House of Burgesses

House of Burgesses America is a nation that gives its people freedoms and power through its government, but it did not come to be over night, it has been in the making for hundreds of years. There have been many factors that have made America what we know today. Initially the first Americans did not have an established government, they did not even have an assembly to represent the people. The first official Legislative assembly in the English colonies was the House of Burgesses (*history. com*). It was not much of a government, but was a representative party that looked for the best interest of the colonists.

That in itself was a big accomplishment for the time, considering there was no such assembly in the colonies of France, or Spain (*2f. The House of Burgesses*). After the newfound land of Virginia, was discovered by the English, (who were the “super powers” of the time) they started to chart and colonize these lands. At first England charted the lands to find gold and other riches, but later discovered that the vast lands of America could be used as outlets for needed resources for the crown, such as: wheat, corn, and later the cash crop of tobacco.

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In charge of this great enterprise was the Virginia Company of England. In order to accomplish the great tasks they had planed for the settlements the Crown had to better control and organize the Virginia Company, the land was amongst 2 smaller companies, The London Company and The Plymouth Company. After establishing the sub-companies, the Virginia Companies obtained a royal charter, the Charter of 1606, enabling them to establish a colony, granting the right to coin money, raise revenue, and to make laws, but reserving much power for King James (*Colonial Virginia*).

The plan for the London Company was to establish, supply and support colonial outposts in America, and to gain revenue through agriculture, export, trade, and the discovery of certain mineral riches (*1609*). The company’s main venture was that of Jamestown. Established May 14 1607, Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in America. The Colony was a private venture, financed by the Virginia Company of London (which was funded by its investors). Initially the Jamestown settlement did not get off to a good start due to the lack of resources, knowledge, weather, and disease.

With no profits thus far from the colony, investors and the crown were unpleased and needed something to be done about it. In the Spring of 1609 to emphasize the possible profit potential, and draw a large group of wealthy investors as well as merchant-class men, a second Virginia charter was established, the Charter of 1609. This charter created a Joint-Stock company ( a group invested enterprise). Another effect this charter had on the colonies was the abolishment its former superior council, by which was superseded by a royally appointed governor (The Second).

By this charter all council, and executive office were to be held and voted by the Stockholders, this was a big deal because it not only would increase the efficiency of the colony, but with this new system of governing the colonies more decision making power was given to the company’s colonists. With the appointment of the Royal governor Lord de La Warr (Lord Delaware) the colony of Jamestown was saved. Even though Lord Delaware was able to save the colony it was still in good standing but was falling short in revenue and was not yielding the profits promised to its investors.

In order to please their stock holders the crown gave rise to the charter of 1612. This gave even more control to the Stock-Holders of the Company itself and the governments within it. It also strengthened the colony by adding the Bermuda Islands and extending its borders. This charter also introduced a more democratic element to its government, and also allowed the colony’s present government to reorganize into what is now known as The House of Burgesses (Jamestowne). In order to attract more settlers, they wanted to make the local government more “responsive” to its colonists.

In 1619 the first legislative assembly in America House of Burgesses was formed. It was modeled after the English Parliament, and consisted of a royally appointed governor, six councilors, and twenty burgesses. The head of the first House of Burgesses was Governor George Yeardley, who appointed the council men who then appointed its burgesses (two men for the eleven boroughs by which the colony was divided), where the colonists could vote on them. The only people who had voting power at the time were white males who owned land and were over the age of 17.

The assembly’s first elected officials to assume “office” were as follows: Sir George Yeardley, governor, and the following burgesses: Captain William Powell, Ensign William Spense, Samuel Sharpe, Samuel Jordan, Thomas Dowse, John Polentine, Captain William Tucker, William Capp, Thomas Davis, Robert Stacy, Captain Thomas Graves, Walter Shelley, John Boys, John Jackson, Mr. Pawlett, Mr. Gourgaing, Ensign Roffingham, Mr. Johnson, Captain Christopher Lawne, Ensign Washer, Captain Warde, and Lieutenant Gibbes. One of the most notable figures in the first House of Burgesses was John Pory.

Due to his previous role in the English parliament he was the appointed house speaker for the assembly, and also documented the transactions that took place in the House of Burgesses. John Twine, clerk of the Assembly, and Thomas Pierce, Sergeant at armes . The House of Burgesses was a legislative assembly that was in charge of making regulations and laws for the colony but still had to have the agreement of the its people, the Virginia Company in England, and most importantly the king. The members of this assembly were all landholders who were responsible for one of ten settlements in the region (Proceedings).

The House only met once a year in the colony’s church. The House was established to address certain problems that would come to rise in the colonies. Most notable of their first tasks was to establish the minimum price for tobacco, by which three shillings per pound was established (History. com). They initially petitioned for changes in the settlement of land tenure. Then approving the Greate Charter of 1618 the house was officially established. They also established measures of punishment against drunkenness, idleness, and gambling. The also took measure to protect the Indians, established the minimum price of tobacco.

There was also an instance where one of the landowners serveants was tried for improper conduct. There last law was its first tax law ( a poll tax) that stated every man and servant pay 1-pound of their finest tobacco to the officers of the assembly for their services. There laws were also up for debate of the colonies members (the First). The House of Burgesses was later done away with do to the fall of King James, and the transition to the Virginia colony becoming a royal colony in 1624, it continued to meet but was greatly restricted, and eventually would seat such notables as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry.

This system became very popular in the colonies and was used to govern many of them. The House of Burgesses lived on till the revolution until it evolved into the House of Delegates. It was the first step towards America becoming and independent nation, giving its people say in their government, giving us the feeling of independence from the crown. Work Cited Virginia. Colonial Virginia. http://www. usahistory. info/southern/Virginia. html

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