others of the cheife men was Resalute in the affirmative, inserting its innosscency, and protesting, without it, he would surrender up his commission to the Assembly, and lett them finde other servants, to do the countreys worke: this, and the newse, that the Indians were fallen downe in to Gloster county, and had kill’d som people, a bout Carters Creeke; made the people willing to take the Ingagement. The chiefe men that subscribed it at this meeting, were coll. Swan, coll. Beale, coll. Ballard, Esq. Bray, (all foure of the councell) coll. Jordan, coll. Smith, of Purton, coll. Scarsbrook, coll. Miller, coll. Lawrance, and Mr. Drommond, late Governour of Carolina; all persons, with whom you have bin formerly acquainted.
This worke being over, and orders taken for an Assemblye to sitt downe the 4 of September (the writs being issued out in his majestyes name, and signed by 4 of the Councell, before named) the Generall once more sitts out to finde the Indians: of which Sr. William have gained intelligence, to prevent Bacons designes by the Assembley, returns from Accomack, with a bout 1000 soulders, and others, in 5 shipps and 10 sloops to James towne; in which was som 900 Baconians (for soe now they began to be called, for a marke of destinction) under the command of coll. Hansford, who was commissionated by Bacon, to raise Forces (if need were) in his absence, for the safety of the countrey. Unto these Sr. William sends in a summons for a Rendition of ye place, with a pardon to all that would decline Bacons and entertaine his cause. What was returned to his sommons I know not; but in the night the Baconians forsake the Towne, by the advice of Drummond and Lawrence (who were both excepted, in the Governours sommons, out of mercy) every one returning to their owne aboades, excepting Drommond, Hansford, Lawrence, and some few others, who goes to finde out the Generall, now returned to the head of York River, haveing spent his provisions in following the Indians on whom he did sum execution, and sent them packing a grate way from the Borders.
Before that Drommond and those with him had reached the Generall, he had dismist his Army, to there respective habitations, to gather strength against the next intended expedition; eccepting som frew resarved for his Gard, and persons liveing in these parts; unto whom, those that came with Hansford being joyned, made about 150 in all: With these Bacon, by a swift march, before any newes was heard of his return from the Indians, in these parts, came to Towne, to ye consternation of all in it, and there blocks the Governour up; which he easily effected by this unheard of project. He was no sooner arrived at Towne, but by several small parties of Horse (2 or 3 in a party, for more he could not spare) he fetcheth into his little Leagure, all the prime mens wives, whose Husbands were with the Governour, (as coll. Bacons Lady, Madm. Bray, Madm. Page, Madm. Ballard, and others) which the next morning he presents to the view of there husbands and friends in towne, upon the top of the smalle worke hee had cast up in the night; where he caused them to tarey till hee had finished his defence against his enemies shott, it being the onely place (as you do know well enough) for those in towne to make a salley at. Which when completed, and the Governour understanding that the Gentle women were withdrawne in to a place of safety, he sends out some 6 or 700 hundred of his soulders, to beate Bacon out of his Trench: But it seems that those works, which were protected by such charms (when a raiseing) that plug’d up the enimys shot in there gains, could not now be storm’d by a vertue less powerfull (when finished) then the sight of a few white Aprons; otherways the servis had bin more honourable and the damage less, several of those who made the salley being slaine and wounded, without one drop of Blood drawne from the enemy. With in too or three days after this disaster, the Governour reships himself, soulders, and all the inhabitants of the towne, and there goods: and so to Accomack a gane; leaving Bacon to enter the place at his pleasure, which he did the next morning before day, and the night following burns it downe to the ground to prevent a futer seege, as hee saide. Which Flagrant, and Flagitious Act performed, he draws his men out of town and marcheth them over York River, at Tindells point, to fine out collnell Brent, who was advancing fast upon him, from Potomack, at the head of 1200 men, (as he was informed) with a designe to raise Bacons seige, from before the towne, or other ways to fight him, as he saw cause. But, Brents soulders no sooner heard that Bacon was got to the north-side Yorke River, with an intent to fight them, and that he had beate the Governour out of the towne, and fearing, if he met with them; that he might beate them out of there lives they basely forsake there colours, the greater part adheareing to Bacons cause; resolveing with the Perssians to go and worship the rising sun, now approaching nere there Horisson: of which Bacon being informed, he stops his proceedings that way, and begins to provide for a nother expedition a gainst the Indian, of whom he had heard no news since his last March, a gainst them: which while he was a contrieving, Death summons him to more urgent affairs in to whose hands (after a short seige) he surrenders his life, leaving his commition in the custody of his Leif’t Generall, one Ingram, newly comin to the countrey.
