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Ever Growing Disloyalty in the American Colonies: Beacon’s Rebellion

In the critical years (1675-1700) saw many crisis’s in the British Empire which effected the American Colonies. There were numerous conflicts that showed the increasing tension between the classes in the colonies and the lower classes ever growing dislike and distrust of the elite that governed them. The people in the lower classes then revolted due to their discontent. The government did not listen to the lower classis’s complaints, but rather forced them into submission, which just worsened the tensions, created more distrust, obliterated their loyalty, and lessoned their desire tomake a profit for the crown. Beacon’s Rebellion is one example of such feelings manifesting themselves. 

 In the January of 1676 The Iroquois-Susquehannock war reached the backwoods of Virginia. Indian raids on the Maryland-Virginia border killed dozens of settlers. Tidewater planters and frontier families demanded that the government do something inresponse to these raids, but Governor William Berkeley refused to take action quickly. This made plain many tensions that were already stewing in the colony between the newly formed elite, yeoman farmers, and indentured servants.  Many in the lower class began to think that the social mobility that they were promised was no longer possible under the system that Berkeley presided over. These people found a leader that would advocate for their rights in Nathaniel Beacon.

Beacon was unhappy that Berkeley refused to go into an all-out war with the Indians. Beacon showed up in Jamestown with five hundredarmed men asking the governor for a commission to kill Indians. The Governor relented and gave Beacon the commission, but after hearing of Beacons group taking horse, guns, and wagons from enraged farmers, and killing any Indian they could get their hands on, Berkeley decided to raised troops to arrest Beacon, but the troops refused to serve.

On August 3rd, Beacons small military started a campaign against the governor. They drove Berkeley from Jamestown on September 18th and burned the town the next day. Beacon then rewarded his followers by allowing them to plunder the properties of Berkeley’s friends. Beacon flaunted the convention of rank and hierarchy that Berkeley and his circle had so recently constructed, but Beacon had no plan of social reform, he was just a rebel wreaking havoc. Beacon did dream that the American Colonies would be independent from the crown, and he encouraged delegates from Maryland and Virginia to throw off their allegiances to the crown. But he did not have any further plan for independence, perhaps he would have come up with one but he died in October of 1676 from dysentery.

The crown had taken notice of the movement Beacon had started, as it was brought to their attention by lady Berkeley, who had returned to England to lobby for support for her husband. The king then sent a small squadron to clear the rebels for the York and the James rivers. With thesupport of the squadron, Berkeley was able to drive the rebels back into the interior, and then their troops began their own looting. Any of his troops that found a rebel leader, executed them on the spot.

The reactions of Berkeley and the crown made it clear to the lower classes that the elite were more highly valued then themselves. Their leaders were killed and their properties plundered. This made already discontent people even angrier with the government over them. It was events like these that set the American Colonies on course towards revolution, and when the crisis’s in the 1760’s came some the colonists felt no loyalty to the crown what so ever.

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