Declaration of the People of Virginia

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The Declaration of the People of Virginia (or simply Declaration of the People) was a list of complaints issued by Nathaniel Bacon on July 30, 1676, in which he proclaims Virginia's colonial governor, William Berkeley, corrupt and expresses his displeasure at what his followers regarded as unjust taxation and the government's failure to provide colonists protection from some tribes of Native Americans. The presumed grievances brought about the uprising known as Bacon's Rebellion. This Rebellion was regarded as the first of the new colonies, it is still debated today if Bacon's Rebellion was serving the interest of the colonists, or the King.[1] The Declaration and the Rebellion as a whole was a long time coming and was the result of a crisis within Virginia's social, economic, and political problems. The Declaration authored by Bacon cited eight points in its complaint against the governor:

  • Taxation (point 1): Governor Berkeley was accused of excessive taxation and having "upon specious pretenses of public works, raised great unjust taxes upon the commonalty for the advancement of private favorites and other sinister ends, but no visible effects in any measure adequate"
  • Judicial corruption (point 2): "For having abused and rendered contemptible the magistrates of justice by advancing to places of judicature scandalous and ignorant favorites"
  • Personal enrichment (point 3): Berkeley was said to be "assuming monopoly of the beaver trade"
  • Failure to protect English colonists (point 4): "For having protected, favored, and emboldened the Indians against his Majesty’s loyal subjects, never contriving, requiring, or appointing any due or proper means of satisfaction for their many invasions, robberies, and murders committed upon us."[2]
  • Ceasing the hostilities and pursuit of natives (point 5): "For having, when the army of English was just upon the track of those Indians, who now in all places burn, spoil, murder and when we might with ease have destroyed them who then were in open hostility, for then having expressly countermanded and sent back our army by passing his word for the peaceable demeanor of the said Indians"[2]
  • Raising and framing an army (point 6): "lately, when, upon the loud outcries of blood, the assembly had, with all care, raised and framed an army for the preventing of further mischief and safeguard of this his Majesty’s colony."[2]
  • Installing a person in a position of power against the people's consent (point 7): "only by the alteration of a figure, forged a commission, by we know not what hand, not only without but even against the consent of the people, for the raising and effecting civil war and destruction, which being happily and without bloodshed prevented" "thereby calling down our forces from the defense of the frontiers and most weakly exposed places"[2]
  • Preserving chaos within the community while ignoring the threat of the enemy (point 8): "For the prevention of civil mischief and ruin amongst ourselves while the barbarous enemy in all places did invade, murder, and spoil us, his Majesty’s most faithful subjects."[2]

Nathaniel Bacon continues on to accuse Sir William Berkeley as guilty of going against his Majesty’s interests "we accuse Sir William Berkeley as guilty of each and every one of the same, and as one who has traitorously attempted, violated, and injured his Majesty’s interest here by a loss of a great part of this his colony and many of his faithful loyal subjects"[2]

In addition to the governor, the Declaration listed a number of the governor's associates said to be "his wicked and pernicious councilors, confederates, aiders, and assisters against the commonalty in these our civil commotions."[3]

Names listed: Sir Henry Chichley, William Claiburne Junior, Lieut. Coll. Christopher Wormeley, Thomas Hawkins, William Sherwood, Phillip Ludwell, John Page Clerke, Robert Beverley, John Cluffe Clerke, Richard Lee, John West, Thomas Ballard, Hubert Farrell, William Cole, Thomas Reade, Richard Whitacre, Matthew Kempe, Nicholas Spencer, and Joseph Bridger.

Bacon made sure to shame the persons involved by mentioning the King and how the acts of those named have been tyrannical and an enemy of not only the people of Virginia but of the King and English royalty. Bacon and his Rebellion felt that before they were to attack and cause an uprising against Sir Berkeley's administration, a treaty would be in order to give the administration a chance to surrender.[1]

Bacon demands that Sir William Berkeley and all persons listed turn themselves in within four days of this notice. Bacon continues with "whatsoever place, house, or ship, any of the said persons shall reside, be hid, or protected, we declare the owners, masters, or inhabitants of the said places to be confederates and traitors to the people and the estates of them is also of all the aforesaid persons to be confiscated."[2] Nathaniel Bacon then proceeded to call on the citizens of the state to seize the people mentioned in the declaration by the command of the king. "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."[4]

The Declaration was signed "Nathaniel Bacon, General by Consent of the people."


  • Text of the Declaration
  • "Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People 30 July 1676." American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.
  • "Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People 1676. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017, from
  • "Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People 30 July 1676. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017, from
  • "Virginia Historical Society. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017,


  1. ^ a b Virginia Historical Society. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017, from
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People 30 July 1676". University of Groningen. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  3. ^ Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People 30 July 1676. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017, from
  4. ^ from Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People 1676. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017, from