The Great Charter and the First General Assembly

Program Information

Series: Jamestown: A Fruitful Soil
Duration: 00:01:59
Year Produced: 2008
Description:

The prospects for Virginia seemed bleak in 1618. The death rate was high, there were few if any profits or capital resources, and the course of the colony was uncertain. That year the colony acquired a new leader and a new direction. "Jamestown: A Fruitful Soil" provides a historical overview of the people and events of 17th-century Virginia.

For more information visit: http://historyisfun.org

Transcript

The prospects for Virginia seemed bleak in 1618. The death rate was high, there were few if any profits or capital resources, and the course of the colony was uncertain. That year the colony acquired a new leader and a new direction.

I’m Steve Clark with Jamestown: A Fruitful Soil, a celebration of Virginia’s Quadricentennial sponsored by Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum in the Williamsburg area of Virginia.

When Sir Edwin Sandys assumed the helm of the Virginia Company in 1618 he instituted important changes that secured the future of the colony. The next year, the newly appointed governor, Sir George Yeardley, arrived in Jamestown equipped by Company leaders with a new set of instructions, sometimes called the “Great Charter.” Common Law replaced military law, and private land ownership was allowed for more settlers. The colony instituted a General Assembly to establish “one equal and uniform government over all Virginia.”

Governor Yeardley, with power to veto legislation and to dissolve the Assembly, directed that two representatives called burgesses be selected from each of the eleven settlement areas. The first brief meeting was in the oppressively hot summer of 1619, and the members took up matters of commerce, crop regulation and personal conduct.

The burgesses met in session with the Governor and his appointed council until 1643 when Governor William Berkeley began allowing them to meet as a separate house. Evolving into a bi-cameral legislature, The General Assembly was a model for other English colonies and the basis for the democratic government of the United States.

Despite these stabilizing effects on Virginia, the Virginia Company was still struggling. Indian attacks in 1622, declining immigration, meager profits for the stockholders and infighting among Virginia Company officials prompted King James I to revoke the Company’s charter in 1624.

To learn more, visit history is fun dot org.