Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Morning Madonna

Workshop of Gerard David (Netherlandish, ca. 1460–1523), Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1514.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were the core of early Western art.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

17C - 19C Divorce & Wayward Wife Ads in Early America

"Stafford County, October 13th, 1751. RAN away from the Subscriber, this Day, a Servant Man, named William Frye...had on when he went away a bluish grey Kersey Coat, with yellow Buttons...The said Runaway went off with the Wife of the Subscriber, named Mary, a short, thick Woman of a dark Complexion, with black hair, black Eyes, aged about 30 Years, and has lost one of her front Teeth: She is a neat Woman in Sewing, Spinning, and knitting Stockngs, and can do almost any Manner of Taylors Work, but is oblig'd to use Spectacles when at Work. She took with her a striped Silk Stuff Gown...And, as the above-mentioned Mary has eloped from her said Husband, I hereby foreward all Persons from trusting her on my Account, for I will not pay any Debts she shall contract after the Publication hereof."  (Virginia Gazette (Hunter), Williamsburg, October 31, 1751.)

Because divorce was nearly impossible under the 17C - 18C laws of England & its colonial British American colonies, male colonists, ready to end their marriages, began to declare publicly that their wives had deserted their "bed & board," just as they had seen done in England. In England, desertion or elopement was one possible method of ending a marriage, whereby the wife was forced out of the family home, or the husband simply set up a new home with a new love. For husbands of the period, the ads were often accepted as an efficient & relatively inexpensive way to “self-divorce,” simultaneously protecting both their purses & reputations. 

In her book "Scarce Any Ways or Means;" The Separated Woman in Colonial Maryland 1634-1776, Karen Ann Lubienieck sees these adds as a husband's method of no longer having to assume responsibility for their wives debts, a major obligation of coverture. In the 17C & 18C colonial economy, there were few cash transactions, almost all were based on credit. "A man's advertisement in effect could quite literally 'discredit' his wife, and keep her from spending money that he would have to repay."

Before the American Revolution, a woman gave up so many civil & property rights when she married, that some said brides were entering a state of "civil death." Colonial law was based upon English common law. Predicated on "precedent & fixed principles," common law had dictated a subordinate position for women. Married colonial women generally were not allowed to make contracts, devise wills, take part in other legal transactions, or control any wages they might earn. All property & monies which the new wife owned before her marriage immediately became the sole property of her new husband, leaving her with nothing.  One of the few legal advantages of marriage for a woman was that her husband was obligated to support her & be responsible for her debts. One exception to this practice was in colonial Plymouth, Massachusetts, most notably contained in prenuptial agreements, where brides-to-be could enter into contractual agreements on the consolidation of property upon marriage. In some cases, especially in 2nd marriages, women in Plymouth were given exclusive right to retain control of their property separately from their husbands 

Wayward wife ads were useful as a punitive measure against the discarded wife as well. The term “elope” implied that the wife had committed adultery, so that the ad not only protected the husband’s finances, but also could ruin his wife’s reputation, whether or not the allegation of immoral behavior was true. Sometimes wives did leave their homes with the options for women in unhappy or abusive marriages tragically limited, many simply fled.

The earliest known example was in 1656, according to historian Kirsten Denise Sword, whose 2002 Harvard dissertation was on “Wayward Wives, Runaway Slaves and the Limits of Patriarchal Authority in Early America.” In 1656, Christopher Lawson posted notices around Boston warning that “none should trust” his wife Elizabeth, who he claimed planned to “blemish my name ... and ruine my estate.”

Each public ad, whether in a broadside or a newspaper, usually contained 3 consistent components: 

a reference to “my bed & board,” 
an indication that the wife had “eloped,” 
& a declaration that the husband would “no longer be responsible for her debts.”

Historian Sarah Leavitt, who analyzed such advertisements in colonial Rhode Island, described the “almost routine” phrasing: “After identifying the wife, the abandoned husband proceeded to an explanation of what she had done. Stating that she had left his bed & board was fundamental …‘My bed & board’ is perhaps the key phrase in the advertisements. Embedded in these words is the very essence of marital existence for women in the late 18C: in the eyes of the law, married women did not live in their own homes ...The most important reason for an abandoned husband to place a notice in the newspaper was to warn all local businesses, tavern & inn keepers, & other persons that he would no longer pay the debts incurred by his wife. This disclaimer of financial responsibility could have the most serious consequences for a runaway wife.”

Not all advertisements were posted by men. Women occasionally posted their own notices to get ahead of any speculation as to who had left whom, and why. Some women used the classified ads as a way to describe—in detail—the extent to which they had been victims of domestic abuse. Elizabeth Dunlap, a woman from Salem County New Jersey, had decided to leave her husband, James Dunlap, after years of abuse. During the week of March 18-25, 1742 James Dunlap published a notice in the American Weekly Mercury warning the public that his wife had “eloped” & that he would no longer be responsible for her debts. She denied the accusation on April 8, 1742, contending that she had fled the home for “the safety of her life.” In addition she warned that she would not agree to his sale of land to which she claimed a third by right of dower. James Dunlap published his own rebuttal during the week of June 10-17, 1742, denying Elizabeth's charges. (Documents relating to the Colonial History of New Jersey, 1895).

Morning Madonna

Unknown Master, French Virgin and Child with Angels 1395

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were the core of early Western art.

Monday, November 23, 2015

17C - 19C American Slaves Supplementing Food Allocations - The Slave Garden or Huck Patch

Occasionally slave owners in the 17C & 18C allowed their workers to layout and plant small gardens to supplement the usually meager food provisions allocated to the field slaves. Some masters intentionally delegated a small plot of ground for this purpose near the slave quarters. Slaves would prepare their garden plots after sundown and on Sundays when most had a lighter work schedule.

The problems with planting and harvesting herbs and vegetables were the same for both groups of gardeners; and of course, the slaves knew the challenges well, since they planted and maintained the gardens of their masters. Nature makes no class distinctions. It would be relatively easy to save the seeds for annuals, just as they did for their masters year to year. The wealthy landowner would have his slaves build a wall or intricate fence around his plantation's kitchen garden to keep deer and other interlopers at bay, and his slaves would need to find a way to do the same.

Permitting slaves to independently raise produce, and even livestock, was not new in the 18C Chesapeake. Earlier in 17C Virginia, some masters had allowed their slaves to grow tobacco, corn, horses, hogs, and cattle and to sell them to gain enough money to buy their freedom and the freedom of their wives and children. Sensing that this was a serious threat to their labor pool, in 1692, the Virginia General Assembly ordered slave owners to confiscate "all horses, cattle and hoggs marked of any negro or other slaves marked, or by any slave kept."

Apparently the practice of allowing independent garden plots had begun again in the first half of the 18C or earlier. In 1732, traveller Hugh Grove noted Virginia slaves planting "little Plats for potatoes or Indian pease and Cimnells."

