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Colonial Conflicts and Rebellions

Before the unification of the American Colonies to form the United States of America, the colonies were divided internally. The colonies experienced a series of revolts and rebellions due to mounting social, political, and economic tensions. Like all rebellions and revolutions, they were led by the middle class. The friction occurred between parties like the Colonists and the British, the Colonists and the Native Americans, and the Colonists with each other. Many of these revolts and rebellions resulted in massacres and deaths, but in defense of the rebels, their reasons for rebellion was well established, while their actions during the rebellion can be abhorred. In Virginia, there was Bacon's Rebellion. The social precedents that led to this revolt was due to constant class struggles between the upper and lower classes. Those who resided in the Tidewater area of Jamestown led prosperous and secure lives, while those in the frontier lived in poverty, with poor soil for farming. Those who lived in the frontier were also constant victims of Native American raids and attacks, yet the upper class from Tidewater just turned their heads, negating the attacks that were occurring. The residents of the frontier needed aid, but no one was there to help them. Another social precedent the fact that many Roundheads and Cavaliers from England found safe haven in America here, some view the Bacon's rebellion as an image of the English Civil War. Political causes for the upcoming Bacon's rebellion was the poor leadership of Governor Berkeley, who was perceived as a corrupt leader and oppressed the lower classes. The misrepresentation of people in the Virginia House of Burgesses, which only allowed a seat for white, land-owning, Christian, men also made it unequal to all of the citizens of the town. Economic tensions could be tied into both social and political tensions as well. Mercantilism, the current economic policy of England at the time, hurt the colonies too, especially those of the lower classes because if its jacked up prices for the colonists. Plus, the decreasing value of tobacco due to competition from other colonies like Maryland and the Carolinas, put a drain on the small farmers of the crop in Virginia. The Maryland Rebellions was led by none other than John Coode. Coode was a priest, but gave up priesthood to marry a wealthy widow, Susannah Slyle. Soon after, he was elected to the Maryland's Assembly, but he was not satisfied, so he partook in a failed rebellion against the government. He was later taken out of office for his actions against the government. He followed this event up with a second rebellion that succeeded. The causes for this rebellion were primarily social causes. Maryland was originally a catholic colony, where most of the officials in power were catholic. After the Glorious Revolution in England, a wave of protestants migrated across the Atlantic and to Maryland. They were intimidated by all the Catholics in power and also because they failed to recognize William and Mary as the Protestant Rulers of England who had taken away power from the Catholic James II. Coode sought to fight the Catholic leaders in the name of "An association in arms, for the defence of the Protestant religion, and for asserting the right of King William and Queen Mary to the Province of Maryland and all the English dominions." After the rebellion he became Governor for a short while, but was replaced by a Royal Governor. Coode led two more rebellions in his lifetime, so it is unclear if whether he was really passionate about his causes, or if he just liked to pick fights with those in authority. In New York, Jacob Leisler led his rebellion. The cause for this rebellion was also mostly social. After the Catholic James II was replaced by the Protestant William and Mary in the Glorious Revolution, Governor Andros, of the Dominion of New England, which was created during the reign of James II, had to flee New York. The Dominion of New England was collapsing and he could not stay in New York because he was hated by the people of the colonies. Governor Andros was a big enforcer of the Navigation Acts. He was also a corrupt and harsh ruler who acted in his best interests. Leisler's Rebellion was a fight for power with Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson. Leisler's overthrew him and set up his own government with direct popular representation. Another policy of Leisler was to redistribute wealth to the poor. When William III appointed a royal governor for New York, Leisler refused to step down and was tried for treason and hanged. The Paxton Boys of Pennsylvania also led their own little revolt. The Paxton Boys were a group of men from the back country of Pennsylvania who banded together in defense of Native American attacks, specifically from Chief Pontiac's Rebellion. They felt that Pennsylvania's colonial government, which was mostly Quaker Pacifists, was not competent enough to provide aid and defense for those being attacked. The Paxton Boys took it upon themselves to find and kill the Native Americans before they harmed them. Even though there were no hostile Native Americans in the area, the Paxton Boys still attacked peaceful, Christian, Native Americans, the Conestoga. The Paxton Boys also brutally massacred a peaceful Native American village who had peaceful relations with the colonists as described by William Penn's peace treaty. They even broke the law and killed those under the protection of the government which in turn put a price on their head. Many colonists were appalled that the government would take the side of Native Americans rather than its own people. The Paxton Boys then set their sights on other Native American Tribes, but were eventually stopped by Benjamin Franklin and his Militia in Philadelphia. The Regulatory Movement in North Carolina was based on mostly Political tensions. It was a rebellion against corrupt officials. One could argue that it was the predecessor to the American Revolutionary War. The North Carolina county officials were cruel and corrupted. They were very governed their people in tyranny. Many officials of different counties banded with each other to form a united front in extorting money and imposing harsh taxes for their own personal gain. The colonial governor failed to act accordingly to stop the unjust actions of the officials because it was afraid that it would cost him the endorsements of the said officials. Culpepper's Rebellion in the Carolinas was also a political revolt. The current governor of Carolina, John Jenkins, was very weak minded and so, Thomas Miller, a customs official, established the "Proprietary Party" of what would be today's North Carolina, and named himself governor, replacing Jenkins. To combat Miller and his proprietary party's takeover of the colony, John Culpepper took it upon himself to establish the "Anti-Proprietary" party. Miller was captured but he eventually escaped and filed a suit against Culpepper in England. Culpepper was tried for treason but was later acquitted when evidence showed that Miller violated the charter by proclaiming his party and himself as governor. The many rebellions, revolts, and revolutions, are what shaped America to what it is today. It is the American right to challenge our Authority when the people feel that they are acting unjustly. All of the actions that took place, whether violent or not, exemplified the ideas and principles of the Enlightment Era thinkers, like the ideas of John Locke that said the people have a right to overthrow their government if their natural rights are being violated. All the small revolts and rebellions in the colonies are what paved the way to the big show, where the colonies would unite and demand independence from the crown and the right to govern themselves.

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