How Did William Berkeley Influence The Government Of Virginia?

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Appointed in 1641 by the crown, Sir William Berkeley governed Virginia for most of the following 35 years. He implemented policies that favored the large planters and used dictatorial powers to govern on their behalf. For 15 years, beginning in 1661, Berkeley refused to allow any new election to the assembly, perpetuating his cronies in power. The right to vote was a crucial part of democracy for the colonists, for it meant that the person they elected was the person they felt most responsible to support them. Unfortunately, Berkeley’s government was unresponsive to the colonist’s needs and also denied them social equality. Their salaries came from unbearable taxes levied on the common planter. Berkeley’s favorites also received disproportionate shares in grants of land and licenses to trade with the Indians (Taylor …show more content…

In July 1676, Bacon issued the Declaration of the People of Virginia, a list of complaints against Berkeley. Berkeley tried to rally public support by holding new assembly elections and extending the vote to all freemen, but the new assembly went against the governor, instead passing laws to make government more responsive to the common people and to end greedy office holding (Nash 59). In September 1676, Bacon’s men drove the governor and his supporters across Chesapeake Bay to refuge on the eastern shore and burned Jamestown to the ground to discourage their return. A few weeks later, Bacon suddenly died of dysentery, leaving the movement leaderless. Soon thereafter, an English naval squadron arrived to restore order (Garraty 43). Berkeley hanged 23 rebel leaders without giving them a trial. Even so, Bacon’s Rebellion and the Declaration of the People set a precedent for Americans to fight for equality and a more responsive government. Fear of another such uprising prompted the hardening of racial lines as the region became committed to black

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