Archive for March 27th, 2011

1677: Giles Bland

Add comment March 27th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1677, Giles Bland was hanged in the Virginia colony for the late Bacon’s Rebellion.

Bland was in that remote colony as the agent of his father, the London merchant John Bland.

This John Bland fellow had an interesting career — as suggested by the title of Neville Williams’s “The Tribulations of John Bland, Merchant: London, Seville, Jamestown, Tangier, 1643-1680” in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (Jan. 1964). We elide here the former two and the last one except to observe that they made John Bland a very wealthy man, and landed him in Samuel Pepys’s diary.

Accordingly, John Bland’s New World interests were considerable, and we suppose that his son Giles, dispatched thither after John’s brothers had died in the New World, was a bit too conscious of the weight his surname carried.

He griped about colonial corruption, put about “malicious reports” of royal governor William Berkeley, “bespattered with … dirt … thrown upon the whole government of Virginia,” and — foreshadowing alert! — got into the drink to the detriment of his good judgment:

[G]oing to the house of Thomas Ludwell in company with Sir Henry Chicheley after they had drank plentifully there happened a discourse in which Giles Bland thought Ludwell’s speech too severe in relation to his father, and told Ludwell’s that he dealt basely and unworthily to cast such aspersions upon his father and himself, and being transported with passion upon “further exchange of language” came to blows, and exchanged gloves to meet in the morning. His son slept not all night, and continuing hot headed, hastened to the place appointed, where, missing Ludwell, he nailed the glove on the door of the Grand Assembly [house] writing some words under it. Ludwell more wisely sought reparation before the Governor and Council, where Giles Bland was ordered to ask forgiveness which he performed, and the Court fined him 500l. for his abuse done to the Assembly, the payment to be suspended for two years to enable him to supplicate his Majesty to remit the same, it being intended rather to deter him from the like rash actions in time to come, than to ruin him for what he had unadvisedly committed.

Put Giles down for “undeterred.”

As conflicts between the Virginia planters and Berkeley’s party came to a head — planters were sore about taxes, trade, and overly friendly Indian relations — Bland was tapped to represent the former back in the mother country.

But rather than sail for England, the young hothead hitched onto the rising of Nathaniel Bacon — and then was almost immediately intercepted by his foes. “Those who are best able to render an account of this affair do aver,” we read, “that there was no other treason made use of but their want of discretion, assisted by the juice of the grape.”

(Getting captured while distracted by more hedonistic pursuits was a pattern with these Bacon’s rebels, or at least a pattern of the propaganda written about them.)

Rather than summary execution, Giles Bland faced several months’ ill-treatment in irons. Still, Berkeley was in enough of a hurry to get the lad into the ground as the last of the Bacon’s Rebellion martyrs that he seems to have suppressed the prisoner’s legitimate appeal for royal clemency.

John Bland was in the winter of his years when this grim news arrived in London; he would die there in 1680 — having committed yet one more member of his family, his wife Sarah, to the Atlantic crossing, and “feeling no greater grief under my many adversities and infirmities … than her necessary absence in Virginia about my unhappy affairs and estates there.”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Activists,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Soldiers,Treason,USA,Virginia,Wrongful Executions


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