First Assembly Day 2011

Jamestown Memorial Church Interior

Join the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia as we commemorate the beginnings of America's representative form of government.

On Saturday, July 30, 2011, Historic Jamestowne will commemorate the anniversary of the first legislative assembly in English North America. Programs throughout the day will explore the development of government in Virginia and the significance of the first meeting of elected officials in the colony. At 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p..m in the theatre at the Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center, visitors will meet three people from Jamestown's past who will share their stories of Virginia's government during the colony's earliest years. At 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. in the Memorial Church, visitors can attend an interactive presentation at the site of the originial church where the 1619 meeting of the burgesses took place.

Dick Cheatham portraying John Rolfe
Mr. Dick Cheatham portraying John Rolfe


During the 45-minute living history programs in the visitor center, John Pory, speaker of the legislative assembly, will join with burgess John Rolfe and a female resident of the colony to interact with "new arrivals" (visitors) and discuss the events of the day during a recess of the 1619 assembly. During the Church programs, visitors take roles and participate in several short "scenes," representative of the events that occurred on the site during the first meeting 392 years ago.



Painting by Sidney King of the First Legislative Assembly
Sidney King painting of the First Legislative Assembly at Jamestown

Preservation Virginia

The first meeting of this authorized assembly was convened on July 30, 1619. Over a six-day period of unbearably hot and humid weather, the assembly covered several items on the agenda. They petitioned for some minor changes in the settlement of land tenure. Then, the assembly approved the "greate Charter" of 1618, which had allowed for its creation. Next, the assembly adopted measures against drunkenness, idleness, and gambling. Other legislation discussed included personal conduct of the settlers, land ownership, crop selection and relations with the Powhatan Indians.


On August 3, the assembly discussed "a thirde sorte of laws suche as might proceed out of every man's priviate conceipt." Here lies the power of the individual burgess to initiate legislation, and not simply to pass those laws proposed from above. Finally, on August 4, the assembly approved its first tax law. This was a poll tax requiring that every man and servant in the colony pay the officers of the assembly "one pound of the best Tobacco" for their services during this hot, midsummer season.


For more information about this first legislative assembly check out our Historic Brief - THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FIRST LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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