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Bacon's Rebellion, Slaves and Great Awakening

By: emsails
Oct 04, 2010

Bacon’s Rebellion
A large mass of footloose, impoverished freemen drifted around the Chesapeake region.
Mostly young single men, heart broken over the inability of acquiring land--and single women
Sir William Berkeley, the royal governor of Virginia, created policies that favored the large plantation owners and used dictatorial powers to govern their behalf
He antagonized backwoods farmers and failed to protect them from Indian attacks
Nathaniel Bacon, (an impoverished farmer) led a rebellion against Berkeley’s government
Bacon raised an army of volunteers and in 1676, conducted a series of raids and massacres against the Indian villages on the Virginia frontier
Bacon’s Rebellion (continued)
Bacon’s army succeeded in defeating the governor’s forces and even burned the Jamestown settlement
Soon afterward Bacon died of dysentery and the rebel army collapsed
Governor Berkeley brutally suppressed the remnants of the insurrection
Lasting problems:
Highlighted the sharp class difference between wealthy planters and landless or poor farmers
Colonial resistance to royal control

7 million Africans were carried in chains to the new world in three centuries that followed Columbus
Only 400,000 of them came to North America
1619-First slaves brought to North America (Jamestown)
1680 rising wages in England shrank the pool of poor people willing to start over in the New World
At the same time large planters were growing increasingly fearful of the potentially mutinous former indentured servants
1680- was the first time Black slaves outnumbered white servants among the plantation colonies
More than 10,000 Africans were pushed ashore in America in the decade after 1700
Black slaves accounted for nearly half the population of Virginia in 1750. In South Carolina they outnumbers whites 2-1.

Slavery (continued)
Most of the slaves that reached N.America came from the west coast of Africa
Ships traveled the gruesome middle passage (death rates as high as 20%)
Survivors were shoved onto auction blocks in new world ports like New Port, Rhode Island, or Charleston.
The slave codes made blacks and their children the property or (Chattels) for life of their white masters)
Some colonies made it a crime to teach a slave to read or write. Conversion to Christianity could not save a slave.
The whites placed a deep fear into the slaves--Slavery started for Economic reasons but by the end of the 17th century it was clear that racial discrimination also powerfully molded the American slave system
Africans in America
In the deepest south slave life was the most severe
Climate was hostile to health, labor was life draining
Scattered S.Carolina rice and indigo plantations were “living hells” on earth where mostly male Africans worked and perished
The tobacco growing Chesapeake had an easier time--tobacco was less physical work, Tobacco plantations were larger and closer to on another.
The size and proximity of the plantations permitted slaves more frequent contact with friends and family
More female slaves in the Chesapeake--which allowed for slave families to grow
The Chesapeake area so a growth in slave population not only my imports but through its own fertility
Great Awakening (1730-1740)
In the 18th century, liberal ideas began to challenge old-time religion
Worshipers began to challenge the idea of predestination, and that human beings were not necessarily predestined to damnation and might save themselves by leading a life of good works
Most threatening to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination was:
Arminianism: (named after Jacobus Arminius) who preached that individual free will, not divine decree, determined a person’s eternal fate, and that all humans, not just the “elect” could be saved if they freely accepted God’s grace.
The stage was set for a rousing religious revival known as the Great Awakening
Great Awakening (continued)
The great awakening swept through the colonies at a very fast pace.
Religious Impact:
A sinners tearfully confessed their guilt and joyously exulted in being “saved”, emotionalism became a common part of Protestant services.
Ministers lost some pf their former authority among those who now studied the bible in their own home
The Great Awakening also caused a major division, between those supported it’s teaching (the New Lights) and those who condemned them (the Old Lights)
Newer more, more evangelical sects, the Baptists and the Methodists, attracted large numbers
As a result, there was increased religious diversity and also greater competition as each sect sought to attract followers

Political Influences
A movement as a powerful as the Great Awakening was bound to affect all aspects of life
Unlike anything before this movement affected every social class in every section
For the first time, the colonists---regardless of their national origins---shared in a common experience as Americans
The Great Awakening also had a democratizing effect by changing the way people viewed authority
If the common people could make their own religious decisions without relying on the “higher” authority of ministers, then might they make their own political decisions without deferring to the authority of the great landowners and merchants?
This revolutionary idea was not expressed in the 1740’s but it set the ground work to challenge the authority of the king and his royal governors 30 years later.

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