Virginia House of Burgesses – 400 Years Ago Today

 In History

President Trump, speaking in Williamsburg, Virginia today, reminded the audience that 400 years ago, July 30, 1619, the House of Burgesses met in Jamestown. It was the first legislative body in the colonies.

On this day in 1619, just a mile south of where we are gathered now, 22 newly elected members of the House of Burgesses assembled in a small wooden church,” President Trump said today in Williamsburg, Virginia. “They were adventurers and explorers, farmers and planters, soldiers, scholars, and clergymen. All had struggled, all had suffered, and all had sacrificed in pursuit of one wild and very improbable dream.”

They called that dream “Virginia,” the President added.  

The Jamestown settlers’ story is well-known to most American schoolchildren, but it’s worth reflecting on just how daunting the challenges that faced these pioneers were. They arrived in America during what we now know was one of the worst droughts in over seven centuries. In their third winter in the New World, known as the “Starving Time,” a population of around 500 settlers was reduced to 60. The rest didn’t make it to spring.

“Together, the settlers forged what would become the timeless traits of the American character,” President Trump said. “They worked hard. They had courage in abundance and a wealth of self-reliance.”

White House statement Full text at this link

The men of the House of Burgesses would not recognize the current Virginia legislative assembly. But it once had a proud past. Will we, as the President remarked today, nourish, protect, and preserve our heritage? Some of us will. Some will not.

But forasmuch as men’s affaires doe litle prosper where God’s service is neglected, all the Burgesses tooke their places in the Quire till a prayer was said by Mr. Bucke, the Minister, that it would please God to guide and sanctifie all our proceedings to his own glory and the good of this Plantation … The Speaker … delivered in briefe to the whole assembly the occasions of their meeting. Which done he read unto them the commission for establishing the Counsell of Estate and the general Assembly, wherein their duties were described to the life … And forasmuch as our intente is to establish one equall and uniforme kinde of government over all Virginia &c.

– John Pory, “A Reporte of the Manner of Proceeding in the General Assembly Convented at James City” (July 30, 1619)

ushistory.org

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