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Virginia's Constitutional Right Exercised of Refusing to
Recognize the English Parliament's Participation in the Royal Prerogative External Dissensions.
No person elsewhere on the North American Continent, says Cook's Hist. of Virginia, moved to support the King." And Berkeley was alone, for he had to give energy to the smaller souls of those few who were loyal in Virginia and to guard against the treachery and conspiracy of a body of "Puritan fanatics'' who had settled in the colony.
The Puritan democracy in England began to act. In 1650 a law of parliament prohibited trade with Virginia and the West Indies and a fleet of ships was sent to suppress Sir William Berkeley and his King's adherents. Two war-ships reached Virginia in March, 1652, and one of them ascended the James River and the commander, in the name of the commonwealth of England, demanded surrender of the colony. But Berkeley never thought of surrender. He summoned his friends, had cannon placed on the high places and distributed muskets to the inhabitants. But the ship's Puritan captain recognizing those of the same sort as himself among some of the House of Burgesses, had a private interview with them, in which bribes were distributed, and the House of Burgesses voted to surrender the colony over the head of Berkeley. The parliamentary commissioners were Bennett, Clayborne and Curtis. The only requirements made was an oath of allegiance to the commonwealth of England, and those who refused to take it and abandon "Kingcraft" were to be allowed a year in which to sell their property and leave the country.
The haughty Cavalier Berkeley turned his back on the upstart carls of the Virginia democracy that surged into power in the colony with Puritanism. He went to his private estate, and in company with a few brother cavaliers not only refused to take the oath, but was too strong to be driven out. One of his followers boasted that, though they had been reduced by the power of the Usurper they had never come under his obedience." One of the first acts of the Virginian democracy under Governor Bennett in 1652 was to curtail representation of the cavaliers and abolish the name of the King as the head of state. But Virginia was too far away for the English democracy itself to meddle with much and the Virginia democrats were too suspicious of each others integrity to accomplish all the leveling they desired. During this time, there was nothing but plundering and persecuting carried on by the triumphant democracy of the Virginia colony against neighboring Catholic proprietors and Lords of the Maryland Manours, who had no protection from any source under the "righteous” government of the Puritan usurpation, whose pretext had been for freedom of conscience and the rights of men,”-a verbal sheep's garment for a voracious wolf.
But all these troubles ended at once, when in 1660 the news came across the water that the Scottish army of Gen. Monck, tired of Puritan hypocrisy, corruption and persecution, had marched into London, had overthrown the English republic and had proclaimed Charles II. as King.
The great Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, had died in 1658. He had stayed the persecution made by the Puritan democracy in England and muzzled the democracy itself even as Napoleon was to rout the French democracy,-both leaders using the only argument which democracy respects, the sword. Cromwell had protected the cavaliers who were in hiding in different parts of the realm, had stopped the burning of witches, and the persecution of the Jews and had maintained the integrity of the three estates. Referring to the Puritan demagogues whom he despised, he exclaimed "I hate their leveling idea; there is nothing in the minds of these men but overturn, overturn!"
On the death of Cromwell, the friends of Berkeley in Virginia took up again the feudal principle which Berkeley as a cavalier had expressed, that as Virginia was a fief of the Crown, now that the Crown had been
mindste their lagogues whShree estatus and matching of
abolished in Britain, the fealty between Virginia and England was abolished also. In March, 1660, the planters assembled at Jamestown and agreed to the following resolve: “Whereas by reason of the late distraction— which God in His mercy put a sudden period to—there being in England no resident, absolute and generally conJessed power, be it enacted and confirmed that, the supreme power of the government of this country shall be resident in the Assembly and that all writs issue in the name of the General Assembly of Virginia until such a command or commission come out of England as shall by the Assembly be adjudged lawful.” The second Act declared: “That the Hon. Sir William Berkeley shall be governor and captain-general of Virginia.”
