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26 June, 2013
The Story of Bacon's Rebellion
XV - Peace Restored
by Standard, Mary Newton


About the time of meeting of the "Green Spring" Assembly, a small fleet arrived from England, bringing the long-looked-for "red-coats" and also three gentlemen-Sir John Berry, Colonel Herbert Jeifreys, and Colonel Francis Moryson-commissioned by the King to inquire into and report upon the state of affairs in the colony. His Majesty's "red-coats" found that their services were not needed, but the conciliatory attitude of the "Commissioners" doubtless aided in restoring peace, and their official report makes interesting reading. In a tactful address to the Assembly they expressed the hope that the "debates and consultations" of that body might be for the "glory of God, the honor of his most sacred Majesty, and the happy restoration, public good, and long lasting welfare and resettlement of this so miserable, shattered, and lacerated colony," and that the Assembly might gain for itself the "name and memorable reputation of the healing Assembly," and in order that it might be the "more truly styled so," the Commissioners advised that it would thoroughly "inspect and search into the depth and yet hidden root and course of these late rebellious distempers that have broke out and been so contagious and spreading over the whole country," that it might thus decide "what apt and wholesome laws" might be "most properly applied, not only to prevent the like evil consequences for the future but also effectually to staunch and heal the fresh and bleeding wounds these unnatural wars have caused among you, that there may as few and small scars and marks remain, as you in your prudent care and tenderness can possibly bring them to."

They "most heartily" assured the Assembly that in accordance with "his Majesty's' royal commission," granted to them, "under the great seal of England," and his "instructions therewith given, "they would "most readily assist, promote and advise" it, and would be "happy" to bear home to his Majesty the "burthens" which had disturbed "that peace and tranquillity which his good subjects had so long enjoyed under his Majesty's happy government," and which "by reason of the great and remote distance" of Virginia from "the usual place of his royal residence," could not be "so easily made known to him" as the troubles of "other his subjects who live at a nearer distance." They promised that the people's grievances, "be they few or many, great or less," should be received and "most sincerely reported" fo the King, who, they declared, "out of his royal favor and compassion" had been pleased to promise a "speedy redress thereof, as to his royal wisdom shall seem meet." The Commissioners furthermore promised to aid in bringing about a "truly good and just peace" with the Indians, and exhorted the Virginians to keep peace among themselves, that the Indians might not again "look on" while they were "murdering, burning, plundering and ruining one another, without remorse or consideration." They recommended to the Assembly various measures for the relief of the people's grievances- -among them reduction of salaries of the Burgesses to "such moderate rates as may render them less grievous and burdensome to the country, a new election of representatives every two years, cutting off the all owance for "liquors drank by any members of committees," and other perquisites for which the "tithable polls" had to pay so dearly.

The Commissioners refused to consider anonymous complaints, but appointed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as days to receive and examine "grievances" that were duly signed and sworn to.

The Commissioners' address to the Assembly is dated, "Swann's Point, Feb. 27th, 1676-7," and is signed, "Your friends to serve you, Herbert Jeffreys, John Berry, Francis Moryson."

In a proclamation dated "Whitehall, October 27, 1676," the King declared that every man engaged in the Rebellion who would submit to the government and take the oath of obedience within twenty days after the royal proclamation should be published, would be "pardoned and forgiven the rebellion and treason by him committed," and "be free from all punishments for or by reason of the same."

Upon February 10 of the following year Sir William Berkeley published at "Green Spring" a proclamation, similar to that of his Majesty, save that it announced the "exception and expulsion of divers and sundry persons" from the offer of pardon.

Upon May 15 still another proclamation was issued from Whitehall, wherein his Majesty condemned Governor Berkeley's proclamation as "so different from ours and so derogatory to our princely clemency toward all our subjects," that it was declared to be of "no validity," and his Majesty's own directions were ordered to be "punctually obeyed in all points."

When the fleet of the Royal Commissioners sailed again for England, Sir William Berkeley sailed with it to plead his own side of the question before King Charles. Happily for himself, perhaps, he died not long after he reached his native land, and without having seen the King. In a letter written "on board Sir John Berry's ship," however (which has already been quoted), he expressed some very energetic opinions concerning Bacon and the Rebellion, which still live to bear witness to the bitter old man's views.

In an address to the Assembly in June, 1680, Governor Berkeley's successor, Governor Jeffreys -the same Jeffreys that had been a Royal Commissioner-reminded the Virginians how the King had pardoned "all persons whatever" that had engaged in the uprising, "except Bacon that died and Lawrence that fled away," and added, "as his Majesty both forgot it himself, he doth expect this to be the last time of your remembering the late Rebellion, and shall look upon them to be ill men that rub the sore by using any future reproaches or terms of distinction whatever."

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