Sunday, September 2, 2007

The House of Burgesses was the first elected legislative assembly in the New World established in the Colony of Virginia in 1619. Over time, the name came to represent the entire official legislative body of the Colony of Virginia, and later, after the American Revolution, the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In Britain, the term "burgess" had referred to a Parliamentary representative, as of a borough.

Governor's Council
The House of Burgesses was empowered to enact legislation for the colony, but its actions were subject to veto by the governor, council and ultimately by the directors in London. Nevertheless, such a legislative body would have been unthinkable in the Spanish or French colonies of that day, which highlights the degree to which the concept of a limited monarchy had become accepted by the English people.
Voting for the burgesses was limited to landowning males over 17 years of age.
The initial citties [sic] (corporations) and the plantations and their representatives in the House of Burgesses in 1619 were:


  • for James Cittie: Ensign William Spense and Captain William Powell
    for Charles Cittie: Samuel Sharpe and Samuel Jordan
    for the Cittie of Henricus: Thomas Dowse and John Plentine
    for Elizabeth Cittie (remamed from Kiccowtan: Captain William Tucker and William Capp

    • for Martin's Brandon, Captain John Martin's Plantation: Thomas Davis and Robert Stacy
      for Smythe's Hundred: Captain Thomas Graves and Walter Shelley
      for Martin's Hundred (also known as Wolstenholme Towne): John Boys and John Jackson
      for Argall's Gift: Thomas Pawlett and Edward Gourgainy
      for Flowerdew Hundred: Ensign Edmund Rossingham and John Jefferson
      for Captain Lawne's Plantation: Captain Christopher Lawne and Ensign Washer
      for Captain Warde's Plantation: Captain John Warde and Lieutenant John Gibbes
      for Westover Plantation: William Byrd and his son, also named William Byrd The Lower House
      After 1619, The King of England took much more control of things in Virginia, restricting the powers of the House of Burgesses. They could make laws, which could be vetoed by the governor or the directors of the Virginia Company.

      House of Burgesses Effect
      In 1624, the Virginia Company lost its charter, and Virginia became a royal colony. As a Royal Colony, the House of Burgesses consisted of two members from every county in Virginia and one member from each of the following: the City of Williamsburg, the City of Jamestown, the City of Norfolk, and the College of William and Mary. The House of Burgesses continued to meet, but its influence was severely restricted. Despite limitations on its actions, the assembly listed within its later ranks such notables as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, and would assume a major leadership role in the movement toward independence.

      Royal colony
      In 1769, the House of Burgesses was speaking on the distresses of the British Taxation with no representation in which Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee were leading the committee. The committee then moved on to private petitions concerning fish traps but then one of Lord Botetourt's aids entered declaring that, "Mr. Speaker, The Governor commands the immediate Attendance of your House in the Council Chamber".
      Peyton Randolph the speaker of the house led the men into the chamber. Botetourt then commanded, "I have heard of your resolves, and auger ill of their Effect: You have made it my Duty to dissolve you; and you are dissolved accordingly."
      The House then met in Anthony Hay's tavern, formally known as the Raleigh Tavern and planned the early stages of recourse which in that moment were just resolves and no act of revolution. This is when George Washington and Patrick Henry started to speak privately about their ideas on revolution.
      In 1770 the House of Burgesses reformed but it was not long until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War and the body's transformation into the Virginia House of Delegates.

      The Assembly became the Virginia House of Delegates in 1776, forming the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly, the legislative branch of the Commonwealth (State) of Virginia.
      In honor of the original House of Burgesses, every other year, the Virginia General Assembly traditionally leaves the current Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, where it moved in 1780, and meets for one day in the restored Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg.
      In 2006, the Assembly held a special session at Jamestown to mark the 400th anniversary of its founding as part of the Jamestown 2007 celebration.

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