Friday, December 10, 2010

Bacon's Rebellion

And the Defeat of the Saponi Tribes
At Occoneechee Island

By Linda Carter

The story of the Great Trading Path, centered at Occoneeche Island in what is now Clarksville, VA, is inextricably intertwined with that of Bacon's Rebellion — the first rebellion American colonists were to wage against British governmental authority. It's fascinating how the paradigm with which one approaches a story colors one's perception of it. During the heyday of American expansionism, from the days of Andrew Jackson and his Removal policy towards Indians east of the Mississippi, on through the institution of hereditary slavery and later Jim Crow, researchers saw Bacon as something of a hero, an early version of George Washington, perhaps. The Virginia governor, William Berkeley, was painted in the light of a corrupt despot.

It wasn't until the 1950's, when thoughtful academics were horrified by the witchhunt tactics of McCarthyism, and inspired by the first stirrings of the Civil Rights Movement, that Bacon's Rebellion began to be seen in an entirely different light. Elements of evidence were uncovered in England, namely Governor Berkeley's own account of Bacon's rebellion, which cast Bacon as a genocidal supremacist, while Berkeley saw himself as the "liberal" civil servant, trying to maintain an honorable and just treatment of neighboring nations.

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