Chronicles of America 

Berkeley's Rage

With Bacon's death there fell to pieces all this hopeful or unhopeful movement. Lawrence might have a subtle head and Drummond the courage to persevere; Hansford, Cheeseman, Bland, and others might have varied abilities. But the passionate and determined Bacon had been the organ of action; Bacon's the eloquence that could bring to the cause men with property to give as well as men with life to lose. It is a question how soon, had Bacon not died, must have failed his attempt at revolution, desperate because so premature.

Back came Berkeley from Accomac, his turbulent enemy thus removed. All who from the first had held with the King's Governor now rode emboldened. Many who had shouted more or less loudly for the rising star, now that it was so untimely set, made easy obeisance to the old sun. A great number who had wavered in the wind now declared that they had done no such thing, but had always stood steadfast for the ancient powers.

The old Governor, who might once have been magnanimous, was changed for the worse. He had been withstood; he would punish. He now gave full rein to his passionate temper, his bigotry for the throne, and his feeling of personal wrong. He began in Virginia to outlaw and arrest rebels, and to doom them to hasty trials and executions. There was no longer a united army to meet, but only groups and individuals striving for safety in flight or hiding. Hansford was early taken and hanged with two lieutenants of Bacon, Wilford and Farlow. Cheeseman died in prison. Drummond was taken in the swamps of the Chickahominy and carried before the Governor. Berkeley brought his hands together. "Mr. Drummond, you are very welcome! I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia! Mr. Drummond you shall be hanged in half an hour!" Not in half an hour, but on the same day he was hanged, imperturbable Scot to the last. Lawrence, held by many to have been more than Bacon the true author of the attempt, either put an end to himself or escaped northward, for he disappears from history. "The last account of Mr. Lawrence was from an uppermost plantation whence he and four other desperadoes with horses, pistols, etc., marched away in a snow ankle deep." They "were thought to have cast themselves into a branch of some river, rather than to be treated like Drummond." Thus came to early and untimely end the ringleaders of Bacon's Rebellion. In all, by the Governor's command, thirty-seven men suffered death by hanging.

There comes to us, down the centuries, the comment of that King for whom Berkeley was so zealous, a man who fell behind his colonial Governor in singleness of interest but excelled him in good nature. "That old fool," said the second Charles, "has hanged more men in that naked country than I have done for the murder of my father!"

That letter which Berkeley had written some months before to his sovereign about the "waters of rebellion" was now seen to have borne fruit. In January, while the Governor was yet running down fugitives, confiscating lands, and hanging "traitors," a small fleet from England sailed in, bringing a regiment of "Red Coates," and with them three commissioners charged with the duty of bringing order out of confusion. These commissioners, bearing the King's proclamation of pardon to all upon submission, were kinder than the irascible and vindictive Governor of Virginia, and they succeeded at last in restraining his fury. They made their report to England, and after some months obtained a second royal proclamation censuring Berkeley's vengeful course, "so derogatory to our princely clemency," abrogating the Assembly's more violent acts, and extending full pardon to all concerned in the late "rebellion," saving only the arch-rebel Bacon -- to whom perhaps it now made little difference if they pardoned him or not.

But with this piece of good nature, so characteristic of the second Charles, there came neither to the King in person nor to England as a whole any appreciation of the true ills behind the Virginian revolt, nor any attempt to relieve them. Along with the King's first proclamation came instructions for the Governor. "You shall be no more obliged to call an Assembly once every year, but only once in two years . . . . Also whensoever the Assembly is called fourteen days shall be the time prefixed for their sitting and no longer." And the narrowed franchise that Bacon's Assembly had widened is narrowed again. "You shall take care that the members of the Assembly be elected only by freeholders, as being more agreeable to the custom of England." Nor is the grant to Culpeper and Arlington revoked. Nor, wider and deeper, are the Navigation Laws in any wise bettered. No more than before, no more indeed than a century later, is there any conception that the child exists no more for the parent than the parent for the child.

Sir William Berkeley's loyalty had in the end overshot itself. His zeal fatigued the King, and in 1677 he was recalled to England. As Governor of Virginia he had been long popular at first but in his old age detested. He had great personal courage, fidelity, and generosity for those things that ran with the current of a deep and narrow soul. He passes from the New World stage, a marked and tragic figure. Behind him his vengeances displeased even loyalist Virginia, willing on the whole to let bygones be bygones among neighbors and kindred. It is said that; when his ship went down the river, bonfires were lighted and cannon and muskets fired for joy. And so beyond the eastward horizon fades the old reactionary.

Herbert Jeffreys and then Sir Henry Chicheley follow Berkeley as Governors of Virginia; they are succeeded by Lord Culpeper and he by Lord Howard of Effingham. King Charles dies and James the Second rules in England. Culpeper and Effingham play the Governor merely for what they can get for themselves out of Virginia. (In 1684 the Crown purchased from Culpeper all his rights except in the Northern Neck.) The price of tobacco goes down, down. The crops are too large; the old poor remedies of letting much acreage go unplanted, or destroying and burning where the measure of production is exceeded, and of petitions to the King, are all resorted to, but they procure little relief. Virginia cannot be called prosperous. England hears that the people are still disaffected and unquiet and England stolidly wonders why.

During the reign of the second Charles, Maryland had suffered from political unrest somewhat less than Virginia. The autocracy of Maryland was more benevolent and more temperate than that of her southern neighbor. The name of Calvert is a better symbol of wisdom than the name of Berkeley. Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, dying in 1675, has a fair niche in the temple of human enlightenment. His son Charles succeeded, third Lord Baltimore and Lord Proprietary of Maryland. Well-intentioned, this Calvert lacked something of the ability of either his father or his grandfather. Though he lived in Maryland while his father had lived in England, his government was not as wise as his father's had been.

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