In May, Charles II. was restored in England and with him the Monarchy, and in October, 1660, he sent his own commission to Sir William Berkeley appointing him governor, which, accepted as supreme by all parties, restored the fealty of Virginia to the Crown. Thus the value of the Stuart system of erecting fiefs beyond sea into royal governments dependent solely on the command upheld by an independent and localized class of Honor was made manifest in the action of Virginia, although the initiative and energy of that action belonged only to one lion-hearted and loyal man. But the restoration was superficial in Virginia, where in truth the vast majority of the inhabitants were indifferent, cavaliers few and the democrats more numerous, with the advantage of not being encumbered by honest considerations. In 1663 a number of indentured servants were induced to break into revolt with the idea of overturning the government and having a republican model. One of them betrayed his comrades, and this revolt was extinguished. Four of the leaders were hung. The Burgesses ordered that henceforward “20 guardsmen and one officer shall attend the governor,” as a protection against conspirators.
Tranquility was threatened on another side by the Baptist preachers, who, inspired with fanaticism, preached a doctrine of religious compulsion, which, if practised, would have imposed a tyranny compared to which the rule of the Spanish Inquisition would have
been that of enlightened liberty. The invasion of the body politic by their new fangled conceits and heretical inventions'' was not only adverse to individual liberty, to the established estates of the colony, and to the authority of the Crown, but to human happiness and prosperity. For these reasons, they were dealt with severely, and in many places forbidden to preach.
But there was another outburst of democracy threatening Crown authority, the estates and the governorship of Berkeley more seriously than the "Revolt of the Valets" and the "Preaching of the Baptists."
The Bacon Rebellion of 1676. It seems that when Virginia surrendered to the Puritan English Republic in 1651 that a law had been enacted that Virginia should trade only with England by means of English ships manned by English sailors. Besides this, import and export duties were levied on all the commerce of Virginia.
Even this had not aroused the complaints of the Virginians under the commonwealth, possibly because the republicans in the colony had clasped hands with the republicans in the Old Country in the matter of division of the spoil. Perhaps the Virginians might not have complained of it under the succeeding monarchy had not Charles II. granted, as a fief, the territory of Virginia and Accomac to the Earl of Arlington and Lord Culpeper. This grant was to terminate in thirty-one years unless renewed. It was no more than the original grant to the Council of London had been-it disturbed no one. If the sovereign proprietors of Virginia overstepped the limits of their holding there was an appeal to the Crown unless the Three Estates of Virginia might consider a malfeasance to be an absolution of allegiance -according to feudal law.
But republican doctrine had begun to work in Vir. ginia and the House of Burgesses (1670) sent delegates to the King to protest against the new grant. The protest was carefully attended to. The King promised to "grant them a new charter for the settlement and confirmation of all things according to their wishes." The new charter was drafted, had received the royal signature, and was about to be dispatched to the colony, when the news of the rebellion of the faithless Virginia republicans stayed the royal concession. It seems that there was one, Nathaniel Bacon, a factious and unprincipled republican, who had worked in secret a long while among the servants and lower classes of the population and the Puritan fanatics. His course of action must be noticed in order to show the characters with whom Sir William Berkeley had to deal and who triumphed finally in the American Revolution. Bacon caused himself to be elected to the Burgesses by the unconstitutional voting of servants and non-proprietors. He caused the massacre of six Indian chiefs who had come under safe conduct to a council with the whites. Under spacious pretences of reform he rebelled against the governor and the King's authority, and with his mal-contents, who seem to have been the major part of the Virginians, considered the advisability of proclaiming independence of England and the setting up of a republic. In his rebellion, while besieging Jamestown, one of his means of protection from the cannon of the enemy was putting the wives and daughters of the planters, who were defending the town, in front of his breast-works. He plundered the private residence of the governor, which was outside the town. He succeeded in stirring up the greater part of the people for universal suffrage, indiscriminate education and the introduction of republicanism.
Berkeley, who had only 30 loyal gentlemen, was driven out of Jamestown. He took shelter in Accomac, where he had the satisfaction of hanging Capt. Carver, one of Bacon's followers, who had been sent with a fleet of small vessels to capture and bring back the governor. Berkeley and his men also captured "Gen.” Bland, the chief commander of Bacon, and after many vicissitudes triumphed over the rebellion. Bacon had been succeeded in command by a ''rope-dancer'' named Ingram but he was reduced very speedily. The manner in which Berkeley dealt with these people was summary but just. It is illustrated by the following story:-One of Bacon's officers, named Drummond, was captured; he was brought before Berkeley, who said, "Mr. Drum