by Murray N. Rothbard
Conceived in Liberty (1975). In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon began a mutiny against the governor of Virginia, William Berkeley, because Bacon (and many other Virginians) wanted to pursue a more vigorous war against the Indians than Berkeley would allow. This mutiny was the spark that lit the flame of Bacon’s Rebellion.
Why? Why revolution? This question is asked in fascination by contemporary observers and historians of every revolution in history. What were the reasons, the “true” motives, behind any given revolution? The tendency of historians of every revolution, Bacon’s Rebellion included, has been to present a simplistic and black-and-white version of the drives behind the revolutionary forces.
Thus, the “orthodox” version holds Nathaniel Bacon to have been a conscious “torchbearer” of the later American Revolution, battling for liberty and against English oppression; the version of “revisionist” history marks down Bacon as an unprincipled and Indian-hating demagogue rebelling against the wise statesman Berkeley. Neither version can be accepted as such.
The very search by observers and historians for purity and unmixed motives in a revolution betrays an unrealistic naïveté. Revolutions are mighty upheavals made by a mass of people, people who are willing to rupture the settled habits of a lifetime, including especially the habit of obedience to an existing government. They are made by people willing to turn from the narrow pursuits of their daily lives to battle vigorously and even violently together in a more general cause.