Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our Family's Colonial Era, Part XX

by Glenn N. Holliman

The Empire Strikes Back

With the premature death of Nathaniel Bacon, the rebellion in 1676 in Colonial Virginia began to die for lack of leadership. Royal Governor William Berkeley returned from exile on the eastern shore of Virginia, and began to reek vengeance with a rope. Before King Charles II and his new colonial appointees could stop the aged and angry governor, over 20 rebels went to the gallows.

When news of the rebellion reached London, the King and his council responded dynamically. For the first time in Colonial American history, troops from England entered the colonies to restore law and order and suppress a rebellion against the Royal Government. Over 1,000 British soldiers arrived with new civilian leadership in tow. Berkeley was summarily dismissed, and sent back to England to explain the rebellion and his actions. Before he could appear before Council, he had the good fortune to die of natural causes.

King Charles II, whose government had grown dependent of taxes from Chesapeake tobacco, was furious that Berkeley and his government had 'squeezed' the tobacco planters too tightly. The ability of the Crown to collect taxes had been jeopardized, and the complaints of the planters had best be addressed.

Virginia historian John Boddie reports that over 80 enlisted men and their officers were billeted in homes in Isle of Wight County for up to a year in 1677 and 1678. As in the 1770s in Boston, Massachusetts having civilians board soldiers quickly created stress and a financial burden on the home. Rowdy troops rapidly wore out their welcome. Here in America for the first time were planted the seeds of the 3rd Amendment to the Constitution.

Perhaps the presence of troops encouraged both Christpher Holyman Sr. and Jr. to join seventy or so of their fellow Isle of Wight citizens to sign a 1677 petition begging the pardon of the Royal Government and pledging loyalty to the same.

Again from John Boddie, "We humbly beg and lay hold of His Majesties most gracious Pardon, for as much as we, or some of us, at sometime or the other, since this Horrid Rebellion through fear, force or otherwise, deviated from our duties and allegiance to His Most Sacred Majesty."

This bit of public crawling seems to have moderated some of the anger of the new governor, Herbert Jeffreys, who wanted nothing so much as the planters to return to their fields and generate both tobacco and tax revenues. Our Holymans, caught in the middle of a vicious civil quarrel, survived and continued their lives as farmers along Blackwater River branch known as Middle Swamp.

We can surmise Christopher Jr's birthday as he had to be at least 21 to sign the petition. He now has officially appeared in a public record. In future postings, we will attempt to trace his life.

Next post, More on the Holyman family of Colonial Virginia.....

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