Cimnells were small squash. In addition to field peas and squash, Chesapeake slaves also planted potatoes, beans, onions, and collards. All these crops could be eaten raw, boiled in an old pot, or roasted in the coals of a small fire. Over winter, the slaves could store some of their produce inconspicuously in the ground, banking them just like they did for the master.

In the warmer climate of South Carolina, slaves were growing more familiar heat-loving varieties of vegetables. In the 1720s, Mark Catesby recorded a new variety of yam in South Carolina, calling it, "a welcome improvement among the Negroes," who were "delighted with all their African food, particularly this, which a great part of Africa subsists on." Slaves in the Lowcountry could grow tania roots, millet, sorghum, sesame, peppers, and okra in addition to the traditional colonial vegetables.

In the Chesapeake, those with larger plots might attempt to grow mellons and corn, which required more room to grow and would certainly draw more attention from the gentry; something that might be considered risky by a group of people trying to maintain a low profile just to survive. A good slave did what he was told and kept his mouth shut. The slave might appreciate the autonomy a little patch of garden land would give him, but he wouldn't advertise it.

A few years later, in the 1740s, itinerant Chesapeake traveler, Edward Kimber also mentioned that slaves were cultivating "the little Spots allow'd them."

Slaveowners knew they could learn about both life and gardening from their enslaved servants.

In 1771, Virginian Landon Carter wrote in his diary, "I walkt out this even to see how my very old and honest Slave Jack Lubber did to support life in his Extreme age; and I found him prudently working amongst his melon vines, both to tivert the hours and indeed to keep nature stirring that indigestion might not hurry him off with great pain." Carter took "notice of his Pea Vines a good store and askt him why he had not got them hilled." Lubber replied, "they have not got age wnough and it will hurt too young things to coast them too closely with earth." Carter wrote that his answer showed, "the Prudence of Experience."

In March 1774, New Englander Philip Fithian, who had journeyed south to temporarily tutor the children of Robert Carter at Nomini Hall, watched as, "Negroes make a fence; they drive into the Ground Chesnut stakes about two feet apart in a straight Row, & then twist in the Boughs of Savin which grows in great plenty here." The savin or red cedar would be easy to weave in and out of the more permanent stakes. A month later he noted the plantation's slaves "digging up their small Lots of ground allow'd by their Master for Potatoes, peas &c; All such work for themselves they constantly do on Sundays, as they are otherwise employed on every other Day." One of Robert Carter's slaves offered Fithian "Eggs, Apples, Potatoes."

About 20 years later, Englishman Isaac Weld also wrote of the slave quarters in Virginia: "Adjoining their little habitations, the slaves commonly have small gardens and yards for poultry, which are all their own property… their gardens are generally found well stocked, and their flocks of poultry numerous." If the master allowed his slaves to keep poultry, the slave not only took advantage of the extra food, but also sold some of the chickens for extra spending money.

Virginia planter James Mercer declared that the "Negroes…are the general Chicken merchants" in the state.

In Maryland, as Colonel Nicholas Rogers (1753-1822) planned a new home in the 1780s, he designated an area for the household slaves to plant their own garden. Back of the master's house at the end of this second yard, an area measuring 36' by 82' was dedicated "For Servants' Vegetable Patch or For Other Purposes." Within the area was an 18' by 16' slave quarter with the remainder of this long rectangular plot to be used by the slaves to grow fruits & vegetables.

Peter Hatch, long-time director of Thomas Jefferson's gardens and grounds at Monticello, reports that "Jefferson's Memorandum Books, which detailed virtually every financial transaction that he engaged in between 1769 and 1826, as well as the account ledger kept by his granddaughter, Anne Cary Randolph, between 1805 and 1808, document hundreds of transactions involving the purchase of produce from Monticello slaves."

Hatch calculates that the records show the purchase of 22 species of fruits & vegetables from as many as 43 different individuals..."much of the produce purchased from Monticello slaves was out of season: potatoes were sold in December and February, hominy beans and apples purchased in April, and cucumbers bought in January. Archaeological excavations of slave cabins at Monticello indicate the widespread presence of root cellars, which not only served as secret hiding places, but surely as repositories for root crops and other vegetables amenable to cool, dark storage...

"Both Jefferson and Ann Cary specified the person from whom they purchased vegetables and fruit; however, the person involved in the sale might not have been the one gardening. Thirty-one males, averaging about 37 years of age, and twelve females, averaging 41 years old, were involved in the transactions. Since many of the sellers were older, seven of the males were over fifty, they may have been representing the family garden. Squire, for example, a former Peter Jefferson slave leased by Thomas Jefferson from his mother, represented the most sophisticated garden. He sold thirteen different commodities, including cymlins (a patty-pan-shaped squash), potatoes, lettuce, beets, watermelons, apples, and muskmelons. He sold a cucumber to Jefferson on January 12, 1773, suggesting either that the fruit was pickled and preserved, or that artificial heat in a cold frame or hot bed was used to bring this tender vegetable to fruition in the middle of winter, a rather remarkable feat in 18th-century Virginia. Bagwell, Squire's son-in-law, was also a major supplier, and sold Jefferson sixty pounds of hops for twenty dollars...
"Israel Gillette Jefferson, a waiter and carder in the Monticello cloth factory, represented another productive African American family garden. His father, Ned or Edward Gilette, sold watermelons, beans, and potatoes, while Israel sold large quantities of cabbage, fifty to one hundred at a time. Caesar, a farm laborer at Shadwell, Jefferson's birthplace and a satellite farm to Monticello, was another major supplier of cucumbers, cabbages, and greens, and Burwell Colbert, probably Jefferson's most valued and trusted slave, sold 'sprouts' to Jefferson. Boys and girls were also involved in the bartering process; Billy, at the age of eight, sold strawberries, perhaps collected from the wild, while Madison and Eston Hemings, most likely Jefferson's sons by Sally Hemings, were 15 and 18 when selling 100 cabbages to Jefferson in 1822."

Hatch further notes that "Except for watermelons, and perhaps sweet potatoes, few of the sold fruits and vegetables were either African in origin, or closely associated with African American food culture. Cucumbers were the most common commodity, with 23 transactions, followed by cabbages, watermelons, hops, Irish potatoes, cymlins, and greens."

In 1792, George Washington wrote to English agricultural writer Arthur Young, "Ground is often allowed them for gardening, and priviledge given them to raise dung-hill fowls for their own use."

Julian Niemcewicz reported visitin George Washington's Mount Vernon in 1797. He noted that in the slave quarters, "a small vegetable garden was situated close to the hut. Five or six hens, each with ten or fifteen chickens, walked around there. That is the only pleasure allowed to Negroes: they are not permitted to keep either ducks or geese or pigs. They sell the chickens in Alexandria and with the money buy some furniture."

In Virginia, Englishman John Davis visiting the Spencer Ball plantation in Prince William County about 1800, wrote that one old slave declared, "There is few masters like the `Squire.' He has allowed me to build a log-house, and take in a patch of land, where I raise corn and water Melions." Perhaps it was easier for the older slaves, who usually were not assigned as much heavy labor, to keep an eye on the growing slave gardens.

