July 30, 1619: America’s first legislative assembly is held
If you’ve seen C-SPAN, you know exactly what goes on in a legislative assembly. These special meetings provide their respective regions a chance to make a change. They can also provide us with some meme-worthy moments. So, how did the very first one fare?
Established by King James I in 1606, the London Company created colonial settlements around Virginia. While they faced some struggles, they had a healthy establishment of towns. They also had some of the best tobacco in the country. The company sold them like hotcakes to those willing to throw cash in their face.
We need to have a talk
In April 1619, the London Company abolished martial law in the area. They held a meeting amongst the settlers in the area. Since many of them have never met, this would be the perfect opportunity. Aside from making new friends, the London Company wanted to vote on various topics. They turned to Virginia Governor George Yeardley for some assistance. Yeardley announced plans for an assembly meeting and invited everyone to come.
On July 30, 1619, 22 representatives arrived at the sole church in Jamestown. Since it was summer, the conditions inside the building were unbearable. One unnamed representative died from heat exhaustion. Instead of replacing them, they continued with the 21 remaining representatives. For six days, they made significant changes for the area. Some changes included protecting Native Americans and required church attendance. For its first tax law, they forced citizens to pay assembly officials in tobacco for their services. Surprising many in attendance, the overall meeting went as smooth as possible. This eventually led to the House of Burgesses, which morphed into the Virginia House of Delegates.
In early 2019, Virginia launched the Database of House Members to find members from the early years. “Launching DOME at the start of the 400th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly (1619-2019) not only is apt but in keeping with the House Clerk’s Office long tradition of and well-deserved reputation for providing dependable, high-quality services in a very timely and customer- friendly manner,” house clerk Paul Nardo told Virginia Mercury. Luckily, today’s representatives have the AC on for their sessions.