The Virginia Company of London established the Jamestown Colony as the first permanent English settlement in the Americas in 1607. After a difficult first decade the community’s fortunes began to improve and in 1619 the new Governor of Virginia, Sir George Yeardley, convened the first representative assembly.
Following instructions from the Company, 22 burgesses were elected by Jamestown and the other Virginian settlements. They would form the new unicameral General Assembly alongside a six-member Council of State and the Governor himself. Although voting rights were initially restricted to men of English origin, a strike by Polish artisans led to all free white men securing equal voting rights.
The General Assembly, known at the time as the House of Burgesses, met ‘to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia’ by agreeing ‘just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting’. Nevertheless the governor had the right to veto any decisions, as the Company still wielded ultimate control.
The First Session met from 30 July to 4 August 1619, seated in the ‘quire’ (choir) of the church. All the elected men had to swear an ‘oath of Supremacy’ to King James I and chose John Pory, secretary to Sir George Yeardley, to be the Speaker.
After reviewing and approving orders sent by the Company the Assembly began to discuss and pass their own legislation that included how to deal with idleness, gambling , drunkenness, and relations with the local Powhatan people.
Cite This Work
HistoryPod, . (2021, February 22). 30th July 1619: Oldest Continuous General Assembly in the New World Convenes in Virginia. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/video/2286/30th-july-1619-oldest-continuous-general-assembly/
HistoryPod, . "30th July 1619: Oldest Continuous General Assembly in the New World Convenes in Virginia." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified February 22, 2021. https://www.worldhistory.org/video/2286/30th-july-1619-oldest-continuous-general-assembly/.
HistoryPod, . "30th July 1619: Oldest Continuous General Assembly in the New World Convenes in Virginia." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 22 Feb 2021. Web. 23 Jan 2022.