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Growth of the English Colonies, Settlers and Native Americans

Governor William Berkeley, Nathaniel Bacon, House of Burgesses, colonial capital, King Philip

The French and Spanish came to the New World to trade with the indigenous peoples, to convert them to Christianity, and sometimes to turn them into a labor force for mining and agriculture. In contrast, the English settlers wanted farmland. Thus they posed a far greater threat to the Native Americans. Wars were the result. In New England a Wampanoag chief named Metacomet (the English called him King Philip) became worried about English intrusion on his land and ordered attacks on the settlements in 1675. For the next year Metacomet and his allies destroyed 12 of 90 Puritan towns and attacked 40 others, capturing or killing one in ten adult male English settlers. The Puritans counterattacked in the summer of 1676. They killed Metacomet, sold his wife and chief supporters into slavery in the West Indies, and scattered his coalition. With that, the power of coastal Native Americans in New England was broken.

In the same years (1675 to 1676) in Virginia, land–hungry settlers led by a planter named Nathaniel Bacon picked a fight with the Susquehannock people. The settlers’ goal was simply to end Native American occupation of lands that whites wanted. When Governor William Berkeley objected, the rebellious settlers forced the House of Burgesses to back their war. Later, they marched on Jamestown and burned the colonial capital. Shortly after that, Bacon died of disease, and his rebellion sputtered out. But a new treaty signed with the Native Americans in 1677 made much of their land available to white settlers.



Article key phrases:

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