The Bacon Rebellion

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Nathaniel Bacon was a member of the colony council and a militant opponent of Virginia land policy. He had prepared the revolt a few years earlier by organizing an armed mutiny of angry taxpayers at Lawnes Creek Parish, and, in November of 1676, proclaimed freedom to all bond-laborers, in anticipation they would join his cause against the big tobacco bourgeoisie. He was right. Thousands of bond-laborers – six thousand European Americans and two thousand African Americans – took up arms against the numerically tiny Anglo-American slave-owning planter class. Seizing the day, dramatically, they drove Governor Berkeley back to England, hat in hand, and shut down all tobacco production for fourteen straight months.
When I ask this question to students in my early American literature course, the answer comes easily: divide the bond-laborers in two by letting one half go free and the other half – keep them in bondage and have the “free” half patrol them. This common sense has escaped most U.S. historians, but not Allen. “The solution,” he writes, “was to establish a new birthright not only for Anglos but for every European-American, the ‘white’ identity that ‘set them at a distance,’ to use Sir Francis’s phrase [Francis Bacon], from the laboring-class African-Americans, and enlisted them as active, or at least passive, supporters of lifetime bondage of African Americans” (vol. 2, p. 248). From this point forward, the pattern was set: “the appeal to ‘white race’ solidarity would remain the country’s most general form of class-collaborationism”http://WWW.DRYBONESCONNECTION.COM

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