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Washington & Northern Virginia Company

Jamestown's Most Noteworthy Achievment 

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America's 400th 

Jamestown 1607

Virginia in its founding embodied many dreams: the pride of growing English nationalism, a search for profits from the New World, the chance of a direct trade route to Asia, and the opportunity to bring God to the savages. Jamestown has become famous as the first permanent English colony in America. However, its achievement that has been most noteworthy and which transformed all of the subsequent colonies was the convening of the first representative assembly in the New World.

Although in 1607 an elected Parliament was a significant force in England, King James' belief in his divine right to rule would seem to have made improbable any extension to the New World of representative government. When Jamestown was planted England had no experience with colonies. Consequently, the disarray experienced in the colony's first two years and the inadequacy of financial planning led the king to support steps that would encourage further investors and colonists. By 1612 when he approved the third charter, King James had allowed the Company to evolve a flexible management system that rested on the majority vote of all shareholders or investors at periodic meetings in London.

Once the Company in London was running well using such voting the major problem was recruiting men to travel to the harshly disciplined colony. The logical next step was to transfer the successful democratically operating London system to Jamestown. This was done by the Company's directing election of a popular assembly of two men from each of the I I cities and established plantations in the colony to meet annually to vote on the laws necessary to govern the colony while recognizing the need to make each man feel secure in his land and in his rights as an Englishman.

In June 1619 the first such elected assembly gathered in Jamestown. It was a formal, structured body that met for 5 days in committees to review and rewrite as laws all existing instructions, to review and vote on new laws sent from London, and to propose new laws to London. It was the beginning of representative government in the New World.

      St Julien R. Marshall, Jr.

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