In Maryland, an 1801 garden plan for Colonel Nicholas Rogers's property in Baltimore indicates a space in one of the far corners of the property "for servants vegetable patch or for other purposes." This garden space that Rogers chose for his slaves was inelegantly bounded by the slave quarter, the privy, and the hog pen. 

Elderly Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence, advised his overseer in 1823, that his new slave, "Clem a blacksmith must not have more priveleges than my other slaves or be better fed...he desires a huck patch; these I many of my slaves have that privelege."

Convict servant, who was not a slave, James Revel wrote a poem about his experiences in The Poor Unhappy Transported Felon's Sorrowful Account of His Fourteen Years Transportation, At Virginia, in America.

At last to my new master's house I came,
To the town of Wicowoco called by name,
Here my European cloaths were took from me,
Which never after I could see.

A canvas shirt and trowsers me they gave,

A hop-sack frock, in which I was a slave,
No shoes or stockings had I for to wear,
Nor hat, nor cap, my hands and feet went bare.

Thus dress'd unto the field I next did go,

Among tobacco plants all day to hoe.
At day break in the morn our work begun,
And lasted till the setting of the sun.

My fellow slaves were five transports more,

With eighteen negroes, which is twenty-four,
Besides four transport women in the house,
To wait upon his daughter and his spouse.

We and the negroes both alike did fare,

Of work and food we had an equal share;
And in a piece of ground that's call'd our own,
That we eat first by ourselves was sown.

No other time to us they will allow,

But on a Sunday we the same must do,
Six days we slave for our master's good,
The seventh is to produce our food.

And when our hard day's work is done,

Away unto the mill we must begone.
Till twelve or one o'clock a-grinding corn,
And must be up by day-light in the morn.

The above poem was Published in York, England in 1800, the full text of the book may be found at the site of the collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina and Duke University called Documenting the South.

To see Peter Hatch's full article go to the Twinleaf Journal.

The role of slaves in the 16C-19C American agricultural economy

African peoples were captured & transported to the Western Hemisphere to work.  Most European colonial economies in the Americas from the 16C - 19C were dependent on enslaved African labor for their survival.  The rationale of European colonial officials was that the abundant land they had "discovered" in the Americas was useless without sufficient labor to exploit it.  Only some 450,000 of the nearly 10 million Africans who survived the Middle Passage across the Atlantic to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade settled in the continental United States. Nevertheless, these 450,000 had grown to more than 4 million people of African descent by 1860, the dawn of the Civil War.

South Carolina

Slavery was not limited to the Western Hemisphere.  The trans-Saharan slave trade had long supplied enslaved African labor to work on sugar plantations in the Mediterranean alongside white slaves from Russia & the Balkans. This same trade also sent as many as 10,000 slaves a year to serve owners in North Africa, the Middle East, & the Iberian Peninsula.

Cartouche Shipping Hogsheads of Tobacco from Frye-Jefferson map of Virginia, 1755

Of the millions of immigrants who survived the crossing of the Atlantic & settled in the Western Hemisphere between 1492 -1776, only about 1 million were Europeans. The remaining were African. An average of 80 % of these enslaved Africans—men, women, & children—were employed, mostly as field-workers. Women as well as children worked in some capacity.

More than half of the enslaved African captives in the Americas were employed on sugar plantations. Sugar developed into the leading slave-produced commodity in the Americas.  During the 16C & 17C, Brazil dominated the production of sugarcane. One of the earliest large-scale manufacturing industries was established to convert the juice from the sugarcane into sugar, molasses, & eventually rum, the alcoholic beverage of choice of the triangular trade.  The profits made from the sale of these goods in Europe, as well as the trade in these commodities in Africa, were used to purchase more slaves.

Tobacco Advertisement Card, Newman’s Best Virginia, 1700s

By 1750, both free & enslaved black people in the British American colonies, despite the hardships of their lives, manifested a deepening attachment to America. The majority of blacks by now had been born in America, rather than in Africa. While a collective cultural memory of Africa was maintained, personal & direct memories had waned. Slave parents began to give their children biblical rather than African names. 

Tobacco Label, Ford’s Virginia

During the British American colonial period in the United States, tobacco was the dominant slave-produced commodity.  During the colonial era, 61% of all American slaves -- nearly 145,000 -- lived in Virginia & Maryland, working the tobacco fields in small to medium-sized gangs. Planters who owned hundreds of slaves often divided them among several plantations. In the North & the Upper South, masters & bondpeople lived close to each other.  Rice & indigo plantations in South Carolina also employed enslaved African labor.  The South Carolina & Georgia coastal rice belt had a slave population of 40,000. Because rice requires precise irrigation & a large, coordinated labor force, enslaved people lived & worked in larger groups. Plantation owners lived in towns like Charleston or Savannah & employed white overseers to manage their far-flung estates. Overseers assigned a task in the morning, & slaves tended to their own needs, when the assigned work was completed. The region was atypical, because of its more flexible work schedules and more isolated and independent slave culture.

Indigo Production South Carolina. William DeBrahm, A Map of South Carolina and a Part of Georgia  London, published by Thomas Jeffreys, 1757.

Exhausted land caused a decline in tobacco production, & the American Revolution cost Virginia & Maryland their principal European tobacco markets, & for a brief period of time after the Revolution. The future of slavery in the United States was in jeopardy. Most of the northern states abolished it, & even Virginia debated abolition in the Virginia Assembly.

Slave Auction. New York Illustrated News; January 26, 1861

The invention of the cotton gin in 1793, gave slavery a new life in the United States. Between 1800 -  1860, slave-produced cotton expanded from South Carolina & Georgia to newly colonized lands west of the Mississippi. This shift of the slave economy from the upper South (Virginia & Maryland) to the lower South was accompanied by a comparable shift of the enslaved African population to the lower South & West.

Hauling Cotton US South. Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

After the abolition of the slave trade in 1808, the principal source of the expansion of slavery into the lower South was the domestic slave trade from the upper South.  By 1850, 1.8 million of the 2.5 million enslaved Africans employed in agriculture in the United States were working on cotton plantations.

Picking Cotton. Ballou's Pictorial (Boston, Jan. 23, 1858)

The vast majority of enslaved Africans employed in plantation agriculture were field hands. Some coastal owners used slaves as fishermen.  Even on plantations, however, they worked in many other capacities. Some were domestics & worked as butlers, waiters, maids, seamstresses, & launderers. Others were assigned as carriage drivers, hostlers, & stable boys. Artisans—carpenters, stonemasons, blacksmiths, millers, coopers, spinners, & weavers—were also employed as part of plantation labor forces.

Slave Auction. The Illustrated London News; February 16, 1861

Enslaved Africans also worked in urban areas. Upward of 10% of the enslaved African population in the United States lived in cities. Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, Mobile, New York, Philadelphia, & New Orleans all had sizable slave populations. In the southern cities, they totaled approximately a third of the population.

