Some find it amusing that I begin many if not most of my talks about issues facing Virginians today by harkening back to the Commonwealth’s long history or by quoting Virginia leaders of by-gone days with Thomas Jefferson being my favorite. We can certainly learn from the past, and most assuredly we do not want to repeat past mistakes.
The new year 2019 is noteworthy for Virginians as the 400th anniversary of representative government in North America. The English started a colony in North America at Jamestown Island in 1607 and after much difficulty established a foot hold in what some referred to as the new world. The indigenous people who had been living here for about 15,000 years certainly did not appreciate the immigrants who invaded their lands and who with superior weaponry and germs from unknown diseases decimated those the colonists referred to as Indians.
To manage their joint affairs as a colony, representatives of the various plantations that had sprung up in the Jamestown area met in the mud-daub church on Jamestown Island in 1619 in what is now celebrated 400 years later as the first representative legislature in this hemisphere. The legislature became known as the House of Burgesses later to become the House of Delegates of the General Assembly. I am pleased to be serving in the oldest continuous legislative body in America.
Four hundred years ago is important to Virginians and to Americans for other reasons as well. The first Africans were brought to the new colony that year. They came not of their own free will but as slaves to work the land for the new crop, tobacco, that was to become the basis of Virginia’s economy for centuries. It took many chapters in Virginia’s history to move past viewing African Americans as property and not as persons with equal rights. The first English women came to Virginia in 1619 as essential to sustaining the English colony into the future.
The recognition year 2019 is a good time for all Virginians to recognize the harsh and unfortunate events of our past that affect us to today. Take your children or grandchildren to Jamestown Island or Jamestown Settlement to learn more about this important chapter of what happened in the land where we live and where we can begin to discuss what we want it to become in the future.
Check out travel opportunities and special events at www.americanevolution2019.com/about/.
Photo of Jamestown courtesy of www.history.com