Jamestown's First Representative Assembly

The first legislative assembly in English North America took place July 30 through August 4, 1619 in the choir of the Jamestown Church. This first House of Burgesses consisted of Company appointed Governor Sir George Yeardley, a six man Company appointed governor's counsil and two representatives from each of the eleven surrounding settlements or plantations. These representatives were chosen by election from among the settlers of each plantation.


Members of the council were:
Mr. Samuel Macock
Mr. John Rolfe
Mr. John Pory
Captain Nathaniel Powell
Captain Francis West
Reverend William Wickham

John Pory was designated secretary and speaker; John Twine, clerke of the General assembly; and Thomas Pierse, Sergeant of Arms.


Plantations and their representatives were:
For James City
Captain William Powell
Ensign William Spense

For Charles City
Samuel Sharpe
Samuel Jordan

For the City of Henricus
Thomas Dowse
John Plentine

For Kiccowtan
Captaine William Tucker
William Capp

For Martin-Brandon, Captine John Martins Plantation
Mr. Thomas Davis
Mr. Robert Stacy

For Smythes Hundred
Captain Thomas Graves
Mr. Walter Shelley

For Martins Hundred (also known as Wolstenholme)
Mr. John Boys
John Jackson

For Argals Guifte
Mr. (Thomas) Pawlett
Mr. (Edward) Gourgainy

For Flowerdieu Hundred
Ensign (Edmund) Rossingham
Mr. (John) Jefferson

For Captain Lawnes Plantation
Captain Christophor Lawne
Ensign Washer

For captain Wardes Plantation
Captain (John) Warde
Lieutenant (John) Gibbes

Like the early struggles of the colony itself this first assembly suffered. It was hot and humid and many of the Burgesses were ill from the extreme temperatures. Indeed one Burgess had already succumbed to the heat as it was reported that on August 1st one Mr. Shelley of Smyths Hundred had died. The Governor decided that this first assembly would end after six days, on August 4th.

Although it was not the intent, the effects of this first representive assembly would frame the foundations of our present government - where citizens can elect representatives to speak for them: a government "of the people, by the people and for the people."

For additional information on this First House of Burgesses see our Historic Brief entitled "The Significance of the First Legislative Assembly."

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Charles E. Hatch, Jr., America's Oldest Legislative Assembly and its Jamestown Statehouses - Appendix II Proceedings of the Virginia Assembly, 1619, National Park Service Interpretive Series History No. 2, Washington: Revised 1956.

Last updated: April 29, 2015

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