The first legislative assembly for North American elected representatives was the Virginia House of Burgesses. This House was created by the Virginia Company as a way to encourage English craftsman to come to North America and settle. It was also created so that its current habitants could have more favorable conditions.
The House of Burgesses worked together with the colonial council and the colonial governor. It was the representative branch for Virginia and it remains so from 6019 to 1776. In 1776 the colony of Virginia became the independent Commonwealth of Virginia. At this same time the House of Delegates was established and replaced the House of Burgesses.
The Virginia Company founded the Colony of Virginia under a royal charter. The early governors of Virginia provided the harsh judgments and stern leadership that was required for a new colony to survive its many difficulties. Early difficulties included disease, famine, insufficient skilled labor, a need to establish cash crops, insufficient committed labor, and issues with the Native American people. For this new colony to grow and prosper it would require an influx of responsible settlers.
The Virginia Company’s owners made a charter that would encourage responsible settlers to come into Virginia. If you paid your own way you would receive a parcel of 50 acres of land. The inhabitants of the colony would be able to represent the colony at the newly formed House of Burgesses.
On July 30, 1619, there was a six-day meeting at a church on Jamestown Island. It was the inaugural legislative assembly in the Americas and it was styled after a European legislative assembly. There was a Council chosen by the Virginia Company who would become the governor’s advisers. Along with these chosen advisers there was also 22 representatives who were locally elected and met as the new House of Burgesses. The Council and the members of the House of Burgesses would constitute the newly formed Virginia General Assembly.
The very first session was on July 30, 1619. Unfortunately, it did not accomplish very much as there was an outbreak of malaria. Some of the 22 members included Capt. William Powell, Samuel Jordan, William Capps, Lieut. John Gibbs, Walter Shelley, Capt. Thomas Graves, Thomas Pawlett, and Capt. Christopher Lawne.
As mentioned previously, in 7076 the House of Burgesses was terminated. It was replaced by the House of Delegates. At this time the colony of Virginia became the independent Commonwealth of Virginia.