By Megan McClure
The 400th anniversary of the very first convening of a democratically elected representative body, the House of Burgesses, in what would become the United States, is coming up July 30, 2019.
Representatives chosen by the residents of the plantations sprouting up around the newly chartered Jamestown settlement met in the church as the new representative arm of government, providing consultation and proposing laws to be sent back to England for approval from the Virginia Company and the crown.
The first meeting of the General Assembly in Jamestown became the foundation upon which Virginian and, eventually, American representative democracy and parliamentary government has been built.
To celebrate and illustrate the historic ties between the Burgesses and the current membership of the Virginia House of Delegates, American Evolution, charged with celebrating the momentous event, has created a selection of video interviews with Virginia delegates discussing the importance of this commemoration.
Dubbing this year’s delegates the “Class of 400,” members from both parties, including Jeion Ward (D), discuss their personal experiences of being a member of the class with the significance of knowing and recognizing the past in order to move forward prepared and well informed.
American Evolution has plans for many events and exhibitions throughout 2019 to commemorate momentous episodes in early Virginian and American history. Included: the meeting of the first representative democratic body in the western hemisphere, more than 150 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence; and the contributions and accomplishments of women in early Virginia.
Additional NCSL blogs on this topic:
Megan McClure is a senior staff assistant in NCSL's Legislative Staff Services Program.