Warren M. Billings, the author of The causes of Bacon's Rebellion, is a professor of history at New Orleans University and a Louisiana Law and Colonial Virginia student. He is also a visiting Law Professor of Law William and Mary School of Law. He is known for his significant publications and articles that have been extensively used in the unravelling of the history of Virginia and other historical happenings in America.
Warren M. Billings' article The causes of Bacon's Rebellion is a review article for it breaks down the contemporary understanding of Virginia's history, precisely the causes of Bacon's rebellion from a scholarly angle. He wrote the review article to dish out better conceptualization of the causes of Bacon's rebellion and to enable historians. The general public comprehends the causes of Bacon's rebellion without reading the entire book on the topic. In a glimpse, it is a summation of Warren M. Billings' research on the causes of Bacon's rebellion with a professional and logical evaluation of the main themes and supporting documents. In the review article, Warren M. Billings does not provide any new research of his. The summary of the main points that the author is conveying to the reader in the review article is as follows.
Lack of centralization and the consequent relative impotence of the House of Burgesses, which was an outstanding feature of Virginia's political institutions before 1679, led to the inception of Bacon's rebellion. Sir William Berkeley, characterized by oppressive royal authority in the seventeenth century failed to call for new elections which manifested his influence over the house and making it appear that he used his jurisdictional powers and a pliable house in the implementation of programs and policies that did not favor the people who were outside the government. Sir William relied on family and other close connections in making his council appointments. The justices and sheriffs were pleading cases on their own, an issue which was forbidden by the law, with a lack of fixed fees for the attorneys. He dismissed these complaints as by the rebels and unjustifiable; this caused Bacon's rebellion.
The undesirable economic conditions in Virginia before 1676 immensely contributed to Bacon's rebellion. The contribution has extensively got associated with high taxes, low tobacco prices, and the restrictive features of the navigation acts. Tobacco prices were affected by its overproduction, the poor quality of tobacco that was being produced, and the glutted market that disadvantaged them more because of the poor-quality tobacco they produced. The depressed economy brought about psychological consequences with an escalating tax rate. Consequently, the Governor's ineffective policies realized the people, which created a widespread disaffection leading to a segment of people in and out the government to question some of the contemporary political arrangements at all political levels.
A past account of governor Berkley's system of administration after 1660 proves that he became more oppressive and arbitrary. His administration got viewed as proceeding towards tyranny. The Governor tried to employ different policies like the Indian policy to facilitate peace. Still, only minimal results got achieved in developing satisfactory arrangements between the colonists and Indians, and this eventually led to Bacon's rebelling. Progressively, Sir William Berkeley's age became a contributing factor to the decline in his administration effectiveness as the Governor. His style of administration influenced his policies and plans that ultimately hindered the growth and development of the economy. The inferior policies made the people government feel the need for change, thus the Bacon's rebellion.
The general instability in the years before 1676 resulted in the rise of Bacon's rebellion. The piling factors over time created an increasing tension moment in which the people were psychologically ready for a rebellion. The economic decline did not happen spontaneously; time after time, it brewed the people's discomfort and the persistent call for resistance because of the failure of the Governor's administration to put an end to the current issues.
Governor Berkeley had limited control over these events because they arose from the preceding years branding him a circumstantial victim of Bacon's rebellion. Governor Berkeley's inability to identify and assess a new and potentially dangerous situation as in the way he handled the Indian raids and how he possessed an inferior feeling for people's rights fueled the intent of the effort of Nathaniel Bacon to counter the Governor's poor administration through a well crafted and supported rebellion in Virginia. As such, the uprising became inevitable.
My Perception of the Article
From my perspective, the author has professionally presented the article through his exhaustive discussions of the causes of Bacon's rebellion. The article is equally related to the class considering its objective, which is primarily historical because it touches on something that happened in the past and holds historical significance. It also had specific strengths which outweighed the weaknesses.
As a summation of his research on the causes of Bacon's rebellion, Professor Warren has achieved his intended purpose for writing the article. Some of the strength get noted herein. Professor Warren M. Billings in his review article, the causes of Bacon's Rebellion has made references to articles and publications from other historical researches to affirm his research arguments and give a comparison to the different past ideas each historical researcher had concerning the topic. In different sections of his article, Professor Warren has cited various historical arguments and works for shading more light to his case or to clarify the ideas he has presented.
Some of the particular scholars whose works got borrowed include Professor Bernard Bailyn, Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, Philip Alexander Bruce, and Richard L. Morton. Their views have significantly contributed to the advancement of the argument of Bacon's rebellion. His main aim of highlighting some of the previous cases of historical researchers is to emphasize on his research argument and findings, to depict the different views of the researchers on an argument and to explain his contextual perspective.
Another strength gets based on the author's research style. His points are objective and satisfying. In his research, He has examined a decade and a half preceding the period of the inception of Bacon's rebellion, unlike other scholars. The latter had attempted to tackle the topic. By digging deep into the one and a half-decade before Bacon's rebellion, he unearths the root cause of the perennial problems that became giant problems a decade and a half later. I think that Professor Warren's strategy of examining the fifteen years before the rebellion has created a perfect understanding of the precise cause and the gradual growth of the randomly laid out reasons for the cause of the uprising by historical researchers and scholars.
In understanding the person Sir William Berkeley and his leadership style, Professor Warren visits the history which has facilitated a proper understanding of his argument. The style of presentation and flow of ideas by Professor Warren M. Billings in his review article is equally precise with utmost clarity of the arguments. He has tactfully presented his arguments with sufficient diverse views on the topic with very relevant and factual examples from his research findings.
An example is how he has explained his findings on the cause of tobacco price fall and how it acted to the general economic depression, which led to Bacon's rebellion. The other issue gets noted on how Governor William Berkeley's poor leadership style created a perfect environment for the birth of Bacon's Rebellion led by Nicholas Bacon. If his leadership style had been competent, capable, and as per the law, the religion would have been inevitable, and the rebels would not have developed. Their (rebels) birth gets based on the poor leadership style and procedures
In summary, the article has, in brief detail, mentioned the professional experience of the author, it has also noted whether the article is original or a reviewed material by the author. Most importantly, the article has objectively achieved its intent of facilitating a better understanding of the causes of Bacon's rebellion. The author has distinctively discussed his arguments, backed up with handy findings and contextual references to other cases by different scholars on the topic. The approach has made it a satisfying activity reading through his arguments and citations. The clarity of the issue has been maintained all through the article with a very sequential way of delivering his arguments that has made the understanding of the arguments comfortable and fulfilling.
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