Summary of Bacon’s Oath of Fidelity
Late in the summer of 1676, during Bacon’s Rebellion, Governor William Berkeley formed his own army and took action against Nathaniel Bacon. Bacon decided he needed to make sure his men swore allegiance to him. He wrote this Oath of Fidelity and made them agree to it. He also convinced some members of the Governor’s Council and leading men in the colony to agree to it. By agreeing to the oath, they all swore allegiance to the King and branded Berkeley as a traitor.
Text of Bacon’s Oath of Fidelity
Whereas Sir William Berkeley Knight, late Governor of Virginia hath in a most Barbarous and abominable manner exposed and betrayed our lives, and for greediness of sordid Gaine did defer our just defence and hinder all the Loyall endeavours of his Majesties faithfull subjects; and further when the Country did raise a sufficient force for the effectual proceeding against the Indian Enemy, he did, contrary to all Equity and Justice and the tenors of his commission, endeavour to oppose the said forces by himself and the assembly sett forth: of which attempts being severall tymes defeated by the Peoples abhorrence of soe Bloody a design he left the country in a small vessell, it being unknown to all People to what parts of the world he did repair, and whereas as our army upon his departure betaking themselves to the care of the frontiers did march out against the Indians and obtain soe great a victory, as hath in a manner finished all the disaster and almost Resettled the country in a happy Peace, yet notwithstanding Sir Wm. Berkeley with forces raised in Accomack, did invade the country with acts of hostility, with all intentions to persecute the said Army with these afrsaid reasons, as also having betrayâd his Trust to the king by flying from his seate of Judicature, and acting wholly contrary to his commission. We protest against him unanimously as a Traytor and most pernitious Enemy to the Publick, and further we sweare that in all places of his Majestyes Colony of Virginia wee will oppose and prosecute him with all our Endeavours by all acts of hostility as occasion shall present, and further whereas Plotting and wishing in his heart a totall Ruine and Destruction of this Poore colony he hath Endeavoured to set the heart of our Soveraigne against us by false Information and Lyes, requesting Forces of his Majestie wherewith to compell and subdue, us hindering, intercepting and preventing all our Remonstrances for Peace, which might have gone home in our Justification, as also hindering of our sending home of agents in the Peoples behalf which was the most humble and earnest request of the People at first. We doe further declare and sweare that wee think it absolutely consisting with our allegiance and Loyalty to treat with and discourse wth the said fforces and commissioners with all submission to his Majesty. But otherwise if it shall soe prove that notwithstanding all intreaties and offers wee shall make, they shall offer to land by Force, in our owne Defense to fly together as in a common calamity and jointly with the present army now under the command of General Bacon, to stand or fall in the Defense of him and the country in soe just a cause, and in all places to oppose their Proceedings (onely untill such time as his Majesty by our agents shall fully understand the miserable case of the country, and the Justice of our Proceedings) Which most just request if they shall refuse and by force endevour to enter the country, wee are resolvâd to uphold the country as long as we can and never to absent and joyne with any such army whatever, and lastly in case of utmost extremity rather than submit to any soe miserable a slavery (when none can longer defend ourselves, our lives and Liberties) to acquit the colony rather than submitt to soe unheard of Injustice, and this wee all sweare in the presence of Almighty God as unfeignedly and freely as ever wee desire of him for happiness to come.
By the General.