Edwin Forbes (1839-1895) Stacking Wheat in Culpepper, Virginia 1863

The range of slave occupations in cities was vast. Domestic servants dominated, but there were carpenters, fishermen, coopers, draymen, sailors, masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters, & porters. Although most worked directly for their owners, others were hired out to work as skilled laborers on plantations, on public works projects, & in industrial enterprises. A small percentage hired themselves out & paid their owners a percentage of their earnings.

Picking Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

Each plantation economy was part of a larger national & international political economy. The cotton plantation economy, for instance, is generally seen as part of the regional economy of the American South. By the 1830s, "cotton was king" indeed in the South. It was also king in the United States, which was competing for economic leadership in the global political economy. Plantation-grown cotton was the foundation of the antebellum southern economy.

 Ginning Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

The American financial & shipping industries were also dependent on slave-produced cotton, as was the British textile industry. Cotton was not shipped directly to Europe from the South. Rather, it was shipped to New York & then transshipped to England & other centers of cotton manufacturing in the United States & Europe.  As the cotton plantation economy expanded throughout the southern region, banks & financial houses in New York supplied the loan capital &/or investment capital to purchase land & slaves.

Harvesting Sugar Cane, Louisiana Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853)

As an inexpensive source of labor, enslaved Africans in the United States also became important economic & political capital in the American political economy. Enslaved Africans were legally a form of property—a commodity. Individually & collectively, they were frequently used as collateral in all kinds of business transactions. They were also traded for other kinds of goods & services.

Slave Market. Harper's Weekly, January 24, 1863

The value of the investments slaveholders held in their slaves was often used to secure loans to purchase additional land or slaves. Slaves were also used to pay off outstanding debts. When calculating the value of estates, the estimated value of each slave was included. This became the source of tax revenue for local & state governments. Taxes were also levied on slave transactions.

Planting Rice US South. Harper's Monthly Magazine (1859)

Politically, the U.S. Constitution incorporated a feature that made enslaved Africans political capital—to the benefit of southern states. The so-called three-fifths compromise allowed the southern states to count their slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of calculating states' representation in the U.S. Congress. Thus the balance of power between slaveholding & non-slaveholding states turned, in part, on the three-fifths presence of enslaved Africans in the census.  Slaveholders were taxed on the same three-fifths principle, & no taxes paid on slaves supported the national treasury. In sum, the slavery system in the United States was a national system that touched the very core of its economic & political life.


Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  

Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture, ed. Howard Dodson. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society.  2003., compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. 

American Slaves & Tobacco

Within a decade after the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia began exporting tobacco to England. The alluring weed had been known in Europe for more than a century; sailors on early voyages of exploration had brought back samples & descriptions of the ways in which natives had used it. 

Slaves Working in Virginia by Anonymous c. 1670

Smoking tobacco had increased in popularity during the 16C; thus, even though James I viewed it “so vile & stinking a custom,” it was a relief to the English to find a source of supply so that tobacco importation from the Spanish would be unnecessary.

Tobacco Paper, Virginia, 17C Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia

Particularly suited to Virginia, tobacco needed a long growing season & fertile soil. Furthermore, it could be cultivated in small areas, on only partly cleared fields, & with the most rudimentary implements.  

Virginia Tobacco Plantation

As successive plantings exhausted the original fertility of a particular plot, new land was readily available, & British ships could move up the rivers of the Virginia coast to load their cargoes at the plantation docks. All that remained was for the colonists to learn the proper curing, handling, & shipping of tobacco; & for many years the American product was inferior to the tobacco produced in Spain. Nevertheless, colonial tobacco was protected in the English market, & the fact that it was cheaper led to steady increases in its portion of the tobacco trade. The culture of tobacco spread northward around the Chesapeake Bay & moved up the many river valleys. By the end of the 17C, there was some production in North Carolina.

Tobacco Production, Virginia, 1700s Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia

American tobacco swelled the supply of tobacco in British & European markets; & tobacco prices fell precipitously, until the last quarter of the 17C. By the turn of the 18C, it was apparent that the competition in colonial tobacco production would be won by large plantations; & that if the small planters were to succeed at all, they would have to specialize in high-quality tobacco or in the production of food & other crops such as wheat.

Shipping Tobacco 1700s A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia..., by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson (ca. 1755).

Larger production units were favored in tobacco cultivation because slaves working in large groups could be closely supervised. To achieve the best results, a plantation owner needed enough slaves to ensure the economical use of a plantation manager.

Tobacco Production in Virginia 1821 Richard Holmes Laurie, Publisher (London, April 12, 1821).

A plantation with fewer than 10 slaves intermittently prospered, but larger units earned substantial returns above cost, provided they were properly managed & contained sufficient acreage to avoid soil exhaustion. Thus, the wealthy, those who were able to secure adequate credit from English & Scottish factors, attained more efficient scales of tobacco production; &, in so doing, became even wealthier & further improved their credit standing.

1700s English Tobacco label New York City Public Library

Recruited as an inexpensive source of labor, enslaved Africans in the United States also became important economic & political capital in the American political economy. Enslaved Africans were legally a form of property—a commodity. Individually & collectively, they were frequently used as collateral in all kinds of business transactions. They were also traded for other kinds of goods & services.

Representation of a Tent Boat, or Plantation Barge c. 1772 - 1777

The value of the investments slaveholders held in their slaves was often used to secure loans to purchase additional land or slaves. Slaves were also used to pay off outstanding debts. When calculating the value of estates, the estimated value of each slave was included. This became a source of tax revenue for local & state governments. Taxes were also levied on some slave transactions.

1788 The Federalist Title Page.  A Tobacco Plantation

Of the first 6.5 million people who crossed the Atlantic & settled in the Americas during the colonial period (1492-1776), only 1 million were Europeans. The other 5.5 million were African. Only some 450,000 of the Africans who survived the Middle Passage during the transatlantic slave trade settled in the continental United States. Nevertheless, these 450,000 had grown to more than 4 million people of African descent by 1860 near the start of the Civil War.

A map...of Virginia...Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751 Showing Hogsheads of Tobacco Being Readied for Export

The American Revolution cost Virginia & Maryland their principal European tobacco markets, & for a brief period of time after the Revolution, the future of slavery in the United States was in jeopardy. Most of the northern states abolished it, & even Virginia debated abolition in the Virginia Assembly.

Virginia Plantation Owner

 Plantation of the York River in Virginia

Tobacco Label - 18C  “ROLLS’s Best Virginia in Whites - Alley Chancery - Lane, LONDON

 Tobacco Label c. 1740 - 1776 

 Tobacco Label c. 1740 - 1770

Tobacco Label c. 1740 - 1770 Margerum’s Best Virginia at Church Street in Hackney

 Trade Card

1676 Ann Cotton's Account of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia - about those Native Americans once again

In 1676, about 1,000 Virginians broke out of control led by a 29-year-old planter, Nathaniel Bacon. They fiercely resented Virginia's Governor William Berkeley for his friendly policies towards the Indians. When Berkeley refused to retaliate for a series of savage Indian attacks on frontier settlements (due to his monopolization of the fur trading with them), the crowd took matters into their own hands. The crowd murderously attacked Indians and chased Berkeley from Jamestown, Virginia. They torched the capitol.

