Nathaniel Bacon's Manifesto Concerning the Present Troubles in Virginia

July 30, 1676

In the summer of 1676, during Bacon's Rebellion, Nathaniel Bacon issued his “Manifesto Concerning the Present Troubles in Virginia,” which defended the actions he had taken against the Indians and Governor William Berkeley.

Bacon's Rebellion, Bacon in Jamestown

This illustration by Howard Pyle depicts Nathaniel Bacon leading his men. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Summary of Bacon’s Manifesto

Late in the summer of 1676, during Bacon’s Rebellion, Governor William Berkeley formed his own army and took action against Nathaniel Bacon. On July 30, 1676, writing from his camp at the Middle Plantation — present-day Williamsburg, Virginia — Bacon wrote this document and defended the actions that he and his followers had taken.

Text of Bacon’s Manifesto

If vertue be a sin, if Piety be giult, all the Principles of morality goodness and Justice be perverted, Wee must confesse That those who are now called Rebells may be in danger of those high imputations, Those loud and severall Bulls would affright Innocents and render the defence of our Brethren and the enquiry into our sad and heavy oppressions, Treason. But if there bee as sure there is, a just God to appeal too, if Religion and Justice be a sanctuary here, If to plead ye cause of the oppressed, If sincerely to aime at his Majesty’s Honour and the Publick good without any reservation or by Interest, If to stand in the Gap after soe much blood of our dear Brethren bought and sold, If after the losse of a great part of his Majesty’s Colony deserted and dispeopled, freely with our lives and estates to indeavor to save the remaynders bee Treason God Almighty Judge and let guilty dye, But since wee cannot in our hearts find one single spott of Rebellion or Treason or that wee have in any manner aimed at the subverting ye setled Government or attempting of the Person of any either magistrate or private man not with standing the severall Reproaches and Threats of some who for sinister ends were disaffected to us and censured our innocent and honest designes, and since all people in all places where wee have yet bin can attest our civill quiet peaseable behavior farre different from that of Rebellion and tumultuous persons let Trueth be bold and all the world know the real Foundations of pretended giult, Wee appeal to the Country itself what and of what nature their Oppressions have been or by what Cabal and mystery the designs of many of those whom we call great men have been transacted, but let us trace these men in Authority and Favor to whose hands the dispensation of the Country’s wealth has been committed; let us observe the sudden Rise of their Estates composed with the Quality in which they first entered this Country Or the Reputation they have held here amongst wise and discerning men, And lett us see wither their extractions and Education have not bin vile, And by what pretence of learning and virtue they could soe soon into Imployments of so great Trust and consequence, let us consider their suddent advancement and let us also consider wither and Publick work for our safety and defence or for the Advancement and propogation of Trade, liberall Arts or sciences is here Extant in any adequate to our vast chardg, now let us compare these things togit and see what spounges have sucked up the Publique Treasure and wither it hath not been privately contrived away by unworthy Favourites and juggling Parasites whose tottering Fortunes have been repaired and supported at the Public chardg, now if it be so Judg what greater giult can bee then to offer to pry into these and to unriddle the mysterious wiles of a powerfull Cabal let all people Judge what can be of more dangerous Import then to suspect the soe long Safe proceedings of Some of our Grandees and wither People may with safety open their Eyes in soe nice a Concerne.

Another main article of our Giult is our open and manifest aversion to all, not only the Foreign but the protected and Darling Indians, this wee are informed is rebellion of a deep dye For that both the Governour and Councell are by Colonell Coales Assertion bound to defend the Queen and the Appamatocks with their blood Now whereas we doe declare and can prove that they have bin for these Many years enemies to the King and Country, Robbers and Theeves and Invaders of his Majesty’s Right and our Interest and Estates, but yet have by persons in Authority bin defended and protected even against His Majesty’s loyall Subjects and that in soe high a Nature that even the Complaints and oaths of his Majesty’s Most loyall Subjects in a lawfull Manner proffered by them against those barbourous Outlawes have bin by ye right honourable Governour rejected and ye Delinquents from his presence dismissed not only with pardon and indemnitye but with all incouragemnet and favour, Their Fire Arms soe destructfull to us and by our laws prohibited. Commanded to be restored them, and open Declaration before Witness made That they must have Ammunition although directly contrary to our law, Now what greater giult can be then to oppose and indeavour the destruction of these Honest quiet neighbours of ours.

Another main article of our Giult is our Design not only to ruin and extirpate all Indians in General but all Manner of Trade and Commerce with them, Judge who can be innocent that strike at this tender Eye of Interest; Since the Right honourable the Governour hath bin pleased by his Commission to warrant this Trade who dare oppose it, or opposing it can be innocent, Although Plantations be deserted, the blood of our dear Brethren Spilt, on all Sides our complaints, continually Murder upon Murder renewed upon us, who ma or dare think of the general Subversion of all Mannor of Trade and Commerce with our enemies who can or dare impeach any of [word is illegible] Traders at the Heades of the Rivers if contrary to the wholesome provision made by laws for the countries safety, they dare continue their illegall practices and dare asperse ye right hourable Governours wisdom and Justice soe highly to prentend to have his warrant to break that law weh himself made, who dare say that these Men at the Heads of the Rivers buy and seel our blood, and doe still notwithstanding the late Act made to the contrary, admit Indians painted and continue to Commerce, althought these things can be proved yet who dare bee soe giulty as to doe it.

Another article of our Giult is to Assert all those neighbor Indians as well as others to be outlawed, wholly unqualifying for the benefit and Protection of the law, For that the laws does reciprocally protect and punish, and thtat all people offending must either in person or Estate make equivalent satisfaction or Restitution according to the manner and merit of ye Offences Debts or Trespasses; Now since the Indians cannot according to the tenure and forme of any law to us known be prosecuted, Seised or Complained against, Their Persons being difficulty distinguished or known, Their many nations languages, and their subterfuges such as makes them incapeable to make us Restitution or satisfaction would it no be very giulty to say They have been unjustly defended and protected these many years.

If it should be said that the very foundation of all these disasters the Grant of the Beaver trade to the Right Hoourable Governour was illegall and not granteable by any power here present as being a monopoly, were not this to deserve the name of Rebell and Traytor.

Judge therefore all wise and unprejudiced men who may or can faithfully or truely with an honest heart attempt the country’s good, their vindication and libertie without the aspersion of Traitor and Rebell, since as soe doing they must of necessity gall such tender and dear concernes, But to manifest Sincerity and loyalty to the World, and how much wee abhorre those bitter names, may all the world know that we doe unanimously desire to represent our sad and heavy grievances to his most sacred Majesty as our Refuge and Sanctuary, where wee doe well know that all our Causes will be impartially heard and Equall Justice administred to all men.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Nathaniel Bacon's Manifesto Concerning the Present Troubles in Virginia
  • Date July 30, 1676
  • Author
  • Keywords Nathaniel Bacon, Bacon's Rebellion, Manifesto Concerning the Present Troubles in Virginia
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update September 27, 2022