Sr. William no sooner had news that Bacon was Dead but he sends over a party, in a sloop to Yorke who snap’d collonell Hansford, and others with him, that kep a negilegent Gard at coll. Reades howse under his command: When Hansford came to Acomack, he had the honour to be the first Verginian born that ever was hang’d; the soulders (about 20 in all) that were taken with him, were commited to Prisson. Capt. Carver, Capt. Wilford, Capt. Farloe, with 5 or 6 others of less note, taken at other places, ending there days as Hansford did; Major Chessman bein appointed (but is seems not destinated to the like end,) which he prevented by dying in prison through ill usage, as it is said.
This execution being over (which the Baconians termed crewilty in the abstract) Sr. William ships himself and soulder for York River, casting Anchor at Tindells point; from whence he sends up a hundred and 20 men to surprise a Gard, of about, 80 men and boys, kept at coll. Bacons howse, under the command of Major Whaly; who being fore-warn’d by Hansford fate, prevented the designed conflict with the death of the commander in cheife, and the taking som prisoners: Major Lawrence Smith, with 600 men, meeting with the like fate at coll. Pates Howse, in Gloster, a gainst Ingram, (the Baconian Generall) onely Smith saved himself, by leaving his men in the lurtch, being all made prisoners; whom Ingram dismist to their own homes; Ingram himself, and all under his command, with in a few days after, being reduced to his duty, by the well contrivance of Capt. Grantham, who was now lately arrived in York River: which put a period to the war, and brought the Governour a shoare at coll. Bacons, where he was presented with Mr. Drumond; taken the day before in Cheekanonimy swomp, half famished, as him self related to my Husband. From coll. Bacons, the next day, he was convayed, in Irons to Mr. Brays (whither the Governour was removed) to his Tryall, where he was condemn’d with in halfe an hower after his coming to Esqr. Brays, to be handed at the midle Plantation, within 4 howers after condemnation; where he was accordingly, executed, with a pittiful French man. Which don, the Governour removes to his owne howse, to settle his and the countryes repose, after his many troubles; which he effected by the advice of his councel and an Assembly convein’d at the Greene Spring; where severall were condemned to be executed, prime actors in ye Rebellion; as Esqr. Bland, coll. Cruse, and som other hanged at Bacons Trench; Capt. Yong, of Cheekahominy, Mr. Hall, clarke of New-Kent court, James Wilson (once your servant) and one Leift. Collonell Page, (one that my Husband bought of Mr. Lee, when he kep store at your howse) all four executed at coll. Reads, over against Tindells point; and ANTHONY ARNELL (the same that did live at your howse) hanged in chanes at West point, beside severall others executed on the other side James River: enough (they say in all) to out number those slane in the wholl war; on both sides: it being observable that the sword was more favourable than the Halter, as there was a grater liberty taken to run from the sharpness of the one, then would be alowed to shun the dull imbraces of the other: the Hangman being more dredfull to the Baconians, then there Generall was to the Indians; as it is counted more honourable, and less terable, to dye like a soulder, then to be hang’d like a dogg.
Thus Sr. have I rendered you an account of our late troubles in Verginia, which I have performed too wordishly; but I did not know how to help it; Ignorance in som cases is a prevalent ovatour in pleading for pardon, I hope mine may have the fortune to prove soe in the behalfe of Sr. Yor. ffriend and servant, An. Cotton. From Q. Creeke.
Bacon Demanding His Commission of Governor Berkeley - not a contemporary depiction.
Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People
The Declaracon of the People.
For haveing upon specious pretences of publiqe works raised greate unjust taxes upon the Comonality for the advancement of private favorites and other sinister ends, but noe visible effects in any measure adequate, For not haveing dureing this long time of his Gouvernement in any measure advanced this hopefull Colony either by fortificacons Townes or Trade.
For haveing abused and rendred contemptable the Magistrates of Justice, by advanceing to places of Judicature, scandalous and Ignorant favorites.
For haveing wronged his Majesties prerogative and interest, by assumeing Monopoly of the Beaver trade, and for haveing in that unjust gaine betrayed and sold his Majesties Country and the lives of his loyall subjects, to the barbarous heathen.
For haveing, protected, favoured, and Imboldned the Indians against his Majesties loyall subjects, never contriveing, requireing, or appointing any due or proper meanes of sattisfaction for theire many Invasions, robbories, and murthers comitted upon us.