As the civil war in Virginia continued, Bacon suddenly died from disease. Berkeley took advantage of this and crushed the uprising, hanging more than 20 rebels. Charles II complained of the penalties dealt by Berkeley.

Due to the rebellions and tensions started by Bacon, lordly planters looked for other, less troublesome laborers to work their tobacco plantations. They soon looked to Africa for their cheap labor.

This is not a contemporary depiction.

Although the following letters & proclamations are not easy to read, they reflect life in 17th century Virginia in rather amazing detail. A woman named Ann Cotton wrote her eyewitness account of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia in 1676. The letter is at once an intricate puzzle & a revealing look at the society & events of the era. At the time, the letter sent to England was a journalistic effort of some note. Today the letter is a primary-source history of continuing consequence & intrigue. Exactly who was Ann Cotton, & who are all of the folks she refers to in her account with often veiled or obscure references?

It is difficult to determine exactly who Ann Cotton was, but the evidence indicates that a woman named Ann appeared early in the colony with her future husband, John Cotton. Ann Cotton may have been Ann Dunbar whose name appeared on several headright lists next to John Cotton. The names John Cotton & Ann Dunbar first appear together in Drummond's 1661 headright application. Then in Nov. 1666, John Paine applied for a headright for 18 people and listed John Cotton & Ann Dunbar side by side. Some suggest that John Cotton may have married a 2nd Ann, Hannah Anne Graves.

John & Ann Cotton bought the Wheeler plantation Hampton Parish. The records show that a deed dated Feb 18, 1658/59, by which Francis Wheeler sold all his land between King's and Queen's Creeks to Thomas Beale, who sold it to John Cotton, December 31, 1666, who later conveyed it to Col. Nathaniel Bacon. John Cotton in a deed in 1666, named a wife Ann. (William and Mary College Quarterly 5 (1) 123-4). In 1676, a John & Ann Cotton were living at Queen's Creek.

An Account of Our Late Troubles in Virginia. Written by An. Cotton, of Q. Creeke

To Mr. C. H. at Yardley in Northamptonshire. Sir. I haveing seene yours directed to (text missing) and considering that you cannot have your desires satisfied that way, for the forementioned reasons, I have by his permition, adventured to send you this briefe acount, of those affaires, so far as I have bin informed. The Susquehanians and Marylanders of friendes being ingaged enimyes (as hath by former letter bin hinted to you) and that the Indians being ressalutely bent not to forsake there forte; it came to this pointe, yt the Marylanders were obliged (findeing themselves too weake to do the worke themselves) to suplycate (too some granted) aide of the Verginians, put under the conduct of one Collonel Washington (him whom you have sometimes seene at your howse) who being joyned with the Marylanders, invests the Indians in there forte, with a neglegent siege; upon which the enimye made severall salleys, with as many losses to the beseegers; and at last gave them the opertunity to disart the Fort, after that the English had (contrary to ye law of arms) beate out the Braines of 6 grate men sent out to treate a peace: an action of ill consequence, as it proved after. For the Indians having in the darke, slipt through the Legure, and in there passage knock’d 10 of the beseigers on the head, which they found fast a-sleep, leaving the rest to prosecute the Seige, (as Scoging’s Wife brooding the Eggs which the Fox had suck’d) they resolved to imploy there liberty in avenging there Commissionres blood, which they speedily effected in the death of sixty inosscent soules, and then send in there Remonstrance to the Governour, in justification of the fact, with this expostulation annext: Demanding what it was moved him to take up arms against them, his professed friends, in the behalfe of the Marylanders, there avowed enimyes. 

Declaring there sorow to see the Verginians, of friends to becom such violent enimies as to persue the Chase into anothers dominions; complains that their messengers, sent out for peace, were not only knocked on the head, but the fact countenanced by the governor, for which finding no other way to be satisfied, they had revenged themselves by killing ten for one of the English, such being the disproportion between their men murdered and those by them slain, theirs being persons of quality, the other of inferior rank professing that they may not have a valuable satifaction for the damage they had sustained by the English, and the Virginians would withdraw from their aid from the Marylanders' quarrel; that then they would renew the league with Sir W. B., otherwise they would prosecute the war to the last man, and the hardest send of.

This was fair play for fowl gamesters. But the proposals not to be allowed of as being contrary to the honor of the English, the Indians procede, and, having drawn the neighboring Indians into their aid in a short time, they commited abundance of unguarded and unrevenged murders, by which means a great man of the outward plantations were deserted, the doing whereof did not only terrify the whole colony, but supplanted what esteem the people formerly had for Sir W. B., whom they judged too remiss in applying means to stop the fury of the heathen, and to settle their affections and expectations upon one Esquire Bacon, newly come to the country, one of the council, and nearly related to your late wife's father in law, whom they desired might be commissioned general for the Indian war, which Sir William, for some reasons best known to himself, denying, the gentleman, without any scruple, accepted of a commission from the people's affections, signed by the emergencies of affairs and the country's danger, and forthwith advanced with a small party, composed of such that own his authority, against the Indians, on whom, it is said, he did signal execution. 

In his absence, he and those with him, were declared rebels to the state, May 29, and forces raised to reduce him to his obedience, at the head of which the governor advanced some 30 or 40 miles to find Bacon out, but not knowing which way he was gon, he dismisseth his army, retireing himself and councell, to James Towne, there to be redy for the assembly, which was now upon the point of meeting: Whither Bacon some few days after his return hom from his Indian march, repared to render an account of his servis; for which himself and most of those with him in the expedition, were imprissoned; from whence they were freed by judgment in court upon Bacon’s tryall, himself readmitted into the councell and promised a commission the Monday following (this was on the Saturday) against the Indians; with which deluded, he smothers his resentments, and beggs leave to visit his Lady (now sick, as he pretended) which granted, he returnes to Towne at the head of 4 or 5 hundred men, well Arm’d: reassumes his demands for a commission. Which, after som howers strugling with the Governour, being obtained, according to his desire, hee takes order for the countreyes security, against the attemps of sculking Indians; fills up his numbers and provissiones, according to the gage of his commission; and so once more advanceth against the Indians, who heareing of his approaches, calls in their Runers and scouts, be taking themselves to there subterfuges and lurking holes. 

The General (for so he was now denominated) had not reach’d the head of York River, but that a Post overtakes him, and informes, that Sr. W. B. was a raiseing the Traine-bands in Glocester, with an intent, eather to fall into his reare, or otherways to cutt him off when he should return wery and spent from his Indians servis. This strange newes put him, and those with him, shrodly to there Trumps, beleiveing that a few such Deales or shufles (call them which you will) might quickly ring both cards and game out of his hands.

He saw that there was an abselute necessety of destroying the Indians, and that there was som care to be taken for his owne and Armys safety, other-ways the worke might happen to be rechedly don, where the laberours were made criples, and be compeld (insteade of a sword) to make use of a cruch. It vext him to the heart (as he said) to thinke, that while he was a hunting Wolves, tigers and bears, which daly destroyed our harmless and innosscent Lambs, that hee, and those with him, should be persewed in the reare with a full cry, as more savage beasts. 

