Nathaniel Bacon (1647 - 1676)
Although his followers were mostly poor, landless
white farmers who hated the planter aristocrats, rebel leader Nathaniel Bacon
was himself a well-off planter.
Bacon, descended from a famous English family,
immigrated to Virginia in 1674 after obtaining a gentlemanly education at
Cambridge University and the Inns of Court in London. After the initial phase
of his rebellion, which consisted of leading unauthorized attacks
on Indians, he was arrested by Governor Berkeley but then pardoned and even
appointed to the colonial council in an attempt to appease him. But he and
his supporters refused to be conciliated, and when Berkeley tried to suppress
them, they went on a rampage that ended in the burning of Jamestown. Bacon
seemed on the verge of seizing complete control of the colony when he suddenly
died of illnessa development that enabled Berkeley to crush the leaderless
Quote: For having
upon specious pretences of publick works raised greate unjust taxes upon the
commonality for the advancement of private favorites and other sinister endsfor
having wronged his Majestys prerogative and interesting by assuming
monopoly of the beaver tradeand for having protected, favored, and imboldened
the Indians against his Majestys loyall subjectswe do
demand that the said Sir William Berkeleybe forthwith delivered up or
surrender [himself] within four days of this notice forthwith. (Declaration
of the People, 1676)
REFERENCE: Wilcomb E. Washburn, The
Governor and the Rebel (1957).
Cotton Mather (1662 - 1728)
Cotton Mathers notorious involvement
in the Salem witch trials was only one episode in his long, remarkable career,
but it showed many of the contradictions of his complex personality.
The influential Puritan ministers role
in the Salem witch trials arose partly because of his strong scientific
interest in spirits and the invisible world. Even before the trials, he took
into his home a girl believed to be a victim of witchcraft so that he could
study her case in detail. By seventeenth-century standards Mather was actually
quite cautious about witchcraft. He believed that where witchcraft existed,
it should be treated by prayer and fasting, not by prosecutions and executions.
But once the Salem trials got under way, he defended them in public, despite
his apparent private belief that the evidence was questionable and the executions
Mather was hot-tempered, arrogant, and power-hungry
but also extremely introspective and given to anxiety and self-doubt. Although
he sometimes experienced hallucinations and severe depressions, and engaged
in harsh attacks on his enemies, some of his writings are brilliant.
the business of this witchcraft may be very much transacted upon the stage
of imagination, yet we know that, as in treason, there is an imagining which
is a capital crime, and here also the business, though managed in imagination,
yet may not be called imaginary. The effects are dreadfully real. Our
neighbors at Salem Village are blown up, after a sort, with an infernal gunpowder;
the train is laid in the laws of the kingdom of darkness. Now the question
is, who gives fire to this train? And by what acts is the match applied?
REFERENCE: Kenneth Silverman, The
Life and Times of Cotton Mather (1984).
Rachel Clinton (1629 - 1694)
Clinton is one of the few Salem witches
whose biography historians have been able to reconstruct. Her childhood was
extremely unhappy, as, evidently, was the rest of her life. After both her
parents died when she was very young, she was placed under the control of
her mentally unstable stepmother. Her father had left a substantial estate,
but Clinton was never able to get a fair share of it because she was constantly
exploited by others, including Thomas Clinton, her brother-in-law, whom she
married at age thirty-six (he was twenty-two at the time). After her divorce
from Thomas Clinton, she was reduced to poverty and dependency, which likely
made her extremely bitter and hostile. It is known that she threw stones at
people and called them names like hellhound and whoremasterly
rogue. Among the witchcraft activities she was accused
of, even before the Salem trials, were taking away a girls power of
speech for three hours, sending animals to cross peoples paths, and
making beer disappear from kegs.
Although convicted in the Salem trials and imprisoned
for several months, Clinton was not executed. Released from prison in 1693,
she died the following year.
REFERENCE: John Demos, Entertaining