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Home > History > The Establishment of the House of Burgesses - Article

The Establishment of the House of Burgesses - Article

This brief article discusses the formation of America's first representative government in Virginia.

House of Burgesses

House of Burgesses

First Representatitve Government

As the settlement of Jamestown became more successful, the strict rules and harsh consequences doled out by governors such as Thomas Dale quickly became outdated and unnecessary. In 1619, George Yeardley was elected the new governor of Virginia. Yeardley's primary goal as governor was to ensure that Virginians would have the same rights as those living in England. Yeardley quickly established the first representative government (officials to represent the people) in the New World and scheduled annual meetings in which laws and rules based on popular will were formulated.

The House of Burgesses

The first meeting of the House of Burgesses (representative government) occurred on July 30, 1619. The House of Burgesses was made up of 22 men, two men representing each of Virginia's 11 "plantations" or counties. The major goal of the House of Burgesses was to change the law as imposed by Thomas Dale. Yeardley signed off on the changes which effectively ended martial law in Jamestown and resulted in new found freedoms among the settlers. The House of Burgesses effectively represented the first form of democracy to ever reign in the New World. It resulted in the formation of new social and economic institutions such as Virginia's undemocratic slave-labor workforce.

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