For haveing when the Army of English, was just upon the track of those Indians, who now in all places burne, spoyle, murther and when we might with ease have distroyed them: who then were in open hostillity, for then haveing expressly countermanded, and sent back our Army, by passing his word for the peaceable demeanour of the said Indians, who imediately prosecuted theire evill intentions, comitting horred murthers and robberies in all places, being protected by the said ingagement and word past of him the said Sir William Berkeley, haveing ruined and laid desolate a greate part of his Majesties Country, and have now drawne themselves into such obscure and remote places, and are by theire success soe imboldned and confirmed, by theire confederacy soe strengthned that the cryes of blood are in all places, and the terror, and constimation of the peOple soe greate, are now become, not onely a difficult, but a very formidable enimy, who might att first with ease have beene distroyed.
And lately when upon the loud outcryes of blood the Assembly had with all care raised and framed an Army for the preventing of further mischeife and safeguard of this his Majesties Colony.
For haveing with onely the privacy of some few favorites, without acquainting the people, onely by the alteracon of a figure, forged a Comission, by we know not what hand, not onely without, but even against the consent of the people, for the raiseing and effecting civill warr and distruction, which being happily and without blood shed prevented, for haveing the second time attempted the same, thereby calling downe our forces from the defence of the fronteeres and most weekely expoased places.
For the prevencon of civill mischeife and ruin amongst ourselves, whilst the barbarous enimy in all places did invade, murther and spoyle us, his majesties most faithfull subjects.
Of this and the aforesaid Articles we accuse Sir William Berkeley as guilty of each and every one of the same, and as one who hath traiterously attempted, violated and Injured his Majesties interest here, by a loss of a greate part of this his Colony and many of his faithfull loyall subjects, by him betrayed and in a barbarous and shamefull manner expoased to the Incursions and murther of the heathen, And we doe further declare these the ensueing persons in this list, to have beene his wicked and pernicious councellours Confederates, aiders, and assisters against the Comonality in these our Civill comotions.
And we doe further demand that the said Sir William Berkeley with all the persons in this list be forthwith delivered up or surrender themselves within fower days after the notice hereof, Or otherwise we declare as followeth.
That in whatsoever place, howse, or ship, any of the said persons shall reside, be hidd, or protected, we declaire the owners, Masters or Inhabitants of the said places, to be confederates and trayters to the people and the estates of them is alsoe of all the aforesaid persons to be confiscated, and this we the Comons of Virginia doe declare, desiering a firme union amongst our selves that we may joyntly and with one accord defend our selves against the common Enimy, and lett not the faults of the guilty be the reproach of the inocent, or the faults or crimes of the oppressours devide and separate us who have suffered by theire oppressions.
These are therefore in his majesties name to command you forthwith to seize the persons above mentioned as Trayters to the King and Country and them to bring to Midle plantacon, and there to secure them untill further order, and in case of opposition, if you want any further assistance you are forthwith to demand itt in the name of the people in all the Counties of Virginia.
Nathaniel Bacon Generall by Consent of the people.
Virginia Governor William Berkeley
The following declaration by Virginia Governor William Berkeley, written on May 19, 1676 about Bacon's Rebellion helps identify some of the players & issues in Ann Cotton's account.
The declaration and Remonstrance of Sir William Berkeley his most sacred Majesties Governor and Captain Generall of Virginia
Sheweth That about the yeare 1660 CoIl. Mathews the then Governor dyed and then in consideration of the service I had don the Country, in defending them from, and destroying great numbers of the Indians, without the loss of three men, in all the time that warr lasted, and in contemplation of the equall and uncorrupt Justice I had distributed to all men, Not onely the Assembly but the unanimous votes of all the Country, concurred to make me Governor in a time, when if the Rebells in England had prevailed, I had certainely dyed for accepting itt, `twas Gentlemen an unfortunate Love, shewed to me, for to shew myselfe gratefull for this, I was willing to accept of this Governement againe, when by my gracious Kings favour I might have had other places much more proffitable, and lesse toylesome then this hath beene. Since that time that I returned into the Country, I call the great God Judge of all things in heaven and earth to wittness, that I doe not know of any thing relateive to this Country wherein I have acted unjustly, corruptly, or negligently in distributeing equall Justice to all men, and takeing all possible care to preserve their proprietys, and defend the from their barbarous enimies.
