All year, Jamestown Settlement has been celebrating the commemoration of historic events at the colony, but starting July 27 new events are planned to honor the first Virginia General Assembly.
“Virginia’s first General Assembly met at Jamestown in the summer of 1619,” said Nancy Egloff, a historian with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. “At that meeting representatives of the people, for the first time, were able to speak for the settlers and submit some of their own petitions and concerns to the Virginia Company leadership in England for consideration.”
That first meeting was conducted in the only structure on Jamestown Island large enough to house the governor, his six councilors and approximately 20 burgesses, according to the Jamestown Settlement website.
It was during the meeting that history was made as the men discussed the “Great Charter” which described how land would be distributed in the colonies. As the first representative assembly, the meeting helped pave the path “towards modern American democracy and self-government.”
To celebrate those historical events, Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne and American Evolution are hosting specialized events.
“We wanted to offer programming that was immersive for our visitors that allows them to get involved through role playing and hands-on activities to learn how decisions were made by early leaders of the Virginia colony and the circumstances of the early colonists helped to shape those important decisions,” said Homer Lanier, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation interpretive program manager.
Lanier is coordinating the settlements “Democracy Weekend” which will run on July 27 and 28. The Democracy weekend will give guests the chance to take part in themed tours, interpretive programs, military exercises and reenactments of the first assembly of burgesses.
Those events will also feature discussions of Powhatan Indian politics, explore the governor’s house and learn the rule of law. Additionally, guests can take part in a drill to defend the colony at the recreated James Fort. All of these activities are included in admission to Jamestown Settlement.
In addition, Jamestown Settlement will feature an exhibit as part of the “Origins of American Democracy” theme month, which will have the original minutes of the first legislative assembly that convened on July 30, 1619.
This is the first time the minutes, reported by John Pory, have been on loan in America from the National Archives of the United Kingdom in 400 years.
“Displaying John Pory’s original report from this meeting of the first representative assembly is exciting for us here at Jamestown Settlement because it is the first time the document has been in Virginia since John Pory, speaker of the Assembly, wrote it in 1619,” Egloff said.
The minutes will be available for viewing until Sept. 30.
For more commemoration of the Virginia Assembly, there will be a special private 400th session from 11 a.m. until noon on July 30 where members of the Virginia Assembly, Congress and state legislatures nationwide will convene at Jamestown Settlement. This event will be simulcast live for the public at Historic Jamestowne.
That evening, there will be a “Fanfare to Democracy Concert” from 8 to 10 p.m. at Historic Jamestowne sponsored by the American Evolution and Riverside. The event is free and open to the public.
For more ways to celebrate, Historic Jamestowne will host events each day from July 29 to Aug. 4. Guests can participate in archaeology and exhibits, walking tours and lectures. These activities are included with paid admission to the park.
For more information, visit James City County online.