A Land as God Made It
Herschel H. Helm
and Bus Tours
(the national site)
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.
(return to the homepage)