But for all this, perhapps I have erred in things I know not of, if I have I am soe conscious of humane frailty, and my owne defects, that I will not onely acknowledge them, but repent of, and amend them, and not like the Rebell Bacon persist in an error, onely because I have comitted itt, and tells me in diverse of his Letters that itt is not for his honnor to confess a fault, but I am of opinion that itt is onely for divells to be incorrigable, and men of principles like the worst of divells, and these he hath, if truth be reported to me, of diverse of his ex pressions of Atheisme, tending to take away all Religion and Laws.
And now I will state the Question betwixt me as a Governor and Mr. Bacon, and say that if any enimies should invade England, any Councellor Justice of peace or other inferiour officer, might raise what forces they could to protect his Majesties subjects, But I say againe, if after the Kings knowledge of this invasion, any the greatest peere of England, should raise forces against the kings prohibition this would be now, and ever was in all ages and Nations accompted treason. Nay I will goe further, that though this peere was truly zealous for the preservation of his King, and subjects, and had better and greater abillitys then all the rest of his fellow subjects, doe his King and Country service, yett if the King (though by false information) should suspect the contrary, itt were treason in this Noble peere to proceed after the King's prohibition, and for the truth of this I appeale to all the laws of England, and the Laws and constitutions of all other Nations in the world, And yett further itt is declaired by this Parliament that the takeing up Armes for the King and Parliament is treason, for the event shewed that what ever the pretence was to seduce ignorant and well affected people, yett the end was ruinous both to King and people, as this will be if not prevented, I doe therefore againe declair that Bacon proceedeing against all Laws of all Nations modern and ancient, is Rebell to his sacred Majesty and this Country, nor will I insist upon the sweareing of men to live and dye togeather, which is treason by the very words of the Law.
Now my friends I have lived 34 yeares amongst you, as uncorrupt and dilligent as ever Governor was, Bacon is a man of two yeares amongst you, his person and qualities unknowne to most of you, and to all men else, by any vertuous action that ever I heard of, And that very action which he boasts of, was sickly and fooleishly, and as I am informed treacherously carried to the dishonnor of the English Nation, yett in itt, he lost more men then I did in three yeares Warr, and by the grace of God will putt myselfe to the same daingers and troubles againe when I have brought Bacon to acknowledge the Laws are above him, and I doubt not but by God's assistance to have better success then Bacon hath had, the reason of my hopes are, that I will take Councell of wiser men then my selfe, but Mr. Bacon hath none about him, but the lowest of the people.
Yett I must further enlarge, that I cannot without your helpe, doe any thinge in this but dye in defence of my King, his laws, and subjects, which I will cheerefully doe, though alone I doe itt, and considering my poore fortunes, I can not leave my poore Wife and friends a better legacy then by dyeing for my King and you: for his sacred Majesty will easeily distinguish betweene Mr. Bacons actions and myne, and Kinges have long Armes, either to reward or punish.
Now after all this, if Mr. Bacon can shew one precedens or example where such actings in any Nation what ever, was approved of, I will mediate with the King and you for a pardon, and excuce for him, but I can shew him an hundred examples where brave and great men have beene putt to death for gaineing Victorys against the Comand of their Superiors.
Lastly my most assured friends I would have preserved those Indians that I knew were howerly att our mercy, to have beene our spyes and intelligence, to finde out our bloody enimies, but as soone as I had the least intelligence that they alsoe were trecherous enimies, I gave out Commissions to distrOy them all as the Commissions themselves will speake itt.
To conclude, I have don what was possible both to friend and enimy, have granted Mr. BacOn three pardons, which he hath scornefully rejected, suppoaseing himselfe stronger to subvert then I and you to maineteyne the Laws, by which onely and Gods assisting grace and mercy, all men mwt hope for peace and safety. I will add noe more though much more is still remaineing to Justifie me and condemne Mr. Bacon, but to desier that this declaration may be read in every County Court in the Country, and that a Court be presently called to doe itt, before the Assembly meet, That your approbation or dissattisfaction of this declaration may be knowne to all the Country, and the Kings Councell to whose most revered Judgments itt is submitted, Given the xxixth day of May, a happy day in the xxv"ith yeare of his most sacred Majesties Reigne, Charles the second, who God grant long and prosperously to Reigne, and lett all his good subjects say Amen.
See" Force, Peter, comp. Tracts and Other Papers Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in North America, from the Discovery of the Country to the Year 1776. 1836-1846. Washington: Printed by P. Force, from the original manuscript in the “Richmond, Virginia, Enquirer” 12 Sept. 1804.
Read more about Nathaniel Bacon at the Encyclopedia Virginia.