Jamestown Painting

The English arrive at Jamestown.

Academics, lawmakers, dignitaries and President Donald Trump will gather in Virginia this week for events celebrating the beginnings of American democracy four centuries ago.

Tuesday marks the 400th anniversary of the first meeting of the House of Burgesses — the first representative legislative assembly in the Western Hemisphere — at Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in North America.

Here’s a look at what to expect.

What’s the importance of the anniversary?

The first meeting of the House of Burgesses, which took place at a church in Jamestown, laid the foundation for representative government in what would become the United States. Beginning as a group of 22 men — two chosen by the white male residents of each of the eleven major settlement areas — the body eventually evolved into a two-house form of government.

Today’s Virginia General Assembly is considered the oldest continuously operating legislative body in North America.

“The Commonwealth is honored to have the President of the United States join for this historic occasion, as the General Assembly convenes on the same ground where the seeds of our system of democratic government were sowed four centuries ago,” Kirk Cox, the Republican speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, said in a statement.

Tuesday’s events are just one part of a yearlong commemoration called American Evolution meant to honor key milestones in the state’s colonial history, including the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans’ arrival in English North America.

Another series of events is planned Aug. 23-25 at Fort Monroe to recognize that anniversary.

Who will be there?

Event organizers say descendants of Jamestown colonists and Virginia Indians will be in attendance, along with members of Congress — including U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — state lawmakers and dignitaries from other states.

On Friday, a White House spokesman confirmed earlier news reports that President Donald Trump will also be attending. A press release from organizers said he will give remarks.

What’s planned?

Special programming open to the public is planned at several historical sites around Jamestown in the days surrounding the July 30 anniversary.

On Tuesday, lawmakers, members of Congress and other guests will gather at historic Jamestown for ceremonies to commemorate the meeting of the burgesses.

Gov. Ralph Northam is scheduled to give an address at an early morning event. The president is expected to attend a second event, a commemorative session of the General Assembly. That private event is not open to the public but will be livestreamed online.

Wasn’t there some political drama?

The event comes at a time of heightened election-year partisanship in Virginia, and when word broke earlier in the month that Trump was expected to be in attendance, some Democratic lawmakers to threaten to boycott the event.

“The current President does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world,” leaders of the Virginia House and Senate Democratic caucuses said in a statement at the time.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment called their decision “disappointing and embarrassing.”

Organizers released a statement noting that Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were invited last year by Northam, a Democrat, and Republicans Cox and Norment.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — a descendant of slaves and the second African-American to ever win statewide office — has broken with fellow Democrats and said he will attend.

“I want to be there in order to give voice to those enslaved Africans and to commemorate and celebrate the birth of representative democracy here in Virginia,” Fairfax told the AP.

(9) comments

btm11

For years the Jamestown Island archeology sites has been slowly drowning by a combination of seal level rise, increased storm surges, and ground subsiding. It's ironic for Trump to be there because he denies the existence of climate change and promotes coal mining and other fossil fuel burning that contributes to accelerating rates of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Geologists and other scientists blame those greenhouse gases for what they say is the unprecedented rapidity of global warming, sea level rise, storm severity and converting fertile areas to deserts. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the global pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions, although the U.S. is second only to China in greenhouse gas emissions. (China remains committed to the pact.) Some data suggests the world may have less than 20 years to stop the growth of those greenhouse gases or it will start an unstoppable feedback loop that will lead the Earth towards an unloveable climate like that of Venus. That is why climate change should be a priority off the 2020 political campaign, not hourly pay and healthcare.


BobOhneiserEsq

TERM LIMITS FOR CONGRESS! Maybe . then we could see some timely focus on what . is important to constituents instead of what seems to be . the only thing important to these hyper partisans - their own re-election and unmitigated support of others in the same party.

romano

Tantrum by VA Democrats over their president's attendance is an embarrassment indeed. Can't you just see them tossing their pacifiers when they learned he had accepted the invitation to attend? Almost unbelievably, and most deliciously, they still don't seem to understand why he was elected.


Let's hope they give some time to that other great institution that began in Virginia: slavery in America. Makes the title of this article ironic to some, I'm sure.

Virginia SGP

Are you serious? Slaves have existed on every continent for millennia including in the Americas.

You are too eager to argue SGP. Slavery in what is today the United States began at Jamestown. Look it up. You don't even have to read a book...just go to Wikipedia: The first 19 or so Africans to reach the English colonies arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, brought by English privateers who had seized them from a captured Portuguese slave ship.

Virginia SGP

MAGA, you said "in America". Slavery has been in "America" for millenia. If you are referring to the "New World" period after European explorers connected the western and eastern hemispheres circa 1500, then slavery in the US is but a small part of the story. The Ellis Island museum used to have an expansive display on the origin of various immigrants and had a section on slaves. It showed that over 90% of all slaves brought to the western hemisphere after Columbus were NOT brought to the US but rather Central America, South America, and the Carribean. Slaves arrived very soon after Columbus (who actually had a free African on his crew - Juan Las Canaries). African slaves were imported to San Juan, Puerto Rico as soon as 1513. The Spanish brought African slaves to the mainland by 1526 nearly 100 years before Jamestown. The problem with progressive liberals is they just spew any thought that pops into their head to attack their "opponents". Knowledge is a foreign concept. And thus we have crazies who would tear down the statue of our 3rd POTUS while praising ruthless killers of Central America who enslaved, raped and tortured their neighbors as a part of their culture.


RoundHillGuy

I love this Country, I love this Commonwealth, I embrace its rich history. You and your Ilk will never change that no matter how much self hatred you have.


Loudoun4Trump

Looking forward to seeing President Trump at this event....and from what I hear very few far left democrats


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