He perceved like the corne, he was light between those stones which might grinde him to pouder; if he did not looke the better about him. For the preventing of which, after a short consult with his officers, he countermarcheth his Army (about 500 in all) downe to the midle Plantation: of which the Governour being informed, ships himself and adhearers, for Accomack (for the Gloster men refused to owne his quarill against the Generall) after he had caused Bacon, in these parts to be proclaimed a Rebell once more, July 29.

Bacon being sate down with his Army at the midle Plantation, sends out an invitation unto all the prime Gent: men in these parts, to give him a meeting in his quarters, there to consult how the Indians were to be proceeded against, and himself and Army protected against the desines of Sr. W. B. against whose Papers, of the 29 of May, and his Proclameation since, he puts forth his Replication and those papers upon these Dellama’s.

First, whether persons wholy devoted to the King and countrey, haters of sinester and by-respects, adventering there lives and fortunes, to kill and destroy all in Arms, against King and countrey; that never ploted, contrived, or indevioured the destruction, detryement or wrong of any of his Majesties subjects, there lives, fortunes, or estates can desurve the names of Rebells and Traters: secondly he cites his owne and soulders peaceable behaviour, calling the wholl countrey to witness against him if they can; hee upbrades som in authorety with the meaneness of there parts, others now rich with the meaneness of there estates, when they came into the countrey, and questions by what just ways they have obtained there welth; whether they have not bin the spunges that hath suck’d up the public tresury: Questions what arts, sciences, schools of Learning, or manufactorys, have bin promoted in authorety: Justefyes his adverssion, in generall against the Indians; upbrades the Governour for manetaneing there quarill, though never so unjust, against the Christians rights; his refuseing to admit an English mans oath against an Indian, when that Indians bare word should be accepted of against an Englishman: sath sumthing against ye Governour concerning the Beaver trade, as not in his power to dispose of to his owne profit, it being a Monopeley of the crowne; Questions whether the Traders at the heads of the Rivers being his Facters, do not buy and sell the blood of there breatheren and country men, by furnishing the Indians with Pouder, shott and Fire Arms, contrary to the Laws of the Collony: He araignes one colonel Cowells asscertion, for saying that the English are bound to protect the Indians, to the hassard of there blood. And so concludes with an Appeale to the King and Parliament, where he doubts not but that his and the Peoples cause will be impartially heard.

Bacon's Castle in Virginia

To comply with the Generalls Invetation, hinted in my former letter, there was a grate convention of the people met him in his quarters; the result of whose meeting was an Ingagement, for the people (of what qullety soever, excepting servants) to subscribe to consisting of 3 heads. First to be aideing, with there lives and estates, the Generall, in the Indian war; secondly, to opose Sr. Williams designes, if hee had any, to hinder the same; and lastly, to protect the Generall, Army and all that should subscribe this Ingagement, against any power that should be sent out of England, till it should be granted that the countreys complaint might be heard, against Sr. William before the King and Parliament. These 3 heads being methodized, and put in to form, by the Clarke of ye Assembly, who happened to be at this meeting, and redd unto the people, held a despute, from allmost noone, till midnight, pro and con, whether the same might, in the last Article especially, be with out danger taken. The Generall, and som others of the cheife men was Resalute in the affirmative, inserting its innosscency, and protesting, without it, he would surrender up his commission to the Assembly, and lett them finde other servants, to do the countreys worke: this, and the newse, that the Indians were fallen downe in to Gloster county, and had kill’d som people, a bout Carters Creeke; made the people willing to take the Ingagement. The chiefe men that subscribed it at this meeting, were coll. Swan, coll. Beale, coll. Ballard, Esq. Bray, (all foure of the councell) coll. Jordan, coll. Smith, of Purton, coll. Scarsbrook, coll. Miller, coll. Lawrance, and Mr. Drommond, late Governour of Carolina; all persons, with whom you have bin formerly acquainted.

This worke being over, and orders taken for an Assemblye to sitt downe the 4 of September (the writs being issued out in his majestyes name, and signed by 4 of the Councell, before named) the Generall once more sitts out to finde the Indians: of which Sr. William have gained intelligence, to prevent Bacons designes by the Assembley, returns from Accomack, with a bout 1000 soulders, and others, in 5 shipps and 10 sloops to James towne; in which was som 900 Baconians (for soe now they began to be called, for a marke of destinction) under the command of coll. Hansford, who was commissionated by Bacon, to raise Forces (if need were) in his absence, for the safety of the countrey. Unto these Sr. William sends in a summons for a Rendition of ye place, with a pardon to all that would decline Bacons and entertaine his cause. What was returned to his sommons I know not; but in the night the Baconians forsake the Towne, by the advice of Drummond and Lawrence (who were both excepted, in the Governours sommons, out of mercy) every one returning to their owne aboades, excepting Drommond, Hansford, Lawrence, and some few others, who goes to finde out the Generall, now returned to the head of York River, haveing spent his provisions in following the Indians on whom he did sum execution, and sent them packing a grate way from the Borders.

Before that Drommond and those with him had reached the Generall, he had dismist his Army, to there respective habitations, to gather strength against the next intended expedition; eccepting som frew resarved for his Gard, and persons liveing in these parts; unto whom, those that came with Hansford being joyned, made about 150 in all: With these Bacon, by a swift march, before any newes was heard of his return from the Indians, in these parts, came to Towne, to ye consternation of all in it, and there blocks the Governour up; which he easily effected by this unheard of project. He was no sooner arrived at Towne, but by several small parties of Horse (2 or 3 in a party, for more he could not spare) he fetcheth into his little Leagure, all the prime mens wives, whose Husbands were with the Governour, (as coll. Bacons Lady, Madm. Bray, Madm. Page, Madm. Ballard, and others) which the next morning he presents to the view of there husbands and friends in towne, upon the top of the smalle worke hee had cast up in the night; where he caused them to tarey till hee had finished his defence against his enemies shott, it being the onely place (as you do know well enough) for those in towne to make a salley at. Which when completed, and the Governour understanding that the Gentle women were withdrawne in to a place of safety, he sends out some 6 or 700 hundred of his soulders, to beate Bacon out of his Trench: But it seems that those works, which were protected by such charms (when a raiseing) that plug’d up the enimys shot in there gains, could not now be storm’d by a vertue less powerfull (when finished) then the sight of a few white Aprons; otherways the servis had bin more honourable and the damage less, several of those who made the salley being slaine and wounded, without one drop of Blood drawne from the enemy. With in too or three days after this disaster, the Governour reships himself, soulders, and all the inhabitants of the towne, and there goods: and so to Accomack a gane; leaving Bacon to enter the place at his pleasure, which he did the next morning before day, and the night following burns it downe to the ground to prevent a futer seege, as hee saide. Which Flagrant, and Flagitious Act performed, he draws his men out of town and marcheth them over York River, at Tindells point, to fine out collnell Brent, who was advancing fast upon him, from Potomack, at the head of 1200 men, (as he was informed) with a designe to raise Bacons seige, from before the towne, or other ways to fight him, as he saw cause. But, Brents soulders no sooner heard that Bacon was got to the north-side Yorke River, with an intent to fight them, and that he had beate the Governour out of the towne, and fearing, if he met with them; that he might beate them out of there lives they basely forsake there colours, the greater part adheareing to Bacons cause; resolveing with the Perssians to go and worship the rising sun, now approaching nere there Horisson: of which Bacon being informed, he stops his proceedings that way, and begins to provide for a nother expedition a gainst the Indian, of whom he had heard no news since his last March, a gainst them: which while he was a contrieving, Death summons him to more urgent affairs in to whose hands (after a short seige) he surrenders his life, leaving his commition in the custody of his Leif’t Generall, one Ingram, newly comin to the countrey.

