Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BERKELEY, Sir William, colonial governor of Virginia, born near London, England, about 1610; died in Twiekenham, 13 July 1677. He was a son of Sir Maurice Berkeley, and brother of Lord John Berkeley, of Stratton, colonial proprietary. He was graduated at Oxford in 1629, and devoted himself to extensive travel in Europe. In 1630 he returned, an accomplished cavalier and courtier; was made one of the commissioners of Canada in 1632, and, returning to England with a high reputation for knowledge and experience, became a gentleman of the privy chamber to Charles I. On 9 August 1641, he was commissioned governor of Virginia. In 1642 he arrived, and, by various salutary measures, aided by his prepossessing manners, rendered himself acceptable to the people. During the Cromwellian disturbances in England, Governor Berkeley took the royal side, and, when the parliamentarians gained the ascendancy, he offered an asylum in Virginia to gentlemen who had been loyal to the king. The new parliament immediately sent a fleet to the colony to punish him; but, unable to offer resistance, he displayed such shrewdness as well as courage, that when the fleet appeared in James river, in 1651, he succeeded in making terms so satisfactory to both parties that, although he was forced to resign his authority, he received permission to remain on his own plantation. Through his management Virginia was among the last of the colonial possessions to acknowledge the authority of Cromwell. On the death of Samuel Mathews, governor of Virginia, Berkeley was elected to the office, and received his commission from Charles II. soon after the restoration. His conduct in reference to the so-called rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon, in refusing a commission and hampering Bacon by every means in his power; his faithlessness and obstinacy in dealing with the Indian question, which had become of vital moment to the settlers; and his extreme severity to the followers of Bacon after Bacon's death, which in itself was not without suspicion, caused him to lose popularity. This intensified his bitterness, and he caused Bacon's adherents to be arrested, tried, and executed in such a hurried and indecent manner that the assembly arose in remonstrance. The king himself is reported to have exclaimed, "The old fool has taken more lives in his naked country than I have taken for my father's murder," and in 1665 demanded his return. Nevertheless, Berkeley continued to administer the affairs of Virginia for the next eleven years. Religious tolerance was not one of his virtues, and the state papers show that he put much pressure on Quakers. A board of commissioners was sent out by royal mandate to examine into the condition of the colony, and in one of his replies he is quoted as saying, "Thank God! there are no free schools nor printing-presses, and I hope there will be none for a hundred years ; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged these and other libels." Through the influence of the planters he was obliged to obey the recall, and in 1676 he returned to England, but died before he had an interview with the king. He published "The Lost Lady; a Tragi-Comedy" (London, 1638), which is included in the first and fourth editions of Dodsley's "Old Plays," and "A Description of Virginia" (1663).
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