Sr. William no sooner had news that Bacon was Dead but he sends over a party, in a sloop to Yorke who snap’d collonell Hansford, and others with him, that kep a negilegent Gard at coll. Reades howse under his command: When Hansford came to Acomack, he had the honour to be the first Verginian born that ever was hang’d; the soulders (about 20 in all) that were taken with him, were commited to Prisson. Capt. Carver, Capt. Wilford, Capt. Farloe, with 5 or 6 others of less note, taken at other places, ending there days as Hansford did; Major Chessman bein appointed (but is seems not destinated to the like end,) which he prevented by dying in prison through ill usage, as it is said.

This execution being over (which the Baconians termed crewilty in the abstract) Sr. William ships himself and soulder for York River, casting Anchor at Tindells point; from whence he sends up a hundred and 20 men to surprise a Gard, of about, 80 men and boys, kept at coll. Bacons howse, under the command of Major Whaly; who being fore-warn’d by Hansford fate, prevented the designed conflict with the death of the commander in cheife, and the taking som prisoners: Major Lawrence Smith, with 600 men, meeting with the like fate at coll. Pates Howse, in Gloster, a gainst Ingram, (the Baconian Generall) onely Smith saved himself, by leaving his men in the lurtch, being all made prisoners; whom Ingram dismist to their own homes; Ingram himself, and all under his command, with in a few days after, being reduced to his duty, by the well contrivance of Capt. Grantham, who was now lately arrived in York River: which put a period to the war, and brought the Governour a shoare at coll. Bacons, where he was presented with Mr. Drumond; taken the day before in Cheekanonimy swomp, half famished, as him self related to my Husband. From coll. Bacons, the next day, he was convayed, in Irons to Mr. Brays (whither the Governour was removed) to his Tryall, where he was condemn’d with in halfe an hower after his coming to Esqr. Brays, to be handed at the midle Plantation, within 4 howers after condemnation; where he was accordingly, executed, with a pittiful French man. Which don, the Governour removes to his owne howse, to settle his and the countryes repose, after his many troubles; which he effected by the advice of his councel and an Assembly convein’d at the Greene Spring; where severall were condemned to be executed, prime actors in ye Rebellion; as Esqr. Bland, coll. Cruse, and som other hanged at Bacons Trench; Capt. Yong, of Cheekahominy, Mr. Hall, clarke of New-Kent court, James Wilson (once your servant) and one Leift. Collonell Page, (one that my Husband bought of Mr. Lee, when he kep store at your howse) all four executed at coll. Reads, over against Tindells point; and ANTHONY ARNELL (the same that did live at your howse) hanged in chanes at West point, beside severall others executed on the other side James River: enough (they say in all) to out number those slane in the wholl war; on both sides: it being observable that the sword was more favourable than the Halter, as there was a grater liberty taken to run from the sharpness of the one, then would be alowed to shun the dull imbraces of the other: the Hangman being more dredfull to the Baconians, then there Generall was to the Indians; as it is counted more honourable, and less terable, to dye like a soulder, then to be hang’d like a dogg.

Thus Sr. have I rendered you an account of our late troubles in Verginia, which I have performed too wordishly; but I did not know how to help it; Ignorance in som cases is a prevalent ovatour in pleading for pardon, I hope mine may have the fortune to prove soe in the behalfe of Sr. Yor. ffriend and servant, An. Cotton. From Q. Creeke.

Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People

The Declaracon of the People.

For haveing upon specious pretences of publiqe works raised greate unjust taxes upon the Comonality for the advancement of private favorites and other sinister ends, but noe visible effects in any measure adequate, For not haveing dureing this long time of his Gouvernement in any measure advanced this hopefull Colony either by fortificacons Townes or Trade.

For haveing abused and rendred contemptable the Magistrates of Justice, by advanceing to places of Judicature, scandalous and Ignorant favorites.

For haveing wronged his Majesties prerogative and interest, by assumeing Monopoly of the Beaver trade, and for haveing in that unjust gaine betrayed and sold his Majesties Country and the lives of his loyall subjects, to the barbarous heathen.

For haveing, protected, favoured, and Imboldned the Indians against his Majesties loyall subjects, never contriveing, requireing, or appointing any due or proper meanes of sattisfaction for theire many Invasions, robbories, and murthers comitted upon us.

For haveing when the Army of English, was just upon the track of those Indians, who now in all places burne, spoyle, murther and when we might with ease have distroyed them: who then were in open hostillity, for then haveing expressly countermanded, and sent back our Army, by passing his word for the peaceable demeanour of the said Indians, who imediately prosecuted theire evill intentions, comitting horred murthers and robberies in all places, being protected by the said ingagement and word past of him the said Sir William Berkeley, haveing ruined and laid desolate a greate part of his Majesties Country, and have now drawne themselves into such obscure and remote places, and are by theire success soe imboldned and confirmed, by theire confederacy soe strengthned that the cryes of blood are in all places, and the terror, and constimation of the peOple soe greate, are now become, not onely a difficult, but a very formidable enimy, who might att first with ease have beene distroyed.

And lately when upon the loud outcryes of blood the Assembly had with all care raised and framed an Army for the preventing of further mischeife and safeguard of this his Majesties Colony.

For haveing with onely the privacy of some few favorites, without acquainting the people, onely by the alteracon of a figure, forged a Comission, by we know not what hand, not onely without, but even against the consent of the people, for the raiseing and effecting civill warr and distruction, which being happily and without blood shed prevented, for haveing the second time attempted the same, thereby calling downe our forces from the defence of the fronteeres and most weekely expoased places.

For the prevencon of civill mischeife and ruin amongst ourselves, whilst the barbarous enimy in all places did invade, murther and spoyle us, his majesties most faithfull subjects.

Of this and the aforesaid Articles we accuse Sir William Berkeley as guilty of each and every one of the same, and as one who hath traiterously attempted, violated and Injured his Majesties interest here, by a loss of a greate part of this his Colony and many of his faithfull loyall subjects, by him betrayed and in a barbarous and shamefull manner expoased to the Incursions and murther of the heathen, And we doe further declare these the ensueing persons in this list, to have beene his wicked and pernicious councellours Confederates, aiders, and assisters against the Comonality in these our Civill comotions.

And we doe further demand that the said Sir William Berkeley with all the persons in this list be forthwith delivered up or surrender themselves within fower days after the notice hereof, Or otherwise we declare as followeth.

That in whatsoever place, howse, or ship, any of the said persons shall reside, be hidd, or protected, we declaire the owners, Masters or Inhabitants of the said places, to be confederates and trayters to the people and the estates of them is alsoe of all the aforesaid persons to be confiscated, and this we the Comons of Virginia doe declare, desiering a firme union amongst our selves that we may joyntly and with one accord defend our selves against the common Enimy, and lett not the faults of the guilty be the reproach of the inocent, or the faults or crimes of the oppressours devide and separate us who have suffered by theire oppressions.

These are therefore in his majesties name to command you forthwith to seize the persons above mentioned as Trayters to the King and Country and them to bring to Midle plantacon, and there to secure them untill further order, and in case of opposition, if you want any further assistance you are forthwith to demand itt in the name of the people in all the Counties of Virginia.

Nathaniel Bacon Generall by Consent of the people.

Virginia Governor William Berkeley

The following declaration by Virginia Governor William Berkeley, written on May 19, 1676 about Bacon's Rebellion helps identify some of the players & issues in Ann Cotton's account.

The declaration and Remonstrance of Sir William Berkeley his most sacred Majesties Governor and Captain Generall of Virginia
Sheweth That about the yeare 1660 CoIl. Mathews the then Governor dyed and then in consideration of the service I had don the Country, in defending them from, and destroying great numbers of the Indians, without the loss of three men, in all the time that warr lasted, and in contemplation of the equall and uncorrupt Justice I had distributed to all men, Not onely the Assembly but the unanimous votes of all the Country, concurred to make me Governor in a time, when if the Rebells in England had prevailed, I had certainely dyed for accepting itt, `twas Gentlemen an unfortunate Love, shewed to me, for to shew myselfe gratefull for this, I was willing to accept of this Governement againe, when by my gracious Kings favour I might have had other places much more proffitable, and lesse toylesome then this hath beene. Since that time that I returned into the Country, I call the great God Judge of all things in heaven and earth to wittness, that I doe not know of any thing relateive to this Country wherein I have acted unjustly, corruptly, or negligently in distributeing equall Justice to all men, and takeing all possible care to preserve their proprietys, and defend the from their barbarous enimies.

But for all this, perhapps I have erred in things I know not of, if I have I am soe conscious of humane frailty, and my owne defects, that I will not onely acknowledge them, but repent of, and amend them, and not like the Rebell Bacon persist in an error, onely because I have comitted itt, and tells me in diverse of his Letters that itt is not for his honnor to confess a fault, but I am of opinion that itt is onely for divells to be incorrigable, and men of principles like the worst of divells, and these he hath, if truth be reported to me, of diverse of his ex pressions of Atheisme, tending to take away all Religion and Laws.

And now I will state the Question betwixt me as a Governor and Mr. Bacon, and say that if any enimies should invade England, any Councellor Justice of peace or other inferiour officer, might raise what forces they could to protect his Majesties subjects, But I say againe, if after the Kings knowledge of this invasion, any the greatest peere of England, should raise forces against the kings prohibition this would be now, and ever was in all ages and Nations accompted treason. Nay I will goe further, that though this peere was truly zealous for the preservation of his King, and subjects, and had better and greater abillitys then all the rest of his fellow subjects, doe his King and Country service, yett if the King (though by false information) should suspect the contrary, itt were treason in this Noble peere to proceed after the King's prohibition, and for the truth of this I appeale to all the laws of England, and the Laws and constitutions of all other Nations in the world, And yett further itt is declaired by this Parliament that the takeing up Armes for the King and Parliament is treason, for the event shewed that what ever the pretence was to seduce ignorant and well affected people, yett the end was ruinous both to King and people, as this will be if not prevented, I doe therefore againe declair that Bacon proceedeing against all Laws of all Nations modern and ancient, is Rebell to his sacred Majesty and this Country, nor will I insist upon the sweareing of men to live and dye togeather, which is treason by the very words of the Law.

Now my friends I have lived 34 yeares amongst you, as uncorrupt and dilligent as ever Governor was, Bacon is a man of two yeares amongst you, his person and qualities unknowne to most of you, and to all men else, by any vertuous action that ever I heard of, And that very action which he boasts of, was sickly and fooleishly, and as I am informed treacherously carried to the dishonnor of the English Nation, yett in itt, he lost more men then I did in three yeares Warr, and by the grace of God will putt myselfe to the same daingers and troubles againe when I have brought Bacon to acknowledge the Laws are above him, and I doubt not but by God's assistance to have better success then Bacon hath had, the reason of my hopes are, that I will take Councell of wiser men then my selfe, but Mr. Bacon hath none about him, but the lowest of the people.

Yett I must further enlarge, that I cannot without your helpe, doe any thinge in this but dye in defence of my King, his laws, and subjects, which I will cheerefully doe, though alone I doe itt, and considering my poore fortunes, I can not leave my poore Wife and friends a better legacy then by dyeing for my King and you: for his sacred Majesty will easeily distinguish betweene Mr. Bacons actions and myne, and Kinges have long Armes, either to reward or punish.

Now after all this, if Mr. Bacon can shew one precedens or example where such actings in any Nation what ever, was approved of, I will mediate with the King and you for a pardon, and excuce for him, but I can shew him an hundred examples where brave and great men have beene putt to death for gaineing Victorys against the Comand of their Superiors.

Lastly my most assured friends I would have preserved those Indians that I knew were howerly att our mercy, to have beene our spyes and intelligence, to finde out our bloody enimies, but as soone as I had the least intelligence that they alsoe were trecherous enimies, I gave out Commissions to distrOy them all as the Commissions themselves will speake itt.

To conclude, I have don what was possible both to friend and enimy, have granted Mr. BacOn three pardons, which he hath scornefully rejected, suppoaseing himselfe stronger to subvert then I and you to maineteyne the Laws, by which onely and Gods assisting grace and mercy, all men mwt hope for peace and safety. I will add noe more though much more is still remaineing to Justifie me and condemne Mr. Bacon, but to desier that this declaration may be read in every County Court in the Country, and that a Court be presently called to doe itt, before the Assembly meet, That your approbation or dissattisfaction of this declaration may be knowne to all the Country, and the Kings Councell to whose most revered Judgments itt is submitted, Given the xxixth day of May, a happy day in the xxv"ith yeare of his most sacred Majesties Reigne, Charles the second, who God grant long and prosperously to Reigne, and lett all his good subjects say Amen.

See Force, Peter, comp. Tracts and Other Papers Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in North America, from the Discovery of the Country to the Year 1776. 1836-1846. Washington: Printed by P. Force, from the original manuscript in the “Richmond, Virginia, Enquirer” 12 Sept. 1804.